What to say when you’ve cheated: Accountability in a relationship

Again, the same disclaimer as always: I’m not a psychologist or any kind of professional, and following is not to be taken as advice. If any of the things in this post interests you, please discuss your reaction with a licensed professional. 

There are many memes that say “You’ll never find happiness if you think it’s something you get from someone else.” But then they don’t tell you how to get over it. This is one of the examples.

I personally think HOW (or if) to tell your spouse you cheated is a whole another topic. But once you did, accountability is important to healing. Here are my personal lists.

First of all, let’s acknowledge that you were probably hurt, desperate, sad, lonely, and at the end of your rope. You were probably exhausted from trying to change the situation for years and years. You have felt dismissed and unimportant and insignificant and powerless because your spouse says they heard your needs and your situation never improved. You felt… maybe the affair was the solution to your problem somehow.

But, instead, the affair only put you in the current situation of having told your spouse about the affair which devastated them. Now, where to go from here?

Repeat this three times:

“I am a financially independent adult, and I had complete control over myself. No one could have forced me to do something if I really didn’t want to.”

“I am a financially independent adult, and I had complete control over myself. No one could have forced me to do something if I really didn’t want to.”

“I am a financially independent adult, and I had complete control over myself. No one could have forced me to do something if I really didn’t want to.”

Now we’re ready.

What to tell yourself if you cheated (and do not make excuses):

– S/he did not drive me to it.
– I knew there were other options.
– Even if I tried very hard to get them to see my needs and they still didn’t respond, I still had other options.
– It is not entirely impossible that I may have wanted to hurt him/her.
– It’s not impossible I wanted to punish them.
– It is not impossible that I wanted to have the cake and eat it too.
– I’m fully aware that it would have been completely devastating to me if the places were reversed.
– I alone am fully responsible for working out the strategies to prevent it from happening again.

What to think about telling your spouse if you cheated (and do not make excuses!):

(but when it comes to actually telling them, do consult a professional. But do it in your head anyway)
– That I take full accountability of my choices.
– I admit that I had other choices. If you have trouble with this, back to “I am an adult with financial independence…” part above.
– The truth. Even if the truth is “I don’t know.”
– No turning tables, like “but you drove me to this because…” or “This wouldn’t have happened if you had…” If you have trouble with this, back to “I admit I had other choices” above.
– How I will prevent it from happening again. Use “I” and avoid “we” like “I will communicate better” not “we will communicate better.”
and, lastly but most importantly,
In a very firm and conclusive way without any vagueness, why I am choosing to stay in the relationship.

Let’s think about why this all happened.

Let’s do this with everything we discussed above in mind. Meaning that we are not going to blame the other person or the situations for the outcome because “I am a financially independent adult, and no one could have forced me into it if I really didn’t want to do it.”

Some possibilities:

– I require more from this relationship than what it can give me today. This includes future promises and commitments.
– The relationship has become more about what it does for me than about the person.
– I’m trying to change a person, not their habits.
– I’m trying to change a person’s habits over just a few months.
– I’m trying to change a person’s habits by demanding and scolding and nagging, not by supporting, acknowledging, and celebrating.
– I feel they deserve to be nagged at for taking long to change.
– I feel I’m in the right. They have a “bad” habit, and I’m entitled to their change.
– I keep repeating the same communication method that’s failed and blame the spouse for the failure. i.e. “I told my spouse this 20 times” should be directed at myself, not at my spouse.
– I knew my spouse didn’t understand my needs when they said they did, but I was just happy with the verbal confirmation which I could use later to assign blame.
– When my needs are not met, I see it as my spouse failing.
– I think my spouse can do anything and provide me with everything I need if they applied themselves.

If you have your own ideas, please add below in comments.

Now, this doesn’t mean your hurt, desperation, and need aren’t real.

– Seeing what you’ve done in the past didn’t work, how do you plan on making your life more fulfilled without repeating any of it?
– Seeing what you’ve done in the past didn’t work, what do you think your spouse can really do and maybe possibly couldn’t do in terms of meeting your needs?
– Seeing what you’ve done in the past didn’t work, what does your spouse need (to hear, to see, to feel) in order to do these things you think they can do?
– How do you adjust as you see some of those things you thought they could do probe to be wrong?

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