Your spouse messed up so why do you feel guilty?

Let’s say that you just found out you’re spouse has done something wrong and it’s pretty drastic. He or she has cheated or went against his word on something you both agreed upon. You are deeply pained. What is her reaction and where does it take you and your relationship?

You address the issue with your spouse and he/she could have one of two reactions. First, he could admit to his error and you can both begin the process of healing. It’s not easy to do but you are thankful that he sees his place in the matter and is willing to take responsibility. The other path he could take is this; turning the tables. Where once you were angry because he did something wrong, you suddenly feel guilty. You’re not sure why this is but before you know it, you find yourself apologizing and working to sooth his now upset emotional state. Later, you think, “what just happened?”

Like a crying child caught with chocolate brownie all over her face, your spouse has turned the tide of blame away from her (where it belongs) and on to you. By making you angry and confused, she transfers the blame. Her threats of leaving or other behaviors frighten you and you relent. You are now the one apologizing and asking her to be happy again. What have you done? Accepted the responsibility for something that is clearly not your fault.

Well, maybe you are doing something. No one is perfect. Think about it and listen to what she tells you. Later, when you are calm, consider what she says and work to make necessary changes. We all could be better spouses. However, this does not mean you should take the blame for something that is clearly her fault. While your lack of attention towards her may be the reason she had an affair, you did not choose the affair. She chose to do what she did and no amount of blaming can change this. Promise to do better. Promise to be a more attentive spouse, but do not carry the burden that says you are the cause of the infraction.

What’s going on with your spouse? Well, he/she is selfish and childish. He can’t handle the negative feelings that go along with guilt so he “flips the script” and suddenly he’s the victim because you brought the subject up. You are hurting him. Why would you do this? This shows immaturity and a lack of character on his/her part and this behavior can be very detrimental to the marriage.

What else is happening? Your spouse is angry with himself and suddenly you are the object of his anger. While anger can be a natural expression of guilt, it isn’t necessarily a healthy one as an angry mind is often a clouded mind. By choosing anger, he isn’t choosing the best method to solve the problem and fix what should be fixed. Instead, he blows up, blames you and hopes you’ll just forget about it because the experience he just caused was so uncomfortable. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t forget about it. Misbehavior on the part of your husband or wife at this level could be a sign that you need counseling. If he continues to transfer the burden of guilt on to you, you’ll eventually get tired and calloused towards his behavior. Rather than growing closer, you are growing apart.

There is one area where you are at fault here. You allowed this to happen. When you know you are right (and you better be abundantly sure on this) stand your ground and force him or her to accept their responsibility. Otherwise, you’ll continue to be a parent wiping the chocolate brownie off the face of a guilty child.

3 Ways to Tell Your Spouse Isn’t Happy and 1 for You

It is a scenario that I regularly see in my office. Spouse A has cheated on spouse B because he/she wasn’t participating in the marriage. Then, spouse B hurries to fix what has been wrong for 10, 20 or even 30 years, but many times, spouse A believe this effort is too little, too late. What has happened? Spouse B kept hitting the snooze button on their wake-up call. Here are some signs that your spouse wants to improve the marriage; typically through counseling.

He/she says, “I want to improve the marriage. We should seek counseling.” This is pretty straight forward. It might not be this nice, but it will typically be a blatant statement that he or she isn’t happy and wants things to change. Has your spouse said anything like this?

Your spouse spends time on other activities rather than the marriage. Your marriage is no longer fulfilling so other hobbies must be pursued in order for your spouse to get the daily recommended allowance of enrichment. This might be a personal activity or it might be another individual. In either case, it’s not with you like it should be.

Your spouse isn’t happy when he/she is around you. It is a cliche that marriages are to be unhappy prisons of barren loneliness. Well, after 16.5 years of increasing marital bliss, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to be happy with your spouse. You should be happy.

You aren’t happy when you are around your spouse. You may be ignoring your wife or husband because of his or her behavior. This too can be fixed through counseling or even a pursuit of your own self-improvement.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Fix what’s wrong in your marriage, now.

Stop Doing Love Wrong


“I love you but I’m not IN love with you.”

This phrase has come into my office on more than one occasion in the past month which caused me to put some thought into its meaning. I hadn’t thought about it much but the spouses who had heard it know its weight all too well.

It is often the closing bell on a relationship as a cheating spouse comes clean. Or it is an indicator that the spark that was once there is now gone. The problem is that we often equate love with feeling and when the feeling is gone then the love must be gone. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted vision of the love that a man and woman are to have for one another.

