Infidelity always has its reasons, usually layers and layers deep within the cheater and the marriage itself. But the reasons that make a person or relationship vulnerable to infidelity are never justifications for straying from a commitment. When it comes to cheating, excuses only do more damage.
Sometimes excuses are shared with an affair partner to elicit pity or alliance against a spouse. My wife has no interest in sex. My husband doesn’t understand me. I can’t share my feelings with my spouse. We haven’t lived like husband and wife in years.
And sometimes the rationalizations are used to fend off the flood of painful consequences rushing in after a spouse finds out about the betrayal.
No matter what the excuse is, it is always a deflection of power and responsibility.
And, no matter how we as humans err, it’s only through raw self-examination and self-accountability that healing can begin.
If you are the one in the hot seat, you may wonder why your “reasons” that feel so sound actually come up short.
Here’s a look at some of the most common cheating excuses and why they will never help you, your spouse, or your marriage heal from your cheating.
They let themself go.It happens to both sexes. Work, overeating, too much alcohol, not enough exercise, natural aging, slowing metabolisms, taking your spouse’s attraction for granted.
Women, of course, are the only ones who can claim the cumulative effects of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.
Either spouse can lose physical attraction to the other. And yes, there can be underlying messages of disregarding self-care and self-presentation.
But the expectation for maintaining a fit, attractive, “sexy” appearance still falls more on women than men.
And using the excuse of losing physical attraction to your spouse or partner speaks to deeper problems than the one you’re blaming.
First of all, have you taken a long, realistic look in the mirror? Research has shown time and again that there are differences in how men and women view their appearance. Women are more self-critical of their appearance. Men, on the other hand, are usually more self-approving or indifferent when they look in the mirror.
Women are held to a higher standard of beauty and fitness. And men who seek younger, sleeker models contribute to its perpetuation.
If you are the husband, is it possible that your wife has struggled to lose postpartum weight? Or that she is exhausted from caring for children? Or that she gets no time to herself?
Or that she longs for the affirmation of your love for her?
Or that she has been more accepting of your appearance than you have been of hers?
Or that your expectations are unrealistic?
Listing your spouse’s physical appearance in your cheating excuses won’t shine the light on how your spouse let themself go.
Instead, it will shine the light on how you let your relationship go.
They never want to have sex, and I have needs.Inequality in sexual desire (and even fulfillment) may be a driving force toward cheating. It’s no secret that men often want more frequent and adventurous sex than women do.
But sex is about so much more than getting hot-and-heavy between the sheets. It’s about how you feel about yourself and how you and your spouse communicate, before, during, and after sex.
Are you doing your part to stoke the fire in your relationship? To keep the element of surprise alive? To be compassionately responsive to the emotional components of your marriage? To strengthen the connection between emotional intimacy and physical intimacy?
If sexual “need” is one of your cheating excuses, are you really just seeking sexual diversity and/or an escape from boredom?
If so, you will never take responsibility for or heal from your transgression, as you will always be focused on your own wants.
We grew apart years ago.And here’s how short-lived that excuse is: Whose responsibility is it to maintain the closeness in your marriage?
If your relationship has been that distant for that long, you’ve had options that don’t involve a complete lapse in integrity.
You could have gone to couple’s therapy and worked on the unrealistic expectations in your marriage.
You could have, if you had truly tried your best to save your marriage, chosen to end it.
But crying about feeling distant from your spouse and therefore justifying an affair implies avoidance and the desire for an easy way out (without getting out).
A relationship, especially a marriage, doesn’t work when spouses lose track of one another.
It’s also not the responsibility of someone outside your marriage to fill the void that you helped create within your marriage.
It just happened.First of all, nothing “just happens.” You may feel vulnerable and tempted in a specific situation. But there is always choice involved in cheating, whether the rendezvous lasts for a night or a year.
One of Dr. Phil’s go-to accountability questions has always been, “At what point in your thinking did you decide, ‘Yeah, this is a good idea’?”
You may naturally retort with, “I never ‘decided’ anything.” But, at some point in your temptation, your better self and your shadow self battled it out behind the scenes.
