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. Harboring Hope registration opens monthly. Subscribe to be notified. Harboring Hope is our online course for betrayed spouses to heal after infidelity. It often sells out within a few short hours. Don't miss it! Subscribe to Registration Notifications!