My Spouse Cheated and Isn’t Showing Any Remorse!

There-is-no-person-so​There is a pattern that we’ve noticed over the years, one that repeats itself with enough regularity that we believe it would be useful to address it. It is a regular problem in marriages that have suffered the agony of an affair, and one that, if not properly dealt with, causes more problems with recovery than almost any other. One way that it manifests itself in the refusal of the betrayed spouse to forgive. It is rooted in the ideas of forgiveness, in refusing to work on the marriage. It’s many offspring include blaming and the art of tit-for-tat. It usually ends with one or both spouses so full of resentment that the marriage fails.

A recent letter expresses this idea with some clarity, and so it will be used as an example. But this idea is quite common, any number of emails could be selected to show the problem. This particular letter is no more special, or troubling, than any other – it is simply a useful teaching example.

It is entirely possible that this letter is mostly a frustrated “rant”.

We live in a society where feelings are considered more important than facts or even the truth. When ranting, people say whatever their emotional state at the time leads them to say. This, the ranter believes, is ‘the truth’ – because this is what is felt at that particular moment. In a rant, people tend to say things they don’t really mean (we normally this call ‘lying’ – but we tend to gloss over it in the pursuit of what we believe will be cathartic.) When ranting, a person will say deliberately hurtful, mean-spirited, and often false things about their spouse. This should never occur, for such actions are the opposite of love. That is to say, this sort of behavior is hatred. We are to love our spouses. In fact, the Bible tells us to love even our enemies (Matt. 5: 43-48 and Luke 6:27-36).  In a rant things are often stated in a highly emotional way that would never be stated had the ‘ranter’ been thinking about their words rather than instinctively barking out what they ‘feel’.

This means that much of what is written MAY BE far from reality and most likely spoken in haste without forethought. Let us be clear, however, a rant is not a truly acceptable way to address any problem. It is childish, inefficient, and detrimental – especially if it garners any support from other people. At best, a rant should be ignored and the focus returned to the real problems and solutions.

Keep in mind that if something is true, it is so -regardless of how you feel. If you believe something you state in a rant is true – then it is also true regardless of the rant. Keep that in mind when you begin to berate your spouse in a rant. This is either telling everyone how you really view your spouse – or else how often you lie!

By saying what is written “MAY” be far from reality, what we mean is that this rant reveals an underlying problem with the marriage that quite likely brought about the eventuality of an affair in the first place. If this is more than a collection of falsehoods and exaggerations (a rant) then it is an overview of the entire marriage. Affairs rarely occur in a vacuum. It is clear that this marriage is in far more trouble than recovering from an affair. It is a marriage without love.

By love, we do not speak of some obscure emotion. At Affaircare, we do not use the word ‘love’ to mean an emotion at all. It is an ACTION. This marriage lacks this action – and may have for long before the affair.

One further caveat: an affair is usually a stupid, and thoughtless attempt to escape symptoms of a troubled marriage, or to avoid the problems of a troubled marriage altogether. At all times, it is a bad idea, it is the WRONG solution, and it causes more problems than it is trying to solve. When a spouse enters into an affair, what they are doing is wrong, stupid, and harmful. There is no moral excuse for an affair.

Now, let’s examine the letter:

“…I wish I could get the kind of remorse and frequent apologies and asking for forgiveness this article talks about, but none of the sort, we are in counseling and {my spouse] is working on the marriage, by letting me know where s/he is, what s/he is doing but the last time we spoke in therapy about asking for forgiveness it blew my mind:

My spouse did not know they were supposed to ask for forgiveness….”

Note first, the author of the letter states that their spouse “is working on the marriage”. Let’s keep that in mind! The Disloyal in this instance IS doing what is necessary. Maybe not on the timeline imposed by the author, but by their own admission, the Disloyal is doing the work. (Interestingly, the Loyal Spouse claims later that they are actively refusing to do their own part.)

The Loyal Spouse is ‘shocked’ to find that the Disloyal did not know they had to ask for forgiveness. The Loyal  gives no reason why this is shocking, and on top of that, gives no reasons why they think this may have occurred. The Disloyal doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. Instead, the Loyal has boxed their Disloyal Spouse into an inescapable prison – they are actively arranging the outcome. We are not the spouse – but we can offer a couple of possible reasons! Maybe the Disloyal Spouse assumed that the need for forgiveness for a wrong they committed was so obvious it didn’t need to be asked (especially if they are working to fix the situation.) Perhaps the Disloyal made the mistake of thinking it was implied in the process of beginning to work on the marriage. Perhaps the Disloyal was afraid the Loyal Spouse wouldn’t forgive anyway, so why try? We could come up with many more examples.

