Happy Wednesday!

We all make mistakes in a marriage. After the affair though, these mistakes tend to come to the forefront of the betrayed spouse’s mind, with thoughts of self-blame and guilt for the failings of the marriage.

More than likely, the betrayed spouse needs to take responsibility for their contribution to the deterioration of the marriage – as should the cheating spouse – but the cheater was solely at fault for the affair. End of story.

With these thoughts in mind…How does one take some responsibility for the problems in their relationship without feeling at fault for the affair? Is is possible?

Please respond to each other in the comment section.

Have a great day!

Doug & Linda

    35 replies to "Discussion: Acknowledging Responsibility vs Feeling at Fault"

    • QuillsOut

      I think it is possible for a betrayed partner/spouse to separate responsibility for their relationship and responsibility for the affair and address them accordingly. By this I mean realizing the affair was NOT their fault, but there likely were some things they could have done at the time to improve their relationship and to focus on changing these things now that they are in the recovery process.

      For example, when my husband first became distant and critical two years ago I was scrambling for some idea as to why, and what I could do to fix it. I would push him to talk to me, spend time with me, etc; all this did was push him farther away. When he did not respond to me I became angry, hurt, and often lashed out at him with criticisms of my own, being a near constant source of negativity because I couldn’t fathom why he was pulling away from me.

      I am sure my behavior(s) did not make him feel welcomed or appreciated at home, and that home was not a safe haven for him for quite a long time. This doesn’t excuse his affair and other actions one bit. However I feel badly because of the way I treated him, I know in my heart that it was not right. So I have set out to educate myself on relationships, and to show real love and concern for him the best I can.

      I am only responsible for my actions, my thoughts, and my feelings. Much as I wish I could read his, or change him, I cannot. It eats at me sometimes, because I want things to be better NOW, but have to face the possibility that they never will be, not if we BOTH don’t work for it.

      I know these things in my head, the logical part of me that has the ability to reason and think things over. There is still a part of me that blames myself for everything, that the past two years are all my fault and if I’d only been a better wife/friend/lover he would not have needed to seek his encouragement and validation elsewhere. That he wouldn’t have needed someone else to make him feel like a knight in shining armor, because he already was one in my eyes… Now the armor is tarnished and I can see the dents, hear the squeaky hinges and see the age of his horse showing through. It doesn’t make me love him any less, but I’m having to love him for who he is, not who I wish he could be.

    • michael

      I think the harder question for some of us betrayed spouses is, how can someone feel at fault for affair but still take little or no responsibly for the problems in the relationship?

      Its been a year. I know her affair was not my fault. But I do take responsibility for my part in the problems of my marriage. “I” felt unloved and gave little to no love in return. “I” didn’t seek help when things were bad. Partially because I thought this was how things were supposed to be. And because I didn’t think this could ever happen to me.
      I’ve tried for a year to show that love, to open up my feelings and share with her how I felt.
      And while she says “sorry” about the affair, she has taken little or no steps to repair the marriage. I agree that my asking, begging for information about the affair pushes her into defensive mode. But I go for day and weeks now, not asking or pushing. Still she does nothing. Still she is void of emotional connection with me about repairing our marriage.
      The vicious cycle of falling back into a non communication, non committed relationship between us. I’m at the end of my strength to work on what takes both of us to repair.

      I feel…
      I would rather be alone in bed than lonely in our bed together.
      I haven’t given up. But I know I’m not trying as hard anymore. I ran out of steam.

    • ruth

      I dont feel guilty anymore for my husbands affair. I know now I didn’t do anything wrong. I now realize that there is something wrong with him. He is in denial on his feeling and what he wants out of life. I am also getting tired of trying to make our marriage work and he put little effort into it. Its been one year now and I still don’t feel better about us. Why? He have never opened up to me about his feeling for her or how he feels now. There is a 800 lb gorillia in our living room and he just want to keep ignoring it. I don’t think I can ignore it any longer. After a year we still are not communicating. He just wants to keep moving forward but I am struck. I am not a fault

    • Joanna

      Although my husband is having an EA, I blame that decision on him and the OW. I do accept some responsibility for the problems in our marriage, and for that I will be eternally sad. I handled our problems by yelling and screaming; my husband handled the problems by having an EA (twice). I was so unhappy that he appeared not to care about me or my dreams, that I was often nasty to him. He said that my nastiness “ate at him like a cancer” and drove him out of the house (I actually demanded that he leave, and he left quite easily since he was involved in an EA), and that the OW just opened the door for him. I wish that I had handled my anger differently, or at least learned how to convey my unhappiness in a manner that was not so demeaning.

