You, as a betrayed spouse, must shut down conversations where a cheater plays the victim card or rationalize away their actions.

cheater plays the victim

By Sarah P.

Sometimes when a wayward spouse’s cheating is found out, a common thing they will do is attempt to frame themselves as the victim of a betrayed spouse.

When they frame themselves as the victim, they often hope to do the following:

  • They hope to remove themselves from being accountable for their behavior
  • They hope to frame themselves as a victim in order to save their reputation in the eyes of others and in their own eyes
  • They hope to elicit sympathy from outsiders rather than disgust
  • They hope to turn the focus away from themselves and onto the betrayed spouse
  • They hope to avoid the consequences of their behavior
  • They hope to cause the betrayed spouse to feel inferior so that the betrayed spouse will take the burden of marital recovery onto themselves
  • They hope to keep living life as if nothing happened

These strategies are meant to shut down dialogue about the affair so they can more easily sweep their actions under the carpet. Most of all, these strategies are meant to help them avoid any consequences of their behavior.

After all, who would ever expect a (real) victim to accept consequences? Therefore, some wayward spouses will be impelled to play the role of the victim. It’s a winning situation for them, but it is a losing and heartbreaking situation for a betrayed spouse.

A Peek into the Mind of the Cheater Who Plays the Victim Card

I found a great example of this phenomenon written by a woman who had posted her story anonymously on a message board. Her story was about her cheating boyfriend who played the victim. Her (ex) cheater’s utter lack of insight was the attribute of her story that stood out the most. Her (ex) cheater was simply unable to comprehend standard moral values, let alone common decency.

In her story she recounted:

“We’d been together 3 years. He cheated on me with a girl he worked with. I found out, and he was angry that I’d found out. He broke up with me because he said “you’re too much, I can’t handle being with you when you’re like this.” Despite that, told me nothing was going on with the girl, it was just a fling.

Within a week of breaking up, he was going out on dates with her and kissing her. When I called him on it, he told me it was nothing and “we’ve broken up so why do you care?” (Maybe because we were still living together and it’s a dick-move?) He said he’d move out, but made no attempts to find a new place.

After 5 weeks, I was fed up and found my own place. [My cheater] said he wanted to be friends, and that he didn’t want to lose me, so he begged to come around for dinner and hang out … which inevitably turned into him wanting sex, which I declined. So, then he [figured out] that I wouldn’t have sex with him and he told me he didn’t want to talk to me anymore. I told him that was fine – I was moving on, seeing someone else … he told me how hurt he was that I was seeing someone else. (Remember that time you CHEATED on me when we were in a relationship!?)

We haven’t spoken for a couple of months now … but he emailed today to ask if he could borrow my motorbike jacket so that some new girl he’s seeing can wear it when he takes her on a motorbike ride … SERIOUSLY!?! Life has been 100000x better without him in it. He’s immature, an idiot, rude, inconsiderate, and ultimately, a jerk!”

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The man described above has truly flawed thinking. He considered the following abnormal events, beliefs, and actions to be normal:

  • He cheated on his girlfriend with a coworker, but said that it did not count as cheating because it was a fling. Um, a fling still qualifies as infidelity.
  • He told his girlfriend that he couldn’t handle her “being like this” because his girlfriend found out he was cheating. He turned the blame back on his girlfriend because she found out about his philandering and her knowledge of his philandering made her the issue. Say what?
  • He refused to move out of their shared home even though he was seeing someone else. If you find someone else, you LEAVE.
  • His victim/betrayed girlfriend had to leave their shared apartment because he would not; this was completely normal to him. It’s not normal at all!
  • He pretended he wanted to be friends, while in reality he wanted to have his cake and eat it too by having a sexual relationship with his ex in addition to all the new women he was having sex with. Not normal!
  • He felt further victimized when his actual victim had rightly moved on to someone else. This is classic behavior when a cheater plays the victim.  Can we say hypocrite?
  • The icing on the cake was that he wanted to borrow his ex-girlfriends motorcycle jacket so that his new date could wear it. I have no words to describe such arrogance.

What to Say When a Wayward Spouse Blames You for the Affair

Frankly, I do not understand how (biological) adults can retain such a lack of insight into their behaviors and how their behaviors affect others.

When wayward spouses cheat, some have a pattern of a tremendous lack of insight. People with such a gross lack of insight seem to have personalities that correlate to them falsely believing themselves to be victims.