Affaircare is a Christian coaching service, we base our replies on what we find in Scripture. So we will point out a couple of passages where people prayed for their enemies to be forgiven, even though their enemies not only did not ask for it – but were actively behaving in a way that brought about the need for forgiveness: Luke 23:34, and Acts 7:60.

The fact that the Loyal Spouse’s mind was ‘blown’ because the Disloyal didn’t know that they were required to actually vocalize the words is more of a revelation that the Loyal Spouse is unforgiving than that the Disloyal needs to make the request. The Loyal Spouse is refusing to forgive unless the Disloyal jumps through THEIR hoops – steps that the Loyal has obviously not vocalized! The Loyal will not forgive the Disloyal unless they somehow manage to perform the actions the Loyal imagines they have to undertake. However – what is good for the goose is good for the gander! If the Loyal expects their spouse to say things out loud, then they ALSO need to say things. Out loud. The Disloyal Spouse’s mind may be blown that their Loyal Spouse needs such actions.

They also may learn things about one another!

The Loyal Spouse continues:

“…No remorse, no emotional breakdown, no guilt– nothing, [my Disloyal Spouse] says they feel numb, They weren’t numb when they were with married asshole who pretended to be my friend and hugged our children in front of their own spouse…”

It’s interesting that the Loyal brings up the need for their Disloyal Spouse to ‘break down’. This assumes a personality trait that not all people share. The Thinkers among us rarely have emotional breakdowns. No clue is given here as to what the Disloyal Spouse’s personality type may be – are they more emotionally oriented? or more of a Thinker? Understanding that aspect may well give a clue as to why this Disloyal Spouse is not acting the way the Loyal demands.

Yet – as the Loyal Spouse writes: the Disloyal IS ‘working on the marriage’! And, as is pointed out, THE LOYAL SPOUSE IS NOT.

The Loyal claims that there is “no guilt–nothing”. We must assume the Loyal Spouse
means that their Disloyal is not ‘acting’ like he or she ‘feels’ guilty. This is an error many people make! Guilt has nothing to do with feelings. A person IS guilty if they have committed some wrong. How each person acts when this is realized varies from person to person. The Loyal claims the Disloyal is ‘working on the marriage’ – which means that the Disloyal has already accepted the guilt – and is doing something about it. Perhaps the Loyal would rather if their spouse made no steps toward working on the marriage and instead sat on the couch weeping while the Loyal relieved their frustrations saying mean things – or worse!

The Loyal Spouse claims the Disloyal shows no remorse. This may well be – but that does not mean they don’t feel remorse – nor regret. In fact, by definition, a person who is remorseful takes steps to rectify the situation. They ‘repent’ – that is, they take steps to change their lives for the better. As the author wrote in the first paragraph: the Disloyal Spouse is working on the marriage.

We think it is safe to say that what the author means by ‘no remorse’ is actually ‘no regret.’ The definition of ‘regret’ is “a feeling of sadness or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.” Their spouse does not appear to feel sad – and from this the author assumes that that Disloyal is not sorry – nor wanting to change. But above all, it simply points out that the author is assigning a fantasy set of standards to which they hold the spouse – which, because they are imaginary – are most likely not possible to attain.

Which is why the Loyal Spouse writes the next line; this is the crux of the entire letter, and the story of their marriage. It is the most revealing, detrimentally destructive highlight of the letter:

“…My anger and resentment grow each day, I say nothing,… [my Disloyal spouse] thinks that everything is going to be OK and that time is going to take care of this, it will not…”

Note the Loyal Spouse’s claim of omniscience (knowing the future) and declaration of reality: things WILL NOT WORK OUT. Since the Loyal cannot know the future, the only possible way they can say ‘it will not’ is if they have already determined that the marriage is over. Since the Loyal has already determined this, they have cancelled out any work their spouse may do for the marriage. It reveals a person who has no intention of remaining married and is instead dragging their spouse through a pointless succession of tasks. At the end of each task, they can declare it failed, and the Disloyal will need to do something else. Of course this cannot go on indefinitely: at some point the Disloyal Spouse will give up. But in the meantime, the Loyal Spouse will have had the pleasure of seeing them squirm and beg. For nothing. And in the end – the Loyal may well force the Disloyal to leave the marriage – which will then mean that they can claim the divorce ‘wasn’t their fault!’ God sees all things, though!

