Explaining and Excusing

This point of post is perhaps a bit overdue. I realized this after I told somebody off in the comments. Among the problems I had with their original comment was they confused my explanations of what I did, of how I felt, and of what I thought, with excuses for the inexcusable thing I did.

Before I get any further, let me say a couple of things to set the ground rules for this conversation. First, there is no excuse for having an affair. No matter what the situation is or was, there was always another choice that didn’t involve violating your or someone else’s marriage vows. The second is a corollary to the first: the only person responsible for an affair is the cheating spouse. That person is without excuse and cannot blame the affair on the affair partner, the faithful spouse, a rotten childhood, or anything else.

I’ve made those two points in various ways and in various posts, but the point can get muddled when I start talking about how I was feeling or what I was thinking nearly two years ago. I don’t want muddled thinking because muddled thinking can quickly turn into hurt feelings when I talk about affairs.

As for the explanations, I don’t think there is some big overarching way to look at it that describes the why of the affair. Instead there are many facets to it and many ways of looking at it. Blaming other people is not one of those facets, although it is a way that some people choose to look at and explain an affair. I do not.

So what can we say about why I had an affair? All of the following statements are correct: “it was an act of selfishness”, “it was an act of stupidity”, “I was a fool”, “I fooled myself”, “it was an act of rebellion against God”, “it was a betrayal of my wife, family, and friends”, “I broke my marriage vows”, “I was in a fog that confused my thinking”, “I was caught in a vortex of my sin which I found difficult to escape”, “I was addicted to the affair”, “I wasn’t acting like myself/I wasn’t myself”, “I was depressed before it happened”, “I was in love*.”

The first one is a big one and undoubtedly true, but it’s hardly the overarching explanation of every affair that some take it to be. Ultimately, just about every bad thing we do is motivated by selfishness.

We are all selfish to one degree or another – it is literally in our nature to be selfish, regardless of whether you think we evolved or we were created and fell into sin. We all seek to have our wants or needs satisfied at the expense of what is right before God and society or what is good for others (including what is good for God, by the way, since Jesus paid for every sin on the cross). Even the first sin in the garden of Eden was an act of selfishness (also stupidity, self-deception, rebellion, etc).

My point is selfishness is a valid explanation, but not a complete explanation. I could make much the same argument about affairs and other sins being acts of arrogance. They would be just as correct but also just as incomplete.

The reason is that our motivations are rarely, if ever, simple. Exploring these other motivations doesn’t take away from the individual explanations, nor does it change the fact that the thing you’re explaining is sinful. The purpose of looking at things from all of those angles is not to excuse what you did, but to understand why you did it, thereby gaining more knowledge of yourself so you can fix it or avoid the sin in the future.

Statements about affairs being foggy, or like a vortex, or an addiction do not detract from the selfishness, arrogance, or sinfulness of the affair. Those statements describe how it feels to be caught up in the sin and the difficulty of seeing and of choosing the right thing to do when the affair has taken over. The reason these statements are so common and are frequently seconded on blogs is because so many cheaters feel that way during the affair. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I do not deploy them to elicit sympathy. I think about them and write them to increase understanding of the affair and of the cheater.

Really, that’s what this blog has been about since the beginning. Through writing this blog, I’ve come to understand myself better, and in God’s graciousness he has given betrayed spouses better understanding through my writing, too. One of the things I understand more clearly now is just how much this is all my fault and that I’m without excuse. Because of that deeper understanding, I treasure my wife’s forgiveness and God’s grace more now than ever before. That simply wouldn’t be true if the explanations were excuses for what I did.

*I have a post on the topic of love in the affair, but I haven’t posted it yet. For now, let’s just say that it was a twisted sort of love, not pure or true love.

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About Anonyman

Recovering adulterer and husband of an awesome wife who has given me a second chance. Sinner and Christian, saved by grace alone. I cuss a lot
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16 Responses to Explaining and Excusing

  1. Let go says:

    I am not a troll but I do think I lied to myself and you. I care deeply about a family going through this right now and there is collateral damage because there are children, so I am angry.
    I do have a suggestion for you. Ask your wife how many times a day she thinks about your affair.