    • ruth

      I know no one can answer this for me but when is it time to just give up?

      • Doug

        Ruth, You’re right, no one can answer that for you. Making a decision such as this requires a lot of self-reflection, as well as discussions with your spouse regarding his feelings and his abilities to meet your needs. There are also a host of related issues to consider such as kids, finances, etc. We had a discussion on this several months ago. Perhaps you can get some more insight from that: https://www.emotionalaffair.org/open-discussion-when-do-you-give-up/

      • Norwegian woman

        When you can leave without resentment or anger because you have done everything you could have done……?

        • ruth

          You are right I have done everything I can to make it work, the only resentment I have is I keeped my eyes closed for a long time and now I need to move on.

      • BreeAnn

        I gave up when he put HER needs before mine! It has been very painful.

      • Nat

        I’ll put it to yu this way: I almost gave up.
        E mail me privately.

    • ruth

      My heart doesn’t want to let go but my mind tells me there will never be a end to his affairs. My biggest concern is finances. My childern are adults. He brakes my heart every chance he gets. I know what he is yet I cant seem to let go of 36 yrs of marriage. Sometimes I think well I have done it this long and I am getting old now where else can I go. Honestly I have tried everything everyone has suggested on here but he just wont open up and I see at time he is still unhappy and tries to contact ow. I cant be second anymore. I am finding myself stronger than I was before and thinking about me and what I need. I am tired of trying. I am just plain old tired.

    • Jenn

      How does one take some responsibility for the problems in their relationship without feeling at fault for the affair? Is is possible?

      My answer: It would be much less painful to address my issues in our marriage had my husband’s affair not happened, HOWEVER, I am finding out that being able to see him as an imperfect person makes me more introspective. I’ve read so much after finding out about his affair about what makes marriages work. I know that I wasn’t exactly the wife I could have been, and I know that I did not push him into an affair. We have to take responsibility for our own actions and choices, and he chose to have an affair. At times in the past I chose to be selfish also, it just never manifested as an outside relationship with another man. Relationships take work, from both sides to be successful yet no matter how hard you work, it will never be perfect, but it can be great.
      At the time of my husband’s affair, I had been showing love, affection, work, & support for him. Remembering THIS helps me to know that it wasn’t my fault.

    • Andrew

      I understand my part in creating the conditions for my wife’s EA to happen, but I do not blame myself for it happening. As Joanna siad, I blame my wife and the OP for the EA. They made a conscientious decision to start and continue the affair, even after being confronted about it. My wife told me that the OP tried to stay away and contact her for a little while, but like I told her, he obviously didn’t stop it, for it still goes on today. They went to all the trouble of maintaining the affair, even going so far as to get another cell phone in the OP’s name, so that they could maintain contact without me seeing it on the phone records. I caught her with this other phone three different times, and she finally gave me the phone after the third time. It’s not my fault for that happening. They just had to carry this on, and were willing to do whatever they had to in order to facilitate it. This goes to show that when people are engaged in affairs, they will stop at nothing to keep it going. I have a much better understanding of why it is so hard to stop. It is an addiction, and just like any other addiction such as alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc, it is very difficult to stop. That in now way makes what they are doing ok, but at least I understand it better. I also acknowledge what I did wrong in our marriage to cause my wife to seek fulfillment elsewhere. I created a void of loneliness, lack of affection, and attention, and of course, she is now getting what she wanted from me for so long from someone else. I know that she is not in the right frame of mind, and still living in the fantasy of the affair. I believe she honestly cannot see just how damaging this is, to not only me, but to our kids, and herself. I have done all I can to set a good example for her to follow, and used all the resources and methods I have found on this site and in some very good books. There seems to be no effect of these actions, however. I think about giving up everyday, but the thing that keeps me going, even after all that has occurred, is the belief that our marriage can still be saved. I used to feel so angry and betrayed by her, but now I just fell sorry for her. I know that she is not thinking clearly, or rationally. I understand that she is in survival mode, for she was hurt my be for over a year and a half, and in order to protect herself, she believes the only way to do that is by getting out of the marriage. She cannot see the whole picture, she has tunnel-vision towards the goal of getting out. I do still believe with all my heart that our marriage can be saved. I only wish she could see that as well. I know I cannot force her to see it. She must come up with that on her own. I am just taking it day by
      day, but at some point, I know I will have to decide when enough is enough. I am not looking forward to that day.

