Character vs. Behavior?

It’s really easy when you’re the betrayed spouse to hold the affair over the cheating spouses head forever. Every argument or disagreement or even something that reminds you of the affair can turn into a much bigger attack against the cheating spouse. I think anyone that’s been in the situation can relate and knows exactly what I mean.

I’d say for the first couple of years I did this a lot. And the reality is whatever excuse or comeback the cheating spouse has, the betrayed spouse can always top.  So for the first couple of years, every fight or argument that came up, I won. And my spouse left feeling defeated and most likely a bit frustrated.  I walked around like the bigger and better person in my home, I was always right and he was always wrong. His choices made him less smart, unreliable, untrustworthy and basically insignificant as a man.  Before the affair, we were equal partners in our marriage, after the affair, I was the more superior being.

It took a very long time and I don’t remember what changed, but at some point I started to realize that if I wanted our marriage to work, I had to change my thinking.  I had to accept that although the affair had occurred, I still loved my husband; it wasn’t like I could just turn off that switch after finding out about the affair.  Pre and post-affair, my husband was still a good father and provider, none of that changed either. Slowly I started to understand that my husband was still the same man I knew and married. His character hadn’t changed; it was only his behaviour during the time of the affair that had changed. If I wanted things to get better I had to learn to separate his character from his behaviour. This didn’t happen overnight at all, it was a long slow process and it’s still a work in progress, but it’s gotten much better.

I know that there are some angry betrayed spouses that would probably disagree with me. I know that the argument is that ones behaviour is linked to their character, and you can’t separate the two, but like I said above, it was the little things that I started noticing that made me change my thinking.

In my past posts I’ve referred to the affair as a ‘mistake,’ for lack of a better term. But I know it is much more than just a ‘mistake.’  It’s the worst thing that can happen in a marriage, and the long term effects can be devastating.  But awhile ago I decided that ‘devastating’ wasn’t what I wanted, so this is the path I’ve chosen, and from what I’ve seen so far, it seems to be working for me!


  1. Melissa B says:

    This is exactly how I felt. Thank you for sharing it has made my emotions easier for even me to understand.

  2. Maren says:

    It’s so funny that you posted this because I’ve been turning this very issue over in mind for a long time now. One of the things I’ve struggled with most was trying to discern when a betrayal is linked to a person’s behavior and when it truly is linked to their character, what is it that marks the difference. I won’t bog you down with the details, but after reading your blog and a few others, I can tell you without any doubt that your husband’s subsequent efforts to heal your marriage, are very different from my experience. In fact, they are polar opposites. In holding up the two, side by side (and many, many, many other blogs, books, and articles I’ve read as well), I can see without any doubt that, in my case, there’s no point in my even trying to pretend the cheating is anything other than a symptom of his character. There’s no remorse, no guilt, no acknowledgement of the pain he caused. There’s just entitlement and excuse making. His reaction when I first confronted him…well, that really should have decided it for me right then and there, but I’ve been trying to think with my head and not my heart. I feel like a complete and utter fool that it took this awful experience to see him for what he really is. But I am glad to know there’s another outcome for people who are truly sorry. That there can be forgiveness and healing and eventually letting go. Your outcome won’t be my outcome, but whatever the outcome, I’m at least hopeful that I won’t always feel the way I do right now.

  3. Rae Z says:

    @Maren: As hard as it must be, you are to be commended for coming to that realization. Its not an easy thing to do. More commendable still is your comment ” I won’t always feel the way I do now”. That is a true and powerful statement. My outcome is more like Wendy’s in the sense that my husband is very remorseful and works hard to repair our marriage. I am not as forgiving as she is nor do I defend my husbands actions, or character. I’ve survived betrayal for almost a year now by working hard to make myself better. Before my husbands affair, I would have considered this selfish. Somehow, this has made me a better parent and spouse, its made my relationship with my husband better and its made my husband a better spouse too. This is what I recommend to woman or men who have been betrayed by their spouses, whether they stay in the relationship or walk away from it. Always be true to yourself. Everyone heals in their own way and I wish you the best.
    Cheers, Rae

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