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Post-Infidelity Guilt

You never recover from causing someone pain.

I read and reread DC Stein's column "Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder" over coffee at Starbucks, several times. In fact, it seems I may not be the only person who is drawn to its conclusions, and can relate to several of its inferences. The column even seemed to create quite a stir among readers.

The truth is, infidelity cases trauma for all parties involved. Now, that doesn't mean that anyone should feel sorry for or excuse the "infiltrator." However, as DC describes what has been a four-year battle with her fears after discovering her husbands affair, I would like you to explore the possibility that the event is just a traumatic, if not more so for the infidel who created the whole mess to begin with.

Unless you are completely 100 percent narcissistic beyond the reason of a doubt, having an affair, and causing that level of pain and creating the battle within the soul, is something you never quite recover from and never quite forgive your self for. Now, I find it interesting, in DC's column when she quotes Dr. Ortman, "Unless you release your anger and desire for revenge, replacing it with an attitude of kindness, you will not feel contentment."

Well, I think he may be onto something. However, it will never cure my soul, and I will never be truly free. No one recovers from hurting someone they love. No one. I do understand, why perhaps, that the victim can heal, but I am not sure the adulterer ever will—even if the victim offers forgiveness.

DC read me a column in Cosmopolitan this week:

"Only a small number of men have an addiction to cheating—regardless of what their relationship is like," says Dr. Don-David Lusterman, author of Infidelity: A Survival Guide. "But most men stray because something is lacking in their union, be it sex, attention, or even excitement."

Dr Lusterman continues: "By the time a man cheats, his unhappiness has been building for a while. In fact, he may not even know how close he is to being tempted until presented with an opportunity. And whether he can be faithful after the fact really depends on how he and his partner deal with it together."

His point: The likelihood of the adulterous act recurring is very slim unless you are a "serial" adulterer. Most studies indicate only 10 to 15 percent of adulterers commit the act again.

I agree. Once is all it takes to learn your lesson. If you are good person with beautiful heart, and you feel the pain and anguish you have caused your family and lover, you will never, ever do it again as long as you live. The guilt follows you for a lifetime. As I tell DC all the time, I would die if I ever have to feel that kind of pain again—the pain of causing someone trauma, especially someone I love.

So, the lesson here? Dating someone who has had an affair and been caught in the past may be a good idea. It is very unlikely he will do it again; that is, if he has a heart.

DC Stein April 24, 2010 at 12:50 PM
Beautifully written Murphy!@ DC
Marthe Ludwig April 27, 2010 at 01:21 PM
Ahh, yes...but, when dating, even for a long time, it is very hard to tell the difference between the serial adulterer and the one time offender. Serial adulterers are usually pretty good at pretending they only did it once; they are good at their game. They can have a good heart, but lack integrity. Must be a terrible character flaw to live with. I would never date a known cheater. My generosity doesn't extend that far.
JustSomeGuy January 26, 2013 at 07:30 PM
I was moved by your blog, but i respectfully disagree. My ex cheated on me after 4 years of marriage. She grew up in a shaming family and is very susceptible to guilt, so It was traumatic for us both. I forgave her and we moved on. Twenty years and 2 children later, she cheated with a more prosperous man who treated her like dirt. Then she cheated with a married man whom she married after our divorce. Cheating bears similarities to murder. I've heard that when you kill somebody, it's kind of creepy if you're normal. The second killing doesn't sting as much. By the third killing you're desensitized. Forgiving a cheater only gives them license to do it again.

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