This is a response to a comment I got. I just knew it would be too long to comment to so I am making it here.
Couple questions: I’d like your thoughts, acknowledging up front that this is not an attack on and you do not speak for all men, but you can offer a male perspective – being a man yourself and knowing other men in that “bro” way the women aren’t part of.Re: Full disclosure – It seems that a very large percentage of cheaters (male only as I have no experience re female) don’t give full disclosure. They give the bare minimum. Some claim to not remember even the simplest things, such as “Where did you go to have sex?” “Were you with her on (an important day – betrayed spouse’s bday, anniversary, cheater’s bday, Xmas eve)?” I find it impossible to believe that the AP had him so enraptured he completely forgot the occasion. His amnesia is to protect his own skin rather than thinking about his devastated partner, especially if he’s trying to stay married.
There is a lot that goes into the mind of someone who has cheated, been found out and is trying to reconcile their marriage and themselves. I think before you can fully understand what goes on here you need to know if the person is sincerely apologetic for their actions of if they are just upset about getting caught. If they are truly apologetic then there is healing that needs to be done both ways. I say this because the affair was a real life fantasy the AP was living but it will not fit into reality. They were able to have this “carefree” life in their minds even though it was not real, but until they are ripped out if it it is their reality. Once that all comes down around them and the affair fog is lifted then they truly see what they have done and how delusional they really were during the affair. This is where I think there are a couple of different paths the Affair Spouse (AS) can take. (Please for give the simplistic nature I am about to take when explaining this as there are probably infinite different paths and infinite different types of cheaters)
The first path is that the AS is more upset they got caught and lost their fantasy than having ruined the relationship and destroyed their wife. They may seem remorseful but when pressed to do the work to repair the relationship they will resist. This is someone who is either a narcissist or someone who does not believe the relationship is salvageable or just does not want to put in the effort required to do it. They may not recognize that they have already given up or may not be strong enough to end it on their own. Instead they drag it along, doing just enough to keep the wife around but they are not fully committed. This type of person will usually resist any type of disclosure or defend the Affair Partner (AP) or blame the wife for the affair (relationship problems are both people responsibility but affairs are solely on the AS). Getting information that is asked is like pulling teeth and the wife will feel like she has to find most of the information on her own and then get confirmation from the AS. They also will resist doing the work to fix the relationship.
Another path is the AS can be truly remorseful for what they have done and try and do the work to keep the relationship. They will be upfront and honest and spill all the details. This usually occurs when the AP recognizes their mistake before they are caught because of the amount of guilt and they confess to the Betrayed Spouse (BS). This is more often seen in one large mistake and not so much in a full blown affair relationship. This requires the AS to be very cognizant of their actions and their relationship (pre-affair) was usually not in the trouble that you would see in other affair situations. This is one reason the AS saw the mistake and did not get pulled into the affair fantasy. This does not mean that there were not problems, they are probably just not as severe.
The last path is one where the AS can be remorseful for their actions and try and keep the relationship, but it may take a little to get there or may not happen at all. This is where the BS discovered the affair and confronted the AS. This is a life shaking event for all parties involved. The BS loses her identity, self-esteem/worth, is overwhelmed by disgust, shame and guilt of it all. She will need to grieve for the loss of her relationship and the life she had before the affair. The AS will also be shaken to their core. They will have been fully in the fantasy land they created in their mind. The discovery will rip them out of this fantasy world and like the BS they will lose their identity, self-esteem/worth, become overwhelmed by disgust, shame and guilt over what they have done. Getting the details you want from this type of AS can be difficult as well, however, it may not be because the AS is really trying to hide things. Once they understand that the BS needs the information to heal, they will usually provide the information that is asked. However, there is a lot of self-protection that goes on here as well. The AS may unintentionally block certain things/details/events and may not remember them until triggered or directly asked about them. They do this because of the amount of shame and guilt they are holding in. They will probably hate themselves and may rather abandon the relationship rather than trying to face all the things they have done. Until they have fully recommitted to the relationship they will trickle information out, some intentionally some not intentionally.
