Well folks, I just finished my BBC radio interview with Ms. Allison Fern. I think you can link to it here. (Allison Fern, noon, April 14)
That was fun, although I probably spoke a mile a minute trying to cover a lot of chump ground. Essentially the topic of discussion was my reaction to that execrable Andrew G. Marshall (quack) piece on apologizing to your cheating husband. But the larger topic is really does the appeasement strategy with affairs really work.
As any number of chumps here who’ve worn out their tap shoes doing the “pick me” dance can tell you, no it does not. Cheating comes from a place of entitlement (I’m entitled to my partner AND my side dish fucks), and when you beg for your marriage, all you do is solidify that sense of entitlement.
But appeasement — that idea you can “nice” people out of affairs — is a very seductive notion to vulnerable people. If you eat the shit sandwich and agree that yes, the problem is you, and you can fix that — well, then you have CONTROL. You can improve! You can try harder! And thereby avoid scary outcomes like infidelity, or being abandoned.
But here’s the thing — you can’t nice people out of affairs because you didn’t “mean” them into affairs in the first place. Their decision to cheat is completely on them. We don’t control other people. Our niceness doesn’t win them back. And our meanness doesn’t compel them to hurt us. Besides what crime did you commit that is proportionate to the punishment of being betrayed?
Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say you really suck as a spouse. You might be a shrieking harridan who wears only appliqué sweatshirts and cares only for your tropical fish hobby and no one can reach you. You might be a slob of a man who natters on incessantly about the One World Order and never trims his toenails. In short, you might be utterly repellant. But your cheater still has choices! They can speak up! To a therapist or a divorce attorney. They can address their unhappiness or incompatibility honestly. They can take responsibility for their happiness and act accordingly. Cheating is a deliberate choice based in entitlement, cowardice, and crap life skills. At worst, it is a strategy to passive aggressively punish you and stay locked in an abusive dynamic.
But here’s what I think is more likely — you don’t suck. You’re saddled with a partner who has checked out of the marriage. Why? Because of entitlement, cowardice, and crap life skills. Why? Because that is their character — when the going gets less than optimal, they cast about. The cheater is devoting their energies and resources elsewhere, and someone has to pick up the slack. That someone is you. Chumps are usually hyper-responsible, conscientious people who aren’t terribly high maintenance. We can shoulder more than our share, because hey, that’s what you do for people you love. We mistakenly assume they’d do the same for us. Our stick-to-it-tiveness is a reflection of our character, and cheaters know this. It’s why it’s pretty easy to cheat on you — you’re a trusting idiot.
Are you perfect? Of course not. None of us are. But the crime most chumps commit is that they love with their whole hearts. Cheaters don’t. They reserve compartments for various kibble sources.
So when you’re faced with cheating, how would appeasement work against someone who is entitled? It doesn’t. They already think they’re entitled to shop when they’re unhappy. So if you sign up for the pick me dance, you’re dancing to their tune, to their constant, changing requirements for “happiness.”
I Facebooked a bit with Andrew G. Marshall. He claims he was taken out of context in that Daily Mail piece, and really if we knew his whole plan (which you can find out if you buy his book , of course) that you’ll see that apologizing to your cheating spouse is really just so you don’t scare your cheater off by shaming them. They don’t react well to anger and shame.
Since when are cheaters timid forest creatures who may be easily frightened away? Mustn’t upset them!
I would say a lack of shame is a very bad sign if you want to reconcile. What sort of people don’t feel ashamed when they do shameful things? Sociopaths, that’s who!
As for criticism and anger — those are legitimate responses to being betrayed. Stuffing that down is being inauthentic. So the appeasement strategy that Marshall advocates requires chumps to live inauthentically, and IMO, worse, internalize and accept their abuse. Yes, I deserved this. Yes, I’m sorry for making you do this to me. No, I will not scare you off with my pain and anger. The important thing here is YOU and your happiness. I will work harder to ensure your happiness by addressing my nagging and childrearing. And by doing those things I can make your scary abandonment go away. I’ll be good! I promise!
Chumps — you are NOT the problem. The cheater is the problem. Their entitlement is the problem. Reconciliation comes from a place of humility, not entitlement. You cannot reconcile without true remorse. People caught up in the high of an affair (which requires entitlement thinking to pull off) tend not to lead with humility. They lead with — let’s make a deal. How bad do you want me?
Appeasement is only a winning strategy if you want to keep a narcissist. Never criticize them. Never find fault. Accept their abuse and do not question it. It must be something you’ve done, because narcissists are never at fault.
Who wants to win a narcissist?