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How to separate guilt from fault?

imalyinSOS posted 8/13/2020 19:18 PM

I had an affair for two years, and for the last few months of it, our state entered stay-at-home orders. I was pissed that I couldn't access my AP, and so I started pushing my husband away. After a few months of that, my husband had a one night stand with a fellow master's student. I wish I could say that I came out of the fog on my own, but it took my husband confessing to his ONS to bring me out of the fog.

My husband is still trying to find out if he can stay with me, if we can have a relationship beyond co-parents for our daughter. But we're both in IC, and we have CC every other week. My IC and CC keep saying that we should work the smaller transgression first, my husband's ONS. I guess my husband's IC says the same thing, because my husbands agrees with this logic.
But I've been having trouble with following their advice. I know that my affair created the conditions that made our marriage bad enough for him to consider it, but I can't hold him responsible for his choice to have a ONS. It feels like my fault, and my IC feels that those feelings will stall my therapy if I can't work through them.

How do you separate your own guilt versus fault in the actions of others? Yes, people do have culpability for committing an action, but at what point do people have culpability for creating the conditions to allow a certain action to be undertaken.

SI Staff posted 8/13/2020 20:02 PM

   Moving to Wayward Side

BraveSirRobin posted 8/13/2020 20:53 PM

I'm surprised to see that they want you to work on the ONS before the LTA. As a madhatter myself, we made a lot of mistakes, but one thing I think we did right was to address the gunshot wound to the belly before the bullet that grazed the arm. Of course, I only know the most basic outline of your circumstances, so there may be factors I'm missing here. For instance, if his ONS was preceded by a long EA, and/or you knew his AP well, these are things that could complicate the picture of a single night's transgression vs a betrayal you engaged in over and over.

The general advice on SI, and I largely agree with it, is that no one has culpability for their partner's affair. If you and your spouse were legitimately unhappy in the marriage, you both had the option of demanding counseling, separation, and/or divorce, any of which would have left you with your integrity intact. Deciding to cheat is the cowardly way out, and the responsibility for it is squarely on the shoulders of the WS.

How did your disclosure of the A play out? He confessed, and then you did? Or did one of you get caught?

imalyinSOS posted 8/13/2020 22:01 PM

I'm surprised to see that they want you to work on the ONS before the LTA. As a madhatter myself, we made a lot of mistakes, but one thing I think we did right was to address the gunshot wound to the belly before the bullet that grazed the arm. Of course, I only know the most basic outline of your circumstances, so there may be factors I'm missing here. For instance, if his ONS was preceded by a long EA, and/or you knew his AP well, these are things that could complicate the picture of a single night's transgression vs a betrayal you engaged in over and over.

All the shrinks' reasoning is more or less the same, deal with what is 'easily' fixed first. Possibly because my husband isn't sure what he wants yet. He isn't set on reconciliation or divorce yet.


no one has culpability for their partner's affair. If you and your spouse were legitimately unhappy in the marriage, you both had the option of demanding counseling, separation, and/or divorce, any of which would have left you with your integrity intact. Deciding to cheat is the cowardly way out, and the responsibility for it is squarely on the shoulders of the WS.

I know this, logically. It's another thing to actually believe it, and not feel a shit ton of self-loathing and hatred.


How did your disclosure of the A play out? He confessed, and then you did? Or did one of you get caught?

He confessed first, then me a few days later. We've both questioned the wisdom of me confessing at one point or another. So far, all I managed to do was cause a rift between him and his brother, between us, and make him doubt the paternity of his daughter.

BraveSirRobin posted 8/13/2020 23:29 PM

If there is one thing I believe passionately and down to my bones, it's that you have to be honest. In our marriage, the lies caused far more long term damage than the cheating. As bad as things are now, it would be even worse if your husband confessed his ONS, you played the role of innocent BW, and then the truth eventually came out. Even if he never discovered it, how could you watch him apologize and beat himself up for doing something once that you had done over and over? Granted, WS are fucked up to begin with, but that would be some next level shit.

I had no idea how much my lies were eating away at our marriage until everything was out in the open. My BH hates what he learned, but he much prefers it to the gaslighted belief that he was going insane.

It's not unheard of for a BS to say that they wish the WS had taken the A to the grave, but it is very rare. I have never seen it in a madhatter situation.

ETA: his brother? Is his brother the AP?