I feel I was on the last path. Once I recommitted (I did not recommit to the relationship right away) to the relationship I disclosed anything my wife wanted to know that I could remember. However, there is a lot she brought up later that I had not remembered until she brought it up or asked about it. I was then able to give her more details and answer any other questions she had. I tried to not be defensive and made sure to let her know that I would answer anything she wanted and I was not trying to purposefully hide things. I still have major anxiety over the fact that there may be things I have buried deep down and she may run across them some how and shit will hit the fan again. It is not because I am trying to hide things from her, I have just buried to the point of no return so I don’t have to remember what a piece of shit I am.
I can see how hard this would be to differentiate from the first path, but the big difference is that the AS will be recommitted to the relationship, both verbally and in actions. They will not be defensive when asked about things and take full responsibility for the affair. The first path, the AS will constantly shift the blame and be defensive about the information the BS is wants to get in order to heal.
Then comes the ‘trickle truth’ which seems to be mostly about the cheater trying to escape the feelings of guilt they get every time the spouse asks questions.From observer’s POV (and usually the wife – going by friends who’ve been cheated on) it appears the cheater’s actions are almost entirely done to limit his own negative emotions.Do the cheaters think that releasing information a little at a time will mitigate the destruction and pain to the spouse? (A cheater I know believed that would soften the blow🤣).
I answered most of this above, but I do think that in some way the AS may think the less the BS knows the better off they are because of everything that may become triggers. This comes from a lack of understanding about what the BS really needs in order to heal. However, what the BS may need varies tremendously. If the AS is recommitted to the relationship and it is discussed what the BS needs in order to heal, then the AS should not be resistant to answering any questions and giving the details the BS needs to know. I will add one thing here and that is when my wife would ask me certain things I would gently remind her that she cannot unknow anything she asked and if she was sure she wanted to know. If she was certain she wanted to know then I would give her the information she wanted. I tried not pressure her one way or the other, but I wanted her to be sure she wanted certain details.
Some cheaters have the balls to say “That’s none of your business”, “It doesn’t matter. Can we just move on?” and refuse to address the issue, often getting angry when wife continues to ask. Often goes on for rest of the relationship – if there is one afterward.Do they withhold the information, when they know the lack of answers is hurting the spouse (and only works to destroy any chance to regain trust) , because they are trying to protect the betrayed spouse from further harm? Or are they trying to protect their themselves and/or the AP? This type of behavior always makes me think that whatever they are withholding must be something particularly heinous, the ‘worse than she imagined’ facts.
I think there is a few things going on and it depends on if the person really wants to be in the relationship. I think that the reason a large number of affairs are found by the BS is because the AS wants to get caught. I think they are hoping that the BS will find out and end the relationship for them. This makes it the BS decision, not their’s and in some sick way they believe they are not responsible for the demise of the relationship. ASs that say they just want to move on, either don’t understand what is needed for the BS to heal and move on, in which case, the couple need professional counseling. Or they are not committed to making the relationship work and are just trying to protect themselves. Both types of AS may believe the less the BS knows the better and then they will not be as hurt. However, if the AS is committed to fixing the relationship then when they are confronted and asked for the details because it is what the BS needs to heal, they will give the information freely and without being defensive. This is not saying they will like giving the information because by giving it they have to relive those details, as does the BS, and is reminded of what a horrible person they have become.
The cheaters’ motivation and reasoning leaves me baffled. I know the standard response from counselors and books is “They weren’t thinking”. I find it impossible to believe men begin affairs and try to handle the fallout without deep thought and consideration.
