Having an affair is probably the most selfish thing that a person can do. True recovery after an affair cannot progress until the cheater puts in the work to help their spouse heal along with shifting their focus onto themselves – not in a selfish way – but in an introspective manner.

Our recovery and healing process over the last 4+ years has opened my eyes to my own faults as a person and has been the most painful but enlightening learning experience of my life.  It’s not easy to look at yourself and discover your own faults and character flaws.  It brings you back to Earth real quick – and hard. 

But at the same time, it’s also a very powerful process that can help you to not only figure out why you had your affair, but to also help you to become a better person in all areas of your life.

You need to conduct a thorough analysis of your past character, habits and behavior resulting in a better understanding of why the affair occurred.

I realize that when somebody tells you to look within yourself and do some serious introspection you might be thinking, “OK great.  That sounds wonderful but how exactly do I do that?  Where do I begin?”

Well, I found what I feel to be a really good exercise in the book When Good Men Behave Badly:  Change Your Behavior, Change Your Relationship by David B Wexler Ph.D. that the cheater should complete.

It’s an affair inventory and it can help to kick start the thought process a little bit and can help a person to gain a little bit more understanding of where they are at and how they got there.

See also  Denying an Affair

Obviously, the cheater would have been better served to have asked themselves the following questions before their affair, but since that probably didn’t happen, it can be done now.

The Inventory

If you are man (or woman) who is currently having an affair or has already had one, try to figure out what need you are/were truly looking to fulfill by pursuing this other woman (man). If you’ve already ended your affair take this inventory and convert it to the past tense. That is, think back about why you did what you did based on the questions that are presented to you.

As you do this, keep asking yourself:

  • Will I really get what I need from doing this? Will it last?”
  • Is it worth the potential damage to my marriage, my children, my health, and my long-term self-respect?
  • Are there other ways to find what I’m really looking for?

For each question below that you answer yes to write on a separate sheet of paper or in your journal at least three alternate ways that this need could be met. Writing anything about these feelings may feel like way too high of a security risk, but at least think through your answers to these questions!

  • Do I feel like I’m getting old and hope that this will help make me feel young, alive, and vital again?
  • Do I have low self-esteem and need a boost to my ego?
  • Do I feel trapped in my life roles and want the freedom to act in a different way?
  • Am I tired of the routine life I have? Do I need some excitement?
  • Do I feel like I have always been deprived what I need and this is my chance to get something for me?
  • Do I feel lonely, not knowing how else to feel close to someone?
  • Do I feel like my wife doesn’t understand me and I need to find someone who really does?
  • Do I have doubts about my sexuality and need to remind myself that I am attractive and potent?
  • Do I miss having someone really appreciate me, compliment my looks, laugh at my jokes, and respect my work?
  • Do I need to find a way to prove that I can still have adventure in my life?
  • Do I need a jump start to feel deep emotions and not know any other way to do it?
  • Am I simply looking for variety in sexual experience?
  • And the ultimate question: am I married to the wrong person? Do I really want to change relationships and develop a different life?
See also  Consequences of an Emotional Affair

The cheater may go through this exercise and still decide that it is/was worth it to have an affair. At least they can be more conscious of why. (Just to be clear here, it is never right to have an affair.)

So there you have it.  If you’re the cheater, do you think you can perform an honest assessment of your very being?  Sure you can.    

By the way…if there are any additional questions that you feel should be included in the inventory, feel free to add them in the comment section below.

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    18 replies to "Recovery After an Affair – The Cheater’s Affair Inventory"

    • Paula

      Thank you, Doug, this is a great inventory, and one that every CS who wants authenticity and a “better marriage” than the one they had before should try. We have done many of these types of checklists in our journey, too, and we went through this one again briefly, this morning, it is interesting, and enlightening, and it does show the BS that the CS cares, and wants true healing, to go through such exercises with love, tenderness and caring.

