People can offer many excuses for a variety of reasons, all to defend or justify a fault or offense.
Excuses for why a work project wasn’t completed on time, or for getting fired from their job after only two weeks. Excuses for coming home late every day after work for the past month, or perhaps claiming a speeding ticket was undeserved “because everyone drives over the speed limit on that road!”
We’ve all done it at one time or another. Given a perfectly plausible reason as a defense or justification for some act or behavior that was really our own fault. Excuses are a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions, whether the infraction was large or small.
When it comes to marriages and relationships with our partners, excuses about romantic involvement outside the relationship commitment is a slippery slope.
Men and women alike may give all sorts of reason for why they were unfaithful to their partner — from the most comprehensible to the most outrageous.
The truth is, any romantic involvement outside your committed relationship is damaging to your union with your partner. There is no justification for having an affair when you have made a commitment to someone.
A common misconception is that an extramarital affair is about having sex with someone other than your partner. The fact is, extramarital affairs include emotional affairs, sending notes and pictures via text, email, social media private messaging, or any other dalliance outside your committed relationship with your partner.
Here are a few common excuses that may be used when someone has been unfaithful to their marriage or committed relationship. Even though they may be used frequently, they don’t hold water when it comes to cheating on your partner.
Excuses for Infidelity
1: It’s not love, it’s just sex
Some truly believe that having an extramarital affair is acceptable if it’s purely about sex. They think their spouse has nothing to complain about if they don’t have an emotional connection to their affair partner. Saying “I don’t love them,” doesn’t make it any less hurtful for the faithful spouse or partner.
2: I can’t help it
“I’m made this way” is an excuse that some may use. The notion that genetic influences or primitive instincts cancel out a person’s responsibility for relationship choices has no substance. If you “can’t help” but be unfaithful to your partner, there is likely a problem other than your relationship that needs to be addressed.
3: I don’t know why I did it
Completely renouncing responsibility for an emotional or a physical affair, is like saying you have no control over what you watch on television or how much you eat. Of course, there are a lot of factors that play into making decisions, and some things can influence a person to make bad choices. In the end, it’s still a choice that is made and saying, “I don’t know why I did it,” is avoiding exploration of what happened and owning the relationship infidelity.
4: Technology made it easy
No debate here! The Internet, cell phones, and social media have made flirting and cybersex something accessible and easy to engage in. Of course, not everyone is hoping to eventually meet in-person someone they have been engaging with via text messages, private messages on social media, email, or other websites. Still, even “just” doing these things online is a breach of contract for any monogamous relationship. It’s a betrayal of a commitment to a spouse or partner, and it’s just as hurtful as an emotional or physical extramarital affair.
5: The other person made me feel good
After years of being with one person, it’s not surprising that a person seeks affirmation that they’re still attractive, interesting, funny, intelligent, etc. Instead of addressing this concern with their spouse and working on reconnecting, some may find it easier to look outside their marriage or relationship for the fulfillment of their emotional needs—affection, attraction, admiration, and conversation. Looking outside the relationship for affirmation may seem harmless at first, but it leads to further disconnection and emotional distance from your partner, which is not the direction to be going for healing your relationship.
6: My needs aren’t met
When one partner doesn’t have the same drive or interest in sexual activities as their partner, some people think it is perfectly acceptable to indulge in their fantasies with someone else. The underlying problem may be a lack of clear communication between the partners about sex in the relationship. It may be something else entirely. But, addressing this with your spouse or partner is the place to start having your needs met. Seeking professional help if you can’t see eye-to-eye on how to meet each other’s needs is a good next step.
7: My spouse has changed
People change over time. We all learn, grow, and change as the years move on. When someone falls in love with certain personality traits or looks, “they’re not the same person I met,” may sound like a plausible excuse for being unfaithful. Maybe they feel their spouse has changed physically, philosophically, or perhaps there is more focus on the children than on the relationship. Maybe romantic gestures and kindnesses of courtship are distant memories. Rather than look outside your relationship, look for the things you fell in love with that are still present in your partner. Successful couples grow together and continue to learn about each other through the life of their relationship, even as one or both changes.
8: We weren’t meant for each other
If the complex dynamics of a long-term relationship become unbalanced, some people may begin to feel that they married the wrong person. Maybe they believe they married too young or were too inexperienced to make a good choice for a life partner. If a balance isn’t reestablished, frustration often rises, fighting ensues, and soon they’re looking for a way out.
9: I’m unhappy/bored
The demands of making a living and raising a family can wreak havoc on romance. Moreover, a lack of communication and connection can lead to feeling unhappy. The excuse of having “fallen out of love” with their spouse, though, only serves to stifle an underlying sense of guilt and responsibility and makes a person more vulnerable to extramarital affairs. Some feel that an affair will make their life more exciting and spice up their marriage. The excuse of boredom for cheating on your partner is unfair to you, to your partner, and to your union as a couple. Being bored in your relationship happens sometimes, and that’s a signal that it’s time to focus on your relationship and find ways to become “un-bored” in your relationship or marriage.
10: My partner did it, so I can too
It can sometimes happen that, in the aftermath of an extramarital affair, the betrayed partner often feels as though they “deserve” to even the playing field by having an affair of their own. Unfortunately, this adds insult to injury. By adding another wound to the relationship, the couple can be even further from finding trust again.
This list could go on and on. The list of damages extramarital affairs cause is just as long!
While something may be driving a person to be unfaithful, the choice to go through with it is never the faithful partner’s fault. However, understanding the underlying reasons can help both parties to move on, or perhaps repair their broken relationship. Often, the help of a counseling professional who specializes in working with couples is a step that can get your relationship back on solid ground.
Jill Baumgarner is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Her practice specialty is working with couples to help them with infidelity recovery, sexual health, regain intimacy in their relationship, and improve communication skills. Request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page, or call her at 512-270-4883, ext. 108.