“How could I have been so stupid?”
“Why did I believe him when he said he was busy with work all of those late nights?”
“How did I not see it coming?”
These are all pretty common reactions and themes that I hear when women come in to see me after they’ve discovered their partner has had an affair.
When I sit and compare the way men and women react after discovering infidelity, the difference is clear. Men tend to react with anger. Women tend to react with self-blame.
Men might not react by becoming physically violent, but they share fantasies about hurting their spouse’s affair partner.
Women retreat and look at themselves. They consider all of the things they did or did not do throughout their entire marriage. They wonder whom they could have been more or less like.
“Maybe if I were skinnier… kept a cleaner house… listened to him talk more about work… asked the right questions to get him to really tell me what was going on…”
If only, if only, if only. And to that, I call bullshit!
All you have to do is check out the cover of any gossip magazine to know that those thoughts are distorted. Even the most beautiful women get cheated on. They have help, their homes are immaculate, they get paid to look good, and yet somehow the men in their lives manage to stray.
The bottom line is that if someone is determined to cheat, they are going to cheat. You can’t clean, cook, or work out enough to change their mind.
When people cheat it isn’t about their partner.
Did you just read that?
When he cheated it wasn’t about you.
It was about him, and how he felt. The entire act of cheating is incredibly selfish, and while people are in the act, their spouses are typically farthest from their minds.
You may have missed the warning signs, and you may have made it easy for him to get away with it, and continue the affair, but that was likely due to the fact that you trusted. You loved and you trusted, and you believed that the person who vowed to be with you forever, would.
There’s no fault in that. That’s what we are supposed to do in order to have a good relationship.
Sometimes people are not the best at creating and voicing boundaries. It can be uncomfortable to bring something up that might make you think you sound like a crazy person. Things like, “I saw you hug your female coworker at the company party and it seemed like you held on just a couple seconds too long.”
Maybe you thought something, or saw something, and you had a gut reaction to it, but you ignored it because you didn’t want to rock the boat. That’s completely normal, and the truth is, if you had brought it up it may have gotten your partner to stop for a second and consider their behavior, but if they were determined to cheat, it wouldn’t have stopped them.
Most people who cheat tell me that they didn’t intend for it to happen - actually almost all of them tell me that. If they’re in denial about their responsibility, they typically say, “it just happened,” and to that I call bullshit as well because like my friend Robyn says, “you don’t just trip and fall in another woman’s vagina.” You just don’t.
But the people who are ready to understand their behavior often tell me that they reached a point of no return, and they got in over their heads. They usually say they didn’t intend for it to happen, and for all the pain and suffering it has caused their partner, they truly wish they could take it back.
They tell me that things were not great in their marriage, and that they didn’t know how to talk about it or fix it.
But what did she have that I didn’t?
There may have been a ton of qualities that the other woman had that differed from yours. But the honest to goodness truth is that the other woman had a relationship that was based on nothing other than mutual pleasure.
Extramarital relationships exist in vacuums. Your partner didn’t share any responsibilities with that other person, they weren’t raising kids with them, and they didn’t share a mortgage, car payments, or any of the other, not-so-sexy things that come along with marriage.
We all have choices. Unfortunately your partner made a poor one, and didn’t come to you first in an attempt to repair the issues in your relationship that caused them to stray, but it’s not too late, and even though it’s an uphill battle, you can repair the damage that’s been done if each person is willing to do the hard work.
If you still can’t see that you aren’t to blame for your partner’s affair, I’d love to support you and help you understand what’s happened in your relationship, and explore options for the future. Give me a call at (909) 226-6124 or you can click here to schedule your first session.