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On Cheating, Remorse and Grief


Infidelity In an affair or suspect your significant other? Share your experiences and concerns here.

Old 17th May 2007, 2:13 PM   #1
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On Cheating, Remorse and Grief

I always enjoy the "Do cheaters feel guilty?" discussions, but I want to dig a little deeper. One of the things that I've found myself reflecting on over the past few weeks is how this plays out over time for the person who has betrayed and not acknowledged the reality of what they have done.

For both personal and professional reasons I've had a fair amount of exposure to aging, death and grieving. Having seen what I've seen, I find myself wondering to what degree basically decent people who cheat, but who don't face and process the feelings at the time, are ultimately "revisited" by unacknowledged guilt, remorse and grief later in life.

I know that many of us infidelity "veterans" have strong opinions about "cheaters," "narcissists" and "psychopaths;" Lucrezia (sp?) Borgia summarized the take-home lessons on this really nicely a few weeks ago. But what interests me is any anecdotal (or even better statistical) information on how this all shakes out over the long haul for people who put it off - not speculation or vengeful wishing, but actual stories or (yeah, right) research findings on what I'll call "postponed recognition of pain caused."

(A caveat: I have a wickedly creative imagination and a deep, red-hot-glowing capacity for spite, so there's no moralizing here about the wish for revenge. But I'm holding that in abeyance for the moment in hopes of new insight and deepened understanding.)

So: Does anyone have any good stories about "non-remorseful cheaters" either "seeing the light" years later, or not? Ex-spouses of course - but also possibly parents, uncles, grand-parents, colleagues, friends?
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Old 17th May 2007, 2:58 PM   #2
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Djaba-

I don't know if this would count, but I was exposed to my mother having an affair when I was 14, when I accidentally saw her kissing OM. I held that secret in for decades and she came out when my brother cheated on his wife of 4 years, which ended in him leaving her for OW, and OW didn't leave her husband. Without going off on that tangent, I can say that when my mother's affair resurfaced, It was like the scab that had scarred over was ripped off and I felt the pain so accutely it was like I was 14 again.

That was almost 10 years ago, and I finally talked it over with my mother recently in light of my discovery of my h's infidelity. I wanted her to at least say she was sorry that I had to carry that pain for so long, something, anything motherly, loving and remorseful. But she glossed over it with "I think that whatever goes on between parents is meant to stay between them and not be a burden to their children". Yes, but the point I was trying to get across to her is that it was not only a 2-decade burden, but major pain and suffering in many other areas of my life b/c of it's effect on me at such a young age.
She didn't seem to get that. She didn't seem remorseful, only defensive that I should even bring it up, which only reaffirms my feelings that she is narcissistic and immature, and I am struggling not to fall in that same camp with my marriage.
She never even discussed it with my father......he never knew or led on that he knew until 20 years after the fact.

that blows
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Old 17th May 2007, 6:45 PM   #3
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This could be long.....

Yup Recoverme, I hear you.

Dad;

My father cheated on my mother the first time when I was 8. Came home to the classic clothes on the lawn scene. I didn't even know what that was about. i had seen in on television but, well, that only happened to other people, right? The second time was when I was in highschool and to say that I was disgusted was a vicious understatement!! He tried to discuss it with me and I told him I wanted no part of it, I was p!ssed to say the least!! It was about 6 years ago when my younger bro and I where sitting at the table with my father after my sis and mom had retired for the night. My father gave my bro and I this CLASSIC piece of wisdom.

"If you are going to cheat, DON'T GET CAUGHT!! It hurts the ones you love." (!?!?!)

Are you serious?? I suggested (pretty forcefully) that you shouldn't cheat in the first place and he would just repeat himself. Lovely. Is he sorry? You be the judge, but Recoverme, you're right, for your mom to say that an affair is just between parents is like saying that a nuclear bomb is just between the presidents of the United states and Japan in 1945. Oh yeah, NOBODY else was involved when those two bombs went off, absolutely!!

EX

My ex cheated on me twice, once that I know of and another time that I can't quite prove, but her actions point to it. I have to give her props, she told me immediately the first time and that is the reason why I took her back. The second time she just started acting weird and then when I made her choose me or another guy who was getting "too friendly", she choose him (YAY!! I LOVE feeling like leftover dogfood!! YUMMY!!) Not saying I'm perfect, not by ANY stretch of the imagination, I had my faults too, to be sure, but I don't think I deserved that!!
The denoument? After a few years she came back to the bar that I work at part time. She apologized and said the kids wanted to see me (she has three), it had been about 3-4 years since I had left. I immediately told the wife about it and she was actually open to me seeing the kids again(?). However, when I told my ex that I was engaged, all communication stopped, pretty obvious what her ulterior motive was, eh? Haven't heard from her since. Some people see the light, but some see it far too late for it to be of any use. I think there was a reason why she cheated the second time, she took a gamble and it didn't work out, but that is for another time.

