It’s a common reaction when you discover you’ve been cheated on:
“What did the affair partner have that I don’t?”
We dive headfirst into the assumption that we’re somehow lacking and that our deficits prompted our partners to stray. After all, if we were enough to satisfy them, why would they be hungry for more?
Sometimes, we funnel this into trying to make ourselves “enough” for them, morphing and minimizing in an attempt to be wanted. Other times, this feeling of not being enough is carried quietly as the rejection is internalized and self-worth is minimized.
Yet this narrative – that they strayed because we were not enough – is categorically false.
Before you accept that the affair(s) happened because of what you’re lacking, consider the following:
The Cheater Benefits From Blaming You
It is in their self-interest to spread the blame for the affair as much as possible to limit their own responsibility. They will gladly declare that, “If you only…” or “You never…” in order to deflect your attention from their betrayal.
Sometimes these accusations hurt because they contain a kernel of truth. Maybe you haven’t been giving the relationship the attention it deserves or you have let yourself slide from the early days of the marriage. Yet, those are no excuse for infidelity nor are they a critique of your character.
If the cheater can get you to believe that “you made them do it,” they can continue to see themselves as a good guy as they cast you as the villain. They are not an impartial director. Fire them and embrace the true nature of your character.
The Affair Partner is a Blank Slate
Once the affair begins, you, through no fault of your own, become a source of discomfort for your partner. When they look at you, they may feel guilty about what they’re doing behind your back and they feel a tension between how they’re viewed by you and what they are doing. Or, if they delight in getting away with deception, they begin to see you as weak because you’re falling for it. (Yet, in my book, trusting in your spouse is not a character flaw.)
The affair partner is a fresh start. They may be complicit in the affair, in which case, the guilt is shared and in the open. Perhaps they are gullible, without the knowledge that you have to counteract the image that the cheater wants to project to others. Or, maybe they are a fresh person to deceive, bringing the cheater a sense of delight in again being able to fool people.
In these cases, the affair partner does have something that you don’t. But is it something that you want?
Cheaters Want Fantasy, Not Reality
And the affair partner can provide that for a time.
They often remain mysterious for longer as dalliances are limited by external factors. The affair is carried out in a bubble, separate from the real-world pressures and challenges. Those unknowns and time apart are filled in with mental images and assumptions.
You can’t compete with that any more than a real woman can compete with an airbrushed image in a fashion magazine. It’s not that the affair partner is better, it’s that in many ways, they are created by the cheater’s projections and desires, unchallenged by the harsher light of the real world.
Instead of trying to compare yourself to fiction, celebrate the fact that you’re real, authentic and multidimensional. That’s better than a fabrication any day.
One Person’s Choice Doesn’t Determine Value
When you see the person in front of you at a buffet pass up the strawberry cake (your personal favorite), do you jump to the conclusion that something must be wrong with the cake?
So why assume that your partner’s choice of something different is a direct reflection of you?
I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating:
Never let a person of questionable character determine your worth.