In his book, The Social Animal, author David Brooks says that love is a collection of behaviors that lead to feelings. The apostle Paul said it well also when in 1 Corinthians 13 he lists all the things that love DOES. It is patient, kind, loves truth, protects, hope, trusts and perseveres.

Paul also writes that there are things love does NOT do. It does not envy boast, act proud, dishonor or seek its own interests. It is not easily angered, does not delight in evil, and keeps no record of wrong.

In watching what little TV I do, there’s plenty of what people say is love but is not. On one home makeover, all the wife could talk about was her apartment, her house and what she wanted to do. She had her husband actually sharing a closet with the dog. All she wanted to do was seek her desires and wore this like she was some sort of suffragette. His needs were second and possibly third after the dog’s.

I also see spouses who continually bring up the past, lose their temper and continually dishonor the person they are supposed to love. Not in love anymore? I wonder why. You’re doing love wrong.

Love has a positive polarity in the things it DOES and it has a negative polarity in the things it DOES NOT do. What do the negative and positive sides of a magnet do? They attract. Maximize the positives and keep away from the negatives and your feelings of love will return. Wait for the feelings to come without doing anything and you’ll be stranded with no one to love.

Love must be tended to and grown like the living thing that it is. When people say, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” what they mean is that they desire to have the feelings of love but the passion is missing. It may be missing because they’re doing love wrong as I discussed above, or it may be missing because they have traded the pursuits of this life for the holy matrimony they promised on their wedding day. The departure from a happy vivacious couple is so slow and so gradual that neither spouse sees it coming until they wake up one morning in an empty shell of a relationship.

Your marriage cannot survive on the notion that you live together and that’s enough. You must enjoy one another’s company, have mutual dreams and meet each other’s needs. Start today.

Do Affairs Just Happen?

Extramarital affairs are devastating to everyone. The betrayed spouse, kids, immediate family, and even friends and coworkers bear the brunt of this earth-shattering event.

After the infidelity is discovered, the unfaithful often say, “We never intended for this to happen.” True. Most spouses don’t set out, when leaving for work, to come home having begun an inappropriate relationship. However, things like this don’t “just happen.” Many factors contribute.

There’s a commercial on television for the Plan B pill. It is a contraception that stops a pregnancy before it begins. Their slogan is, “Because the unexpected happens.” I’m sure the unexpected does, but I can’t help but think when I see this TV spot, “If you have unprotected sex, you could get pregnant. What did you think would happen? Were you sleeping in health class?” The same is true with affairs. While someone may never set out to have an affair, if you neglect your spouse and develop an attraction to someone else, what do you think is going to happen?

Another response is, “It just happened.” This statement, as well as the first, minimizes the events leading to the affair and also the hurtful ripple affect that will be felt for years. It’s like saying that September 11, “just happened.” Both statements give little credence to what has occurred and, for this reason, both are quite maddening to the betrayed.

Many marriages end when an affair takes place, but if you decide to work things out, there are some things that must occur. The cheater must grasp the extent of his or her behavior, and this understanding must be communicated to the hurting spouse. An empathic understanding is key.

In regards to the offended spouse, his/her part in this must be seen as well. Maybe he or she spent too much time doing something else. Oftentimes an affair can be the result of what both spouses have or have not done.

If you decide to work things out, keep in mind that it is a great deal of work. I have a slogan on my office wall that says, “Every true strength is gained through struggle.” Things can get better.


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Question: "What if my spouse won’t acknowledge his emotional affair?"

I received this question through a comment on my article “Emotional and/or Physical: Is It An Affair?”

“What should I do if my spouse refuses to acknowledge his emotional online affair? He says I’m overreacting. He stopped contacting her but not out of remorse or of wanting to do the right thing. He just wants me off his back. He refuses to go to counseling with me so I go by myself. Also, he won’t talk to anyone about this issue. I am afraid that without talking about our relationship, the same thing will happen again. He still plays regularly on the game site he met her on even though I have told him it makes me nervous. I caught him talking to her last month. I feel like a doormat. He is in a state of withdrawal and denial about what he has done. I have read that this is called an emotional divorce. I am trying to find out how I can meet his needs that I was not meeting before, even though he won’t tell me what they are, and I’m studying God’s word to give me strength. I believe God has brought me into a marriage covenant that He does not desire to be broken. My husband has built a wall around his heart that is very hard, and I believe he has allowed Satan to lie to him. I feel I need to win him back, but this is so backwards. I was the one betrayed, but he is the one who is full of anger and bitterness because I ‘took away his good friend.’”