[This message edited by BraveSirRobin at 11:30 PM, August 13th (Thursday)]

imalyinSOS posted 8/13/2020 23:45 PM


It's not unheard of for a BS to say that they wish the WS had taken the A to the grave, but it is very rare. I have never seen it in a madhatter situation.

In the two and half weeks between finding out and the paternity test coming back he was a mess. There was no chance that our kid was my AP's, not only was AP overseas during conception, but if I had thought, for even a second that my AP was a potential father, I would have had an abortion.
That was when he'd tell me, or his parents (at this point in time, we were living in separate places and they were our primary go-bet-weens for childcare and swapping), that he wished I had never said anything. That I shouldn't have been selfish and kept quite about it. He hasn't said it since the paternity of our daughter was confirmed.



ETA: his brother? Is his brother the AP?

No, his brother has been trying to pressure him into divorce, and my husband does not like people forcing their viewpoint on him. Along with an incident where his brother decided to be a mega jackass, they aren't exactly on speaking terms.

KingofNothing posted 8/14/2020 11:30 AM

Imaly:

Did you post this on Reddit by any chance? This sounds like a very familiar situation.

THanks.

landclark posted 8/14/2020 12:42 PM

How do you separate your own guilt versus fault in the actions of others? Yes, people do have culpability for committing an action, but at what point do people have culpability for creating the conditions to allow a certain action to be undertaken.

Strictly talking about cheating, I've seen it often said something like you have responsibility in your part of the marital issues, but not in the other persons choice to cheat. Whether you pushed your husband away or not, it was still his choice to cheat. He didn't have to make that choice.

I know that my affair created the conditions that made our marriage bad enough for him to consider it, but I can't hold him responsible for his choice to have a ONS. It feels like my fault, and my IC feels that those feelings will stall my therapy if I can't work through them.

Yes, people do have culpability for committing an action, but at what point do people have culpability for creating the conditions to allow a certain action to be undertaken.

This is pretty wayward thinking IMO, like there is somehow some justification for cheating. There really isn't. Even a revenge affair is not justified.

Thumos posted 8/14/2020 13:49 PM

All the shrinks' reasoning is more or less the same, deal with what is 'easily' fixed first.

This sounds like almost exactly what counselors would say. I swear, the more I learn about the therapeutic industry the more I am astounded it hasn't been exposed as a full on racket.

imalyinSOS posted 8/14/2020 14:04 PM

Did you post this on Reddit by any chance? This sounds like a very familiar situation.

Yeah. My husband has access to all accounts, and he tired of seeing comments that basically amounted to people telling me that I should die, and people trying to hook up with via DM. So he told me to come over here, and we agreed to stay out of each other's threads.


This is pretty wayward thinking IMO, like there is somehow some justification for cheating. There really isn't. Even a revenge affair is not justified.

I know. I don't feel that my affair is in any way, his fault. But I do feel like his is mine. I don't feel that his affair was justified, but I get may be a few seconds of thinking about before I feel guilty and at fault.

gmc94 posted 8/14/2020 14:13 PM

I get the impression you know that these are two separate things, but something is blocking that.

LC is right - we are responsible for our behavior WRT the M, but NOT - not one bit - WRT one spouse choosing to have an A. Your WH had a ONS when he did not know about your 2yr long A (and from what I've read, 2yrs+ equals an LTA). So, he made that choice to have a ONS independent of your choice to engage in an LTA. I haven't looked at the definitions, but is that even a MH situation (two independent As seems to me to have two independent WSs...)

Sidenote: I'm curious - what about the ONS vs your 2yr LTA makes it a 'smaller' transgression? This is a purely self serving question - there are often debates on SI about 'which is worse'. I think as far as being betrayed, it's all just rotten (I think it was Landclark that said it's the difference between a green turd and a brown one). But for healing/recovery and what is broken in the WS (or MH) I DO think the factors/types of the A make a difference.

So, is that 'easier' to address bc it was a ONS? Or bc he confessed (indicating he was NOT comfortable in being wayward/deceitful)? Both? Something else?

Edited to note OP's A was 2yrs/LTA.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 6:15 PM, August 14th, 2020 (Friday)]

sisoon posted 8/14/2020 14:24 PM

I'm a BS not a mad-hatter, but I've always thought that mhes have tio heal both as BSes and as WSes, and the healing path is different for each role. I guess I think each mh needs to separate themselves into 2 different people.