Since the Loyal Spouse has publicly declared that this WILL NOT WORK OUT, they need to be true to their word, or else be revealed as a liar, and untrustworthy themselves. In other words, if this is over, end it–do not lead the Disloyal Spouse on and give false hope.  Or, as the Bible declares: “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” (Matt 5:37 and James 5:12)  Moreover, since the Loyal Spouse’s declaration is public, they have made a statement in front of witnesses: “… Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth…” Deut. 23:23 (the founding verse of Affaircare)!

Keep in mind that the Bible specifically tells us not to ‘let the sun go down on our anger’ (Eph. 4:26). It means that we must work toward solving the problem immediately – and that involves direct, verbal communication, using the skill of active listening, with the intention of ending the dispute in a loving, God-honoring fashion. No matter how big the problem, the Bible offers solutions, and God promises healing. The Loyal Spouse can not cling to their anger and must actively work to resolve the anger.

“…How can you trust someone who has no remorse, no empathy, no compassion for the hurt they have caused? You can’t, and living with someone you can’t trust sucks in the worse possible way…”

Indeed it does, and living with someone who refuses to work on the marriage (and refuses to forgive, with no remorse for such an action) – also “sucks in the worse possible way.” See Luke 6:42. We have covered the idea of trust elsewhere on our site (for example, HERE), and anyone interested can easily search and find what we have to say on that issue. But note:  searching would be part of the work one must do on the marriage. For someone who has declared that they will not work on the marriage, there isn’t any point to reading up on it.

“…I am doing things for myself now, back to my activities friends and [hobbies], my Disloyal can join or not their choice, I have stopped “working” on this, it was their fuck up, it’s their job to fix it, I am done trying to make things into something they are not…”

Here is a very revealing sentence: “…I am done trying to make things into something they are not…”

Any marriage that goes through the agony of an affair never returns (with any success) to the way things were. Instead, it MUST become something that ‘it was not.’ It is unfortunate that the author of this letter will have nothing to do with this. By declaring that they have stopped ‘working’ on the marriage the Loyal has declared the marriage over.

The affair was a very stupid and destructive choice – but that is not the primary problem. Almost no affair happens in a vacuum. There is almost ALWAYS a prior set of problems that existed before the affair. The affair was a stupid, thoughtless attempt to either fix or escape those problems. And the attitude of the author of this letter reveals a lot more about the marriage than they  would like to admit. The author’s treatment of their spouse creates an environment where an affair is more likely. With this kind of treatment, it is easy to see why this Disloyal Spouse may have blundered into the arms of an unscrupulous pursuer.

Since the Loyal has stopped working on the marriage (the use of quotes around the word working is revealing in itself) – and since the Loyal has declared that it CANNOT work out – our advice is to cut it off NOW and stop trying to punish the Disloyal for their sin. “…Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord…” (Romans 12: 18-20). This Loyal does not love their spouse. “…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Eph. 5:25) and as such, is just as guilty as their Disloyal Spouse is of destroying their marriage. Admit it, repent, go and sin no more.

“…[My Disloyal] needs to make me fall in love with them again or it is time to pack my bags and enjoy life, it is way too short to be miserable, my kids deserve a better example than that….”

The author’s spouse did not “MAKE” them fall ‘in love’ in the first place. They CHOSE to love their spouse; they CHOSE to feel affection, pride, admiration, and a host of other emotions regarding them. Making any other person responsible for their own emotions and actions is just as destructive as any affair. The Disloyal Spouse will fail at some point, and the Loyal will be right back on the throne demanding reparation and dictating punishment.

“… it is time to pack my bags and enjoy life, it is way too short to be miserable, my kids deserve a better example than that….”

It is time to pack your bags because you declared that this WILL NOT WORK OUT. DO IT NOW. Do not abuse your spouse and children any longer. You have that moral option whenever there is an affair – with one caveat: once you commit to working on the marriage, you no longer have that option. You have recommitted and are bound by that promise as surely as you are to your initial marriage commitment.

