Changes Cheaters Might Make if They ‘Get It’

changes cheaters might makeAbout a month ago Doug and I were traveling to Nashville for a weekend getaway and while driving we were doing a little work on a book that we’re writing. 

We had certain topics that we wanted to discuss so we would talk about them into our digital recorder – interview style.  It really worked well and actually was a great way to talk about things and it prompted several ‘side-discussions’ to boot.

One of the questions that we discussed on our trip was noticeable changes cheaters might make after their infidelity has come to light.

There is no doubt that infidelity changes us.  Rick Reynolds recently wrote a series on change and he says,

“The trauma created by infidelity has a way of changing life patterns for both the betrayed and the unfaithful spouse. Healthy activities such as exercise and hobbies often go by the wayside. Mistrust and hurt feelings change our habits of relating to one another and anger does the same. Hurt and disappointment can even change our spiritual disciplines, and I haven’t even begun to talk about how our habits of self care change. I wonder what percentage of people picked up old habits of smoking or drinking as a result of a betrayal or how many fall back into old patterns of avoidance or escape. How do we get back to a life we love that’s full of meaning and purpose?”

Since this is the first week of a new year, we wanted to concentrate a bit on the subject of change.  Below is the transcript of a small portion of the ‘interview’ that Doug and I had while driving to the Music City.  It touches on changes in the cheater that might be expected based on a few of the changes I saw in Doug.  These changes are typically only possible however, if the cheater ‘gets it.’  These changes also aren’t necessarily drastic and some may seem silly to you, but they are important nevertheless.

Changes Cheaters Might Make – Transcript

Linda:  I think a lot of times cheaters don’t change because they’re not motivated enough to do so. For the betrayed spouse, the affair is a wake-up call and is a huge motivation to look within themselves. But the cheater is experiencing a huge high. They don’t feel they need to change. Their justifications for the affair keep them on this high for quite some time. 

There comes a time though when the betrayed says something like, “I can’t take it. I want to leave.” That seems to be the motivation quite often for the cheater to actually start making changes within themselves. But it takes that big wake-up call, that big substance to motivate them to change. You don’t make changes unless there’s some motivation for things to be different.

Doug:  What are some changes that a betrayed spouse may notice or possibly expect in the cheater as they get to the point where they start to ‘get it’?

Linda:  Perhaps your spouse wasn’t always truthful before the affair.  They would tell white lies about investments or where they spent their time and things like that. Or they’re not completely honest with their children or any of their relationships in their life.  It was something that you probably were aware of but really never addressed. You just figured that was their personality; that was the way they were.

One thing I noticed with Doug was he started being truthful, even though it might be inconvenient for him. There were situations where in the past he might have had an excuse or a little white lie, but instead he owned up and was honest. One of the major changes that I saw from the beginning was that he realized that he needed to live a more honest life.

Another part was the way that he talked to me. When he started looking deep within himself, he realized that he had issues with his own self-esteem, and in years past would oftentimes project his unhappiness with himself onto me and would make me feel inferior. He would not be very patient if I didn’t understand things as quickly as he thought or he would put me down for things. Another thing I noticed very shortly was that he became a lot more patient with me and the way he talked to me was a lot more respectful.

Through the years I think he had lost a lot of respect. He used a lot of sarcasm and he would use jokes at my expense.  They hurt me and I didn’t understand the meaning behind them. A lot of times I think he used sarcasm instead of honestly expressing his displeasure with something or his feelings. Well, those things stopped.

In the past he was trying to tell me  what he wanted, but he was doing so through sarcasm rather than complete communication and honesty. That was another huge difference that I saw in Doug.

Another difference is that he started showing that he cared about me.  He lessened my load and made things a lot easier for me at home so I would be less stressed and so we could more easily do the things that I had always wanted to do. I was always a fun person. I like doing all kinds of things. But everything else was just overwhelming for me. So he stepped it up and really started lessening the burden and taking responsibility for a lot of the kids’ activities and things around the house without having to be asked or having it result in an argument.

He always asks, “How can I help? What do you need for me to do?” I think that really changed my life because it helped me to be able to focus more on myself and enjoy my life a lot more than I had years before.

Another issue that we had in the past was that when we would go out with friends or in other social situations, he preferred to wander around and mingle, which was fine. But many times I would be left by myself or he would flirt or just cross the boundaries with other females and it would leave me feeling very incompetent. I always felt that I wasn’t worthy or good enough and that he didn’t really want to be with me; he preferred being with everyone else and I wasn’t really that important to him.  That all stopped as well.