Peace out!!
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Old 18th May 2007, 3:41 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RecoverMe View Post
...
That was almost 10 years ago, and I finally talked it over with my mother recently in light of my discovery of my h's infidelity. I wanted her to at least say she was sorry that I had to carry that pain for so long, something, anything motherly, loving and remorseful. But she glossed over it with "I think that whatever goes on between parents is meant to stay between them and not be a burden to their children". Yes, but the point I was trying to get across to her is that it was not only a 2-decade burden, but major pain and suffering in many other areas of my life b/c of it's effect on me at such a young age.
She didn't seem to get that. She didn't seem remorseful, only defensive that I should even bring it up, which only reaffirms my feelings that she is narcissistic and immature, and I am struggling not to fall in that same camp with my marriage....
Cheaters are self centered. The world is all about them. Other people's feelings don't matter to them. Your feelings don't matter to your mother.

I would say you should let her know exactly how you feel before she dies. How much it affected you, hurt you, how selfish she was and is. Not for her sake but for yours. She may not care but you do. Get it off your chest. Do NOT bear this burden she put on you.

And what of your father? Are they still married? How does he feel about it?
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Old 18th May 2007, 11:24 AM   #5
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There are two men I met at a previous job who cheated on their wives. Both are basically decent people otherwise. Neither of them were ever caught. And I have a friend from college who has cheated on most of his girlfriends, though he has never married. Some of his girlfriends caught him, but most had no idea he was cheating.

Guy 1: He started cheating shortly after they got married, mostly one night stands with women he met on his business travels. He did it simply because the women were interested and available, meaning there was nothing wrong with his marriage at the time. He is now divorced, but not because of the cheating...because his wife decided she didn't want kids or to be married to a man who was never home because he traveled for business all the time. He is not the least bit troubled by his past cheating, nor was he remorseful at any time while he was doing it. To him, the cheating was separate from his marriage, had nothing to do with how he felt about his wife, and didn't think about it much as he was doing it and he doesn't think about it now.

Guy 2: I'm not sure when he started cheating, but he is happily married and has 5 kids (the latest was a set of twins a year ago). He adores his wife and family to no end. He feels bad that he cheats - again, mostly women he meets on his business travels - and recognizes that he'd be devastated if his wife found out. However, he still does it. I think he feels remorse when he gives it some thought - mostly fear of the consequences if his wife found out - but not enough to stop him from doing it and probably not as much as he'd feel if he were caught.

Guy 3: The college friend who cheated on many of his girlfriends - he has never particularly felt any remorse while he was doing it. And all these years later, I've never heard him say anything about feeling bad that he cheated on any of his girlfriends, nor does he think he's a bad person for cheating...he really quite likes who he is. He is not wallowing in remorse. He dated his last girlfriend for 3 years and she dumped him when she found out he was cheating. Not more than a couple weeks later, he moved on to his next girlfriend (and she was not the women he had been cheating with, btw).


So, with those as examples, I'd say serial cheaters don't feel remorse, not at the time and not later.
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Old 20th May 2007, 5:03 AM   #6
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Great responses so far; many thanks.

NoraJane talks mainly about "serial cheaters." Maybe I didn't phrase my question carefully enough but I was kind of trying to exclude the "serials" and ask about people who are perhaps unfaithful just once. I'm well aware that many folks on this forum don't believe such people exist - believing rather that all people who are unfaithful are serial cheaters. I personally don't believe that's true - part of the reason being that I have read accounts from people here that show genuine, deeply felt remorse and signs of real change and growth.

Any more thoughts?

Last edited by Djaba; 20th May 2007 at 5:05 AM..
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Old 20th May 2007, 1:49 PM   #7
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I suspect that we seek to simplify complex situations so our minds can understand them better. This leads to labeling and such in the hopes of putting people in the right bucket.

I started out in my teens and early college years by getting rejected and cheated on quite painfully. Each time, I was crushed, devastated. But I think it also led me to not get overly attached to my mates later in life even if I did love them. That's the hard part to explain. I love my wife, but I'm not attached to her. If my wife should leave me, I would be sad, but no longer devastated.

I think I view all relationships as temporary. That is, deep down inside, my mindset.
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Old 20th May 2007, 6:21 PM   #8
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Really Charlie, not attached to your wife? View all relationships as temporary? That's kinda the opposite to the reality of how you live.

You need your wife, else you wouldn't have made a permanent connection to her by a) marrying her, which is anything but temporary in its motives, and b) messing with loads of other women, living like a bachelor in this regard but NEVER giving up on the security that your wife gives you. You sound like you need the ego boosts other women give you, and it sounds like you need your wife for the security. I think your whole life would fall apart if she left you and you'd do ANYTHING to get that security back.

If you really weren't attached you'd have left her...and never married her in the first place. Less of the bravado!
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Old 21st May 2007, 11:58 PM   #9
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I can see the sense in that

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie Castaneda View Post
I suspect that we seek to simplify complex situations so our minds can understand them better. This leads to labeling and such in the hopes of putting people in the right bucket.

