Affairs cause damage in many forms beyond the commonly understood ones of rejection and betrayal. Manipulation and abuse are the cornerstone behaviors in affair-mode thinking, and these “Deadly Sins” are frequently the topic of discussion within infidelity forums.
Affair & Infidelity Help Forums
Support forums can be a valuable resource when you’re feeling isolated and lost. It’s understandable to want to turn to people who truly understand what you’re going through, how you feel, and the frustration and upset that you face. Affair support forums provide that in spades, where comfort is offered through sharing stories and the collective condemnation of the manipulations and gaslighting that you’re experiencing.
Breaking the Code
What is generally not addressed in these forums is the manipulative behaviors of the faithful partners themselves, and how these are dressed up as ‘love’.
*Gasp* *Shock* *Horror*?
I know. It goes against the Code of Betrayed Spouses to suggest that they might share similar behavioral traits as a cheater. Shame on me. However, the truth is that many of the faithful partner’s ‘reactive behaviors‘ are also entirely manipulative - it’s just considered bad form (or worse, not supportive!) to point it out.
Painting a picture of a world where the faithful partner is an uncalculating and courageous victim might be sweeter to swallow, offered as positive and caring support, but it does little to highlight how your own thinking might be working against you and how it impacts your ability to navigate through the mess.
Detach, Minus the Manipulation
When you attempt to manipulate someone, you have a vested interest in the outcome of their actions. When your happiness/success/well-being is dependent on someone else’s choices and actions, you surrender your own capacity to decide the direction of your own life.
It’s time to take back your rights to your own choices and to make them independently of your cheater. Tying the direction of your own life into how you wish your cheater to behave, mires you in their drama and keeps you hog-tied to their crappy choices.
1. Stop telling them you love them.
Understand that telling someone you love them while they are in ‘affair mode’ may be factual, but you’re saying it in hope that it will elicit a response in your cheater that you will like.
- You want them to know that there is a safe, loving place … with you.
- You want them to know that there is someone who cares and loves them despite their faults and foibles … and that person is you.
- You want to reassure them your love for them is bigger and more powerful than their affair.
- You want them to understand that their affair partner might not love them in the same unconditional, compassionate and selfless way that you do.
Telling your cheater that you love them is ultimately intended to help bring them back to the fold. It’s designed to highlight the goodness and warmth that you offer in the hope that they will come to their senses and stop the affair.
Declaring your love is an attempt to trump or negate any other potential choices the cheater could make (because who could chose an affair partner over your love?) and to manipulate the situation to one more to your liking - the contrite and remorseful return of the cheater.
2. Stop trying to fix them.
It’s again a common refrain in infidelity forums to hear that the cheater is somehow broken, lost, or even temporarily insane. It’s similarly common to hear declarations of fixing them, guiding them back to the righteous path, and loving them through it while they exorcise their demons.
You do not have the ability to ‘fix’ your cheater, and it’s not your job to do so. The question beneath the concept that someone in an affair needs ‘fixing’ is this: Fix to whose standards, and at whose instigation? Yours?
Supporting someone’s own desire and attempts to make changes, seek help, or get treatment for their issues is commendable. Taking it upon yourself to instigate it, perpetuate it, and manage it until you decree that your cheater is ‘fixed’, is controlling. (And if you actually believe that they are insane, call a mental health professional and get them an evaluation and the right help.)
You might disapprove of, disagree with, and be hurt by your cheater’s affair but you are not the gold standard to which their behaviors and choices should be measured. It’s not love to fix someone to your own standards, and for your own well-being.
3. Let go.
Accept their right to choose their own path and back off while they travel it. If the path leads them away from you permanently, so be it. Dragging them back to you by manipulation and coercion isn’t a win - you win nothing by being the only one fighting for the relationship. If you harbor fantasies of your cheater returning to you, at least hold the bar high enough to have an expectation that they choose to do so of their own volition.
