(I know, as long as I’m waving my magic wand, why not go all the way and rid the world of the RIC itself? POOF! )
The argument goes that cheaters cheat because they weren’t getting what they “needed” from the relationship, and so they sought out affairs to fill those “unmet needs.” Who wasn’t meeting those needs? Chumps, of course. You need to re-evaluate the relationship (with the help of the RIC) and figure out all the ways you were failing your partner, which caused them to cheat.
Cheaters are then chagrined to be less timid forest creatures and voice those unmet needs with you. Sure, cheating wasn’t an ideal form of expression… But you know, toxic shame and your anger are a big buzzkill, so the cheaters might be less than forthcoming. It’s all a process…
Oddly, cheaters are rarely challenged about the legitimacy of their “needs” — hey, they’re UNMET and that’s the important thing!
But this unmet needs thing really hits chumps where it hurts. We reflect. We wonder about all the ways we failed to less than stellar. We have to admit that yes, we aren’t always ideal spouses. We blame ourselves and then we strive to do better to ensure that this Terrible Thing never imperils our marriage again. After all, we have to own our part.
Recently, several people have sent the Universal Bullshit Translator some of these blameshifting divorce articles to put through the bullshit thrasher. Unhappy Husband? 6 Ways to Save Yourself from an Unwanted Divorce! and 7 Reasons Your Husband Left You for His Emotional Affair Partner. (Subtext: YOU ARE NOTHING WITHOUT A HUSBAND! SUBMIT!) The latter actually goes so far as to write after each failing: “The missing link in the marriage.” And the former has helpful hints like “Take Pride in Your Appearance.”
Sadly, the UBT blew a transformer after reading these, and needs some alone time right now. Suffice it to say, this unmet needs business sends chumps down rabbit holes of self-recrimination. If you object to this “advice,” the argument goes something like this.
Chump: I’m not sure his hooker problem is on me.
Quack: What? So you object to taking pride in your appearance to please your partner? Look, it’s hard to admit that we’ve let ourselves go. You could stand to lose a few pounds.
Chump: Um, well yes, I could stand to lose some weight, but I just spent $300 on highlights!
Quack: You should appreciate him more. Be forgiving. Don’t nag. Don’t run him down. Be sexier.
Chump: I try to be all those things. Again, I’m not sure how that relates to his hooker habit.
Quack: So, you’re saying you have a PROBLEM with FORGIVENESS? You don’t agree with PLEASING YOUR PARTNER? You think you can just grow fat and sexless and expect that people will love you unconditionally?
Chump: I think you’re asking me to love my cheater unconditionally. He just spent $40K on sex workers.
Quack: Well, of course. He had unmet needs.
“Unmet needs” puts chumps on the defensive. Now you must go line by line down the “needs” column and defend how you did or did not meet those needs.
The game is rigged. First off, the cheater can always add more needs. Hey, you missed a spot. Second, by going on the offensive — your failings caused their failings — it diverts attention from the cheater’s actions and the harm they caused. Third, it creates a straw man argument about whether or not attractiveness, attention, and sex are important to relationships. (Of course they are.)
Every quack therapist and idiot life coach should be slapped upside the head with this 2×4 — We don’t MAKE people abuse us. We don’t compel them to hit us, and we don’t drive them to drink either. Cheating — which is emotionally abusive (gaslighting, blameshifting, minimizing) and physically abusive (endangering our health to STDs) — is a disproportionate offense to ANY of our very real failings.
Unhappy people who aren’t getting their needs met can SPEAK UP and they can GET THERAPY and they can LEAVE.
Here’s my imaginary conversation with a quack.
CL: Your advice sucks.
Quack: My advice does not suck.
CL: I’m going to steal your wallet and charge a lot of pinecone elves to your account.
Quack: You can’t do that!
CL: But hey, your advice REALLY SUCKED. Let’s examine the ways you contributed to my unhappiness, which made me steal your wallet and buy pinecone elves.
Quack: YOU SHOULDN’T STEAL MY WALLET! That’s WRONG!
CL: It’s hard to admit that your advice sucks, isn’t it? I think you should own your part.