Sometimes I hear from people who aren’t sure what their spouse means by demanding that they “take responsibility for cheating.” Because often the cheating spouse feels like they’ve done just that, but the faithful spouse still doesn’t seem satisfied or happy with them. Therefore, they often look for a literal interpretation of this phrase so that they can change their behaviors and at least make some headway with their spouse.

I heard of a husband who said, “I made the big mistake of cheating on my wife with a friend’s sister. Honestly, it was just an affair. She was home to visit family and since she lives hundreds of miles away, neither of us thought it was going to last long. Well, my friend felt so betrayed that he told my wife. And my wife almost divorced me for this. For months, I begged my wife to give me another chance. “After a couple of months, he finally agreed to see me again on a regular basis with the plan of just seeing what was going on between us. In my opinion, things are going well. I feel the old spark again and we often laughed and we had a lot of fun time together. Last weekend, I asked if I could come home and my wife said she didn’t think so because she ‘doesn’t feel like I’m taking full responsibility for cheating’. What does this mean? I promised never to do it again I’ve been courting her a again and she knows I have regrets. What else am I supposed to do?

This is a very common concern. Often the faithful spouse wants to see more than the cheating spouse offers. And, usually, the cheating spouse feels like he’s trying to hit a moving target. They are often more than willing to give their spouse what he or she wants, if only they understood what it really is. So, in the next article, I’ll tell you what “taking responsibility for cheating” really means from the perspective of the faithful spouse.

Your spouse doesn’t want easy solutions or easy excuses: Here is something you need to understand. Your spouse is most likely going through a lot of pain. Worse yet, his spouse did nothing wrong. You were probably going about your daily routine thinking your life was normal when all of a sudden you discover that your marriage (and your spouse) is not at all what you thought it was.

Just for a second, imagine how you would feel if the situation were reversed. This is a betrayal and a pain very difficult to describe. Therefore, it is natural and normal to want to protect yourself from having to feel this type of pain again. So in order for you to even think of trusting the person who has betrayed you, you must first know beyond any doubt that your spouse is genuinely remorseful, repentant, and introspective about what happened.

You don’t want to hear excuses because excuses mean that the next time the same circumstances arise, your spouse might cheat on you again. You don’t want to hear your spouse defend themselves with some kind of silly mitigating circumstances. Instead, he wants them to stand up, admit that they were absolutely wrong, and proclaim that this whole thing was completely his fault. Not only that, but they know that the onus is on them to get you out of this mess.

They want you to understand what brought you here. And they want you to have a plan to heal: Your faithful spouse wants to know that you understand why they cheat on you. And the reason for this is that they want to know that because you understand where you went wrong, you have the ability to fix the problem so this doesn’t happen again. They want you to say something like, “Now I realize I have self-esteem issues and I’m going to see someone to take care of this. I’m going to eliminate this issue so none of us have to worry about this cut.” in our marriage again. I’d be more than happy to find someone to talk to if you’re comfortable with that.”

Your spouse doesn’t want to take the initiative. They want you to take the initiative because you are the one who set this whole thing in motion.

They expect you to understand their suspicions and concerns and be ready to address them: It seems to me that the issue of accountability is one that seems to come up again and again. Often the faithful spouse wants the cheating spouse to check in, or be transparent, and be very open about where he is she is and who she is with. Sometimes the cheating spouse feels this is an invasion of privacy and will resist.

But I would say that being transparent and accountable is part of taking responsibility for your actions. Admittedly, it’s probably not healthy to spend the rest of your life under the microscope like this. But until you rebuild trust, this is something you’ll often need to do to show your spouse that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to restore your marriage.

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