If you are dealing with a spouse  who lacks insight, telling a wayward spouse the items below will likely fall on deaf ears:

  • You hurt me
  • You destroyed my trust
  • I can’t get over what you did
  • I need your support in healing
  • I need to see some remorse from you
  • You ruined my life
  • I need you to take ownership
  • I need you to help restore the marriage
  • You need to fix what you broke
  • You have devastated me

Such phrases will often cause victim-oriented wayward spouses to shift blame onto the betrayed. In fact, some wayward spouses can say really outrageous things when their motives are questioned.

Here is a list of the most insane things I have personally heard wayward spouses say in my off-line life to excuse their bad behavior:

  • “My first wife couldn’t bend like a pretzel; what was I supposed to do?” said a man who left his beautiful wife of 25 years for trailer trash.
  • “My wife got her PhD after our kids grew up and I couldn’t relate to her. I could only relate to (female colleague) after that; she was the ONLY person who understood me.” said a man with a PhD who had been married to his wife for 22 years.
  • “Don’t you know how hard it is when both the nanny and her mother were offering a steady supply of sex? How could you expect me to turn that down?” said a man who has been married for 17 years and had a special needs child who was being neglected by the nanny because dad was too busy in the bedroom with nanny and/or the nanny’s mom.
  • “You are very stupid you know and that is your fault. You should have known that someone who looks like me married you only to get citizenship,” said an Eastern European woman to her American husband after he caught her cheating with his friend.
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With such irrational behavior, betrayed spouses are often left wondering what to do. When this happens, it is time to stick to the fact that a wayward spouse cheated and that cheating is a choice born from his or her free will.

Stupid Things Said While in an Affair

When the Cheater Plays the Victim – Fighting Back with the Legal Principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur 

In Latin, Res Ipsa Loquitor means that something that speaks for itself. When a cheater plays the victim, the number one thing that I recommend doing is reminding them of their choice to have an affair.

The fact that they chose to commit adultery is something that speaks for itself. It is a concrete act; it is a fact; it is an event that cannot be undone, and it is an event that will not go way if you ignore it.

In the area of Tort Law in the United States, res ipsa loquitur is a common theme, usually in cases that involve negligence. But, I think it is useful to keep in mind when dealing with wayward spouses. Let me provide you with the legal context before I extrapolate further on infidelity.

Res ipsa loquitur is Latin, and when translated directly means the thing speaks for itself. Under the common law of negligence, the res ipsa loquitur doctrine indicates that a breach of a party’s duty of care may be inferred from the events that occurred. In other words, the negligence is so obvious that you can tell that someone had a negligent hand in what happened.

When an accident happens, it could be that the property owner breached his duty of care. However, with res ipsa loquitur, the breach is so apparent that there is a presumption of the breach of duty and the plaintiff does not need to provide extensive evidence, if any, of the breach. Thus, the negligence speaks for itself.

Moreover, the doctrine indicates that the inference of the negligence is so strong that it does not matter if the harmed party behaved negligently. Again, here it’s so obvious that there was negligence (even if the injured person was acting in a negligent way themselves) it will not matter; the negligence is presumed, regardless of these circumstances. In fact, the cases frequently do not include actual evidence of how the harmed party acted whatsoever.

Various examples of res ipsa loquitur include the following: a piano falling from a window and landing on an individual, a barrel falling from a skyscraper and harming someone below, a sponge is left inside a patient following surgery or when the carcass of an animal is discovered inside a food can. A party seeking a civil suit will merely need to demonstrate occurrence of the event.” (1)

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If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

In these legal cases, the facts are clear and indisputable. In court, a plaintiff will not have to prove anything except for the fact that the defendant harmed them. In a court of law, the Plaintiff’s behavior is not even considered; it doesn’t matter what the Plaintiff did; what matters is the harmful and observable outcome.

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 The act speaks for itself; as a result there is no discussion of blame; a Plaintiff is often owed reparations for the harmful act of the defendant.

I like to extend the principle of res ipsa loquitur when discussing infidelity…

When a cheater plays the victim card, the best strategy is to take a page from the US legal system. Instead of arguing or debating, simply remind the wayward spouse that he or she caused harm that is factual, concrete, identifiable, and has negative repercussions for the betrayed.

Anytime your wayward spouse attempts to blame you, simply remind them that they chose to cheat.