I remember a while back going out with another couple and there seemed to be such a change because he was very attentive to me. He asked me if I wanted something to drink. He put his arm around me and asked if I wanted to dance. He was actually there with me, rather than leaving me on my own to take care of myself – which I’m more than capable of doing.  It’s just nice to know that he actually wanted to be with me and not thinking the grass was greener or that there’s always someone better to talk to than his wife.

I also think that these changes have poured over to his relationship with his children. He is very close to all three of our kids. Sometimes I think he’s closer to our daughters than I am, which is a big switch. He has been a wonderful male role model for them and I think has shown them what they should look for in a husband, including the little things like bringing flowers or planning special stuff.

He finally realized how important it is to be the husband that his wife wants to be with and vice versa. When you get married you choose a person to share a life with but at times you lose sight of things that are important to the integrity of your marriage or you do things that make you feel good about yourself, but are not good for the marriage.  

What the cheater loses sight of is if they are the best husband, the best man, the best father they can be, that’s where their self-esteem comes from. It comes from within. You don’t get it from someone else boosting your ego and telling you how wonderful you are. You get it from being that true person. That’s what Doug realized. His actions will make him feel the way he needs to feel and will bring him happiness, not some external ego-boosting person or thing that may surround him.

These are just some of the changes in Doug and are only a small sampling of changes you might see in an unfaithful spouse.  We’d love to hear about some of the changes that you’ve noticed with your cheating spouse.  Or, if you are the cheater, let us know how you’ve changed.  Also, let us know how your relationship was affected as a result of these changes.

 

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Typically at some point after their affair, the ex-unfaithful find themselves getting off track, feeling lost and not knowing what to do or what to say throughout the healing and recovery process.  It's normal.  

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21 Responses to Changes Cheaters Might Make if They ‘Get It’

  1. tsd January 4, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    This was a perfect new year post. I so appreciated reading this. And totally wish for the same. I agree, happiness comes from within, and giving to others is beneficial to that person. But after two years, I am getting tired of my husband going back to his old self. He has not changed himself to benefit our marriage. He has NC, and knows if he repeats another EA, I am done, but he hasn’t changed at all. This marriage is now at a stalemate. Sad but true. I create my happiness and I meet my needs because he can’t see in front of his face. His input is zero but he thinks otherwise. When I ask what changes have you made, he can’t answer. He only calls me during the day when he wants the dinner menu or when he hits traffic. His text messages are the same every day. He never initiates date night. Sex is only a thought. He has done nothing to answer to why he cheated….My journey has been good but will always be in progress. When I ask for a favor, he fights it. I still don’t trust him, and when I ask for help on that, he has zero input. So in terms of what changes my cheater has made, I have to be truthful and say none on his part.

    • StrugglingHusband January 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      I appreciated the article as well, and looking for those signs from my wife. I have been my very best since my wife has returned home. I love her to the max, do everything around the house, and provide for her to the point of spoiling her. I know this is probably not the best, but I want her to know that if she leaves again for her emotional affair, that it will not be because of anything lacking at home. We have not fought at all since her return, and things are good in the bedroom as well. My trust in her is very low, and do not know how to improve that. I know she is still struggling with getting over the EA, even though it has been 6 months since she called it off. The counselors did not help any by saying it was ok for her to keep in contact with the married fling. I’ve since put a stop to that, but do not trust or know what goes on when she is at a computer at work or when I’m out of town for work. I know the amount of work and change I’ve put into the last 6 months. I enjoy the feeling of doing for her unselfishly and loving her. I wish I could see the same Love (verb) in return. At times I’m feeling used, but want to trust that our 24 year marriage will continue, improve and 2013 will be a much better year. Seems as long as she is happy, things are at least ok. My biggest fear is a relapse. The addiction is still there. The attraction to the perfect 6 weeks is still there. Facebook and who knows what else keeps him right in front of her weekly if not daily. I wish I knew what to do or how to continue to improve the situation as well. TSD, I do not know how well or accepting your marriage is going, but I feel for you and believe through counseling or some other form of communication, you need to get your points across to him so that he starts providing / meeting your needs.

  2. Lynsey January 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Struggling Husband, I hope you realize that you alone cannot fix your marriage by yourself by being extra attentive, etc. Your wife needs to step up and help YOU heal from the betrayal. I don’t hear this in your comments. Also, get a new counselor! No contact is the only way to even begin to move past the affair. CS’s are addicted and the OM is her drug. Yes, unfortunately it will take time for your wife to get over the OM. In the meantime, you need total transparency with access to her phone, email, facebook, etc. Do you have that? Look as often as you need to, trust your instincts, and talk, talk, talk to your wife. She must answer all your questions. You need to take care of yourself first and foremost. Good luck.

