Why Infidelity Isn’t Theft
There are many ways in which the faithful spouse can seek to mitigate their cheater’s part in their affair. It’s commonly heard (from either gender) in such rationalizations as:
- It wasn’t a choice - it was sex addiction
- She pursued him until he gave in
- It’s a mid-life crisis
- She’s acting out as a result of family of origin issues
- It was a mistake
- They didn’t have sex - they were just friends
Understandably, it can be more palatable to the faithful spouse to believe that their partner was somehow passively involved in their affair. “She stole my husband” is one of the more pervasive phrases that seeks to heap a greater proportion of responsibility on the other woman’s head.
Theft is an act of removing personal property without consent.
Part of the unpleasant undertone to this “She stole my husband” mentality, is one of property. The assertion that the other woman is stealing your husband suggests a belief (subconscious or otherwise) that you have a proprietary claim on your husband, and you’re verbalizing your rights of ownership.
No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it
― Paulo Coelho
Many faithful partners on infidelity support fora adopt this proprietary tone about their partners, and “She stole my husband” has become acceptable language - it isn’t.
Our partners/spouses are not chattel, movable property to be kept or disposed of at our will. Suggesting that someone has stolen our spouse conjures repugnant images of slavery and medieval times, where people were considered property, to be bargained with, sold, or otherwise traded.
Interestingly, it’s not uncommon to also hear (from the same faithful spouses) a belief that only a consensual dissolution of the marriage is valid, moral, and acceptable. “It’s not over until I say it’s over” is rarely verbalized but is often the foundation to the spouse’s refusal to accept reality when a cheater leaves. It highlights that power and control issues are in play, and can be a mindset that freezes the faithful spouse into enduring inaction (aka Standing).
It’s ludicrous to suggest that an affair is a theft of a spouse. How does that go? The other woman (or man) crept into the cheater’s life, flashlight in hand, bonked them on the head, stuffed them into a swag bag, and made out like … well, like a bandit?
Cheaters choose their affairs. They choose in every decision, action and justification during their affair. They choose at every interaction that is part of, or takes them towards, their affair.
People don’t get ‘stolen’ into an affair. They willingly plan, collude, choose and act to get involved in an affair.
The other person doesn’t ‘steal’ the cheater. The cheater gives themselves to the affair, freely and deliberately.
If your cheater DID vanish into the night in a swag bag, and is now held against their will, their wrists shackled to a bedpost somewhere by the other woman, that’s a different crime entirely, and you really ought to call the police …
Otherwise, it’s time to stop using language that paints the cheater as some hapless and unwilling victim, and the other woman (or man) as the perpetrator of a crime against your spouse, and the sole perpetrator of a crime against you. Place primary blame firmly where it belongs - with the willing and deliberate choices made by the cheater.