It does not matter if they say they cheated because it was a rainy day, they were stuck indoors, and an attractive coworker offered themselves on a platter.

The circumstances of why they cheated do not matter; only the act of infidelity matters. It does not matter what a wayward spouse’s perception of his or her marriage was, the fact remains that he or she had an affair.

Betrayed spouses must resist the urge to engage in dialogue where they are blamed.

Infidelity comes from a flaw that is inside a person’s individual character structure. Still, even if a person has a character flaw that inclines them towards being unfaithful, choice enters to matter. Their individual free will is involved and a person CHOOSES to be unfaithful (or not). There is no external force that causes an individual to have an affair.

Why People Cheat in Relationships

Let’s talk about baseball for a moment.

If a person throws a baseball, it is governed by the laws of gravity, which are external. A baseball will fall to the ground if it is not caught and a baseball has no say in its destiny. External forces determine the destiny of a baseball.

A baseball cannot choose whether it falls to the ground because a baseball does not have the ability to affect the physical law of gravity, a law which is set in stone.

Now let’s talk about human beings, who have always had free will. (Even if a person’s physical free will is restricted in a situation, such as being in prison, his thoughts are still his own).

A person has free will over his or her choices. Each person must decide who he or she will be each day. An individual must decide whether or not he or she will give into base urges or continue to keep promises.

Cheating is a choice, not a law of nature and not a destiny.

There is no cause acting outside of an individual spouse that requires infidelity to be the only outcome.

In Summary

This article is meant to reinforce that cheating is a choice. This article is meant to encourage betrayed spouses to remember that their spouse’s choice to cheat is a fact that is set in stone and an event that speaks for itself.

You must resist the urge as a betrayed spouse to believe you did something to cause your spouse’s actions. You, as a betrayed spouse, must shut down conversations where a cheater plays the victim card or rationalize away their actions.

Finally, how have you been doing this week? What are your biggest struggles? Do you have experiences where your wayward spouse has played the victim? What did your spouse say or do? Do you struggle with feeling responsible for your wayward spouse’s actions?


    22 replies to "He Said, She Said: When the Wayward Spouse Plays the Victim Role"

    • Sarah P.

      How has everyone’s week been? Has anyone tried to bring every conversation about infidelity back to the fact that a concrete and irreversible act has been committed? I am referring to cases where the wayward spouse plays the victim.

      Does your wayward spouse refuse to accept accountability despite the evidence that they did something wrong?

      Committing adultery used to be a criminal act in all 50 States. Now only a few states have this law on the books. Do you think all 50 states should make adultery illegal again so that if you get divorced, you can use this law toward custody and divorce settlements?

      What are your thoughts?

    • Betterdays

      I have a slightly different scenario that some may be able to relate to. It’s rewriting the history. When the year long affair was discovered and shut down, it was because the state of our marriage. The truth is we both had our issues prior to the affair. But the few years leading up to her affair, we were very solid. We chose to do everything together. Go out a couple nights a week, road trips a couple weekends per month, hiking, vacations often, sex, all of it. A month into her new job and she was completely involved with her “work.” I was out of the picture. She completely replaced me. In talks, intimacy, time, attempts to solve disagreements, everything.

      Truthfully, I figured it was us just being on different wave lengths for a time period(head in the sand). That sort of stuff has happened at different points here and there(18+ year marriage at that point), but never for such a lengthy period. Looking back, I can trace it back to the very day her affair became serious and she went all in. We worked a block apart and we walked everyday during a break or lunch. Then a month into her new job, I got a call. And instead of, “are you ready to walk?” It was, “work is just too busy, I no longer have time to walk with you.” That is when our marriage went down hill and several months later there were many indicators that caused me to be suspicious and from there it didn’t take long to find the evidence to confirm. In the first several months after DD, her excuse was, “our marriage has not been good.” It’ like, no shit sherlock, you’ve been fucking around with another man for the last year. Though, she tried her best to predate it to before the affair. Her and her AP both convinced themselves and each other what terrible lives they lived prior to meeting each other. It’s just a way for them to justify their poor choices and to connect and relate and it’s complete bullshit.

      • Beatrice

        I agree, I hate how they have to blame the other person cause they are piece of shit individuals.

