Did I Cause My Spouse to Have an Affair?

This is a tough one. A short blog makes it impossible to be exhaustive, but I’ll be as specific as space and time allows.

Fact is you don’t make anyone have an affair. An unfaithful spouse cheats because of their own inability to face up to their marital situation and perceived dissatisfaction and handle it a better way, the right way.

Yes, my marriage had some vulnerabilities. Samantha admitted she rejected me emotionally and sexually pretty frequently. She also admits that she was disapproving and I was treated like a second or third child depending on what year of marriage we were in. I felt like I was treated like royalty everywhere outside of my home, but inside my home I never could do enough or be enough. I was frustrated. I was selfish and self-absorbed. Yep: I had a messiah complex. Eventually I was hopeless. I ended up quitting and simply thinking that a double life is the only way I’m going to be able to be happy in life.

It was a lie. It was a lie I told myself to justify my affair and push away the guilt and shame I felt about my double life.

You didn’t cause your spouse to have an affair. Therapists who say things like “Well, it’s no wonder he/she cheated” or “I would have cheated too if my marriage was as nonsexual as yours was” or better yet, one I heard just today “If a man isn’t getting what he needs at home, he’s going to go find it somewhere with someone.”

It’s lunacy…..and it’s inexperience.

Even if you have vulnerabilities in the marriage, it doesn’t justify you or your spouse cheating. There is a large volume of productive things you, your spouse or I could have done instead of going outside our marriage to get our perceived needs met.

Please hear me: you, the betrayed, did not make your spouse have an affair.

Here’s the rub though: you, the betrayed, may have made it easier to cheat. Certainly, not always but in many cases the marriage may have been fragile.

You may have allowed or created vulnerability and in order to fully heal as a marriage, you’ll need to own that reality. It in no way whatsoever justifies your spouse cheating. Nevertheless, recovery is about finding new life for the marriage and spouses involved and no spouse is perfect and no spouse is perfectly attentive to the needs of their spouse. The unfaithful did find their needs met in the affair partner. It was probably a fantasy. It was probably deception. It was probably a huge illusion that this is their new found soul mate, when the betrayed was their original soul mate, years or even decades earlier.

I’m not saying the unfaithful is justified at all.

I’m also not saying that the betrayed is perfect and without the need to own some things in the marriage. That’s just marriage and that’s just life. We all need to own things.

Yet, people have affairs because they are unhealthy, selfish and convince themselves they have no other option when reality that’s just not true.   

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Thank you

Thank you, Samuel, for this post. I know in my head that I did not cause him to have an affair, but truly getting it out of my heart is another thing entirely. Deep down, I still feel like I am at fault and no amount of prayer, articles, therapy, or anything else has been able to shake that nagging feeling of belief that I must have been a horrible wife for him to go seek happiness elsewhere. I have such shame over his affair. I wasn't good enough, pretty enough, slim enough, look young enough, didn't share his interest in country life, didn't enjoy the same music, didn't listen enough, wasn't appreciative enough...the list could go on and on. I wrote down 24 things about which I felt shame and read them aloud to him and apologized. I have asked for his forgiveness for my shortcomings, even though, throughout our marriage, he never talked intimately with me enough for me to know that he considered them shortcomings. I feel shame for just not intuitively KNOWING what I was doing wrong. The shame I feel is as strong as the shame he claims to feel for having his affairs. But he doesn't like to talk about it and will not initiate any talk about our feelings. He just wants it to go away and for me to just not mention it. Even after a therapist's advice to talk about the shame we both feel, he has not initiated any talks. I am the only one to do so. And those talks are short and mostly one-sided, with little input from his side.

I don't know how many other betrayed spouses feel like this. Maybe I am the only one whose head knows she didn't cause the affair, but whose heart can't quite accept it. Maybe all this sounds pretty pathetic of me to feel this way, considering all the deception, trickle-truth, hurtful words, and other lies that seem to continue even now. I should be stronger and know better, right? Daily I keep handing it over to God and praying for forgiveness and peace to know, in my heart, that it wasn't my fault. I know I am forgiven by God, but the peace just hasn't come.

Karen you are not alone and

Karen you are not alone and I bet many others will have the same experience. For me when d-day came I was broken I was sure it was all my fault just like my wife said. That is probably why I had no rage at finding out it took me a long time to trully understand it was not me. Yes early on my thinking was telling me it was not me but my heart still could not let go of the blame. But looking back I can see much clearer now and it was not me at all. Did have things I needed to change yes and I have changed a lot but who I was and what I was doing though not all I could have done was not all that bad. But again isn't it the faithful ones that are for the most part more into the marriage in the first place. I know I was and still am, I have made many many inprovements, I have been trying to learn all I can about making a better marriage and I have most of all the work on recovory and repairing of our marriage. At some point you have to come to understand you are who is keeping you marriage together which should tell you just how much you have valued it all along. You will come to see that your husband is and has made some really bad decisions he needs to come forward and be a man and take responsibility for his affair and stop blaming you! He should be stepping forward and thanking you for trying to help take some of the blame from him but that he is to be blamed. He can then start with what you both need to do to make this much better then it ever was the two of you working together. That is what a real man should do. I know like my wife it is hard for them to seperate their affair state of mind from realty. My wife still is unable to talk about anything to do with her affairs but I have to admit she is slowly slowly making progress. She may want to start out with justifications but I will not let her. Hang in there you have been an inspiration to me by your continued effort and progress forward.
David

Taking ownership

Samuel,
After reading your story, I remember thinking many of the same thoughts. In a lot of instances, I feel like I'm treated like a second class person in my home. I often felt needed, but not necessarily wanted. I knew I was needed to bring home a check, mow the grass, fix what's broken and on and on. I didn't necessarily feel wanted and there were times when I felt like sex was deliberately withheld...almost to punish me. Then there was an affair and then reality began to set in.
Fast forward 3 years, and I sit here today a broken man. After 36 years of marriage, I am alone and miserable. I have lost the one person, the most valuable thing in my life is gone. I chose to be selfish, self centered, and betray my wife, my family and my friends. We worked for 3 years to salvage our marriage, and still were not able to heal the damage I created. Early on, I tried to justify my bad choices. But when I finally arrived at my true self, my actions were based on a total lack of respect for the things I loved, and were basically selfish on my part.
It all seems so surreal, that I will never have the true love of my life back in my life. If I could turn back the hands in time, if i could un-ring that bell!
I recognize that I am living the torment that I created and it just kills me. How could I have been so stupid???
I am at point in my life where I thought i'd be secure and settled and my life is anything but. I will manage to get through this because I must...I'm not sure i will ever be completely happy again. There was never a situation where I had any real feelings for the AP, was just a sexual pacifier.
Why do we make such insane, costly mistakes, besides thinking with the wrong head? God bless Affair Recovery! Regards,
BJ

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