    Like

    • Anonyman says:

      I’m very sorry for what’s going on in your friend’s life. I sensed that there was more going on than you were saying. I understand that anger because I’ve felt it myself.

      However, I am not your friend’s spouse. Whatever is going on in that family right now does not involve me. You have to remember that I’m not just some faceless entity on the internet, I’m a real human being who is blogging about his struggles to recover from his affair. You cannot come to my blog, tear me down because your friend is hurting, and expect me to put up with it. You may not be a troll, but that is very troll-like behavior, no?

      As for your suggestion, I don’t have to ask my wife because we talk about this all the time. I know she thinks about it as soon as she wakes up every morning and many other times throughout the day besides. And before you ask, yes, that makes me very sad because I have inflicted this curse upon her. The fact that you think I need that suggestion tells me you have made some big false assumptions about where we are and where I am specifically. I don’t know if your suggestion was kindly meant or if you’re still trying to get me to “see what I’ve done,” but it is off-base.

      Liked by 4 people

      • 15gen says:

        Almost 2 years later & she still ‘thinks about it as soon as she wakes up every morning’…thank you for saying that. I’m not happy to know that it will be the first thing I think of every morning (believe me – I can think of a million other ways to start my day better). However, I’m glad to know I’m not the only woman who gets smacked with it first thing in the mornings. That makes me feel more normal – and some days I just need to feel normal…whatever that means nowadays.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Anonyman says:

          One of my best friends, and one of the very few who know what happened, told me early on that in the recovery process, you will reach a “new normal.” It’s different from the old normal in ways both good and bad, but what happened is always going to be a part of it. I’ve come to realize it’s like losing a loved one. It may not hurt all the time like it does in the first year or two after the loss, but the pain doesn’t just go away. You may eventually get to the point where you don’t think about it all the time, but you don’t forget either.
          I don’t know what normal will look like next year or five years from now, but I do know that today’s normal is better than last year’s normal, just as last year’s normal was better than those first few weeks after D-day. I also know that even though my wife thinks about it every morning, we have good days and nights together. Your marriage doesn’t have to be all bad from here on out. The can and will be good to temper the bad.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. recoveringwomanofadultery says:

    I haven’t read all of your story yet…just curious how far away you are from your affair ending? How long it’s taken you to get to the point you are today?

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    • Anonyman says:

      The affair ended in May of 2013. Recovery hasn’t taken a straight line with us. It went in fits and starts. I don’t know if our recovery is typical, better than average, or worse than average. I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as we’re moving forward.

      Liked by 2 people

      • recoveringwomanofadultery says:

        Ok, it seemed like it must have been a while since it had ended. You sound very strong, and sure. I am glad you have such clarity from your vantage point. Clarity is one thing I’ve been searching for while wiring my blog. I’m just telling my story, how it happened, and how I felt, no bars held back, just so putting it out there like that can take it’s power away, and so I can hopefully see something I couldn’t while in it, and learn and grow from it.
        I’m not trying to make excuses, either. (Though some have accused me of such. There is no excuse, you’re right. But there are reasons that led me to be in the place I found myself, and sorting that out is really an important process, isn’t it?

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        • Anonyman says:

          Absolutely. There are reasons we are in the position we’re in, but those in no way shift the blame away from the cheater. Some people confuse the two because they’re hurting and they’re sensitive, while others confuse the two because they are angry at all cheaters. It comes with the territory, but you can usually tell which is which by talking calmly with them and being explicit with what you know to be true. The hurt ones will see that you’re properly owning the blame and that you’re not hurting anyone by trying to blame the victim. The other’s generally don’t get it.

          It may seem like I have great clarity, and I feel like I do on certain issues, but I have to keep reminding myself that I will never see perfectly. There are things I know and there are things I don’t. There are areas where I’ve cleared away the fog, and there’s other areas where I still have some work to do. I thought I saw clearly right before I had the affair (Oh, how arrogant I was back then) but looking back I realize I was blind to my faults. Failing so completely as I have keeps me humble.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Let go says:

    To be honest I don’t know why I told you to ask her. I think it has to do with the conversation you have with other cheaters. Your first blogs were painful to read because you discussed suicidal thoughts. Now some anger is showing. I may be wrong but I am guessing you hoped life would get back to normal before now and it hasn’t Some of your followers are also cheaters. Either they are the WS or the OM/OW and I sense some narcissism in what SOME of them write. Anyway, reading blogs by BS is horrifying because their pain in still in place months, years after the affair. So, to go back to your wife, I hope she is getting past some of it. This response is all over the place because I am close to a BS AND a WS and feel useless in doing or saying anything that will help either of them. I just don’t quite get that you, or any cheater, love your spouses. That is as honest as I can be. I truly do not understand how a man or woman can undress themselves, kiss, fondle, hug and have sex with someone else and continue to feel married. If the marriage is so awful that someone contemplates an affair then why not end it? Any other time, it seems to me, the love for the spouse was not deep enough, or strong enough, to stop.

    Like

    • Anonyman says:

      It’s a paradox, I’ll grant you that. It’s something that we all wrestle with. “How can a man who loved me for all those years do this to me, say he loved me the whole time, and now say he still loves me?” Truth is hard if not impossible to discern because we deceive ourselves as much as our spouses. If my marriage had been perfect would I have still done it? I don’t know. If I had loved my wife perfectly would I have done it? No, I wouldn’t have by definition. But who loves perfectly and acts on that love perfectly? No one.

      The anger I have at times is not because of my marriage. I think we’re doing pretty well under the circumstances. I knew that first night that things would never be the same and that it would be a long, long time before we approached anything normal. Certainly after the first few months I realized it would be a lifelong process of recovery.

      No, the anger I sometimes have is the result of some people’s unforgiving, ungracious attitudes. I hesitate to say judgmental because judgment properly understood is a good thing. What I hate is people who don’t merely say that what I did was wrong, but go further and say that who I am is wrong. What I can’t stand is (not to put too fine a point on it) people who are only interested in condemning all cheaters, especially the ones who aren’t recovering as quickly or in the way that these critics think they should.

      I understand and can sympathize with a spouse who cannot reconcile or forgive the particular person who betrayed them. What I can’t tolerate is people who say that all cheaters are and should be second class people in their marriages and in life in general. What I can’t tolerate is people who say “You sinned but I know I will never sin – not in a million years – so you’re bad, I’m good. End of story.” The “Shut up, scumbag” is usually implied.

      When people do this in general, it ticks me off, but when they do it on my blog, I do get angry sometimes. It’s disrespectful and it’s a personal attack. It also shows a self-righteousness that just rubs me the wrong way, partly because I used to be that guy who thought he was above it all. I could get into the theological reasons why this is wrong too, but that deserves its own blog post. Suffice it to say, sanctimony and moralistic preening are hot buttons for me.

      I know I should be more gracious towards people even when they are ungracious towards me, but sometimes I get in a mood where I just start posting without thinking. I usually make an ass of myself when I do that. So I’ve got that going for me too. Which is nice.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Janelle says:

    Thoughtful post, Anonyman. In all things there seems to be a point where we must choose to condemn the poor choices and devastating behavior and either forge on toward forgiveness and rehabilitation of the relationship or pronounce it unresponsive and allow it to fade to black. Anger and the pain from the wounded party have to go somewhere, and all too often even those in the support system can get caught up in the intensity of the emotional-charged situation and a blog is an easy target to bleed off some of that uncontrolled vitriol. It’s sad, but for every ungracious, judgmental, accusatory comment you receive there is someone out there who finds your perspective and advice insightful and helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So wonderful to read that you really recognize the gift you have in your wife, a woman willing to pursue forgiveness in the face of deep betrayal. That says something about you too, you know? That there is goodness in you.

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  6. Well said. Betrayed Spouses almost always cannot separate “the reason why the affair happened” from “an excuse for having an affair.” They are very different. There is almost always a reason for an affair. Few people have them without long consideration. Happy and content people rarely have them. The “reason” almost always points to a very unsatisfying marital existence, if not outright neglect or abuse. And also perhaps to deficits within the cheater themselves (some people/personalities are more prone to this than others). But the point is that affairs rarely occur in a vacuum. They don’t “come out of nowhere”, despite what many Betrayeds swear. But they fear that if they buy the cheater’s explanation, that somehow it’s an excuse for the affair. A “Free Pass”. It’s not. Also, if the reason the person had the affair is because they were long-term unhappy in their marriage, then the Betrayed must look in the mirror and acknowledge the role they played in creating an environment where an affair became an attractive option. And many refuse to look into this mirror.

