I agree with the way Hikingout unravels the layers of wayward dysfunctional thinking. I experienced similar beliefs and coping, and I know my H did as well.
"You cheated on me, but you love me and want to stay with me?"
I believe this is one of the 'costs' for a BS. That if we decide to stay we are choosing to live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance.
There is no question, especially to all those who D, that BS who reconcile have to experience some degree of cognitive dissonance.
Everyone has to hold two opposing thoughts now, even though they do not want to: Cheating is unacceptable. I'm staying with someone who cheated on me. Many also have to hold the two opposing thoughts of Cheating is a dealbreaker; I'm staying with a cheater.
BS find different ways to achieve that cognitive dissonance and justify staying, looking for why their situation is different or acceptable. Some focus on the new and improved WS, some hang on to the idea that they were and are truly loved, some talk about needing to stay for the kids, some say, "But if it happens again, I'm gone," some say, "If it was a long term A, I wouldn't R," or "If there were feelings involved, then I would leave." Meaning: "But since it's not, I can go against my beliefs." Cognitive dissonance. This is exactly what WS do when thinking about their own behavior. They come up with reasons to justify their conduct as different or acceptable even as they admit that it's not.
I feel that telling their spouse, "I never stopped loving you or wanting to stay married to you" is a form of this. They are saying and believing this for their own benefit, not yours. This is how they made hurting you ok in their minds--"They weren't betraying in their hearts, just their bodies. See! It's fine." If they admit that their behavior was unloving, they lose their ability to justify their behavior as acceptable. Even to themselves.
And many BS cannot stomach the idea of their WS not loving them, even with all evidence to the contrary. Arguing the point won't matter. Accepting that their WS didn't love them may, for them, be more than they can handle and still comfortably reconcile. So their minds will never allow that version of reality. And what does it matter if that's what they believe? If it helps them R while still being smart about it (which admittedly many are not), then their view is good. My own version of reality does not need to be pushed on them.
But not all cognitive dissonance is beneficial or harmless. The WS has shown this. A lot of it allows you to hide from yourself and your life and the world that you live in. If you are an avoidant type (I am not at all, but my H is. I prefer controlling over denying as a means of unhealthy coping. Lol) if you are avoidant, cognitive dissonance is your buddy. It walks with you on the daily. My H wants, needs to see things as he wants to see them, not as they are. Some people do have somewhat of an evil intent (the many personality disordered types) but some are simply selfishly broken and avoidant. That's my H. But yes, his cognitive dissonance is deeply rooted in his FOO. His lens is very skewed. It preserves his self-esteem. This is how they roll in his family.
Some do it more and some do it less, but cognitive dissonance is very real and very common. Duplicitous? Evil? Intentionally harmful? Much less so.
[This message edited by OwningItNow at 8:40 AM, Saturday, September 3rd]