      My problem is that even though I am lucky enough to have a truly remorseful CS, who has done, and continues to do, the work required, I still feel very down about myself – and it infuriates me, because I know better! Self destructive thoughts are very, very hard to turn off/around. This has really destroyed my sense of self worth, and I am so annoyed at myself for even having my self worth so closely linked to another person – it should be from within!!! Really frustrating place to be, and I feel truly stuck between a rock and a hard place – I hope others are not finding this in their fourth year like myself. That said, I know I am a better person for this process, more empathy, more maturity, etc. Just not more happiness – yet!

    • Strengthrequired

      Paul I feel the same way, I take the Blane for everything that happened for my h to stray, even though I know it’s not true. I still at times find myself telling him how sorry I am for everything, it’s truly ridiculous. I didn’t have the affair, he chose to don that himself. He as apologized on several occasions, mostly when caught out on a lie, a lot I get he just wants to forget about it and move on. Yet sometimes think it’s just a copout he really doesn’t want me t talk about it, so e can continue his ea with her, without him worrying about my questions, my feelings making him feel guilty.
      I think that is where my self doubt comes in, I find it hard to believe he had given her up. How do you move on from that thought? It drives me nuts.

      Doug, just a question, I sent a msg to my h, saying at times I would just like to shake him to wake him up, and tell him I’m here look what’s in front of you, after everything I’m still here loving you etc etc, (a few other things) yet how can you have let this happen, can’t you see what this has done to me, all the pain I’ve been through? Take a step in my shoes and see how I feel when you stay away unto a night every week, how am I supposed to heal, how do you expect me to trust you when it is still in the present? I want to heal we need to heal.

      I told him how I love him etc, how I look forward to our future, and that I know he is tired with the travel (2hrs each way just to get home and he isn’t finish work in our business until late).
      I just want him to acknowledge what I have been through, and to understand how this as affected me, that it wasn’t just about her feelings.
      You know h didn’t respond, until I spoke to him that night, “he was ok until that msg I sent him”. Another night he wasnt coming home, due to work. Even though. Have told him to stay on there every day, and when he feels like he wants us around and it isn’t just about “work” that we are here. No, his response, I want you to just hold me when I come home. I’m not staying down there every day.
      He tells me how work is picking up, he has lot to do, and he see things getting better and it’s because we are together, nice to hear.

      I wonder about his response about my msg, I wonder is that him just not wanting to face what this has one to me, does he really care? Doesn’t he see that he focused more on how she was coping, although he saw me drowning in pain and sorrow, why was it, and why does I still feel like it’s all about her feelings?
      I’m asking you because your a man an have faced what he as faced. Would you ave responded the same way?

    • jcc

      Wow……I really wanted to see/hear Doug’s response. This is something I am trying to wrap my head around. I see this is an older post, but I think it is important for the CS to recognize his or her spouses’ pain. I realize this might not happen right away, but does it eventually?

    • Doug

      Boy, I”m sorry, SR (and JCC) I don’t recall ever seeing this question posed to me. I do miss a few now and then though. My bad. It’s probably way too late for my reply to mean much of anything SR but I will anyways.

      My gut tells me that he just doesn’t (didn’t) want to face the difficult repercussions that his affair has created. He does’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want you to ask questions about it or relate everything he does or doesn’t do to his affair and his AP. He probably cares about what it did to you but that doesn’t mean he wants it to still be a topic for discussion. He just wants to move on.

      That said, I think his statement that he just wants you to hold him and that he sees things getting better with you were his way of conveying his affection/love for you and that he is trying and hoping things continue to improve. But… he wants to you to let things go since they are “getting better.” Kind of a subtle stonewalling.

      JCC, I think in many cases the CS does realize the pain his/her causes, though at first, they are so involved with the elements of the affair that they just don’t really care. They compartmentalize and separate the two and then justify and rationalize their actions as appropriate.

