Many people understand that the time period after learning of your spouse’s affair is a volatile one. Often, it’s impossible to think clearly and objectively. And for these reasons, many people understand that, most of the time, it’s not in your best interest to make any important and lasting decisions until you are able to calm down and think rationally. But not every one has this luxury because sometimes, your spouse is the one who will make rash decisions.
A wife might say: “much to my great shock, I did not immediately leave or kick my husband out after his affair. I was kind of numb and I knew that I wasn’t thinking clearly. So while I asked for some time before we really talked this through, I did not do anything drastic. I truly don’t have any clue if we can save our marriage. But I would like the opportunity to explore that. However, I might not get that opportunity. Because my husband announced last night that he thinks our marriage might be over because he feels that he doesn’t deserve me and he thinks that he will never be able to get over these feelings of inadequacy. Frankly, this makes me angry. He is the one who cheated and now he gets to call the shots? What if I don’t care if he doesn’t deserve me?”
This isn’t that all uncommon. Sometimes, the cheating spouse is being absolutely truthful when they make this claim. They fully believe that their actions have made them unlovable and unredeemable. And they feel that you might ultimately be better off without someone as flawed as them.
But other spouses pull the pity card to try to get you to say something like: “you’re wrong. You do deserve me. You are a good person who made a mistake. Let’s start over.” What cheating spouse would not want this easy, fast way out? It helps to be aware that, if you allow them to take this quick out, then you may be cheating yourself out of rehabilitation and healing.
That doesn’t mean that you just have to accept what he is saying without having a conversation about this. You can certainly tell him your opinion by offering something like: “all of the research that I’m doing says that you shouldn’t just make drastic decisions about ending or saving your marriage until you’ve taken the time to evaluate things calmly. It is too soon for us to do that. So I think that it is too soon for us to declare that our marriage is over. We might need to explore counseling or having meaningful conversations before we are at a place where we can make a decision about our marriage. But I think it’s very premature to make a marriage-ending decision before we even attempt to sort this out. We may be able to heal and there may be a time in the future when we both feel deserving of the other. We won’t know that unless we take the first steps toward exploring how we feel and seeing what we can salvage. But to just declare that our marriage is probably over because of any initial feelings, that’s just rushing. Can we just wait to see what happens in the days to come before we make any huge, life-changing decisions?”
His answer may give you some clues as to whether he really believes in the whole “I don’t deserve you” claim or if he’s posturing just a little bit. Because you’re not telling him that he DOES deserve you right this second. You are just saying that you are willing to wait and see what tomorrow brings.
He may frankly believe what he’s telling you. But the most effective way for him to eventually believe that he is deserving in the future is to become rehabilitated, to do the work, and to eventually become the best husband that he can be.
He obviously can not do that if he bails at the first sign at trouble. And part of taking responsibility is hanging in there regardless of whether or not there are any guarantees. Sometimes, he is looking for reassurance from you. But no one can give him reassurance before the work has been done.
So I think that the best strategy is to try to convince him that this type of decision is premature. Then, you do the work. Honestly, if he is willing to do all of this, then it only makes sense that the both of you are much more likely to think that he is deserving in the future.