    • mlb

      Michael, I could have written your post. It is my complete story. If I push to hard to “fix” this, I push her away. If I back off, I don’t feel like she has any interest in reaching towards me.

      Your comment about being lonely in bed with her is spot on.

      I will say it “publicly” here. I am responsible for much of our problems prior to the affair. I had a terrible childhood which filled me with anxiety and fear. I couldn’t trust, I have great difficulty being vulnerable. Although I’ve always been there for my wife, she needed more. And many times I couldn’t give it to her. I know now, finally, that my fear of rejection prevented me from fully opening myself up to the person I love the most.

      I’ve spent my married life being a good father to my children. I’ve supported them, coached them, loved them, came home every night etc. The same with my wife. But it was not enough.
      She needed me to accept her emotions without judgement. I couldn’t do it. I had too many walls built up. Now the walls are finally crumbling, but I fear it is too late.

      • Doug

        mlb, I understand that you are beating yourself up for many of the things that you did prior to the affair but this is not going to help you to move on. Honestly many of the things your did represent most of the male behaviors that every wife experiences. I can say that Doug had a difficult time with my emotions because he believed that when I was upset it was something that he did or didn’t do. Sometimes that is not the case, woman are wired differently than men. The most productive thing any of us can do is learn about relationships, our spouses and communicate what we both need. Beating yourself up for the past will not help to make the future better. Linda

    • mlb

      I agree to a degree. Some of it was normal male behavior, but it just compounded my inability to show the empathy I felt. Many times I would see her cry and I’d want to reach out to her and I sat paralyzed. I knew what I should do, but something inside prevented me from doing it. It sounds like a lot of Psychological b.s., doesn’t it? Why would I do that to her? I love her more than anybody in the world. I would never intentionally hurt her, yet I did it by my silence. Again, some of my inability was born out of resentment of the lack of intimacy from my wife. She acknowledges this.

      When she would cry or be upset, I often felt like I was somehow inadequate, or awkward, or unnatural if I approached her. I still do. It’s like I have no idea what to say or do, so I would sit in silence and hope it would pass. I know in my heart it is ingrained in me from my childhood experiences and I need to get past it. And I need to do it now.

      • Doug

        mlb, I just see in your actions many of the actions displayed by Doug. There were so many times when I would be so upset and crying and all I wanted from him was a hug or to tell me it was going to be ok and he wasn’t able to do that. However when we were dealing with the aftermath of the he was able to hold me and comfort me. Those actions allowed me to become closer and become more intimate with him. Prior to that he would just let me go and show no effort to comfort me. I would feel so unloved that eventually I just became numb and I built a wall around me.

        Woman don’t want you to say much, they really need that physical contact to feel loved and cared for. They want to be held and know that you are there to take care of them. Just recently I was very upset about something and I preceded to do something I have been accustomed to doing, I hide and cry. Now I wanted Doug to find me and put his arms around me, but it took him about a half and hour to come looking for me, then he stood over me and watched me cry. This tore me apart, I felt so unloved that it took me quite awhile to get over it. It brought back all the memories of the way we dealt with conflicts before the affair.

