THE RECIPE FOR EMOTIONAL AFFAIRS
Defensiveness: Defending Your Excuses or Playing the Victim Card
Nobody enjoys having their mistakes splashed across the front page news.
No one likes admitting when they’re wrong, and most people (myself included) absolutely never, under any circumstances, want to look weak.
And yet, when you make a poor “judgment call” and get caught, those are precisely the consequences you can expect. So in an effort to overcome discomfort, the knee-jerk reaction for most people is to make excuses or rationalize their behavior.
You know you’re defending the excuses for the affair when:
You try to blame your behavior on things like stress, fatigue, alcohol, emotional overwhelm, a bad childhood, lack of sex in the primary relationship, and other equivalent dodges.
You know you’re playing the victim card when:
You use words like, “I didn’t mean to,” “I was seduced/tricked/manipulated,” “I couldn’t help it,” or “it just happened.”
Why this doesn’t work:
When a person defends a poor judgment or twists facts by pretending to be the victim instead of the perpetrator, it sends a clear message of, “I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong” OR “I just can’t keep myself from making mistakes.”
Would you imagine that these kinds of statements are going to inspire confidence, sympathy, or respect? Of course they won’t. In fact, the denial of wrongdoing and rejection of responsibility actually has the opposite effect. It triggers mistrust, contempt, and suspicion. And when you think about it, as long as you believe your excuses for the affair justify it, why would you ever want to change? (something to think about)
People are smart enough to figure out that as long as you’re defending your excuses for having an affair or blaming circumstances for your indiscretions, then you really aren’t interested in correcting or learning from those mistakes. Think about it. Common sense tells us that what you defend, you want to keep.
Here’s the bottom line:
There are no good reasons for infidelity, but there are plenty of excuses. So as long as you’re defending those kinds of excuses or portraying yourself as the victim of your own emotions and circumstances, then you won’t be doing yourself (or anyone else) any favors.
Failure to Show Appropriate Types of Emotions
Unfaithful partners who fail to show appropriate emotions during the crisis make things worse. This mistake has a tendency to coattail on the previous one. And it’s a big one. Like failing to respond to a fire with water, failing to show the appropriate type of emotions keeps the crisis burning longer.
You know you’re failing to show appropriate emotions when:
- You don’t want to talk about it anymore.
- You don’t know what the fuss is all about.
- Secretly, you think your partner got what was coming to them.
- You feel numb, or you just don’t care.
Why this doesn’t work:
For the people around you who may just be waking up to the reality of your secret life, your emotional disconnection is like pouring salt into their open wounds. No matter how bad things are already, your emotional disconnection is sure to make them a lot worse. What your partner wants (and needs) from you right now isn’t coldness, numbness, self-pity or self-righteousness.
What your partner is looking for are:
- Signs of your humanity (vulnerability, humbleness)
- Signs of remorse (BTW: remorse and guilt aren’t the same thing)
- Signs that you recognize how much your actions could and did cause hurt and pain
- Evidence of unselfishness
- Signs that you’re willing to stand up and take responsibility for what has happened
And perhaps the biggest emotional sign of all: signs that you still care.
If you’re finding it difficult to express or connect with these types of emotions, chances are, you might be defending the affair (even to yourself). This indicates that you’re still not ready to deal with the truth of what really happened. In that case, it’s time for you to own up to this reality. (Which brings us to the next mistake.)
Avoiding Accountability and Responsibility for Your Mistakes
Mistakes have been given a bad rap throughout the ages.
When you think back on it, as kids, most of us were punished when we made mistakes. It’s no wonder we try so hard to avoid being accountable or accepting responsibility when we do make mistakes.
It’s not the mistake we are afraid of… it’s the punishment.
You know you’re trying to avoid responsibility or accountability for your mistakes when:
- Your sentences begin with “they”, “them”, and “because”.
- Your language includes a lot of excuse-making conjunctions like “if only”, “I would have, but”, and “it’s not my fault because”.
- You find yourself preferring to lie to avoid (or deny) rather than face the negative consequences of your mistakes.