    • Natalia January 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Linsey, excellent advice. I have access to everything and it makes a difference and helps with the trust issue.

  3. KelBelly January 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    It took my H awhile to get it but he has finally gotten there. He has made huge changes in being a husband and father. He is more engaged in our life as a couple and how he fathers our children.

    Along this EA path, he has worked hard at discovering what had made him so miserable. He also discovered some health issues he had and has worked at taking care of himself and it has made a huge difference in him.

    I think the biggest thing that he has changed is that he always stops to ask me how I am doing and if I need anything. He notices changes in my mood now and checks to make sure I am ok. That in itself is huge for my H as he was very self absorbed for a long time.

    Another big change is how he is when he is home. There were many things that needed to be done that got put off because he wouldn’t make the time to do them or would get mad if I asked him to. Now not only are things getting done but he is also looking for other things to do as well.

    We had a huge flood in our house that cause a lot of damage to our flooring so we had to pull it up in our bathroom, hallway, and bedroom. We also discovered that it caused damage to the sheet rock in the bathroom so we decided to strip the bathroom and completely remodel it. Had this happened a year ago, he would have had a horrible attitude about it and taken forever to get anything done. Now he just had a good laugh and said, what are you going to do? Not worth getting mad about and has been busting his butt every night after work to get everything done so we can remodel.

    Every day I see the man I married coming back and that makes me truly excited to see what this next year brings.

  4. Helena January 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    What if the (former) cheater is tremendously generous and attentive to the betrayed and everything described in the post – but still does not acknowledge that the affair was wrong, and still insists that the affair was justified by problems that were going on at home at the time? Is it enough that the cheater is treating the betrayed extremely well and has not been in contact with the AP for quite some time, even if the cheater has never specifically admitted that what they did was wrong?

    • Exercise grace January 6, 2013 at 12:53 am #

      That is up to you decide what YOU are willing to tolerate. For me it would be a deal breaker. Maybe he is still in the fog? When was dday? If someone thinks that certain circumstances justify cheating, they will (in my opinion) do it again. For healthy healing, I feel there needs to be acknowledgement that it was wrong and there were better, healthier, marriage-friendly ways to deal with the individual and marital issues.

    • WriterWife January 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      My fear is that by not understanding it was wrong, they may engage in similar behaviour again in the future. If he’s not talking to the AP because you asked him to, that’s not as lasting as him not talking to the AP because he knows it’s wrong and hurts you.

      It took my husband a long time to admit that what he’d done was wrong and an affair. He felt like he’d done the right thing by stopping it before it was physical. But eventually he understood why his actions were wrong and that he’d been engaged in an EA.

      I agree with EG that it’s all up to you and what you’re comfortable with. At the same time, to me there is NEVER an excuse or justification to cheat on your spouse. If your marriage is in trouble, the correct response is to work on it or divorce — it isn’t to have an affair.

      Sorry, this is a huge hot button for me — I hate it when a CS justifies their cheating. There is no justification. I never said to my husband, “I expect fidelity unless that just gets to be too hard in which case go cheat all you want,” nor was it ever agreed between us that he could go outside the marriage if he wasn’t getting what he wanted in the marriage.

    • suziesuffers January 16, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      This seems like it would be scary for a potential relapse…if he thinks he’s justified in having an affair because of issues in the marriage HE didn’t address with you before engaging in an affair!!! What makes him believe that this isn’t the option he will use in the future if he doesn’t really feel it was wrong……..and have does someone have remorse for doing something they don’t really think was wrong……That’s a tough one.

  5. ChangedForever January 4, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Even after i returned home from a 3 day BAN (Beyond Affairs Network,) retreat, 9 days later, it was back to my H’s narcissistic ways and that was it for me. Its been 27 months from initial discovery thru a horrendously tumultuous recovery period and that continued selfishness incident was the point of ‘no return’ for me. And i made ‘things’ crystal clear..this includes me being ‘done’ with wearing my wedding ring. That ring’s been off then on WAY too many times…now, just seeing it is a reminder of pain …no more. Its been 7 months since we attended a joint marriage counseling session…’we’ attended for more than 18 months…those 1st 8 months we attended while the affair contact continued! (…only i didn’t know that…was like flushing all that money for all those 8 months of sessions, down the toilet.)
    And after Doug helped me via a recent post reply (in December,) i did some research & realized my H really is a narcissist ( my opinion.) and i gave that research to my H who actually contacted our counselor for his own one on one session! Halleluia! It only took 27 months, my leaving him twice, trashing our wedding anniversary at-least twice ( that i know of, ) and the loss of 40 lbs (& probably a few years off my life too, due to the stress of going thru all of this…) to get him to ‘get it’ …don’t want to speak too soon though…his session with the counselor, is Monday…(H’s affair fog was thick like pea soup& long lasting…addiction was super strong, H is VERY prone to addictive tendencies…along with huge helpings of self-denial…)