Let’s take a look at what is going on. I speak to my female colleagues at work. We laugh and talk about our weekends, but I do not sit across from them and play chess while no one else is around. This would be very inappropriate and it is, in effect, what he is doing. In his mind, he has justified the behavior as harmless, but apparently, an emotional bond has been established and this is infidelity in its most deceptive form. His actions are very harmful, as an intimate connection has been made with someone other than you, his wife. He may believe he’s having harmless fun. If his conversations are not intimate, then he is, but he’s having harmless fun with a woman that is not you. This is a problem. There is a perception that when there’s no physical contact, there’s no affair. This is false. Well, how do you reach a spouse who does not acknowledge the extramarital relationship for what it is?

The issue must be discussed, but you pose a difficult predicament since he will not talk to anyone about it. Someone or something has to make him see what he’s done. Hopefully he’ll become remorseful, but even if he doesn’t, if he decides to stay off the game and talk about what is going on, the rebuilding of your marriage can begin. Otherwise, you will simply become “roommates.”

Here are some things that I think you should do. First, there is an emotional need that he is getting met from the game and from her. You mentioned that you haven’t met his needs in the past so he may be expecting you to act the way you did then. This may be difficult, but keep meeting his needs even while he is neglecting yours. If you start meeting his needs now, he will hopefully begin noticing the difference. “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Actions speak louder than words. Second, keep praying (especially when he’s on the computer) and trust in God’s timing. Ask your friends and relatives to pray at those particular times too.

What you don’t want to do is go at him aggressively and verbally attack him. This is what you want to do and may be what he deserves, but he will become defensive and not listen which is the opposite of what you want. So, third, I would recommend sitting him down and telling him exactly how you feel and what this has done to you emotionally and what you think it has done to your marriage. Make sure you do it from the standpoint of, “This is how I feel and what I think has happened” rather than “This is how you (husband) screwed up!!” Use “I” statements like, “It hurts me when we don’t spend time together.” Don’t say, “Why are you always on that computer with her?” “Why” questions make people defensive. If you were my clients, I would ask him, “For your life to be just like you want it, what would have to change?” Maybe you can do this. Maybe he’ll open up. Also, don’t do it every night. His wall must be torn down with the power of God not with repeated onslaughts.

Well, how long do you go until you say, “I’m through?” This is between you and God. Infidelity is cause for divorce (Matthew 5:32), however, with your son and with what you’ve already built, divorcing will have its own set of difficulties. You may trade one problem for another, but with the prospect of winning him back, you must decide how much you are willing to work. You’re trying to save your marriage, but there are souls involved here as well. Like I said, this is between you and God. Threatening with divorce may be what shakes him conscious, but I can’t be sure of that.

Satan does win some over but hopefully with prayer, your husband’s heart can be changed.

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"Emotional and/or Physical. Is It An Affair?"

The definition of what is a safe relationship with someone who is not your spouse is quite blurred by some. “It’s not an affair if there’s no sex.” “We only kissed once.” “We were just talking.” Healthy relationships can be had between members of the opposite sex who are not married, but when that relationship begins meeting needs that only your spouse should meet, a definite boundary has been broken.

This obviously means sex, but it also means emotional needs and anything else that is important to you. Your need for social interaction with someone or your need for admiration are some examples. All of the elements mentioned here are crucial to a marriage, and if they’re getting met elsewhere, the bond you pledged is in jeopardy.

That coworker you’ve been spending more time with is starting to do something for you. You begin feeling something you’ve not felt for your spouse in a long time. You can call it a fire or a spark, but it is also a sign of danger. While your marriage might not be all that you wish right now, having an affair will begin a very painful process. Do you want to go through that? Do you want to put your children through that?

The issues you struggle with in your current marriage can and very well may resurface in subsequent relationships. Plus, an affair is easy to maintain in terms of a relationship. There are no bills and you only see one another a few times a week so the best impression is always seen. If an affair is followed through to its logical conclusion, what do you have? A spouse and the system starts all over again.

We’re human and we must work on what is before us, so avoid the affair, and have an affair with your spouse. Meet him at a hotel or do something surprising like prepare dinner for her. The newness will set a fire aflame and the simple idea that you thought ahead will do wonders for your relationship.