As for ‘life being too short’ – placing your need to feel comfortable and happy over the word you give to another reveals that your promise was a lie in the first place: your commitment is NOT to the marriage – it is to YOUR HAPPINESS. Such a person cannot be trusted to be there ‘for better or for worse’. And, as the author stated: “…living with someone you can’t trust sucks in the worse possible way…”

As for “my kids deserve a better example” – we have to question the sanity of this statement. The author’s Disloyal Spouse is – by their own admission – ‘working on the marriage.’ What BETTER example can be given than working to repair a problem? Is running away, hating, refusing to forgive, and chasing after happiness in ANY WAY a BETTER example?

In close: a marriage is a partnership encased in commitment, fortified by repentance and growth as a Christian. It requires diligent work from both partners, working together to go the same direction. Picture trying to push a stalled automobile: if one of you takes the front end and pushed, while the other takes the rear end and pushes, nothing happens. Get together and work from the same side!

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “My Spouse Cheated and Isn’t Showing Any Remorse!

  1. My wife recently asked me to open our marriage because she was bored and needed to find herself. I said I love you so much that I have to let you go and pursue what that means to you. We have been married for 11 years.

    I later found out that she was using the digital application called “Whisper” for random sexual hookups. It caused me so much stress I felt like I was dying. We are separated now for health and security reasons. I just do not think it will ever work after reality crashed in from the back front and sides. It is a steady slow systematic decline. Thoughts?

    1. An ‘open marriage’ will not work – as you have found out. A marriage is a specific commitment of faithfulness to a spouse, and separation from all others. It is a representation of Christ’s relation to the Church. The Bride of Christ cannot sleep with other gods and remain in the relationship. We’ve seen this happen so many times, and it is a very sad situation!

      Here is the first serious mistake:

      “…I said I love you so much that I have to let you go and pursue what that means to you…”

      This is not love! That cannot be stated in any clearer fashion. It is cowardice! To love someone means to work in ways that are best for the object of the love. Sometimes it means saying ‘no’ – even if that angers or frustrates the other person. Love would be to refuse such a request, and instead to work toward finding out WHY this question even arose. Allowing and encouraging someone to actively fulfill their sinful desires is never loving – it is actually a hateful action: it is your active participation in compounding another person’s guilt before God!

      You found out that she was actually having sexual hookups. What else does an ‘open marriage’ mean? You told her is was OK with you! Why was this of any surprise to you at all? Why were you shocked? This is EXACTLY what you agreed to!

      The second problem here is that your wife is very likely not a Christian and as such has a bigger need than “many sexual partners.” She needs to repent and turn to God. If she IS a Christian, then it is your duty as a Christian to follow the guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.

      Chalk this up to a lesson learned (the hard way) and work to improve your own relationship to God. There is always hope and joy on that path – even in stressful, difficult times.

  2. Isn’t asking for forgiveness part of repenting? I get the point of the post that both spouses need to work on the marriage for it to work. Seems almost like you are saying as long as they aren’t currently cheating you have nothing to be upset about. I myself am 3 years out from discovery and still haven’t received an apology or asked to forgive.

    1. “…Isn’t asking for forgiveness part of repenting?…”

      Repentance (from a Christian perspective) has two parts – confessing and turning from sin.

      1) Turning from sin. The repentant sinner no longer commits the sin and instead moves in the opposite direction. Paul gives a good example of this in Ephesians 4:28:

      “…Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need…”

      A thief sins by taking what is not rightfully theirs. The repentant sinner instead does the exact opposite. So part of repenting is to end the affair – but (and this is very important!) – the repentant person must also actively work on the marriage.

      2) Confession. The second part of repentance is confession of sins (check out Psalm 25 for a good example). When one is guilty of various sins, “he must confess in what way he has sinned” in order to receive atonement and forgiveness (cf Leviticus 5:5, James 5:16).

      In other words, a person who repents stops the sin, confesses it specifically (to those wronged in particular) and works in the opposite direction. Asking for forgiveness is not directly implied. This does not mean you do not seek forgiveness. It means that speaking the words is not as important as the actions you undertake. The point of we made in the post, however, was not aimed at whether one should or should not ask. It was aimed at the idea of setting up goalposts (which can always be moved at the last instant). Refusing to forgive someone because they did not ask is to ignore the actions that person is making – are they fulfilling the Christian definition of repentance? If so – on what grounds does a Christian stand in refusing to forgive? It appears to us that such a person is adding their own criteria, making their demands more important than Gods.