I think that this completely depends on the type of affair. If it is a one night stand with drugs or alcohol involved then I might buy the excuse they were not thinking. This would not absolve them of the behavior, but I could possibly buy this excuse once. If it was not a one night stand then I think it is exactly opposite. I think there was too much thinking and too little communicating with their spouse. In order to go that far down the rabbit hole, the AS has to rationalize a lot. They usually take small steps that they can justify that slowly lead them down the affair path. It might begin by “harmless” flirting to get a self-esteem boost. This may lead to creating a dating profile, just to flirt, while convincing themselves they would never really meet someone. These steps continue until they end up in the middle of an affair. This is why the affair fog is so strong. They convince themselves what they are doing is not only okay, but it might actually be good for their relationship. This takes time and also usually takes an AP that promotes this type of rationalization.
Do you think ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater’ holds true? Does the damaged self-esteem from the first affair cause one to be susceptible to another affair due to needing the attention/ego-stroking from others? Does the pain and destruction of an affair keep one from doing it again?
Umm… Do you want my answer or the answer of my therapist?
I think that once you are a cheater then that is who you are. It does not mean you will repeat the behavior of cheating, but I think you are what you do (my therapist says this is a way of continually punishing myself needlessly). I believe the actions you do when people are not looking is the type of person you really are. If you don’t do good things when people are not looking then are you really a good person and if you know you won’t get caught then will you do something bad? You are a product of your actions. If you stay in the relationship and do not heal from the initial issues that led to the affair then it is only a matter of time until it happens again. However, if the couple can heal and learn to better communicate their needs and desires and what they need from their partner, then there is hope they can stay in the relationship and not relapse.
Regarding the pain and grief of the cheater, all I can say is that I don’t care how devastated they are. They are adults, made a conscious decision to cheat knowing the likely outcome and still went forward. We know that all actions have consequences and by taking those actions we must accept the responsibility.
I agree with this to some extent. If the relationship is to continue, then healing must occur on both sides. In order for this to occur both the BS and the AS must help the other heal. They need to be there for them and support them through it. Should the immediate healing of the BS spouse trump the healing of the AS? Absolutely! However, if the BS does not care about the AS’s healing then the relationship will never be able to move forward. If you are just asking the AS to hide his feelings because they are not important, then this will create resentment and set the relationship up to fail. That also does not mean that the AS is absolved of their actions. They must also be truly remorseful before any healing can occur and help the BS to heal before they can heal and then the relationship will follow.
i think your post is extremely well-written and a welcome view from ‘the other side’. Please don’t take this as a personal attack. The opportunity to get the thoughts on infidelity from the opposite sex as well as the adulterer’s POV seldom arises. Most men are not able to access their emotions honestly nor can the write eloquently.
Your comment “I see things all over that remind me of what a shitty person I am…”
Are you talking about places – restaurants, stores, hotels… or things that are specific things?
It is everything. Music, places, things that come up in TV shows and movies, there are so many things that can bring back those thoughts. I don’t share these with my wife because I don’t want them to become triggers for her. I just swallow them down and remember what a piece of shit I am.
Personally I wanted to know specific places, especially bars. Besides feeling those places were tainted, I wondered if being there was making him remember being there with AP. I wanted to avoid any bars and pubs he’d taken her to because we had been regulars at a number of them and the thought of shooting pool with people who had met them as a couple there made nauseous.. but all brought back all the rage I felt.
Since he refused to discuss it I stopped going out to our usual places. Which really put a crimp in our social life when our friends wanted us to meet them at our usual places. And he didn’t want to go meet them by himself. And he did not want to let friends know why I refused to go there.Guess some of us want that information, some don’t.
Once I was fully out of the affair fog and re-committed to the relationship I did not think about the triggers as fond memories, nor did they make me miss her. Instead, I completely internalize them and suffer on my own. If the AS is not fully re-committed to the relationship then I could see them possibly not wanting to taint the AP memories and that would be why they don’t want to give up the details. However, if they are recommitted then I would tend to go the other way thinking they are trying to protect themselves or the BS. Either way they need to recognize the importance of the details to the BS’s healing process.
Hopefully this answers a lot of your questions but feel free to ask more if you need.