    • Another One

      My husband played a slightly different victim role after DDay. He was so ashamed, angry and disappointed with himself he said he needed me to be kind and understanding so he wouldn’t slip into depression. He also asked me to be gentle and kind because he didn’t want us to fight and was afraid that if I expressed my anger we’d end up having big screaming matches where we’d both say things we’d later regret. So I often had to put my hurt aside to soothe HIM. It’s only now, almost six months later, that he realises how selfish and hurtful that was. But he still maintains that it was best for our relationship that we didn’t fight so what we did was our only option. I keep trying to make him see that there was a third opinion there, one where he was kind and understanding to me but I don’t think I’ve succeeded.

      He’s willing now to try and look after my hurt feelings but he keeps asking what I need from him and frankly I don’t know. I’m so used to being the one who looks after everyone that it’s not easy for me to think about myself first. Especially since the initial overwhelming grief of the betrayal is gone, I don’t know what it is I need right now to feel better. I think I’ve been too good at pretending to be calmer and more understanding than I really am that now I don’t even know how I really feel.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Another One
        My heart goes out to you. Your last paragraph is extremely telling! This is only my opinion but unless you give yourself permission to really grieve and get in touch with the anger and pain your husband’s betrayal caused, you are not going “feel better”. Perhaps look back in time….and ask yourself if you are to0 quick to take care of others and push down your own feelings, in other relationships etc. If the answer is yes….trust me…your husband knows this about you and used it to his own advantage.

        Very sneaky…right. The examples in the post are fairly black and white but it is often the more subtle behavior that is harder to spot. But the CS does have a way of making it all about them….pretty classic.

        Do you have anyone that you can confide in??

        • Another One

          The answer is definitely yes and he does know it.

          I suppose I’m reluctant to take what seems a step backwards in letting out things I felt most strongly 5 months ago. However it does help that he has now finally acknowledged how selfish his behaviour was before, during and after the affair.

          • Shifting Impressions

            Another One
            How is it possible that letting out your feelings can be taking a step backwards?? All that rage, anger, disappointment, distrust and pain etc. has to go somewhere. This journey consists of ups and downs and steps forwards and then steps back again. Where have you buried it all??

            • Another One

              Just buried it down. I have expressed some of my grief and hurt but hubby has asked/expected that I restrain myself “for the sake of the relationship”.

              Unfortunately my childhood taught to bury my needs and desires and not express myself freely. It’s a very difficult habit to break.

            • Hopeful

              SI and Another One, I agree SI with your thoughts. One thing this has taught me is I am not going to suppress anything or keep how I feel inside. I was always very upfront and open with my husband. I would ask him directly if he ever had attention from other women or any interactions at all. I was not naive. However he lied to my face each and every time. That is revealing of him not me. It was hard for my husband but that was part of the deal for us staying together and trying to work it out. What we did is we sent a time once a week we would talk. That way it did not consume every day and he was not on high alert worried I was always going to bring it up. I did journal every day. What I found was I did less ranting which helped me feel better and resolve issues I had. He stopped being defensive. It was transformative. For me I decided personally the only way I would stay in my marriage if it was what I wanted. I refuse to back down on any of it. As my therapist said I provided him with freedom, love and safety and he threw that all away.

              My husband owned what he did completely however he did feel that as long as he was “not cheating” he was fine. That really changed over time. My expectations for our relationship elevated as time has passed since dday. He understands that now and we have created a new relationship that is so different from the previous 25+ years. We had a really strong foundation however we have both worked hard and are thankful for where we are today.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Another One
              I hope you realize that your husband has effectively muzzled you. What does he mean by restraining yourself?? “For the sake of your relationship” and for the sake of your personal well being I hope you realize you have an opportunity here.

              An opportunity to say that sharing your pain is a way to heal the relationship. That sharing your true feelings is NOT destructive to a relationship.. I think most CS try to avoid talking about and dealing with affair but it’s unacceptable!!!

              I encourage you get some counseling just for you….take care of you first.

            • Another One

              SI, you are completely right! I was feeling muzzled and I don’t think “forced”calm was doing all that much benefit to our relationship. Thank you for helping me understand that AND be able to express it.

              H and I had a long chat about that yesterday and I’m already seeing the difference. I’m not used to it yet! But I’m sure I will be soon.

          • Shifting Impressions

            Another One
            I’m glad I was able to be of some help. A book that might be of some help to you is AFTER THE AFFAIR updated second edition by Janis A Spring. I found it extremely enlightening to read do a lot of reading on the topic of infidelity.