And it was still “you” that did what had to be done, decided what had to be decided, in order to let the infidelity happen. You really are the one who decided, “Yeah, this is a good idea.”
Why does this matter in the realm of cheating excuses that don’t help you heal yourself or your relationship?
When you refuse to take accountability, you essentially say, “I’m powerless over xyz, and I never know when it might come after me again. If I had no choice then, I will have no choice when it happens again.”
You can’t change anything you don’t own. So own up. Take back the power you embezzled with your shadow self.
I had too much to drink and wasn’t thinking.It doesn’t take many steps to undo this flawed excuse. This, too, falls under the category of “it just happened” and “I had no control.”
You don’t have to drink. You don’t have to drink too much. And you don’t have to make choices that you know set you up for consequential behavior.
Alcohol doesn’t choose you, you choose alcohol.
And it’s worth asking yourself, “Did I allow myself to drink too much so I didn’t have to fight my inhibitions or think about the consequences?”
If your intention is to heal from your transgression, you need to learn to say no to what doesn’t serve that effort.
And that just might start with an honest look at your alcohol use.
They seduced me.Affairs take two, obviously. But, if your cheating excuses always place blame on someone or something else, you’ll never learn or express true remorse. (Incidentally, your remorse is the first step to repairing your marriage.)
You also will never regain control of your life or earn your way back into your spouse’s trust. Assuming you and your spouse want to work through this.
“The other woman” (or man) may be an easy target for blame and hatred. But, if that “other person” is so powerful and so irresistible that you honestly had no choice but to cheat, you’re in trouble.
There will always be others just like this seducer everywhere you turn.
Would you buy this excuse from your spouse if the roles were reversed?
Well, you cheated.Never, ever, ever in the history of trying to heal from the betrayal of infidelity has retribution cheating made things better. Never.
These excuses do nothing to answer the question of why people cheat, no matter how thoroughly it is researched. And the quest for answers isn’t likely to be laid to rest anytime soon.
Anger, neglect, lack of love, lack of sex, lack of attraction – these are timeless conditions of the human experience.
But, if you’re married and cheating, what does need to be laid to rest are those cheating excuses that will only push you further away from reconciliation and healing.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over resentment after an affair. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’d like to take the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
It’s never just one thing. And it’s rarely obvious until it’s too late – or at least until a lot of damage has been done. The signs of a bad marriage aren’t loners. They inevitably run in numbers, overlapping and bleeding into each other, making it difficult to distinguish “normal” from “bad.”
When you start questioning your marriage (as all spouses do at some point), you won’t always be afforded the luxury of clear-cut definitions: This means good. This means not-so-good. This means bad. And this means divorce.
After all, there is always a certain amount of “settling into” marriage.
Romance isn’t hot and heavy on a debilitating, non-stop basis. You can actually think without the mind-numbing fog of infatuation.
And who doesn’t experience some boredom, fatigue, and irritation in any long-term relationship?
It’s no wonder, really, that couples often don’t realize their marriage is in trouble until they’re trying to save it. It’s like having flashbacks to eating fast food and being a couch potato while you’re in the middle of a heart attack.
But, if you can remain aware of the signs of a bad marriage, you can avoid a lot of that pain.
Recognizing where your marriage registers on a scale from euphoria to euthanasia isn’t a definitive, formulaic process.
Have we just gotten lazy in our marriage? Am I unhappy in my marriage or unhappy within myself? Is our marriage unhealthy or completely toxic?
What exactly constitutes “bad”?
And can our marriage be saved?
If you subscribe to the adage that nothing stands still, even relationships, then recognizing the direction in which your marriage is headed becomes easier.
Marriage isn’t a status quo, no-news-is-good-news operation. You’re either moving deeper into love and intimacy or further away from them.
So, with all the ways that your marriage can be imperfect, how do you recognize the signs of a bad marriage?
Here is a list of the 12 “biggies” when it comes to recognizing a bad marriage.
There is little to no sex.
Sex is never the issue…until it becomes the issue.
It’s natural for the frequency and duration of sex to decline after the early stages of marriage.