      Keep in mind that all people differ in personality. Some people are far more ‘internalized’ – that is, they process things inside, rather than out loud. In a marriage where the personalities differ, problems arise when one partner determines that if their spouse is not acting how THEY would – their spouse is wrong. We have to be very careful about making ourselves the standard by which humanity is judged.

      “…Seems almost like you are saying as long as they aren’t currently cheating you have nothing to be upset about…”

      People can always find something to be upset about. That’s basic human nature. On top of this, we made no inference that you will not experience emotional turmoil. That, too, is basic human nature. Pain rarely goes away in an instant, and some wounds take longer than others to heal. But if an unfaithful spouse has repented – that is, has been working on the marriage, admitted the sin, and is moving in another direction – then the hurt felt is to a PAST wrong. It is no longer happening.

      How does God view the repentant sinner? Does God dwell in and on the pain of past transgressions – or does God consider the act to be gone, passed, and no longer present? Christian growth means that one thinks more and more like God. (Not an easy task, – by all means! But over time, it becomes easier and easier.) A problem exists WITHIN THE PERSON EXPERIENCING THE PAIN – if, over time, it does not diminish and fade. The repentant spouse has no control over this – nor any choice in the matter!

      “…I myself am 3 years out from discovery and still haven’t received an apology or asked to forgive…”

      In what ways has your spouse acted to change things? If there is NO movement in the opposite direction, then there is no real repentance. Without more information, it’s hard to tell what is going on in your situation.

      Remember that forgiveness is not dependent upon the desire of the other person. It is entirely up to the wronged individual. It is simply a lot easier for us to forgive when someone asks. I suspect that it makes us feel superior, and more fulfilled if someone bows down before us and grovels. But is that Christian behavior?

      1. One of the ways I came to understand forgiveness was when I considered Jesus praying for the Roman soldiers who had put Him up on the cross and praying for the people who had said ‘Crucify Him.’ He specifically prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” and yet that we can tell, not one of the Roman soldiers was actually sorry for what they had done, nor had they asked for forgiveness! Likewise, the lynch mob that had cried out for Jesus’ death was not sorry, nor had they turned from what they were doing! In fact, that same generation went on to kill all of the apostles!

        So clearly forgiveness had nothing to do with “whether or not they were sorry” or “whether or not they asked for forgiveness.” Jesus prayed for their forgiveness while they were still doing the sin and while they had never asked to be forgiven.

        So when He says to us that we have to forgive “Seventy times seven” times does that mean we’re supposed to be a doormat and just let our sinful spouses trample us? No. In the instance where Jesus is asked “How often do I have to forgive my brother” and He says “No not seven times but seventy times seven!” (Matt. 18:21-22) Jesus is talking about a brother or sister in Christ who has done a wrong, and then repented and confessed. Repented = a complete 180 degree change from the sin they had been doing. Confessed = admit what you did was sin to the person who was harmed. And what jesus is saying is that if a brother or sister does something wrong, then realizes they were wrong, stops doing the wrong and instead starts doing right, and comes to speak to you and admits they were wrong, forgive them! Even if they are sort of slow and keep messing up.

        Finally, let’s actually define “forgiveness.” I read a GREAT definition once that really made sense to me: “to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).” To put it in layman’s terms, the Loyal Spouse was harmed and from that harm has a legitimate claim for recompense. Forgiveness would be giving up the claim and letting go of it. If the Disloyal Spouse is repenting by stopping the affair and doing a 180 degree change in the way they behave, and if the Disloyal Spouse has admitted they had an affair and it was wrong, then forgiveness would be put the affair in the past and not bring it up again. If the Disloyal Spouse is still in the affair and has not changed at all and won’t admit they are wrong, forgiveness would be to live apart from them as long as they continue in sin, and to not hold your legitimate claim for repayment against them. Just let them go, and God will take care of the situation!

  3. You’ve talked very clearly about how this Disloyal may just not be wired for emotion. What about those of us who have husbands who we KNOW are wired emotionally, but have deliberately built a wall around their emotions so that they don’t have to deal with the guilt that they claim will “kill them”? What if this husband hasn’t had an affair since it broke off three years ago (though has looked at porn repeatedly while promising not to) and thinks that’s enough and his wife should just “accept him as he is”? What if he still breaks every promise makes her (to the point of leaving her and her children stranded in a city without the hotel room he promised he booked)? What if he lies more than tells the truth? What if he tells her that she is hurting the children by separating when he is “doing everything he’s supposed to be doing (because he isn’t currently having an affair)? What then?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s