The Infidelity Super Villain
Ever wondered how Clark Kent got away with ‘hiding’ his real identity by combing his hair differently, and wearing some glasses? Or how nobody seemed to notice that beneath that innocuous trench coat, lurked The Thing?
Affairs are often thinly disguised as only ‘being about sex’. Whip off the glasses and the trench coat though, and you’re left facing a cocktail of issues about control, world view, and manipulation: The Infidelity Super Villain is revealed.
When you discover your partner’s affair it can leave you in a tailspin of self-doubt, powerlessness, and feeling as if life is entirely out of your control. A cheater, when in an affair that they choose to continue, has the balance of power tipped in their favor, and they know it.
Posts here like Accepting Their Right to Cheat and What’s Love Got To Do With It are attempting to help you focus on the the issues of power, manipulation, and control. A cheater who remains in an affair already knows that there is not a damn thing you can do to stop them. Their affair becomes their Super Power in their relationship with you, and they wield it remorselessly, secretly enjoying the high of watching you wring your hands, sob, plead, and try to win them back.
A cheater in an affair is getting the ego-high from both relationships. You will be understandably devastated and emotionally overwhelmed, and you will probably be laying your heart at their feet, promising to love them no matter what, to change, to make life better.
Coupled with the loving attention of the affair partner, the cheater has absolutely no motivation to relinquish control, or to end the affair.
Your love for your cheater is your Kryptonite during an affair. It saps you of your strength, your health, and your ability to think clearly. When you’re in this weakened state you can find yourself mewling pathetically, unable to stop this assault on your well-being.
“Powerlessness is an excruciating pain; it is torture insurmountable.”
~ Richelle E. Goodrich
Being unable to control or direct negative events can give rise to your feelings of complete powerlessness. It’s in our nature to want to mitigate the bad things in life, and to want more of the good things, and that’s why you want act to stop the pain. Your cheater is simply following the same natural inclination: They want more of the good (attention, declarations of love, and an ego-high), and less of the bad (you wailing, accusing, and being ‘difficult’).
Boundaries and Consequences
When your appeals to your cheater to put their family first, to stop the affair and try to work on the relationship don’t have the desired effect, you can’t understand it. After all, this person shared a life with you, and you cannot comprehend how they can be so heartless to throw it all away and cause all this pain.
Just as Superman tried to appeal to General Zod to spare humanity, Zod’s own agenda justified (in his mind) the suffering and destruction of others. Your cheater is no different, and will have created a rationale that to them, justifies whatever pain and hurt their actions cause you and your family.
The frequently offered advice in this situation is for you to ‘set boundaries’ and ‘enforce consequences’ with your cheater. It all sounds so reasonable and valid … unless you’re faced with a cheater who chooses to continue their affair, or who doesn’t conform to your stipulated terms.
You are not in control, and cannot actually ‘enforce’ anything. Your cheater will choose to do exactly what they want to do - you have no more ability to compel them to end the affair and not communicate with the other person, than you did to compel them to be faithful to begin with.
Super Power vs You
Your Kryptonite will always leave you at a disadvantage in an ongoing affair situation. Your feelings for your cheater and your investment in your life together, keep you clinging on for dear life. The last thing you can comprehend is a life without them.
You could clearly state your boundaries and say that you will not put up with the affair, and that you insist that they end the affair*/stop using Facebook*/go to therapy* (* insert clearly communicated expectation here). The problem is of course, what if your cheater refuses? What then? What is your next ‘sub-level’ of response?
When you drill down to the bedrock of what is meant underneath all the words like ‘boundaries’ and ‘consequences’, it ends up as a matter of serial ultimatums: If they don’t stop the affair, you will move them into the spare room. If they still don’t stop the affair, you will stop doing their laundry, and stop cooking for them. If they still carry on, you will … what? If you logically assess what response options you have, you soon arrive at the terminal options of stay or go?
- Stay, and put up with whatever they choose to do
- Decide that you deserve more than to remain with someone whose own choices are so misaligned with your own values, and leave.
I know that can sound horrifying - you don’t want either option because you love them and want them to be faithful to you. You want Option 3 dammit! Stop their affair, behave as you wish them to, come home and make up for all the pain they’ve put you through.
Being rolled up into a small ball of angst and devastation means that you’re unfortunately no match for their Super Powers. Your feelings for your cheater and your reluctance to take such drastic steps as leaving, tells your cheater that no matter what they do, you will stay - so they can safely continue their affair, without any interruption to their lifestyle, finances, or family unit.
This leaves you in a perpetually weakened condition, struggling to cope, instead of investing your energies into building yourself a fulfilled and happy life. You become tied to their affair drama or their lack of true efforts in reconciliation, and you find yourself living in an unhealthy, personally detrimental relationship, that you’re simply not prepared to leave.
“One thing I can guarantee, is that the world will never change itself because of our weaknesses. In fact, it has ways of actually becoming more dangerous when we approach it with a bad attitude.”
~ J. Z. Colby
When your cheater continues to behave in ways that are destructive to you, you’re left with deciding what your own limits actually are. Don’t couch your response to continued affair behavior in dressed-up niceties of ‘boundaries, expectations and consequences’. Instead, stand stark naked before the truth of the matter and ask if you are so invested in maintaining the relationship that you will stay in it in the current climate, or if you weigh your own values and expectations in your relationships over the need to stay with your cheater.
The Kryptonite Antidote
If you’re not mentally prepared to exit a dysfunctional relationship, you confer your personal power to your cheater and you’re risking living a life that reduces you.
Being mentally prepared to leave is not the same as wanting to leave, or intending to leave. It’s a mindset that says that when push comes to shove, you are willing and able to walk away, for your own health and well-being. It’s about deciding for yourself that you will not sit quietly by and lose yourself while you wait for your cheater to ‘come to their senses’ and choose you. It’s about having belief in yourself and the determination to get up, get out, work towards your own goals and make a life for yourself, regardless of the outcome of your relationship.
If you are mentally prepared to walk away from a dysfunctional relationship that is damaging, despite your feelings for your partner, then you’re already swigging the antidote. Staying in the relationship (even if the cheater is still actively cheating) because you love them, continues to strengthen their Super Power, and keeps eroding your well-being.
The real antidote to affair Kryptonite is founded in knowing your own worth, personal limits, and being prepared to act in your own self-interests for your own well-being.
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Be Your Own Super Hero
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
~ Christopher Reeve