Drinking the Poison of Toxic Entitlement

Recently, I started to view my infidelity through the lens of entitlement. Coming to the WHY of my affair has taken a lot of reflection that seemed right at the time, as I uncovered layer after layer of my numerous character flaws. Nothing ever sat well with me as to truly why I did what I did, though until one morning a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that I cheated on my husband not because I was broken, but because I felt I had the right to. I felt entitled to it.

When I told my therapist about my revelation, she was hesitant to accept it. And I get why. In my day-to-day life, I do not interact with the world through a sense of entitlement. I don't expect to be treated differently from others because I think I am somehow special or better. I don't try to get away with not following the rules of acceptable social interactions. I am a law-abiding citizen. So, why did I do the exact opposite of these behaviors in my most personal and intimate relationship?

To explore this topic further, I read a book by Dr. John Townsend called The Entitlement Cure. In it, I learned that entitlement is self-focused and blocks empathy... in a relationship, "the entitled person feels good and lives badly, while those around him/her feel bad," but live their lives better. After reading this book, the can of worms had been opened. I started to see that I have a sense of "toxic entitlement," and that it has permeated my 27-year marriage in how I treat my husband and in how I expect him to treat me.

For me, it starts with the core belief that I should be judged on my intentions, not my actions. I start to feel exempt from responsibility for my actions, and focus solely on the morality of my intentions. I break promises and commitments to my husband because I fail to see that the follow-through is what is most important. I fail to understand why my husband feels alienated and angry at my lack of integrity within our marriage. When he doesn't agree with my distorted beliefs, I accuse him of being controlling, unaccepting and judgmental. I feel misunderstood, because his needs and expectations do not align with the view I hold of myself. I need him to see me as I do, to keep my fragile sense of self stable. Meanwhile, he feels dismissed and helpless in my cycle of self-centered excuses and rationalizations. We are at odds, because we are trying to relate to each other from two very different realities in the marriage.

Relating this to my infidelity, my sense of entitlement gave me permission. I was able to act out and not think about the effects on my husband. As hard as this is to write, the truth is that his feelings never factored into my decision to be or not be unfaithful. I thought of myself as different or special enough that I could do what I wanted and somehow not be held accountable. Through a sense of entitlement, I could painlessly weave together the disconnection between how I positively viewed myself and my actual harmful actions. In my mind, I should have been able to act the way I wanted and, regardless of the consequences, not have to change my self-image. I was deluded, destroying any chance I had of being authentic in my marriage and sustaining my husband's trust. I needed to change.

Through Affair Recovery, I have learned to identify and understand many of my past traumas, and how never addressing them led to a broken person with a broken view of reality. All my brokenness only made me more likely to cheat, but the final decision to act out was because I thought that I was special. Many people are broken and don't cheat, and most people know when they are about to cross a line that conflicts with their integrity. Understanding this dangerous sense of entitlement has been the puzzle piece that I have needed to truly enact change in myself and in my marriage.

In my current work on healing entitlement, saying "I was wrong" has been unbelievably powerful. Realizing that everyone is wrong and a failure, at some point, has helped me to admit my failures and to take responsibility for them. I have had to shift my perception of relational reality away from one fueled by self-centeredness, to one that is fueled by compassion and empathy. We all are born with empathy, but to me, empathy is like a muscle. If you don't use it, you lose it. Honing my empathy skills and fighting to stay connected to my husband, no matter what relationship demon rears its ugly head, are crucial in my fight against the entitlement that has wreaked havoc on my marriage.

Working on past issues that nurtured my sense of entitlement is also helpful. In my family of origin, I wasn't required to be diligent when things got tough and was often rewarded regardless of effort. Consequences for my actions were never concrete, and I grew up thinking that sometimes, 2 + 2 could equal 5. But at the end of the day, no matter where it came from, I chose entitlement and all the destruction that it caused. Now, I am learning to align my choices with having integrity and living in the truth. I am learning that I must accept myself, live humbly and take responsibility to make the necessary changes in my life that will lead me out of the self-absorbed trap called toxic entitlement.

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Sounds very familiar

I can’t speak for my spouse but everything you are saying is how I feel about the situation for me. I can’t speak for her because she hasn’t come to the point of realizing anything about how her affair(s) has effected me. She is still in “ I should get over it mode”. I don’t talk to her about it much anymore because of that attitude, it is a dead end. Having grandkids now and involved with them makes it very difficult to take measures that I know I would have taken 10 years ago. The demons you fight when you have been betrayed are unbelievable. Not owning and accepting responsibility for your actions make it worse. It sounds like you have done that part so kudos to you. Finding more “trickle truths” and gaslighting ( “I told you about that”) is very difficult to deal with. Paying attention to the spouses’ need for explanation and closure is important. For me, the affair is/was part of the trouble, the betrayal and still not feeling as if I know all the secrets is just as big a problem. Also d day was over 20 years after the fact, I had NO CLUE and stupidly thought everything was good or normal. Now those years are gone and not what I thought they were, like I lost 20 plus years of my life, and still have trickles and don’t know what else is out there to find out next. Hopefully by owning it you and spouse have moved forward and healing. I’m on year 5 of “ recovery “ by myself but with close friends that know and talk to.