I started out in my teens and early college years by getting rejected and cheated on quite painfully. Each time, I was crushed, devastated. But I think it also led me to not get overly attached to my mates later in life even if I did love them. That's the hard part to explain. I love my wife, but I'm not attached to her. If my wife should leave me, I would be sad, but no longer devastated.

I think I view all relationships as temporary. That is, deep down inside, my mindset.
That same though has crossed my mind many times. Yes even though every 'love' you have is different, I think I am a little more reserved with my fiancee, leaving a little of a wall up between her and me, just for safety. Not saying that I don't love her, I adore her more than anything in this world and I am lucky to have her, however, I trusted my ex implicitly and got burned. I can see where you're coming from Charlie.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 2:30 AM   #10
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When you say a cheater who doesn't 'face & process the feelings at the time' are you meaning someone who doesn't confess and/or get caught or someone who does one of the two but is in some form of denial?

I am a one time cheater & plan to not extend it to 'serial' cheater. I shook up the lives of my husband & I quite enough the one time.

Anyway, i did confess so it's out in the open but i still have to deal with it every day. If i'm watching tv & something comes on that shows someone having an affair, or a true-crime show where a spouse is killed by a lover. It makes me cringe inside, especially if my husband is watching with me. I don't know if that will ever get better & when i think it won't....it seems very hard to want to keep going (& i don't mean suicide).

I do think both my husband & I are guilty of trying to sweep things under the proverbial rug a lot of times. We both get so caught up in trying to pretend everything is ok & like it was that it just festers up inside.

I'm not even sure if i'm answering your question or understanding it, lol. it's 1:30AM & i am very tired
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Old 22nd May 2007, 3:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie Castaneda View Post
... But I think it also led me to not get overly attached to my mates later in life even if I did love them. That's the hard part to explain. I love my wife, but I'm not attached to her. If my wife should leave me, I would be sad, but no longer devastated.

I think I view all relationships as temporary. That is, deep down inside, my mindset.
Life is self is temporary. But that's also how I feel. I love my wife, but it is not the same as my first girl friend. Previous relationships cause a certain barrier, a hardending of the heart.

Quote:
That same though has crossed my mind many times. Yes even though every 'love' you have is different, I think I am a little more reserved with my fiancee, leaving a little of a wall up between her and me, just for safety. Not saying that I don't love her, I adore her more than anything in this world and I am lucky to have her, however, I trusted my ex implicitly and got burned. I can see where you're coming from Charlie.
Yeap, exactly. With GF1, I trusted her completely. With GF2 I was a little more cautious and she end up cheating on me. With GF3/wife, I was very hesitant to make a commitment, as I viewed being committed as the path to yet another failed relationship. I was less willing to trust completely.
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Old 28th May 2007, 2:35 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by InaPanic View Post
When you say a cheater who doesn't 'face & process the feelings at the time' are you meaning someone who doesn't confess and/or get caught or someone who does one of the two but is in some form of denial?

I am a one time cheater & plan to not extend it to 'serial' cheater. I shook up the lives of my husband & I quite enough the one time.

Anyway, i did confess so it's out in the open but i still have to deal with it every day. If i'm watching tv & something comes on that shows someone having an affair, or a true-crime show where a spouse is killed by a lover. It makes me cringe inside, especially if my husband is watching with me. I don't know if that will ever get better & when i think it won't....it seems very hard to want to keep going (& i don't mean suicide).

I do think both my husband & I are guilty of trying to sweep things under the proverbial rug a lot of times. We both get so caught up in trying to pretend everything is ok & like it was that it just festers up inside.

I'm not even sure if i'm answering your question or understanding it, lol. it's 1:30AM & i am very tired
Hey Ina,

Thank you so much for your response; I appreciate your openness very much.

To answer *your* question, I guess I had in mind mainly someone who gets caught or confesses, but then refuses to acknowledge or deal with the emotional reality of that. I don't really know how to think about someone who chooses to keep it secret, because I disagree completely with anyone ever taking that approach - unless perhaps the betrayed spouse has stated outright that s/he would never know, in which I can't relate to it as a marriage anyway, so it's not relevant to my concerns.

To lay my cards on the table, this is hardly just an academic interest; I'm trying to make sense of the awful way in which my own marriage ended. My question is almost certainly evidence of some kind of really misguided "holding on to hope," and I'm aware enough and honest enough to admit that, but I think it is also part of my coming to terms with things, which I always find easier if I can come to some kind of understanding of them as well.

I guess one follow-up question I might have for you, IP, is whether you feel like you have expressed remorse fully adequately. I'm not trying to suggest that you haven't or make you feel guilty (at least I don't think I am), and honestly reading and thinking about your post is making me feel a bit raw (but in a way that I think will lead to more healing, so thanks for that). I'm just curious to know if you feel that you have "done right" by him.
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