After the Affair: Unraveling the Excuses
Once caught, most partners who have been unfaithful begin to make excuses in a rather lame attempt to justify their actions. In fact, these excuses often begin even before the affair is uncovered. These are the same justifications that they often recite to the affair partner, to friends and to themselves (often to the point where they’re weaving an alternate narrative that alleviates the discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance).
All of these excuses that a cheater offers up neglect one basic fact – an affair does not occur in a vacuum.
There are often months or years between the start of the infidelity and the discovery. And during that time, you may not know, but you know. At some level, you are picking up that something isn’t right. You may question, only to receive reassurance, leaving you confused that your observations are being dismissed. You may sense a withdrawal and try to pinpoint its root cause, feeling trapped in a labyrinth of denial.
Much like a cancer before diagnosis, the affair affects you even before you can name it.
And many of the excuses that the cheater offers up are using your response to the unknown affair as justification for their decision to stray. They may be correct in those two things being related, but they have confused the cause and effect.
Unraveling the Excuses
They say that you’re needy, yet they are the ones that make you insecure.
Sometimes the usual affection lags, leaving you wondering if they’re still attracted to you. Or, it may come in the form of critical comments about appearance or increased comments about someone else’s. Other times, it’s a turning – or even a pulling – away.
When you’re afraid of losing something, grasping is a natural (although ultimately ineffective) response. When we feel a disconnect from our partners, we seek reassurance that everything is okay.
They say you’re crazy, yet they are the ones who drove you there.
“I wasn’t texting anyone last night,” they claim, causing you to question what you saw. Gaslighting is a common strategy used by cheaters to cover their tracks. It’s a form of mental abuse that leaves you doubting yourself and questioning everything you see and hear.
When you are living one experience yet being told it’s something else, it causes disorientation not unlike that which occurs with the optical distortions in a funhouse. Of course you’re going to act a little crazy when nothing makes sense.
They say you don’t give them enough attention, yet they’re too distracted to notice.
“They made me feel appreciated,” the cheating spouse often whines (frequently following up with the addition of, “I just wanted to be happy.”). They describe how they feel ignored at home. Yet the other side of this equation is that even when they are home, their attention is elsewhere.
This falls into the “grass is greener” misconception. They think it’s better with the affair partner because that is where they are looking. Meanwhile, they could be the centerpiece of your life, but since their head is turned, they are blind to it.
They say you’re distant, yet they pushed you away.
Sometimes, they claim that you have been the withdrawn one. Yet they fail to consider the reason for your disconnection. When we’re feeling rejection, one of the common responses is to wall-off, building a protective barrier between yourself and the world in an attempt to avoid feeling the pain.
When there is an ongoing affair, you most likely are not feeling safe in the relationship, even before you can pinpoint the reason. Since your partner isn’t provided you with that sense of security, you seek to create it yourself. By yourself.
They say you don’t know them, yet they refuse to open up.
“They know me. I feel seen,” the cheating spouse says of the affair partner. Yet, they fail to recognize that they have been closed off with their spouse (even when begged to explain what is wrong) and transparent with the affair partner.
One of the strange things about marriage is that it can become difficult to be vulnerable with your partner because the stakes are so high. And it can be easier to open up to a relative stranger because there is less to lose. But it’s not fair to get mad an someone for not knowing you if you do not provide them the opportunity.
They say you’re snooping and questioning, yet they are the ones hiding things.
They snap at you when you ask where they’ve been when they come home late again. They become angry when you glance over at their phone screen when it lights up. They accuse you of being jealous, of snooping and of being in their business.
Even for those who do not tend towards snooping behavior, an unconfirmed suspicion of an affair can lead to those actions.
They say you’re critical, yet they are the ones not holding up their end.
We all only have so much energy. During an affair, that energy is turned away from the marriage. Inevitably, that means that there is neglect of the life and responsibilities within the marriage.
An affair is a selfish act, and those that engage in them are often caught off guard when there are consequences. If they’re acting like an entitled jerk at home, they will face criticism. Probably justified.
They say you’re no fun, yet they leave you with all of the responsibilities.
“You’re just no fun anymore,” they whine, thinking of the alternate universe they have with their affair partner that is separate from mortgages and orthodontist appointments.
Life means growing up. It means sometimes setting aside what feels good in the moment for longer term goals. And those that cheat are more likely to be immature and want others to do all the heavy lifting for them.
They say you’re angry, yet they make false promises that lead to dashed expectations.
Of course you’re angry. They keep promising to come home on time, to put the phone away, to spend quality time with the family. Yet it never seems to manifest.
As your hopes and expectations are dashed again and again, you grow frustrated. Why can’t they do what they promised? Sometimes, they begin to see you in a disapproving and controlling parental role, keeping them confined. Yet they conveniently forget that they stepped into that life and its responsibilities willingly.
They say we’re the bad guy, yet they need us to be the bad guy to justify their choices.
This is what it ultimately comes down to. They want to have the affair. And so they’ll do anything they can to justify their reasons for doing what they want.
They blame their choices on your behaviors. Yet they fail to recognize the impact their choices have on you.