Why this doesn’t work:
After the affair is discovered, it’s illogical to deny making a mistake. No one lives a mistake-free life. Your partner understands this. (Deep down, we all do.) Therefore, he or she knows your arguments and excuses, and evading the consequences of those mistakes are quiet acts of defiance.
Think about it from your partner’s point of view.
What does the attempt to avoid responsibility for your mistakes say about you? Well, for one thing, it suggests that you might not have the chutzpah to stand up to your mistakes and correct them.
And another thing…
There’s no attractive way to wiggle out of taking responsibility. There’s just no dignified way to do it. In fact, trying to get out of it often takes as much energy as facing it. In the end, it will always cost you more to deny responsibility, than to just stand in the storm and own up to it.
Here’s something else
If you find that it’s just too scary to allow yourself to be accountable for your mistakes, ask yourself the following question.
Key Question: Do you look forward to repeating the same mistakes over and over… again and again?
If you answered no, then I suggest you use a different approach. Rather than assume that mistakes are a call for punishment, assume they’re a call for correction. What’s the first step to correcting any mistake? You guessed it: admitting you’ve made one!
Failure to Exit the Affair Permanently
If there’s one thing wayward partners hardly ever factor in when they’re considering an affair, it’s this:
This is a tragic case of shortsightedness.
At the beginning of the affair, most assume they can handle it, so they overestimate their ability to control their emotions (and the emotions of the affair partner). This causes them to seriously underestimate just how powerful human emotions really are.
Here’s the missing key
Emotions are primitive (especially sexual emotions). They have a potent impact on the human psyche and nervous system. To underestimate them is always a mistake.
The power of emotions should never be underestimated.
Emotions are like an unconscious autopilot guiding our behaviors. They influence our decisions and often cloud our judgment. I have heard countless affair partners (who ended up falling in love with a married person) confess to me that they never meant for it to happen, and yet it did. And I have seen many wayward partners shake their heads in total astonishment… after the fact… because “it all started out innocently” or “one thing led to another,” and they aren’t sure how they ended up where they did.
So what’s going on here?
I believe 95% of what we’re dealing with is those ever-present, pesky, persistent things we call emotions. (Even scientists can’t fully explain them to us).
What we do know is this: emotions are the pathway by which most of us can be manipulated. It’s also the route people use to manipulate others. This is why I caution people about being overconfident when dealing with temptation. Once triggered, our sexual emotions are like bullets being sprayed from a machine gun. They take on a life of their own. To assume you’ll be able to control them is not only naive, but it’s also dangerous. Sadly, many people only discover this after the fact. This is why many wayward partners find themselves seduced, hooked, and addicted to the emotional highs of the affair. So potent are these emotions that even once the affair is exposed… many wayward partners find themselves unable (unwilling) to let go completely. They will lie to marriage counselors, lie to their spouses, and even lie to themselves… rather than end the affair.
Why failing to exit the affair never works:
You can’t save your marriage AND keep your affair.
One of them has to go!
Believe me, I’ve seen many wayward partners try, but the facts remain: failure to exit the affair permanently sends an ambiguous message. It doesn’t take much common sense for any of us to realize that when someone’s goals are divided, chances are pretty good that person just can’t be trusted.
Think about it this way…
Even if you don’t want to choose, you still have to choose. The decision to become a better liar is still a choice. The decision not to decide (aka: indecision) is STILL a choice. The question is never IF you will choose… the question is always what you will choose. In that, you have no choice.
“Which relationship do I truly want to save?”
I’m not saying you have to choose your marriage. I’m simply saying you have to choose ONE. You can’t save both.
And if you’re having a hard time letting go…
Maybe the challenge is that you don’t want to lose the feelings the affair has given you. If that’s the case, then ask yourself… is it possible to achieve these same feelings in your primary relationship? I believe you can. And this is why I created my Passionate Monogamy process. The key insight is that you can’t save both relationships — you must choose one.
That brings us to the 3rd biggest mistake you must avoid when you’ve been caught cheating.