  6. justbecause January 7, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Loved this post. I guess I was fortunate (although I didn’t think so at the time!!) to discover the EA at the time I did. The EA had lasted mabe 2 years and seemed to be lessening in contact. I had decided even before D Day that I wanted a different life. It did not take long for my H to come out of the affair fog. Of course, I was a mad tornado willing . . . and able I might add, to do whatever was necessary to change my life.

    I am thinking of sharing this post with my H. He does not like it that I look up EA info. He wants it all to go away. He did, however, admit that his EA was wrong, was a big deal, was harmful to our marriage. This did not happen immediately, maybe within 2 to 4 weeks of D Day. I copied some info off and gave it to him. It talked about how an EA causes the cheater to devalue their spouse, view the marriage more critically. Helena, I do think it is import for your husband to admit to this.

    Nine months now since D Day. Going well but as our counselor suggested, at times marriages need a tune up. I think this post will do a good job at that. I am very appreciative at the efforts my husband has made in healing our marriage.

  7. Save My Relationship January 11, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    I must confess that I was the one at fault in our marriage. But I have changed my ways. It was a mistake. I realize I love my wife and kids and I want them, I am back now and slowly trying to get my wife to trust me again. It’s not an easy road but we are getting there. I have made practical changes in being a husband and father. I go out with my wife, we talk for hours. It’s almost like we’re getting to know each other all over again! I spend more time with my kids and try to be involved in their school and friend life as much as possible. I make sure I am always tuned to my wife’s moods. It’s not like everything is perfect now. We still do have arguments. But I know I messed up and I need her to know that she is important to me and I will do everything in my power for us to be a real family again. And yeah…we’re definitely getting there 🙂

  8. Better January 16, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Next month I will be starting my third year of Recovery. My CS finally ‘got it” this last Christmas Eve when I walked out on him at his families Christmas Eve party. I could not take the rugsweeping, lying, and trickle truth any more and told him I was “DONE”. We had a long discussion and I was very ANGRY, yelling and telling him that I wasn’t going to waste anymore years of MY life with someone who didn’t show me and care for my feelings the way I needed. (These last 2years I have barely shown him my anger and maybe once or twice yelled)

    That night his head “popped” right out of his arse and he did a complete 180! He has been reading everyday, deleted his FB (didn’t even ask him for this), has been showing remorse daily, apologizing everyday (only did this a couple times since first dday), taking on household chores when I’m to busy, asks me how I’m feeling and if I need to talk, and the big one….Last night he came clean with a lie he’s been telling me for over a year.

    I can see the change and finally know that he is truly remorseful and he no longer rugsweeps or white lies about anything!

    I still continue triggering (he is currently learning about these) and he has taken LARGE steps to help me through them. Even with all of these changes, I still have doubts. Its hard not to when you as a BS have been doing everything to R and the CS doesn’t seem all in. Like I said, I was DONE with him. He finally stepped up and showed me what I needed see in him to truly R.

    We now have a long road ahead of us to get through ALL of the details during his EA. I know he is ready for the work. And if he diverts or becomes defensive or lies, he knows that I will be gone for good.

  9. justbecause January 16, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Better, I did the “I am done” (and I was) immediatly after D-day. Am I right that you waited what … 2 years?

    I often wonder what would have happened if D-day had been say 1 or 2 years earlier, when the EA was I think stronger. Should I have been final earlier? – even before I knew of the EA? Hhmm.

