Dear Chump Lady,
My wife cheated on me for several years. She’s full of remorse now and says she sorry, and we’re trying to reconcile. It’s like she was another person when she was cheating on me, and she’s back now. But who was she then? She says she never stopped loving me when she was cheating. She insists she has “always” loved me.
I don’t get it. Can people still love you while they’re cheating on you?
Dear Totally Confused,
No. They cannot.
Let’s substitute cheating for “pushing you down a flight of stairs” and see if sounds less ridiculous.
“I know I pushed you down a flight of stairs, honey, but all the time I was watching you flail about, hitting the landing, and breaking your collarbone – I was loving you. Really.”
Are you buying it now? As you know, the pain of betrayal is far worse than the physical pain of bouncing head first down a flight of stairs. Could someone who risked your safety and well-being for a thrill be described as “loving” you right then? No.
But it’s a common trope that cheaters never “stopped loving you.” And we go through all sorts of mental contortions to make these two incongruous things – loving and cheating – fit together.
“Okay, I loved you. But in this kind of familiar way, like you love a brother or a really annoying roommate, sort of thing. But I was always in love with you.”
This ability to “love” you while cheating on you is often attributed to “compartmentalization.” Yes, I loved you. But then I was able to shelf it just long enough to fuck that other guy and put my wedding ring in my pocket. When I came home, shazzam! I loved you again.
It’s like “love” is this background noise they claim they feel the whole time. But it apparently isn’t a strong enough force to not make them cheat in the first place.
“I never stopped loving you” is something that cheaters like to tell themselves, to make themselves out to be Not So Bad. Betrayal is unloving. While she was cheating, she was telling herself things that gave her reasons to act unloving toward you. Excuses. And what she wanted – side dish fucks, ego kibbles – was more important to her than you were. If she had to push you down a flight of stairs to get those ego kibbles, she would do it. She was indifferent to the consequences (which I’m sure she thought would not happen) and indifferent to your pain.
Love is about connection. You have to be emotionally and spiritually disconnected from someone to be able to cheat on him or her.
You are trying to reconcile with someone who betrayed you for YEARS. For her to tell you that yes, she did not love you, and she callously betrayed you, would be the truth. And that is a LOT harder to overcome than copping to the lesser offense that she behaved badly, but “always loved you.”
To move forward you must accept that she did not love you when she was cheating on you. Can she love you now? Maybe. I suppose it is possible.
But she’s the sort of person who is capable of “pushing you down a flight of stairs” to get what she wants. Can you live with that?
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