Yeah, your H might have had a 'Revenge A,' but the emphasis is on the A, not on the revenge. You've been betrayed. That hurts. To heal as a BS, IMO you have to process that anger, grief, fear, and shame out of your body.

You've also been a betrayer. To heal as a WS, you need to figure out how to change from betrayer to good partner.

When it comes down to it, no one deserves to be betrayed, not even a betrayer. Two wrongs do not make a right.

So I agree with your IC - you need to swallow this medicine that seems like Koolaid to heal.

So what's in it for you if you take the blame for your H's A? What does that get you? What does that allow you to avoid?

imalyinSOS posted 8/14/2020 14:42 PM

I get the impression you know that these are two separate things, but something is blocking that.

Dead on.


So, is that 'easier' to address bc it was a ONS? Or bc he confessed (indicating he was NOT comfortable in being wayward/deceitful)? Both? Something else?

My husband wants to make sure that if he stays, its not out of guilt. That and that my affair started before my pregnancy, and went on through it, as compared to his, which was limited a motel room in the middle of nowhere.


So what's in it for you if you take the blame for your H's A? What does that get you? What does that allow you to avoid?

Nothing. Nothing. I don't know. I feel guilty because my withdrawing out of anger is what he used to give himself permission. Yes, he chose to do it, but I created the curiosity and desperation for him to actually do it. I guess an apt analogy might be that he pulled the trigger, but I put the gun in his hands.

[This message edited by imalyinSOS at 2:47 PM, August 14th (Friday)]

WontBeFooledAgai posted 8/14/2020 15:04 PM

Well OP, I would say that the most important thing at the moment is to figure out what are your "why"s for your affair. These why's have levels to them, from external factors (such as the state of the marriage at the time) to the internal factors, such what was it inside you that gave yourself permission to have the affair. I mean, surely in the time you were in the affair you knew what you were doing was wrong, right?

The external factors as a place to start aren't "wrong" per se, but you need to keep digging through them to the internal factors. After all, in the end it was YOU who decided to take on a lover on the side, instead of honoring your vows and protecting your marriage.

I would say getting to the bottom of your why's is Job 1. I mean, you were checked out and leading a double life for *two years*. Assigning blame for your H's affair is secondary.

But yes you both have to get at your why's even though your husband's may require less digging to get to.

[This message edited by WontBeFooledAgai at 3:10 PM, August 14th (Friday)]

gmc94 posted 8/14/2020 18:30 PM

I created the curiosity .....for him to actually do it.
I'm assuming this is bc you were not emotionally available/present (etc) in the M during your LTA? I am kind of confused here. How did your LTA make your WH "curious" if he did not know about your LTA until after his ONS?

The "I put the gun in his hands" may be an apt analogy. And whether that is accurate or not, the problem is that he still had a TON of choices that were not to "pull the trigger". I think that needs to be separated out. IOW, if you had been "withdrawing out of anger" but not had your own A, would that make a difference in your self talk?

Look, I'm a BS. I was not a perfect wife. There were a lot of times I was a crummy wife. Yet, no matter WHAT horrible behavior I brought to our M, NONE of it is the reason for my WH choosing to have an A. Not one bit. Every single one, of the millions of choices he made to have his As are on him. I didn't cause it. I can't control it. I can't cure it.

I can make sense of the desire to unpack your WH's ONS before your LTA - again, I think an LTA has more dimensions to address than a ONS. Doesn't mean that the BS part of you is hurting very badly from the ONS. Again, betrayal is betrayal, and all the feelings you have about being a BS need to be processed, and done w/o the self blame. Something inside him said it was an OK thing to do, and he needs to figure out why.

And, I think that he confessed is a facet that - in my mind - could indicate his baggage may not have the same level of unpacking as that of an LTA. Not saying to shame you or demonize, just looking at another factor at play.

JBWD posted 8/14/2020 18:52 PM

if you had been "withdrawing out of anger" but not had your own A, would that make a difference in your self talk?

I agree with GMC here. To continue with the gun analogy- He had more options than shoot/don’t shoot- As did you. Either one of you could have put it down.

Consequently, the only culpability for either of you to address is the decision to cheat. Linda MacDonald mentions dealing with them separately, but IMO there’s no reason that means one has to be resolved first. You just need to find some way to ensure that the processes don’t “compete.”

imalyinSOS posted 8/18/2020 23:32 PM

I would say getting to the bottom of your why's is Job 1. I mean, you were checked out and leading a double life for *two years*. Assigning blame for your H's affair is secondary.