  10. strugglinghusband January 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Well, it’s been exposed and happening again. I’ve been not saying anything, know it’s continuing for the past few weeks, but this weekend it all came out again. My wife says she is glad I found out, but her marathon emailing activity back and forth for hours when I was out of town, just upsets me. She says she is totally committed to our marriage and has done nothing but emailed back and forth just ’cause he makes me laugh’. I’m not quick enough in my thoughts to perhaps say the right things when we discuss this, and have taken the approach that this is my problem that I need to deal with in someway, as I can not continue living his way. As you can see above, I love her totally and want our marriage to survive this and trying to put up with the pain to help us all get through it. I’ve not set an ultimatum. I’m seeking counseling to see how I can either put up with this or what, because our marriage other than this contact issue (my wifes latest description of this is that she has this contact addiction. That she has to contact him or see his picture on facebook or she gets depressed??) We are both making appointments today to go see a counselor about it, because we both want our marriage to work. If it were not for this contact issue, our marriage is wonderful with no problems. While I can understand it being hard to let someone (married no less) go, after six months of trying, I’d think / expect progress, vs. the latest hidden email back and forth almost daily and then multi-hour forays when I’m out of town…..just not right. It has brought to light even more how much I hurt her over our 24 years by failing 3 times after promising never to look at x-rated stuff, but each time I did stop for years in between. I know I have that problem eliminated now as a result of our separation and my promise to myself, god, my family and wife. So since we are back together ( believing a divine intervention and realizing that the EA was found out and I was willing and wanting to be there to get our marriage back together) and everything is so good and I’ve changed to be a great husband (her words) I do not want to put up some type ultimatum of stop or leave, yet I can not keep getting hurt and obsession about what could or might be going on when I’m gone once a month or even when I’m home and continuing to feel like I have to look at her computer history (which she erases but our new anti-virus software showed what was up this last time). I want our marriage. She says she does as well, and willing again to go get help? Concerning also to me is we were separated last year for our 24yr anniversary, and she does not seem to want to entertain any discussions about celebrating our 25th with a trip or something special, so all these things have me thinking about this almost 24×7. The OP is married and went back to his wife and I certainly wanted my wife back, but realize that situation as well, but now he is still participating (no surprise, my wife is gorgeous) and I don’t think the OP wife knows this is still going on, but believe (no sure) it is my place to let her know.

    • Doug January 23, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      If you continue to take the stance that this is your problem the only thing that will happen is that your resentments and anger will grow. I assume that you have told her how you feel about her communicating with this guy, but if not, you must do so. She needs to stop ignoring your feelings. One good sign is that both of you are seeking counseling to help your marriage. Best of luck and let us know how it turns out.

  11. evgeny January 27, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    I recently found your site. The last paragraph is beautiful, especially this quote, ” . . . if they are the best husband, the best man, the best father they can be, that’s where their self-esteem comes from. It comes from within. You don’t get it from someone else boosting your ego and telling you how wonderful you are. You get it from being that true person.” Honestly, tears began to well in my eyes. This gives me hope and a new focus for my life. It’s just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

    • Butterball December 7, 2016 at 4:24 am #

      My husband was that man BEFORE and he would tell me that and was proud of it. I can tell he is miserable now because he stopped being the man he had so much self-respect for. I don’t know if he realizes that though. How can I help him see that side of himself again? He’s so desperate for me to reassure him at this point rather than take the actions that will help him get back where he needs to be.

  12. Believe January 21, 2016 at 3:49 am #

    What a good article. I’ve noticed a few changes in my wife’s (ex unfaithful spouse) behavior. It’s been 13 months since D-day. She started exercising recently (as she’s picked up weight) and is trying to lead a more spiritual life. She seems to be less angry with herself and our family these days. She used to be an angry person during the affair. She’s deeply ashamed and feels a lot of guilt. She just wants to move on. However, in summary I feel I’ve made more changes and grown more from this experience so far than my wife. So I agree with this article there seems to be more motivation for the betrayed spouse to look within themselves. I am still learning that my wife is not here to live up to my expectations and I’m also learning to accept her for herself and not to expect things.

    • Doug January 21, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      I like your mindset, Believe. Congrats on your own personal growth and I hope your wife continues in a positive fashion as well.

  13. Carol December 6, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Great article! One of the most healing gestures my husband did that I still often recall to this day: About 5 couples were at a friends’ house- we’ve been good friends since college and as they say “boys will be boys” and that hadn’t changed. When our host mentioned that there was a “hot widow” across the street who had befriended him and his wife, the guys all started making “locker room” jokes and ended up going over to her house to “chat”, coming back about a half hour later with more locker room jokes! My husband- who would typically join in the “fun” was the only guy who didn’t go across the street to “meet the neighbor”; not did he join in the men’s “banter”. I couldnt have been prouder of him that day, and still mention to him that act of respect toward me did more to increase my trust in him than his endless promises. When you see your spouse directing all romantic and sexual energy toward you and you alone, that’s a huge step forward.

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