I am confident in saying that in most situations, people perceive the faithful spouse as the victim – at least whenever there is cheating is involved in a marriage. Admittedly, there will always be that minority of people who think that the wife must not have been loving or sexy enough to keep her man happy. But, I chose to believe that most people don’t truly have these thoughts. Most people realize that the spouse who cheats is the spouse at fault. Because most people realize that even in struggling marriages, cheating is a conscious choice. And it is the wrong choice.
That is why it can be so perplexing when the cheating spouse attempts to act like the victim. This is often an attempt to elicit pity. Or it is done in the hopes that it will make the faithful spouse a little more understanding. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t frustrating.
A wife might say: “my husband seemed very remorseful on the day that I caught him cheating. He was crying and carrying on, and begging me not to leave him. Well, two days later, that has all changed. Now he is muttering phrases like: ‘I’m tired of you women manipulating me. Women get to do whatever they want to a man and then when things go wrong, it is the man who is blamed. The other woman flirted with me and told me that she didn’t want anything lasting, but of course she did. Then when I tried to break it off with her, she became clingy and pretty much blackmailed me. And then when you found out about the affair, you acted as if we had a wonderful marriage that was above reproach. You acted all shocked and as if you gave me everything that I needed when you know that you didn’t. But yet I am still the bad guy regardless.’ It is almost as if he believes that he is the one who got the raw end of the deal, as if he is the victim. It honestly makes me sick. How can I make him see that he is most certainly not the victim?”
Understanding How He Really Feels: I am not sure if your husband truly believes that he is the victim. Men caught cheating often have a couple of days where they are feeling sorry for themselves (for getting caught) and they are kind of wallowing in self pity. Very often, they have an affair at a time when they are already struggling. They may not realize that they had the affair hoping to feel better about themselves, but this is often the reality of it. So when everything backfires and they actually end up feeling worse about themselves, they can feel a great sense of loss and disappointment. This is real, in my opinion. They are not pretending.
So while it may look an awful lot like self pity or playing the victim, the disappointed feelings may feel quite real to your husband. He may or may not be looking for sympathy or understanding. But you get to decide how you are going to receive this behavior.
Because frankly, this often comes down to one awful, unfortunate choice. All of us deal with periods in our lives where we are let down and disappointed. But when this happens, we can chose to deal with it positively or negatively.
Your husband made the negative choice and this will potentially hurt people that he loves. Regardless of why he did this, he must take responsibility for this choice. This is what most people who cheat do not understand initially. You may feel pity or empathy for what they were going through, but their choice makes you feel anger and disappointment that is going to outweigh or cut into any pity that you might feel.
How You Feel Is Just As Important: There is nothing wrong with letting him know that you don’t intend to treat him like a victim and that regardless of how let down he feels, this doesn’t negate the choices that he has made.
There is nothing wrong with attempting to spell this out for him. If he knows where you stand, he may realize that taking the road he’s on is not going to do him any good. You might try: “what I am hearing is that you seem to perceive yourself as the victim in all of this. But what you don’t seem to appreciate is that, regardless of the circumstances, you made a choice to betray me, to break our marriage vows, and then to lie about it. And you need to take responsibility for that. I realize that I will have to take responsibility for what might have been lacking on my end of the marriage. I will eventually be prepared to look at that honestly, but I expect you to be prepared to look at the choices that you willingly made. You might see yourself as the victim and I can’t change that, but I can tell you that if you want to make any leeway with our marriage, I expect you take responsibility for your choices and actions and I will do the same.”
Many men eventually lay off of their victim strategy. They come to see that it is not working anyway. And they also come to see that it may not matter all of that much. The past is just that. And now the future must be dealt with. A person may have his reasons for the choices that he has made. But ultimately, he must live with them. And tomorrow is what matters. Debating who is the victim isn’t very productive. What is productive is moving forward from here.