      Certainly at some point the CS who is remorseful and who gets it will not only recognize the pain but also understand the depth of that pain and then get to work to help alleviate and heal that pain. Unfortunately, my experience over the last few years tells me that a fair percentage of CS never get it and even though they may understand the pain they’ve caused, they choose to sweep it under the rug, and utter those dreaded words…”Move on.”

      • patty

        Let’s just hope I move on quicker then the affair lasted….about 5 years.

    • phiilip

      Great article. I’m especially interested in “how to recover as a cheater”. You see, I had a 7-month non-sexual emotional affair with someone who turned out to be just living a fantasy, whereas I separated from my wife. My wife acknowledges that she made me feel unloved and she was abusive. (She doesn’t know about the non-sexual affair, but she deduced that it existed.) Since
      I protected my wife’s feelings all along, she doesn’t need to recover. In fact, I should say that we
      semi-separated, because I still represent myself to her family and friends as her spouse. The
      person who needs to recover is me, because every one of the inventory items is still true even
      though the affair is over. I’m still friends with my wife. She’s grateful that I cooperate with her.
      Looking ahead, I’ve done a lot of introspection and I’m still miserable. I’ve even taken up
      challenges and thrown myself into my work. I’ve lost 13 kilos; I’m working out… nothing helps.

    • B Smith

      Some of my thoughts, Phillip –

      –My wife acknowledges that she made me feel unloved and she was abusive.
      My gut is to immediately question this as to how much she is assuming blame from a re-written history. She very well could have been abusive, I will not flat our make any claims. But having personally experienced the blame I put on myself for my wife’s affair, I have to wonder

      –Since I protected my wife’s feelings all along, she doesn’t need to recover.
      First thing I have to say is a very hard truth to accept – but you were not protecting your wife’s feelings. You may have told yourself that, but in reality what you were doing is protecting your own. If you truly wanted to protect her feelings, you wouldn’t have done what you did.

      –I should say that we semi-separated, because I still represent myself to her family and friends as her spouse.
      Is this fair to your wife at all? Its still living in a denied reality. Who is benefitting from your pretending to still be her spouse?

      –The person who needs to recover is me, because every one of the inventory items is still true even though the affair is over.
      You’re way off base here. I accept that you need to recover yourself. I am heartened by the fact that you can see that in yourself. But to say that your wife doesn’t need to recover is madness. I want to make sure I’m following you correctly here:
      She doesn’t know about the affair
      You are separated (why?)
      She is living a life being still controlled by you – still being friends, her being grateful for your “cooperation”. This is just gaslighting, and it’s cruel. The fact that you are viewing it as HER being grateful to YOU for “cooperating” with her makes me very angry. I hope that you can hear my concern for her – and honestly for you too. And that you can get the help that you need. You really haven’t accepted responsibility for your actions yet, and are still manipulating the person whose feelings you claim to care about. Please get a copy of “How to help your spouse heal from your affair” and “Who will you become” and give them a read. I think you’ll find them eye opening. For what its worth these books will not look at you with condemnation – just trying to help you to see and understand.

      I’d also highly recommend the online course “Hope for Healing” at affairrecovery.com – it was instrumental in my wife healing from her poor hurtful choices and helping her to see through to herself, and make the changes inside that she needed. And to then be able to help me deal with the traumas she inflicted upon me.

      With hope for your recovery


    • B. Larson

      In no part of these articles do I hear mention of sexual addiction being part of the reason why men or women have affairs….or lack of boundaries, which was the case with my husband. There were a lot of things that played in to his affairs, but he said none of those reasons were because of me (but I know in fact some were). He felt like I wouldn’t understand about his sexual addiction and that I would leave him if I knew. So he sought out the wrong people to confide in (they confided in him first about their problems) and he thought, “finally, someone who has similar feelings!” His lack of trust in me and ability to be vulnerable with me, I think hurt the most. So many things hurt. But I am on a good healing journey with support groups and therapists and books, lots of books!

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