I sometimes hear from wives who are struggling to place the blame for their husband’s affair. Sure, they are furious with their husbands. And they are extremely angry at the other woman. But they save some of the anger for themselves. Because they figure that the fact that their husband cheated on them means that somehow, some way, the fault must lie with them.
Here’s an example of something that a wife in this situation might say: “why am I not surprised that my husband cheated on me? I have been bracing myself for this all along. I gained some weight when I had my kids and my husband made it very clear that he was not happy about this, but I didn’t lose the weight. I kept putting it off and I told myself that I would get to it eventually, but I never did. Then my husband has repeatedly told me that I am too wrapped up in the kids and that I never seem to have time for him. I heard what he was saying, but that is another thing that I figured that I would address in the future. This makes me quite angry at myself. He was basically telling me that there were some things that were making him unhappy. He was giving me warning signals. But I ignored them. So now I realize that one of the people who I have to blame is myself. I’m frankly angry at myself. I feel like a fat slob who prioritized her kids instead of her husband.”
Please don’t feel that way. No one is perfect. No one has the perfect marriage. No one anticipates and meets every need of their spouse all of the time. Well-adjusted adults do not have these unrealistic expectations of their spouse anyway. Hasn’t your husband disappointed you at some point during the course of your marriage? Have you responded by cheating? My point is, none of us have the perfect marriage or a spouse who responds to every whim, but not all of us cheat.
I may be biased, but I believe that marital dissatisfaction is not a legitimate reason to cheat. A person with integrity and a commitment to their marriage will keep approaching their spouse with solutions to fix the problem and to repair the marriage rather than just running away to pursue the next person who is available. I say this because I want for you to realize that you do not have to hold yourself responsible for your husband’s choices.
Are your observations of your marriage valuable? Of course they are. And whether you choose to save your marriage or not, you can certainly address them. But there is a big difference between choosing to address valid points and in choosing to take the blame. You are not to blame. You did not choose to cheat. The conditions in a marriage sometimes contribute to the atmosphere of cheating but it is the person who cheated that made the choice. We all have stress in our lives and things that we wish were different. But the choice is ours whether we are going to contribute to making those things right or if we are going to choose to recklessly tear those things down. You did not choose to tear anything down. You might choose to begin to make things right, but that choice should not be based on guilt, because you did nothing wrong.
I don’t mean to minimize the contributions of marital problems to an affair. I don’t deny that they contribute. But generally, both spouses make their fair share of mistakes. We all make mistakes. You should not beat yourself up for being a good and typical mother. I’m sure that you were doing the best that you could for all involved.
You can’t change what has happened. You can’t rewrite the past. What is left to do now is to decide where you want to go from here. You may not be able to make that decision right away. You may still need to gather information and see how you and your spouse feel moving forward. But this is your decision based on what you want. It should not be made based on your feeling that you did something wrong. You did not.
It’s very common to feel that you are at fault for all sorts of things. Women tend to want every one to be happy and they feel responsible when someone isn’t. Heck, I sometimes feel responsible if my children or my spouse have a bad experience when I had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I am the person in my family who tries to handle the details and the experiences for those that I love. So, when something affects my loved ones or makes them unhappy, I do feel responsible (even though I know that this is silly) and I do not think that I am alone.
But, my kids’ and spouse’s experience are sometimes based on random happenings and not a choice that they (or I) made. That’s the difference. An affair is a choice. Someone else made the choice. So that someone should take responsibility. If you’d like to address your weight and the way you set family priorities moving forward, that is perfectly valid. But neither of these are valid reasons for the affair. The affair was someone else’s choice.