You might be holding on to them because they are also your financial security. Without them you might lose your home and lifestyle, and that can be frightening and might prompt you to cling on more tightly to what is ‘yours’. I understand how fear can motivate, and I think it’s entirely rational to do what you need to do in order to stabilize your own financial situation in the face of an affair, no problem. However, maintain some authenticity about it - it’s not love to keep them like chattel even if they are your personal cash-cow.
4. Don’t be a love martyr.
When you discover an affair, you realize that you’re loving someone whose actions disrespect, disregard, and hurt you. Coming to that realization is important and should spur you into acting in your own self-interest, because clearly your cheater is not acting with your interests at heart at all.
Many faithful partners however, seem to take refuge in their love for their cheater. They hide behind it in inaction, and they herald it as a source of pride and as a badge of honor for their courageous fight. You might even tell yourself that love is supposed to be selfless, and this is a selfless sacrifice that you’re making. Again, I understand that fear can also breed inertia.
Selfless love can be entirely self-effacing and it’s very easy to vanish behind a puff of love-smoke. You can lose every trace of who you are and who you dream to be if you continually make choices that are bad for you, but ultimately good for your cheater. Codependency isn’t a good look on anyone, and it’s not love.
Don’t martyr yourself to ‘loving’ someone who has depreciating value in your life.
5. Stop trying to be indispensable.
When your cheater is in their affair, don’t fuss around them wiping their nose, tying their shoelaces, and managing their life - let them trip over their own feet.
It’s tempting to rush around, busying yourself with all manner of ways to help them and make their life easier, in the hope that they will realize how well you look after them, and what they’re throwing away.
And place your hands below your husband’s foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease.
~ William Shakespeare
If everything you did for them before their affair wasn’t enough, why will redoubling your efforts in the same way make any difference? Perhaps you’re thinking that if you take care of everything and coddle them enough, it will highlight the differences between you (Super-Spouse) and their affair partner (Super-Louse)? Maybe you’re thinking that if you can just keep up appearances, maintain some form of normal, your cheater will be lulled back to the comfort of your relationship?
Unfortunately, it won’t be difficult to see through your self-sacrificing and selfless (ahem) management of their life, and instead of it endearing you to the cheater, it will likely have the opposite effect.
Appearing indispensable by lovingly managing their life serves only to highlight your control freakery, not your love.
6. Don’t bathe in poison.
Before you throw yourself into saving your relationship (or biding your time until you can), consider if your pre-affair relationship was healthy. If you are in a relationship where you are unhappy or fearful, it’s not one that you should be fighting to stay in, affair or otherwise.
If the relationship is toxic to you, if it stops you from experiencing life as you would dream for yourself, if it puts you in situations that you wouldn’t choose for yourself, don’t wallow around in it hoping it will get better because you love your cheater.
Know your own worth, believe that you can live a happy and fulfilled life in singledom, and make choices to surround yourself with people who treat you well.
Don’t stay in an abusive, manipulative, or unequal relationship and excuse it as love.
“Loving” Them Through It
Using the ‘loving strategies’ we’ve looked at to Stand and love them through their affair, is simply a long-term manipulative strategy. Holding fast to your cheater until they do what you want (which is to come back to you) is not only patronizing, but it is damaging and counter-productive.
It’s patronizing because it communicates to your cheater that you think you know better than they do, that their choices aren’t valid, and that you refuse to recognize their right to leave you. It suggests a belief that you have the right to dictate (or at the very least, approve/veto) how they choose to live their life.
If you continue to try to manipulate your cheater instead of getting your life together and forging forward for yourself, you might be communicating that you’re codependent and clingy, and too scared to strike out in life, single. These types of needy and fearful traits aren’t endearing and they won’t inspire your cheater to come rushing home to you.
Manipulating someone into the life you want them to live, under threat of divorce, financial ruin, loss of custody etc, is coercion. Love has nothing at all to do with it.