My IC believes my feelings on the ONS are interfering with my further progress. Also, possibly because they this might reveal something about my why's. Like the fact that by the time were experienced our DB, my only good source of stress relief was sex. My H and I used to game for stress relief when were younger, but we went pumping every ounce of spare cash into paying of student loans to a one-income household and barely scraping by, so our mutual hobby kinda died. Then the kid, and this...


I'm assuming this is bc you were not emotionally available/present (etc) in the M during your LTA? I am kind of confused here. How did your LTA make your WH "curious" if he did not know about your LTA until after his ONS?
The "I put the gun in his hands" may be an apt analogy. And whether that is accurate or not, the problem is that he still had a TON of choices that were not to "pull the trigger". I think that needs to be separated out. IOW, if you had been "withdrawing out of anger" but not had your own A, would that make a difference in your self talk?

Yeah. It [My emotional withdrawal] made him even entertain the notion of cheating. Again, I know realistically that he other choices, and I might be projecting, but I feel like this was inevitable once I started my affair. I know that it's not true, but my heart is far behind my head right now. To a certain extant, I was withdrawing out of anger. At that point, while I would readily that my husband was better than my AP and the thought of my husband never entered my mind, I felt like I somehow deserved to have a side piece. I don't know why, or how I possibly could have arrived at that conclusion, there is a gigantic hole in the line of logic used, but I did.
But yes,if I hadn't been having my own A, my self talk would probably be going a lot differently.


I can make sense of the desire to unpack your WH's ONS before your LTA - again, I think an LTA has more dimensions to address than a ONS. Doesn't mean that the BS part of you is hurting very badly from the ONS. Again, betrayal is betrayal, and all the feelings you have about being a BS need to be processed, and done w/o the self blame. Something inside him said it was an OK thing to do, and he needs to figure out why.

And, I think that he confessed is a facet that - in my mind - could indicate his baggage may not have the same level of unpacking as that of an LTA. Not saying to shame you or demonize, just looking at another factor at play.


You aren't wrong. We both knew our actions were wrong, and yet he wasn't okay with concealing it while I was. For some reason, I only realized what a POS I was/am when my husband was willing to confess to being a (albeit much smaller) piece of shit.


I agree with GMC here. To continue with the gun analogy- He had more options than shoot/don’t shoot- As did you. Either one of you could have put it down.

Consequently, the only culpability for either of you to address is the decision to cheat. Linda MacDonald mentions dealing with them separately, but IMO there’s no reason that means one has to be resolved first. You just need to find some way to ensure that the processes don’t “compete.”

I know, the only reason we are dealing with it in this manner, is because my IC feels that my feeling on it are interfering with my progress.

Catwoman posted 8/19/2020 05:53 AM

Perhaps reframing might be helpful here.

Certainly, both of you are responsible for your actions and decisions. No question, and I believe you and your spouse see this as well.

However, I do believe it is possible to "create a climate" in a marriage where the decision to have an affair becomes a more attractive choice. It doesn't make it any less wrong, because the other spouse had options in this regard.

But perhaps that is the sort of reframing that might help you? You're not responsible for his actions, but you do bear perhaps a disproportionate amount of responsibility for the state of the relationship.

I hope that helps.

Cat

leavingorbit posted 8/19/2020 16:33 PM

It sounds like shame. Self flagellation was really attractive to me, too. It's a coping mech - a faulty one, one that allows me the illusion of way more control than I actually have.

Sisoon asked:

So what's in it for you if you take the blame for your H's A? What does that get you? What does that allow you to avoid?

And you answered:

Nothing. Nothing. I don't know. I feel guilty because my withdrawing out of anger is what he used to give himself permission. Yes, he chose to do it, but I created the curiosity and desperation for him to actually do it. I guess an apt analogy might be that he pulled the trigger, but I put the gun in his hands.

Maybe I'm projecting. We're MHs, too. I wanted very badly to blame myself for my husband's actions because then that would allow me to avoid the truth: that he wasn't perfect, that he wasn't any better than me, and that maybe I wasn't a complete piece of crap but instead a mere mortal. That last part came later, but putting my husband up on a pedestal allowed me to avoid getting real. Maybe that could be true for you?

My advice is to focus on why you did what you did. One hot tip: it doesn't have anything to do with your husband and his whys don't have anything to do with you, either.

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