        Sometimes it is hard to understand how our actions affect our spouses. I believe this is the one positive aspect of an affair, we finally begin looking at our behaviors and communicating to each other how they affect us. There is no more living in the dark, now everything is out in the open because we never want to go back to the way it was before the affair. Linda

    • mlb

      Linda, I know this is not an appropriate response, but when I read that he Doug stood there and watched you cry I laughed.
      I wasn’t laughing at you or your feelings. It was a laugh at our stupidity. Our total lack of empathy and knowing what to do. I’ve done the exact same thing. Stand there hoping the crying will stop. Being totally clueless about what to do.
      I’m finally learning that a simple hug may be all a woman needs.
      My mind doesn’t work like that. I immediately panic and think I need to say the perfect thing to “fix” what’s wrong. I am woefully inadequate to do that. However, i can manage a simple hug. I can simply just hold there and be there. I wish I could have learned these simple lessons decades ago.

      • Doug

        Mlb, I won’t take it personally, and you know we don’t really want it to be fixed, honestly we are more than capable of fixing it ourselves, we just want to know you care that we are upset, that you understand and hear what we are saying. I know it goes against a man’s nature but all you have to do is shake you head in agreement, hold us and feel our pain. By standing there looking at us we feel that you really don’t care that we are upset, that we are too emotional, or crazy and all we want you to do is accept us and love us not matter how stupid we are acting. Linda

    • mlb

      I know that now….now I just have to trust myself to put it to practice. It’s so easy to sit here right now and tell myself that next time I’ll do it the right way. When that time comes, I usually freeze and forget everything I know I should do. It is so hard to explain. I can take a small amount of solace in the fact that I am not some monster. It helps to know that Doug has done the same thing I have done. I will grow emotionally. I will do it for my wife and my marriage. Even more importantly, I’ll do it for myself. If I can change myself, I have the feeling other positives will follow!


    • Yuki

      Mark – those hugs and soft words of reassurance are so very important. My husband is just learning that, too. Last night, I didn’t feel like talking or reading or anything. I just wanted to lie in bed and cry… and cry and cry. Like you, I usually just “leak” (LOL), but last night I needed a good cry. I had been crying for a few minutes when he found me there in our bedroom. He took me in his arms and held me close to his heart, stroked my hair, and said, “I’m so sorry I caused you so much pain. I am in love with you. I’m here to do whatever you want me to.” At first, because I was feeling resentful of everything, I didn’t respond. But he just continued to hold me, and after several minutes I melted. We hugged and kissed for maybe 20 minutes more, and we both felt so much closer than we have in a long, long time.

      I know you and I are both the betrayed spouses, but maybe because you are the husband, she might slowly respond to it. Maybe not at first, but just maybe later… I’m praying for you and your wife.

    • mlb

      I’m happy for you. I so wish I could hear those words and actually feel that they were true. Last night after another day of no physical contact at all, I got out of bed and went down to the couch. I could not bear another night of being strangers in the same bed. I didn’t confront her or cause another argument. I’ve done that enough and it’s gotten me nowhere. I lay in bed with my heart broken. I want so bad to hold her and touch her and I feel absolutely nothing from her. It is literally killing me inside.
      I promised her that I wouldn’t pressure her, wouldn’t ask questions etc., so now I just suffer in silence.

      Thank you for your prayers, but I seriously wonder if God is listening.

    • Yuki

      My husband has said all of those words before, and he tells me several times a day that he loves me. But I have always felt that he didn’t really mean it, and that he was just trying to create a stable, contented marriage since he wanted to keep our family intact. I didn’t get the feeling that he was really in love with me.

      But that night, I don’t know why, I felt his sincerity for the first time. He actually let his guard down and spoke from his heart. And his patience in just holding me while I cried and cried spoke volumes. Then yesterday he told me that he has been cautious about opening up to me because he was still worried that I was ready to leave him.

      I’m still not ready to trust him completely. I had a nightmare last night that he left me for her. In my dream, he moved to her city and called the kids from there. I felt myself sinking into a deep hole as they spoke. So we have a long ways to go. But I do have some hope now.

      Mark, I also have had serious doubts about God since D-day. But I have come to realize that He really did know my limits, and while He could not take away my husband’s choices, He could create the softest landing possible for me. I remember telling a friend last year that I didn’t know why, but God seemed to be keeping me in a sort of cocoon for a while. A lot of things changed in my lifestyle and home life. I did not have as many responsibilities or stresses as I did for the past several years. Now I know why. I would not have been able to cope with D-day if I still had all those stresses on me.

