For the last 3 months, my husband had been very distant, working late, not answering my phone calls. I feel that I was in denial about what he was doing. It is so unlike him to cheat that I just pushed that out of my head. Well, 2 weeks ago, he was sleeping and somebody kept leaving messages. I checked his voice mail, and it was a girl saying she missed him and why wasn’t he there? I confronted him about it and he said he’d been hanging out with her for a couple of weeks. I told him I loved him, but we needed to go to marriage counseling so I could forgive him. He then started saying how I don’t cook enough or clean enough or do things sexually that he wants. I said he never communicated any of that! We went to the counseling session and he just kept bashing me and saying how this other girl was the perfect girl for him. He couldn’t commit to saying he wouldn’t see her for 3 months. I found out he saw her last weekend, and that was it. I moved out a day later. It’s been 3 days and he called me today and said he doesn’t know why he did that. He said he loves me and he ended it with the girl. I just can’t believe him. I want to forgive him, but I think it would take years for me to forgive. What do you think?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. I’m very sorry to learn you’re going through this kind of pain. I know words aren’t enough to truly provide the kind of comfort and peace you want right now. However, if I share some insights, it may help you get to a place of clarity as you make your own decision on what to do next.
Let’s go to some of your key questions, one at a time.
You wrote: “He then started saying how I don’t cook enough or clean enough or do things sexually that he wants. I said he never communicated any of that!”
My insight: This appears to be a defensive maneuver called “blame shifting”, one that’s often used by wayward partners to help rationalize their actions.
What exactly is “blame shifting”?
It’s shifting the blame for your actions onto another person, society and/or circumstances.
Blame shifting is an immature way to avoid dealing with unpleasant consequences. It’s like a two-year-old whose ice cream falls on the floor, and who then turns to his mother and wails, “See what you made me do!”
In grownups, it works like this: A partner does something which results in a consequence or situation he doesn’t like (for example, he cheats on his wife, gets caught and now has to face up to the pain, hurt and anger this creates). If that partner has difficulties facing up/owning his mistakes, then there are two ways he might deal with the situation:
Option #1: Run away (or completely deny involvement).
Option #2: Admit involvement but “shift blame” as a way to rationalize “why” he did what he did.
Both options carry the same benefit — escape from responsibility.
But here’s the challenge:
No matter how much you try to shift blame, it just doesn’t hold up.
While it might be true that you didn’t cook enough, cleaned enough or had been as sexually assertive as he might’ve liked, the “lack” of these things still didn’t cause him to cheat. Why? Just like being broke is NO justification for robbing a bank, the lack of cleaning, cooking and available or satisfying sex at home is NO justification for cheating.
Bottom line? There are no good reasons for infidelity — only excuses.
The takeaway here is that this is NOT your fault. The choice to cheat is not about the lack of anything in the primary relationship. How can I be so sure? Because there are no perfect marriages, as marriages are made up of people — and there are no perfect people. And so, the argument that if you had been more perfect he wouldn’t have cheated is pure hogwash.
Here’s why: Cheating isn’t about “sex” as it’s about principles. There are plenty of marriages where wives don’t cook or clean, and yet, their husbands don’t cheat.
There are also plenty of marriages that are sex-starved (as a matter of fact, I’m working with a couple right now who haven’t been intimate in more than four years, and still, neither have cheated).
Likewise, there are plenty of marriages where the wife cooks, cleans and reenacts the Kama Sutra… and still, the husband cheats.
What does this tell you?
Well, for one thing, it says cheating isn’t so much a matter of circumstances as it’s a matter of choice. And other peoples’ choices are NOT under our control (no matter how seductive it would be to think they are).
This also tells you: There’s not much you could have done to prevent it. (Read that again.)
How could I be so sure? Simple: It was his choice. And you can’t make or unmake someone else’s choice (it’s called “free will”).
Of course, looking back, it’s easy to get seduced into believing you could have prevented OTHER people from making poor choices if you yourself had made different choices. This, however, is pure speculation. The fact is, you don’t control other people’s choices — no matter how much they want you to believe you do. You don’t.
Believe me, after a decade in this field, I’ve heard it all:
He says: She never initiated sex.
She says: He cheated first, so now it’s my turn.
He says: She lost her libido, so I cheated.
She says: He never says he loves me or helps around the house.
She says: He travels so much, I got lonely.
And on and on it goes…
Since there are no perfect people, this means there are no perfect marriages — so the list of excuses for abandoning one’s principles are endless.
Think about it:
Okay, so your marriage wasn’t perfect. So you aren’t perfect. So your housekeeping isn’t perfect. But does this equal cheating behind your back? No way.
And what was he thinking?
That maybe somehow his cheating would improve your housekeeping skills? Obviously, this isn’t smart thinking. As I’ve said before, shifting the blame is an immature way to avoid dealing with the pressure and stress that comes from making poor choices. Anyway you slice the cake, his choice to cheat was a poor choice and a wrong approach to dealing with marriage issues.
If you were to take away one point from our conversation, I’d like it to be that: This isn’t your fault. Now, continue with your couple’s counseling, but take no unearned guilt or blame. Can you do that? I know you can.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!