Silently Hurt

I am so sorry for what you are going through- I can feel the grief in your words. Your feelings are valid and deserve to be recognized and tended to. Your situation is very similiar to mine and my husband's. My affair was over twenty years ago but I didn't tell my husband the truth until two years ago. He has been down a similiar path as you, having to rewrite our history and rethink every decision, sacrifice he made in light of the infedility. I did not have much empathy for him at first and thought that he should not have been that upset since it was so long ago. I had to really open myself up to reality. The reality that my actions back then set off a chain reaction that I could never predict once they came to light, but that I still had to take full responsibility for. For me that journey to the truth started with AR's Hope for Healing and EMSO. I don't know if you and your wife have taken these courses, but if you haven't, I stongly urde you to. Your wife wants her life to stay the same as much as possible even though she has told you of her infidelity. Taking responsibility for your deep pain and admittingto her faults and wrongdoings that are so damaging is life altering. She will need support to do that. I truly believe that no one can do it alone. My thoughts are with you as you travel the road to recovery. I feel that one can heal on their own, but it is hard to do if staying in the marriage is the goal. I hope you can take comfort knowing that AR and the AR community are here with you.

I Get You

It’s infuriating and it’s why we are still stuck 23 years post D Day. The nonsensical passive dismissive invalidating way my wife goes about life still is mind blowing. I see no remorse for the lies, scheming, conspiring, deceptions, keeping secrets, lack of transparency, betrayals, doing everything behind my back. She says I’m sorry but that’s it. She says actions speak louder than words and I live by “Actions prove why words mean nothing”. She is so much in the sense of entitlement still makes justifications, rationalizations, and excuses for her dirty deeds and for all she has done afterward and before-now disclosing another inappropriate set of physical contacts with a doctor co-worker 25 years later. I ask myself where does it end. She lives life as “Pretend Normal” as if nothing has ever happened, put the binders on “Nothing to see here” just ignore it all, it’s all by accident, not of her own doing, choice, or her fault, placing and pointing blame on me, her circumstance, her upbringing as if she couldn’t help herself. “You wouldn’t stay home”, “You wouldn’t wear your wedding ring”-meanwhile wearing hers when she was with him, “I thought you were out doing it too”, “I didn’t think you cared”, and on and on the excuses go. I know the full on attacks of being told I’m controlling her meanwhile she can’t control herself ! The accusations I’ve felt full on while she was the one out doing it to me. Do as I say not as I do. I can cheat on you but don’t you dare do it to me. I can do what I want when I want as long as I live and feel confident in saying to herself and me “I didn’t mean to hurt you”. This is THE BEST letter I have ever read. Now how do I get her to read it, make sense of it, soak in it, and live by it ! Thanks you for this letter.


I am so sorry to hear that you have been experiencing the trauma of infidelity with little healing for so long. It sounds as if your wife is still in denial about her responsibility in the pain she has caused you and the damage she has inflicted on your marriage. Realizing that I too was responsible for the hurt and destruction of my husband and my marriage was devestating and sent me into a shame and self hatred spiral that I would have preferred to avoid by shunning responsibility and denying reality. If your wife hasn't already, I strongly recommend she take the Hope for Healing class. This class taught me to view myself and my actions realistically. It gave me the strength to face my unhealthy ways of processing emotions. It taught me how to access empathy for my husband when it was being blocked by shame. The course showed me that salvation lies in the accepatance of who I am and what I have done. That I could accept and assimilate the old me into the new person that I am working on becoming. That self forgiveness is possible. All this is hard stuff to face. It is my wish that your wife can have a softening of her heart towards you and a reckoning with herself as to what type of woman and wife she wants to be. I believe that everyone knows deep down what they are truly responsible for, both good and bad. Denial is our way of protecting us from the pain of reality. It is our responsibility to break free from our false perceptions and chose the path to truth. If she choses this path, she will have a wealth of support through AR. As will you. You can heal with or without your wife healing. It is hard so I suggest you join Harboring Hope to find other men who are experiencing exactly what you are going through. It is so vital that you have a space to process, feel supported and to know that you are not alone.

Toxic entitlement

I beleive this is exactly my unfaithful husband. Where and how can I get more information on how to help with this.

Hey Dawn thank you for

Hey Dawn thank you for reaching out! Any questions you can submit to info@hope-now.com. To healing, The Hope-Now Team. 

Thank you for your honesty

I want to thank you, Vikki, for offering this insight on entitlement. As a betrayed spouse, I find it helpful to learn from other unfaithful how their choices have impacted them, and what they have discovered in their journey of healing. Please know that your words do make a difference.


Thank you- I am humbled that my words can be meanigful to betrayed spouses. I wish you the best in your recovery journey.

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