Why Did My Husband Cheat on Me?
Beyond Breath TV: Is THIS Why He Cheated? Overcoming Unfaithfulness in a Relationship
We all know that cheating is wrong and that it can be very damaging and painful for the betrayed partner. I know that you've probably been told that his decision to be unfaithful is not your fault, but knowing this won’t take away the one-word question: Why? Why did he decide to cheat?
Keep reading to learn:
Why one might choose to be unfaithful
How asking the question ‘why’ is likely to be impossible to answer right after infidelity and how it can be harmful or helpful to your recovery
The three steps you may not know that will take you out of the ‘why’ and give you clarity.
1. He Loved Me. Why Would He Do This?
People do not cheat for one single reason. Rather, multiple factors contribute to that decision.
Some of those factors may be:
A feeling of disconnection from themselves and/or their partner
Boredom within their relationship
A desire for an emotional connection that their current partner can't provide
A feeling of rejection that causes someone to look elsewhere for validation
Emotional or physical neglect
A feeling of being taken for granted
Wanting someone else to show them attention
I believe that infidelity occurs as a result of these types of inner struggles, which usually stem from unresolved childhood trauma.
Let’s pause. I just listed a handful of reasons for why your husband may have chosen to be unfaithful, and I have a few questions for you.
Did hearing those reasons make you feel better?
Did they take away your worry and confusion?
Because of this information, will you never be triggered again?
I'm going to guess that you just shook your head ‘no.’
2. Why ‘Why’ Is An Impossible Question
Answering the question ‘why’ is likely to be impossible right after infidelity.
Even today, as I was reflecting on today’s topic, I googled, ‘What should I do if my husband cheats?’ The very first page that came up advised me to be honest about why it happened.
Listen to this. A study done by doctoral candidates at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL attempted to determine whether someone can be trained to lie more automatically. One of the authors of the study said that they were surprised to find that one’s ability and willingness to lie are more malleable than previously thought. Strong motivations make people better liars.
Now think of the term “practice makes perfect.” Throughout your husband's infidelity, he has been practicing the skill set of lying. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out.
In this same study, the researchers found that as participants repeatedly practiced retrieving a dishonest response from their minds, the participants’ original opposition and personal barriers regarding lying were reduced. They became better at stretching the truth. The research team concluded that once someone repeats a lie often enough, especially when he has a good reason to do so (such as maintaining a positive self-image or avoiding punishment), he may no longer feel that he is lying.
Let's go back to that suggested advice: be honest about why it happened. At this point in your marriage, your husband cannot tell you honestly why he decided to be unfaithful. The lies have become too thick for him to see through and they have become second nature. I constantly hear from women that their husbands were lying unceasingly through years of couples counseling. The lies and the secrets are repeated so often that he becomes good at deceiving himself.
This sounds pretty devastating, doesn't it? If you had been thinking that your husband is now being honest, my words have perhaps uprooted all of that. Let me help you calm yourself before you panic any further.
Learning to speak truthfully takes practice, just like learning to speak a lie takes practice. I know that I wasn't always good at speaking the truth. There were times in my marriage when I stretched the truth to save face or steer away from getting in trouble. I say that while giving myself compassion and grace, which are qualities I had to build the capacity for within myself. If your husband truly has the desire to recover, he can learn to speak the truth again. Sometimes we adopt habits as ugly as soiled clothes, but we can discard them too, emerging cleaner than before.
After infidelity, there is a powerful nagging pull from the betrayed to know why the affair happened. The betrayed often feels that without knowing ‘why,’ she can't move forward, as if her marriage is on pause until she learns every single detail.
This problem is twofold:
1. The husband does not initially have the capacity to tell the truth.
2. The wife doesn't have the capacity to hear it.
The unending desire to know the cause of your husband’s infidelity will take you down a gruesome rabbit hole when it is coupled with emotional trauma. Because of the way your brain is operating, all of the information, images, stories, and words your husband gives you do nothing to ease your pain and suffering. Certain questions, ‘why’ among them, keep you stuck, not providing a way forward.
Are you ready for some good news? I believe that infidelity has become a latter-day epidemic. That’s not exactly good news, but with its rise has come more knowledge capable of helping both the victims and the perpetrators.
Let me share with you what I know to be true. My research and experience has taught me that there is a way out of the rabbit hole of obsession and into a Wonderland in which anything is possible, even the restoration of your marriage. Keep reading.
3. Three Steps, A Lifetime Transformed
I write all of this to empower you. You do not have to keep waiting for your husband to build his capacity to be honest about why he was unfaithful. Three proven steps will allow you to move forward and begin to heal your marriage, even if you don’t know the ‘why’ behind his infidelity.
Step #1: Clear Your Emotional Trauma.
Let me offer it this way. If you step off a curb and almost get hit by a car, the alarm bells go off in your brain. They send a message to your nervous system to go on high alert, and then lots of things happen in your body to give you speed, strength, and focus to get yourself out of danger. This system was designed to calm down as soon as the danger was over. After experiencing emotional trauma, the alarm bells go off constantly, causing dysregulation that changes your brain and physiology. This can result in symptoms of Chronic PTSD. While you maintain a level of heightened alert, no matter what your husband says or doesn't say, it will never be good enough.
The clearing of your emotional trauma is not dependent on your husband's ability to tell the truth or knowing the ‘why’ of his decision. In fact, it is only by clearing your emotional trauma that when your husband does speak the truth, you will be able to hear it and allow it to be healing for you.
Step #2: Create Sustainable Skills to Rebuild Trust.
Right now, if your husband were to tell you every single second of the before, during, and after of the affair, you wouldn't trust his account. You would have more questions and you would continue to feel the heaviness of the betrayal. Trust is built just like a practice of telling the truth is built. You have to build the capacity for it level by level, step by step.
Trust isn't going to be reinstated by one conversation or action. It is something that needs to be worked on daily, but trust can only begin to be rebuilt after you learn how to turn off the alarm system that the emotional trauma has set.
Step #3: Connect.
Only after you have cleared your emotional trauma and created the skill set and capacity for trusting again can you begin to reconnect with your husband. You will then possess the clarity and confidence you’ve desired, allowing you to re-enter the relationship.