Sometimes I hear from people who don’t feel the pain and remorse that their spouse wants to see after they’ve been unfaithful or had an affair. They often know they must feel it. Sometimes they wish they had felt it. But whatever the reason, they just don’t. And they’re not sure if they should try to pretend or just be honest.

I heard a husband say, “I cheated on my wife. And the only reason I stopped is because she caught me. Ever since my wife had kids, she’s never had time for me. It’s almost like I’m a afterthought. I told her repeatedly that I needed more of her attention and she accused me of whining. Everyone says that if you are not satisfied with your marriage, you should be an adult and tell your spouse so you can have an open and mature conversation. Well , I tried that and my wife wasn’t interested. She didn’t want to hear my complaints. She practically told me I was selfish, ignored me, and went back to being selfish. It wasn’t like I didn’t warn her that I wasn’t happy. So now she is she’s realized that I met my needs elsewhere because she won’t listen to me and is trying to accumulate guilt. It’s like her goal is to make me cry and beg for forgiveness. I understand that she feels she deserves my remorse. But honestly, I don’t feel any. . do not do it. I tried to warn her and she wouldn’t listen. The other woman is much more attentive and compassionate towards me. I don’t feel like she has anything to apologize or regret. If my wife had been a decent wife to me, she wouldn’t have cheated on him. But she wasn’t. Now my kids are starting to ask questions and I’m sorry I put your family in danger. For her sake, should I pretend to feel remorse just to get my wife off my back?”

Why justifications for cheating are common, but flawed: It is not uncommon for people who cheat to feel justified in doing so. They will often try to shift the blame onto their spouse to avoid some of the responsibility. I felt at least some compassion here because this husband tried to reach out to his wife and many don’t. So he did something that was right and it didn’t succeed, partly because of his wife’s response. But, this never justifies cheating. This is just my own opinion and belief (which is certainly not impartial since I was cheated on as well), but if you are not happy with your marriage, then you should try to fix it before you get out of it. And, if he can’t do that and still wants to be with someone else, he can after his marriage is over. But you shouldn’t be with someone else while you’re still married, because that just changes everyone.

Where to go from here: Of course, you can’t recover the past. You can only deal with the present to the best of your ability. And the present conflict was that the husband did not regret his actions and he was not sure if he should fake this pain for the sake of his family. I guess the central question was whether or not he wanted to save her marriage. Because if he had no interest in this, then even though he should be respectful of his spouse, there really was no reason to lie and pretend to feel something he didn’t. But if he wanted to save his marriage, then he would need a little more care. He wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do in the future, so it wouldn’t have been wise to claim the wife was to blame for her behavior, and for that, he didn’t feel any remorse.

The progress of this process: She suspected that what the husband was feeling at the moment might change over time. Often people feel a bit defensive when caught in this kind of embarrassing and vulnerable situation. Their outrage is sometimes a defense mechanism. Sometimes, as the shock wears off and both parties begin to process it more fully, feelings can change. Often, as time passes and emotions aren’t as intense or raw, it’s easier to see where she went wrong. When that happens, it’s easier to feel genuine remorse.

But to answer the question posed, I would not advocate blatantly lying to your spouse and pretending to feel escaped grief. If you want to save your marriage, honesty will be very important moving forward. But I certainly also wouldn’t boldly proclaim that you not only don’t feel it, but feel justified. Instead, I would refrain from having this conversation until more time has passed. Because I suspect that once the husband had more time to process this, grief and remorse would follow.

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