Having looked first at the most common scenarios where affairs take place, and then at the most likely signs that you should watch for, today we are going to talk about the ways in which cheaters justify their actions to themselves.
Believe it or not, while cheating is often thrilling and exciting, it is also emotionally exhausting and very stressful. People who cheat on their spouses experience a roller coaster of emotions, and often struggle with guilt and fear. Because the affair is usually meeting some deep-seated need that their marriage failed to address, they are torn between doing what they know is “right”, and doing what makes them happy. They often need to justify their actions to themselves in order to not feel like they’re “bad” people.
“The marriage is essentially over already, so who cares.”
For couples who have lost that emotional connection that ties them together, it can be easier to justify an affair on the grounds that your relationship is only a formality at this point. By focusing on the unhappiness and unfulfillment they experience in their marriage, and not on their commitment to their spouse, they give themselves permission to cheat.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one doing it.”
A person who believes that their spouse is cheating on them, is likely to have a much easier time rationalizing an affair. After all, if their husband or wife has already violated the sanctity of their marriage, it hardly seems worth preserving. However, some cheating spouses use this excuse without their partner ever having strayed from the marriage. How, you wonder? By making false accusations and incorrect assumptions in order to make themselves feel better about their actions.
“I need this, and my spouse doesn’t provide it.”
By convincing themselves that there is something that they absolutely must have, and that their spouse doesn’t provide, can make an affair much easier to justify. For some people the “it” they claim they must have is sex. For others it’s intimacy, emotional connection, and even sometimes something as simple as common ground – shared interests that they share with someone other than their spouse.
“They don’t love me anymore, so they probably wouldn’t care if they found out.”
A spouse who believes that their marital partner is so distant, and so disconnected from them, that they wouldn’t care if they discovered an affair, can feel less guilty about their choices. Believing that your spouse doesn’t love you anymore makes cheating much easier, and much less stressful.
“They hurt me, so this is how I’ll pay them back!”
For a spouse who feels deeply wounded by their spouse, perhaps because of hurtful things said during a fight, or other deceptions discovered during the course of daily life, an affair can feel like a good way to “stick it” to their spouse. A way of saying “See? You hurt me, but I can hurt you too!” It is a method of attempting to regain control, and establish lash out when they feel attacked.
Although these aren’t all of the reasons that people cheat, they are some of the more common explanations that people use when attempting to justify extramarital affairs. Join us next time, as we wrap up this four part series on what you need to know about cheating spouses, as we look at ways to find out if your spouse is cheating on you.