    Until both parties can really “get real” about the affair, why it occurred and what was the marital backdrop to it, real understanding, compassion, healing and forgiveness simply cannot occur.

    Liked by 1 person

    • horsesrcumin says:

      I think most of those of us who have been betrayed – or at least those of us who are not outright raving bitches (after the first flush of anger and utter agony, lol) – can see that there is cause and effect. However, although we had hit a slightly more difficult part of our partnership, and I identified this and tried to talk with him about it, him answering that we were fine, and would be fine, I take zero responsibility for causing an affair. I am in no way anywhere even close to perfection, but I know I gave it everything I had, I loved hard, deep, true and with complete trust and belief in my lovely guy. I communicated, he did not. I didn’t know he wasn’t communicating until after the affair was unpacked and gone over with a fine-tooth comb. He gave me ‘enough’ to make me think all was as it had always been in the previous 22 years, we were in love and deeply connected. He wasn’t unhappy WITH ME – he was unhappy with the turn his life took due to decisions HE made, and used his suddenly very available ex-girlfriend (also a lifelong friend of mine – yeah right) as an emotional and sexual crutch. He will admit freely that I was always there for him, he just refused to turn to me because he was angry with me about something he never communicated to me – so I had no idea. The problem with that is that I have HUGE empathy for him, the place he found himself in, but I haven’t been able to learn to live with his rub-my-nose-in-it betrayal of fucking her in our homes, under my nose, with our children in the house, while we were all on holiday together. I really have struggled with that aspect, and the utter lack of concern he showed for my sexual health that caused me so much angst and pain in treatment for diseases only HE could prevent (as I had no idea I was at risk.) He is aghast at how he acted, utterly devastated at who he became for those fifteen months, and is truly remorseful and gutted by his actions, and the permanence of them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t heal me in and of itself. I really thought we would heal, and our love would make the difference. Unfortunately, I still love him very deeply, but am not able to continue with the relationship because of my scars. It’s really shitty. And terribly painful.

      Like

      • First, not every situation works with an overall trend or generality. Therefore, your personal experience in no way invalidates the point I was making — except perhaps for yourself.

        But I have to say, of all that I’ve read, the articles, the blogs, the message boards, it’s quite stunning on how almost NO Betrayed Spouses are ever in any way responsible for their spouse’s deep unhappiness such that an affair became an attractive option. Yet, if you talk to Waywards, almost to a PERSON they will say that their deep marital dissatisfaction is almost always the back-drop to why they choose to do what they did.

        Do obviously there’s a disconnect here.

        I know this — Waywards in recovery will say almost ANYTHING to get the Betrayed off their backs. To get the yelling and recriminations to stop. To try and get their marriage stable enough to move on from this sorry episode. Yes, they will even SWEAR that you were the most perfect of perfect spouses. Or blame the OM/OW for the choices. Or alcohol. Or God knows what. ANYTHING to get you to move on from the topic.

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        • horsesrcumin says:

          Well, d’uh. If you think that hasn’t been discussed and unpacked, you don’t understand almost six years of care and truth from two peoole who dearly love each other. Of course he blamed me to an extent DURING the affair (everyone with half a heart wants to know why they would ever choose to fuck soneone else) but I’d love it if you could talk to him without me here. He truly doesn’t blame me or anything I deliberately or thoughtlessly did. He blamed me for not supporting his big decision. I was honest to a fault and told him I had serious doubts about it but that I loved him and we would work through it. He clung onto the “doubts” part and felt I had, ” emotionally abandoned” him. Because I wasn’t there working beside him every minute of every day like I had been previously. I got an off farm job because his decision meant we needed more income. Not because I wanted to work without him 60-70 hours per week. It was a really tough time. For both of us. As I said. I tried to communicate and he snapped into blame mode. It was terribly sad and he has immense regrets that his coping skills were not finely tuned due to FOO shit he was unaware of in his 40s. Just sad. And not my version. I have faced “my part” or my weaknesses. I’d love you to hear it from him but he doesn’t do computers or social media of any kind

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