I cheated on my husband and I can’t understand why

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Well I don’ know where to begin. I grew up in a family that I believe was very critical and rarely encouraging. When I was 17 my parents were separated for a year (the year I was trying to get into college which has a huge test in my country and it is a very big deal!) and after they got back together my father was diagnosed with mesotelioma and passed away in just three months when I was 19.

I met this wonderful guy who is supportive and nice and kind and he loved me very much and he started to tell me how beautiful I was and how smart I was and he really tried to boost up my self esteem. We rarely had any sort of problems and even now when I look back I cannot point to any flaw in him. He was really caring and he always showed me how much he loved me and all that. We got married 8 years ago.

The thing that happened was that my boss came along and from the very beginning I had a crush on him (my crushes are not new stuff. I have had them since I was married but they all went away very soon). He is mean and inconsiderate and he is the type of person who believes most people (and specially women) are dumb. He is unbelievably self-absorbent and for god’s sake he never said or did any thing nice for me. Well we ended up having sex and my husband found out.

He forgave me (after a huge fight) and I wowed not to do such a thing ever again. But surely thing are not that good between us any more. No loving and caring from him (which is totally understandable!!) and mean comments and rejection of my affections is what mainly all I get from him.
I have no idea why I cheated on him and how could I ruin the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like a total loser who does not deserve a good thing in her life. I am lost. I’m not sure if he could really love me again the way he used to. I ruined that.

Why in the world did I cheat on this sweet man? What is wrong with me?! Am I just a bad person? Or is there an explanation to my behavior?!

A: It takes great courage for you to acknowledge this and take responsibility. I am very glad you are asking this question.

What concerns me more than what you did is how you did it. It is one thing to fall out of love with someone and into love with someone else. But what I hear you saying is that you chose to have sex with someone who didn’t respect you in the first place. This is more troubling because it means that you were engaged in a self- defeating behavior that not only was hurtful to your husband, it was hurtful to you.

The fact that this was your boss is also something for concern at several levels. Even though you were a willing party your boss should not be allowed to take advantage of his employees, and it runs the risk of you sabotaging your employment as well.

Sabotaging relationships happens when we are in a role we either don’t want or are ambivalent about. We harm ourselves to get out of it. Even though your husband is wonderful, you may have some unrealized resentment toward him.

The early loss of your father and the relationship with your husband at that time may have put him more in a father role than a lover and husband. Your father separating, then returning, may not have allowed you the normal adolescent acting out and rebellion. It is possible that this was a delayed onset of that rebellion and an unexpressed resentment.

It will be a lot to recover from, but couples can and do make it through. I would encourage you both to read the book After the Affair as you and you husband each need to figure out what your partner is going through.

I recommend you both enter individual therapy and couples therapy. This will be rough going, but understanding what activated your decision to have the affair is important in preventing it from happening again, and for your own growth. You may find someone by clicking the “find help” tab on top.

You husband is very hurt and confused and likely traumatized to some degree by this and will need both time to recover and assurances from you that you want to be with him. It is also important to know that affairs typically do not happen in a vacuum and to learn what disappointments and frustrations you have with your husband. More times than not there is an unspoken or unhealed issue that was not adequately dealt with in the marriage. An affair is typically a symptom, not a cause, of marital problems.

Finally, do not be too hard on yourself. This is a very human issue and your desire to understand what is at the root of it is courageous.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). I cheated on my husband and I can’t understand why. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/18/i-cheated-on-my-husband-and-i-cant-understand-why/