Life, children, jobs, stress, fatigue, health, satisfaction with other forms of intimacy – they all influence your sex life.
But, when there is no or very little sex because of disinterest, anger, repulsion, retribution, etc., there’s a problem.
Sex is that one thing that most distinguishes a platonic relationship from an intimate relationship.
And the absence of sex in a marriage can lead to other problems and signs of a bad marriage.
You fight constantly.
If every encounter with your spouse is plagued by quick tempers and the rehashing of unresolved issues, you can bet something bigger is going on.
Fighting in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Done in a healthy way, fighting can actually be a means for a relationship to grow and become stronger.
The question is: Do you resolve your disagreements in a respectful way and move forward? Or do you cling to old stuff as fodder for automated reactions when fighting?
You never fight.The absence of fighting can signal a distancing in your marriage.
It literally delivers the message that one or both of you have stopped caring or don’t believe you have anything worth fighting for.
You go out of your way to avoid one another.
Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It’s about spending time together — and how you spend that time.
Think back to your dating days when you couldn’t get enough time with one another.
While time alone is healthy for any relationship, the deliberate avoidance of a partner is a big clue that there is trouble in paradise.
Your health is suffering for no medical reason.
What does a bad marriage have to do with a paper cut?
Living in an unhealthy marriage affects more than just your happiness. It also negatively affects your health.
From the slowing of wound healing to heightened cardiac risk factors, an unhealthy marriage can make for an unhealthy body.
One or both of you start fantasizing about life without the other.
Fantasizing or daydreaming provides a temporary escape from the stress of real life.
If those daydreams don’t include your spouse as one of the two main characters, your marriage could be on a slippery slope.
One or both of you is reaching out to someone outside your marriage for emotional connection.
Having close friends outside your marriage isn’t the issue.
Turning to someone other than your spouse for emotional connection that belongs in your marriage is.
One of the more subtle signs of a bad marriage is making someone else – even “just a friend” – your go-to confidante.
Ask yourself, “Whom do I want to talk to first when something exciting (or upsetting) happens?”
If it’s not your spouse, it’s time to examine why.
One or both of you are involved in an affair, whether emotional or sexual.
Infidelity is survivable in a marriage. But that survival comes with a hefty price tag that many are willing to pay because they are hoping to build a more fulfilling marriage.
You both have to be willing to put your marriage (even more than the affair) under a microscope.
Affairs are, in the most hurtful, violating way, messengers of unexamined truths.
Yes, the cheating spouse is responsible for choosing infidelity as a “solution” to unmet needs.
But both partners carry responsibility for the marriage and how it arrived at such a vulnerable place.
One of you is very controlling.
Control goes hand-in-hand with submission and codependency.
If one spouse is trying to control what the other does, where the other goes, how the other speaks, etc….red flag.
Inequality within a relationship is one of the top reasons for relationship failure.
And it needs to be taken seriously. Control in one area insidiously becomes control in others – from social connections to jobs, money, and even sex.
There is addiction.
Addiction isn’t limited to substance abuse. It can involve gambling, sex, pornography, and even control.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please reach out for help immediately. Don’t try to do this alone.
There is abuse.As with addiction, abuse – physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial – warrants intervention.
If you or anyone in your home is being abused, please get help immediately.
Your communication has nosedived into criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
The work of John Gottman has had such a profound influence in the area of marriage and relationships.
Perhaps his biggest contribution to the field of marriage/couples’ therapy has been The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
While this statistically spot-on predictor of marriage survivability isn’t biblical in nature, it does have biblical impact.
If your marriage is at the point where your communication is reeking with criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, it’s in trouble.
Of all the signs of a bad marriage, these four are the real death blow. They signal little to no hope because all respect for the other person has been eroded.
If this list makes you uncomfortable, it should.
If it makes you take a hard look at your marriage, it should.
When you acknowledge that nothing stands still but is always in motion, you can approach your marriage in a new way.
One simple question can help keep you both accountable and your marriage on track:
Will this choice – of thought, word, or action – draw us closer to intimacy…or make us drift a little further apart?
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you want to learn more about working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.