            Take care….I hope that things keep moving in a positive direction.

            • Another One

              Funny, I did buy After The Affair not long after Dday but I think it was too soon and I didn’t get much out of it then. I’ll start it again this afternoon.

      • Beatrice

        I komda understand, what you are saying…but how does he still have power when he is the one who caused the hurt?

    • Soul mate

      Hi Sarah P,
      I would love to here your thoughts on normalization of deviance in relation to affairs and the coworker/work spouse dynamic has become a dangerous but acceptable behavior in the workplace.

      In reading up on this theory, I truly believe this relates to the progress of emotional affair types.


    • MommaT

      My husband had an affair for 2 years. He went from fully owning it, wanting to rebuild, to reaching out to her and deciding to resume the affair. After the discovery of the last time, we separated. Took him forever to move out. He lied about them still being involved. He tried to tell me that he was pretty much always unhappy our entire 26 yr marriage. Explained that I was difficult to live with and didn’t make a space for him in the marriage. We have 7 kids and they were devastated by the news. He’s now telling them he’s on a solo journey to discover what he really wants and if part of that is being married to me he’ll figure it out. He’s searching for his “authentic life”. I’m fully aware he’s full of shit and they are together. He’s trying to convince the kids this was inevitable and the affair has no bearing on his decisions. I don’t know how to do this with the kids (ages 18-28). I want them to see the truth, which is that he’s still fully immersed in affair fog, but I don’t want to damage their relationship further. They are all needing counseling to help them process. It’s just such a mess. I don’t know what to do.

      • SoDone

        I am so sorry that this is happening to you and I can relate. I feel your children are old enough the learn the truth and your husband needs to feel the full extent of the damage he has caused and, unfortunately, that includes his relationship with his children. Too few wayward spouses understand how widespread and far-reaching their affairs go. Damaging children, no matter how old they are, is a serious consequence. Why shield him from this? Your kids know adults aren’t perfect and make terrible mistakes. This may be the only way to lift the fog.

      • Seenthelight

        MommaT, I’ve always found that total honesty is best, regardless. I was in the position your children are in and would have appreciated 100% honesty from my parents at 21 years old. It was what me and my siblings were taught throughout our lives, yet it wasn’t the example we were given when they divorced. I felt and still feel it would have been better for all 7 of us to deal with everything had we been treated honestly. It also would help keep them in reality regarding any relationships they get into.

      • Beatrice

        I am not understanding your situation, have him move out and you start living your life…tell the kids you are no longer together, let them know they are free to have any type of relationship with their dad…even though you did work it has nothing to do with them…why are you letting that man control how you handle the hurt he inflicted in your life.

    • Eli

      I have been married for 15 years and one day I fought out that my husband was having an affair with the new neighbor who moved i from Texas Amanda Gil in Jerome Id. They spent over 3200 text messages for a year. She is 30 years younger that my husband. She doesn’t woek and has a kid. She was telling him how she was going to give him a bow job and she even brought me flowers for my birthday day knowing that they were together. You tell me what kind of woman with good morals does that to somebody who they just met. For all those who has new neighbor always watch out.

      • Beatrice

        I am a new neighbor, no1 needs to watch me…yourr husband is the problem, he has no moral, why sleep with someone who will be seeing you on a regular, he might as well have cheated on ya bed, he has no respect…just sad…I feel bad for you.

    • Ivee

      I’ve been with my partner for almost 10 years now. D-Day was 2 weeks ago – found out that he’s been emotionally cheating for the past 3+ months. He just played the victim card today – saying that throughout his life he’s had pressures from different areas/people, but that I (me) was one less pressure for him – and now even I’ve become an additional pressure for him.

      He said since everyone already loves blaming him for everything, that I might as well join in blaming him – he said all this because for the past 2 days he’s been out of state on ‘work’, and had almost zero communication with me (ignored my messages and calls). It was when I said this was uncharacteristic of him (a person who’s stuck on his phone almost whole day busy typing messages and attending calls), that he came up with this victim role.

      I have always had a care-giver role with family and friends, and I guess by saying the above, he’s trying to appeal to my care-giving side by putting himself as a victim. He expects me to put my hurt aside and carry on like before his EA was discovered. While I do approach him from a space of understanding, there is no way I’m falling for his emotional manipulation. It’s so tough though, to be the one hurt and to be the mature one trying to manage this situation that he created.

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