The betrayal of infidelity is, without doubt, among the most painful adult-life emotional experiences you can have. There is nothing quite like the pain-fear-rage you feel when you find out that your supposedly monogamous partner has been cheating on you. The sense of betrayal you experience is just plain overwhelming, and it may leave you feeling as if you will never be able to trust him (or anyone else) ever again. That said, it’s possible you still love him and want to stay with him, provided he mends his cheating ways.
It’s likely that your cheating man has apologized, probably profusely, for hurting you in this way. If so, you know that’s not enough, and it will never be enough. He will also have to work very hard to rebuild relationship trust, being honest and forthright with you in all matters from here on out. And he will plan to do that. He will even promise to do that. Still, he might continue to break your heart, most likely in one or more of the following ways.
- Continuing to Cheat: A significant percentage of men who cheat just can’t seem to stop, no matter the consequences. They’re like drug addicts. They keep going even after their infidelity (or part of it, anyway) has been uncovered and their world is crumbling around them. The good news is not all men fall into this category. Plenty of cheating men feel deep remorse and amend their behavior, once it’s uncovered, without slipping. But others either can’t or won’t, and this is miserable for the betrayed partner.
- Continuing to Lie and Keep Secrets: After cheating men are caught, their natural tendency is to continuing lying, covering up, keeping secrets, and admitting to only partial truths. Even if they’ve stopped cheating, they continue to deceive on other fronts. For a betrayed partner, this can be every bit as painful and damaging to the relationship as the actual infidelity.
- Blaming Anyone but Himself for Cheating: Externalizing blame (making the problem someone else’s fault) is one of the tactics cheating men commonly use to rationalize and justify their behavior. This can be incredibly painful for you as a betrayed partner. What you want him to do is admit what he’s done and take responsibility, but he would much rather blame others (including you) for his poor decisions.
- Apologizing and Expecting/Demanding Immediate Forgiveness: Some cheating men apologize and think that should be the end of the discussion. Water under the bridge. And they get frustrated or angry when you don’t see it that way. They don’t “get it” that they’ve destroyed your trust in them and your relationship with their cheating, lying, and secret keeping, and you’re not going to forgive them until they earn it, proving that they can once again be trusted.
- Trying to Buy Forgiveness: One of the most common mistakes cheating men make is attempting to buy their way out of the doghouse with flowers, dinners, trips, jewelry, etc. If your man has tried this, you know it doesn’t work. Gifts, no matter how expensive and/or thoughtful, do not undo the trauma wrought by infidelity. They never have, and they never will.
- Using Aggression/Threats to Control You: Sometimes, to get their angry partners to “lighten up,” cheating men will threaten with divorce, loss of financial support, and the like. Sometimes cheating men can temporarily bully their betrayed partners into submission. They don’t seem to understand that when they do this, they drive an emotional wedge into the relationship.
- Trying to Calm You Down: Has your cheating partner ever said anything like, “Honey, relax, this isn’t a big deal. You know I love you and I always have. You’re overreacting.” If so, you know his attempts to calm you down, even if they’re temporarily successful, can’t and don’t fix the loss of relationship trust caused by his cheating. Moreover, these attempts to calm you down are painful, because what he’s basically saying is that your anger about his cheating doesn’t matter to him.
If your cheating man engages in one or more of these behaviors, it may hurt you as much and maybe even more than the infidelity itself. The good news is that this does not mean your relationship is over, or that it’s not salvageable. It simply means your man has a lot of work to do if he wants to restore relationship trust, make things right, and re-establish intimacy. In my next posting to this site, I will discuss four indicators you can look for to see if he’s on this healing path (even if he’s still making some of the mistakes listed above).