As anyone who reads here knows, I’m not hopeful about reconciliation after infidelity. It’s not that I don’t believe successful reconciliations are possible — it’s just that I’ve seen scant evidence of them. (I liken this to a unicorn, mythical creatures, rarely sighted, that I want to believe in.)
The biggest reason I am skeptical about reconciliation is entitlement.
It’s my entire premise of this blog.
People cheat because they feel entitled to cheat. That’s it. That’s my simple answer to the painful question of WHY? I don’t believe people cheat because they’re broken, or their FOO issues, or because of the staggering powers of Facebook crushes. I don’t believe people cheat because of mid-life crises, which descend on former church deacons like a toxic cloud of musk cologne. I don’t believe people cheat because of peri-menopause. I don’t believe people cheat because that hussy flung herself at him and wore down his defenses after his mother died. I don’t believe people cheat because monogamy is not an evolutionary imperative. I believe people cheat because they give themselves permission to cheat — and that’s a matter of character.
So when D-Day hits, it does rather beggar belief that this person is going to lead with humility. To do that, they’d have to call into question their entitlement. And let’s face it, entitlement feels awesome. Humility, not so much.
Entitlement, of course, only feels awesome if you can suppress empathy. (Truly disordered people cannot do empathy.) Entitlement is — all the cookies for me! Empathy is… well, maybe I should share my cookies. You look sad without a cookie. As much as I want all the cookies, I don’t know if I can enjoy my cookies knowing that you’re sad not having a cookie.
When people are caught cheating they do a lot of things to keep entitlement alive. They gaslight. Cookies? I don’t have cookies. They blame shift. It is Right and Proper that I have all the cookies, because you don’t know how to appreciate cookies. They mind fuck. I would give you a cookie, but I’m was thinking of your health. You can’t handle sugar. They obfuscate. Cookie? Define cookie.
As long as there is entitlement, there is no hope at reconciliation.
Once you realize that, everything else falls into place. Chumps tie themselves in knots on the transparency issue. She didn’t give me her passwords! He won’t close his Facebook account! How can I monitor this?
You don’t have to. The fact that they feel entitled to their privacy means this is a nonstarter. They feel entitled to not answer your questions. They feel entitled to keep working with the person. They feel entitled to keep their good opinion of the affair partner alive.
The biggest, most humungous entitlement I see after discovery is that cheaters feel entitled to reconciliation, period. They think they deserve all the time they want to come out of the “fog.” To answer your questions. To read a book, or schedule a shrink appointment. They feel grossly entitled to a chump’s patience.
Moreover, they feel entitled to all the marital perks they enjoyed before discovery of their affairs. Comfort and validation from the chump. Sex. Housework. Income.
Humility is much harder. Humility means that it’s not all about you. It means you manage your expectations of any reward. Humility accepts consequences and lets go of outcomes. Humility does not try to control the narrative or protect its image.
Humility is painful. It wrestles with shame. Humility recognizes that regaining trust is a long, slow process that may end, despite their best efforts. Humility works hard without pay. Humility is forthcoming. Humility doesn’t keep secrets.
Most chumps who desire reconciliation accept that transforming entitlement into humility is a process. And so, after being betrayed, wrestling with their own enormous grief, chumps accept yet MORE humility and eat shit sandwiches waiting for their cheaters to catch up on this humility thing.
That makes me mad. All the false starts and failures at no contact. Cheaters “grieving” the affair partner, staring blankly at questions and “not remembering.”
Chumps believe in humility, because they’re so good at it. They believe their cheaters will come around. They see displays of regret, tears, apologies and put a lot of stock in that. They stay the course, because they believe in the transformative powers of pain. Surely, this person will see how much they hurt me and will feel moved to fix this. Chumps also believe that the cheater’s own pain will make them connect the dots of action to consequence.
I’m still a chump, because I still believe those things. I do think people change. I don’t think everyone is a sociopath narcissist unable to feel empathy. But I think change is HARD and is a tremendous example of delayed gratification. So much work goes into lasting change and the rewards are not immediate. I do not believe this is an attractive course of action for most cheaters.
Why would someone prone to escapism — an affair — become someone capable of delayed gratification? The rewards of reconciliation are not immediate and they’re humbling. Why would someone high on entitlement choose the painful path of humility? Because there’s so much to lose! One’s family and finances and the respect of the children!
Cheaters don’t think they’re going to lose that. Why? Because you’re still there. Helping them with their homework, walking with them, holding their hand on this humility thing. Reconciliation itself, does not help cheaters with their entitlement issues. If anything, it hurts authentic progress because it doesn’t level meaningful consequences.
But they’ll be so grateful you gave them that chance! Yes, I want to believe that too. But how has that worked out for the many chumps here — refugees of failed reconciliations, some many years after the original affair? And even if cheaters do feel a true sense of gratitude for another chance — can they kill off entitlement thinking altogether?
Reformed cheaters can be like dry drunks. All the entitlement, without the sexual acting out. They may spend more of the marital assets, do less housework, not work a regular job. Why? Because they’re special. I think at some level they believe that you are fortunate to have the wonderfulness that is them. Is that better? Is that worth saving?
If you were a cheater examining your choices after DDay, what would be your most likely choice? Authentic reconciliation — shame and mortification, hard work of trust rebuilding without guaranteed reward, but you get to keep your marriage and family and finances intact. Eternal expressed gratitude to your chump for taking you back.
Or cake! The veneer of reconciliation, doing the bare minimum in terms of apologies and marriage counseling. No shame, no mortification (because the chump won’t tell anyone and will continue to protect your image). Marriage, family, and finances intact. And options remain open for current or future affairs.
Or escape! Follow the rainbow and start over with your sparkly affair partner. Okay, you lose the marriage, family, and half the finances, but you gain sparkles and there is some imaginary trading up. If you remain “friends” with your ex, you may be able to control the narrative or have another person to fuck once in awhile. The escape option also keeps cake alive.
Or divorce. No marriage, half time with family (if that), half the finances. Mortification, shame, no controlling the chump’s narrative. But a chance to start over with a clean slate and someone new.
The only two honest choices here are authentic reconciliation and divorce. The two hardest paths. If you’re a person with demonstrated poor character, which path do you think would be most tempting? If you’re prone to escapism and entitlement — how long do you think you can stay on a hard path without lapsing? Only one of these paths requires total humility — reconciliation. The other three let you keep most or all of your cookies.
See why I’m skeptical?