      My view is that He is there and He can help. Just reach out and ask.

    • mlb

      Yuki, thank you for listening to me, but you can stop trying to help.
      I was told today that she is not in love with me. So I’m done.
      Our kids don’t matter, Our 22 year investment in each other doesn’t matter, Our history doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she “is happy”

      She has no heart. She has no soul. What happened to the girl I grew up with? What happened to my baby?

      I am done.

      • Doug

        mlb, I just want you to know that I also heard those words and it hurt more than anything in the world. For several months Doug told me he cared for me but there was he didn’t have any feelings for me. I am not sure if Doug really understood what love was but for some reason I didn’t let that stop me from trying to save our marriage. Many of the experts believe you should agree with them and say that you understand why they don’t feel in love, then question them further about their feelings. During one of our sessions Jeffrey discussed how the cheater is often in a trance and by engaging them in concrete, deep level conversations allows the cheater to remove themselves from the fantasy and finally face reality. Linda

    • Yuki

      I’m so sorry, Mark. I wish I could do something for you.

      Dr. Gunzberg says that even when the cheating spouse says they don’t love you, it is often just guilt and anger and resentment covering up the love. Doug and Linda have information about him. Have you checked his site?

      Be sure you have exhausted all possibilities before quitting. Otherwise you will always have the “what-ifs.”

      Good luck to you – let us know how you are.

    • Jenn

      Mark, my husband told me that he didn’t love me anymore, I would have to face the facts, and that he was no longer going to allow me to be the “obstruction to his happiness”. This occurred in July 2010. We are together, and working on our marriage, and God is always here. One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis reminded me of that, even in my darkest days of this affair experience, He was there: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
      Don’t give up just yet. If you haven’t tried going on with your life somewhat without her (at least where she thinks you’re living for your future, with or without her), telling the OM’s wife (if he is married), and suggested she move out, then it might be worth a try. REAL consequences have a way of snapping folks who are living in a fantasy back to reality.
      Best wishes to you, don’t lose hope. I am a living example of going to hell and back, as are several who post here–especially Linda & Doug!

    • mlb

      Yuki, I’ve been crying so much i feel like I’m going to turn inside out. I can’t stop. I’ve never been so unable to control my emotions

      I’m not the one who is quitting. I believe in my vows. I love my children and want an intact family. I want us to renew our love, but she wants nothing to do with it. I am beyond devastated. I am completely lost. I don’t know how to hide it from the kids.

    • mlb

      I am sitting here sobbing like a baby. I literally cried out to God to ask him where he is. I don’t feel him.

    • Yuki

      I’m glad you are letting it out, Mark – sometimes we need to just cry. But listen to Jenn. Yes, you are the faithful one, the one who has had to suffer and hurt. You are not the quitter. But you are losing hope, and that is all you have left to hold on to right now. Jenn and Linda have both experienced just what you are now, and they are still married today. It doesn’t always happen, but it can happen – it happens every day.

      Read this article:

      God is there, even when you don’t feel him. He often uses circumstances and people to express His message. He is the reason my workload is light today so I can be online with you.

    • mlb

      I am re-reading all of your posts. Last night I couldn’t think straight. Thank you, Yuki, Jenn and Linda. Your words give me a glimmer of hope. I need something to hold on to right now.
      When does the crying stop? I hide behind my monitor in my office because my tears won’t stop.

    • Yuki

      You have a lifetime of hurt to work through, in addition to yesterday’s bombshell – it will take a while. You are probably back at Day 1 right now. For a few days, you’ll probably not have much control over it, but after that, while at work, you will be able to keep it under control as long as you stay engrossed in something. I know that’s hard, too. I am very unfocused, even now. But it will get better. And no matter how it turns out with your wife, you can come out of this a wiser man who can be a great husband. We’re all rooting for you.

    • GG

      Why does Linda post under Doug’s name?

      • Doug

        Because our computer is constantly logged in under my name, and it’s just easier for her. She’ll put her name after her comment, so you’ll know who it is.

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