In retrospect, I know that in many ways, I set the stage for my spouse’s cheating.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame myself for his cheating but I do know that my actions made it so that our relationship was vulnerable to one of us stepping out.
I have a tremendous amount of regret for the things that I did that made our marriage susceptible to infidelity and I want to share them with you today so that you don’t make the same mistakes I made over the course of my marriage.
1. I took him for granted.
When we first got married, my life was all about us as a couple.
We worked together and played together and life was grand.
And then we had kids and everything changed.
The kids and their activities became the focus of my life. Whatever they needed took priority over anything else.
I had wanted to be a mom my whole life and having kids meant all of my dreams had come true.
Unfortunately, I think the arrival of the kids was my spouse’s nightmare.
I am not saying that he didn’t love the kids. He loved them madly. I am saying that my focus totally turned away from him and toward the children and I am sure that must have felt horrible for him.
And, not only did I focus on the kids, I expected him to focus on the kids as well, to make them the center of our family and not us.
As a result, I just expected him to be there when I needed him. I expected him to pick the kids up if I needed him to. To take them away on Saturday mornings so that I could get things done. To coach soccer and to go to races.
And I am not sure that I ever asked him to do those things — I just assumed that he would.
I am hoping that I said thank you for the things that he did but I am guessing that I wasn’t so good at doing that which probably left him feeling unimportant and invisible.
Perhaps, if I had made him more a part of the team instead of this person who would do my bidding, I wouldn’t have left him feeling this way and, when someone else came along who might actually see him, he might have been able to resist the temptation to stray.
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2. I treated him with contempt.
This is the thing that I regret the most.
I know that, in spite of everything that he did for me, everything that I took for granted that he went along with, with no complaints, I treated my spouse with contempt.
The definition of contempt is ‘the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.’ And this is exactly how I treated him.
When he came home late from work and missed dinner, I said that I would ‘fire’ him. When he did something, but not the way I wanted him to, I would passive-aggressively say something demeaning.
I criticized the way he did everything — telling him what he was doing wrong. I didn’t support his dreams and hobbies but brushed them off as pipe dreams that he would never achieve.
There is nothing that will kill a relationship quicker than contempt. Why? Because with contempt comes feelings of anger and resentment.
Of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Of not trusting your partner to care about your feelings. Of believing that not only do they not love you but that they don’t even like you.
I wish, more than anything, that I hadn’t treated my spouse with contempt. I wish I had been open and honest and supportive and respectful with and of him.
I am not sure that I have ever treated anyone else with contempt- so why did I treat him that way?
Regardless, when someone else came along, I had set the stage for my spouse’s cheating because when that person treated him well, he naturally turned towards them and the love and respect they gave him.
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3. I spent more time with my friends than with him.
Before we had kids, my spouse and I did everything together.
We worked together, we hung out with friends together, we traveled together, and we had fun together. A lot of fun.
But, after the kids were born, everything changed.
A big reason for this is that our focus shifted — me to the kids and him towards work and supporting us. We no longer shared our days and experiences but rather, more often than not, did things completely separately.
And when you don’t share experiences, it’s easy to grow apart.
I know that over the course of our marriage, I spent more and more time with my friends. We would walk together in the mornings, have play dates together, go to the movies together and go away on weekends. We did the fun and bonding things that I used to do with my husband.
And no longer sharing those things only drove us further apart until there was very little that we shared other than the kids.
We didn’t do this on purpose, and I am not even sure that I noticed that I was doing it at the time, but, in retrospect, I wish that we had made an effort to spend more time together, to stay connected with the things that had drawn us together in the first place.
If we had, there wouldn’t have been space in my spouse’s life when another woman came along to have fun with him.
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4. I put too much distance between us.
This one is not entirely my fault but it is something that I think caused a significant rift in our relationship, one that set the stage for my spouse’s cheating.
When our kids were little, my spouse decided that he needed to do two things — hike the Grand Canyon and go back to school for his Master’s. To do those things, he needed to leave me alone with the kids. Over and over and over.
I was angry when he did these things but, over time, I started to realize that, in many ways, it was easier when he wasn’t around. There was no disruption with his comings and goings and I was free to do things where and when I wanted to do them.
As the years went by, we found ourselves spending less and less time actually living together. His work led him to Canada where he lived for six months. Later, I had to move away, temporarily, with my son who was having some issues at school.
These things separated us for months, making both of us feel lonely and abandoned. As a result, he was vulnerable to someone coming along who was there, present, and who wouldn’t leave him feeling alone.
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5. I didn’t tell him how I was feeling.
The number one thing that I didn’t do that set the stage for my spouse’s cheating is that I didn’t tell him how I was feeling.
At the moment, I probably didn’t really understand how I was feeling. I was just going through my days, trying to keep my head above water, organizing everything that was our crazy family life.
But, I know now, that I was miserable and a big part of that was because I was so disconnected from my husband.
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I had loved him madly when we got married and I was so excited that we would get to build a life and a family together. As the years went on and we became increasingly estranged from each other, I was sad. Very sad and lonely.
I missed him and the couple that we were.
But I wasn’t able to express those feelings at the time, maybe because I didn’t see them but more likely because I was scared. I was scared that, if I spoke the words out loud, it was causing some kind of implosion in our lives, an implosion that I didn’t think that I could quite handle.
I think that I was also worried that I would lose him. I assumed that, if we could just get through this period of time, we would be able to find our way back to each other. But I was wrong.
Not only didn’t I tell him about how I was feeling, I also spent tons of time talking to my friends about how miserable I was. About the things that we did and didn’t do together, about our disconnection and our long absences. They knew how I was feeling, but he didn’t.
As a result, when he cheated on me and ended our marriage, none of my friends were surprised. I was but they had seen the writing on the wall for a long time.
If only I had talked to my husband, maybe when someone else came along who could talk to him about how they were feeling, to connect around those emotions, he wouldn’t have moved towards them and away from me.
So, there are five ways that I set the stage for my spouse’s cheating.
I hope they give you some sense of what not to do in your marriage so that it doesn’t end badly.
Again, I don’t blame myself for what happened. After all, I was in the same relationship and I didn’t stray. But I know that I have a large part of the responsibility for what happened in our marriage and its demise.
I mean, who wants to be taken for granted, treated with contempt, abandoned, and not communicated with?
I know I wouldn’t. And neither would he.