People are usually just so gobsmacked by the excuses cheaters give that they sputter in disbelief. Wouldn’t you love to know what’s going on inside cheaters’ noggins to make them spout such nonsense? Well, here’s your guide to stupid shit cheaters say and how to respond.
1. “I didn’t intend to hurt you.”
Hurting you was unintentional?! Cheating is about as deliberate as a NATO airstrike. There’s nothing unintentional about secret cell phones, dating profiles, diverted monies, and clandestine hookups. What was unintentional was you finding out about it.
“I didn’t intend to hurt you” is gaslighting with some blameshifting thrown in for good measure. Hey, if you want to interpret what I did as hurtful, well, that’s on you. But it’s not how I intended it. See how this trick works? The fact is they didn’t care if you got hurt. Not enough. In the risk-benefit analysis, fucking around won out over your feelings every time.
Your response: “I don’t care about your intentions. They’re irrelevant. You knew full well that cheating on me would hurt me, which is why you kept it a secret. You didn’t intend to hurt me? Well, you didn’t intentionally try to keep me from harm either.”
2. “You weren’t meeting my needs.”
Another variant is “I haven’t been happy for a long time.” By putting the focus on you and your inadequacies, it takes the focus off the infidelities. Pay no attention to that gut-wrenching betrayal! Let’s discuss your inability to make dark coffee!
I know the reasons given are usually not as frivolous as that. Usually they’re far more intimate and cutting, like you’re bad in bed, or you don’t appreciate them. You might own your faults. You might rack your brain for the thousand examples of loving things you did for your cheater to demonstrate your worthiness. Please stop.
Your response: Don’t accept responsibility for the cheating. “You weren’t meeting my needs either, and I didn’t cheat on you. Please don’t try to pawn this crap off on me.”
3. “I need time to decide.”
No, they do not. This is not Let’s Make a Deal. “I need time to decide” is a stalling tactic.
Your response: “You can’t decide if you want to be with me? I am not a consolation prize. I am your partner. This isn’t a bidding war and I’m not going to compete for the honor of your ambivalence. There’s the door. I’m getting on with my life without you.”
4. “Monogamy isn’t natural.”
The problem isn’t monogamy. The problem is that the cheater unilaterally changed the terms of the relationship agreement. You are presented with a choice now. Agree to let your partner have multiple partners, and you can enjoy the same, or end the relationship.
If you accept the open arrangement, you would need to negotiate the sort of terms that polyamorists set, like these: Am I the primary relationship? Who is an acceptable partner? Can we ask mutual friends? How much time is spent on extracurriculars? How do we manage risk for STDs?
But the problem there is you’d be negotiating relationship terms with someone who just demonstrated to you that they couldn’t be trusted. Open relationships are based on trust too. So what do you want? Do you want a monogamous relationship? If so, stand up for that.
Your response: “I’m not going to get sidetracked with a discussion about how natural or unnatural monogamy is. You agreed to monogamy and changed those rules for yourself without telling me. That’s a matter of character, not monogamy. I do want a monogamous relationship, so we’re incompatible.”
5. “But I loved you all along.”
It’s a common trope that cheaters “never stopped loving you.” This ability to “love” you while cheating on you is often attributed to “compartmentalization.” Yes, I loved you. But then I was able to shelve my love for you just long enough to fuck that other guy and put my wedding ring in my pocket. When I came home, shazam! I loved you again.
Real love is about connection and respect. You have to be emotionally and spiritually disconnected from someone to be able to cheat on them.
Your response: “I don’t believe you loved me while you were cheating on me. Love and betrayal are incompatible. I don’t feel safe with that kind of ‘love.'”
6. “I would try to reconcile, but you’re never going to forgive me.”
Yep, your inability to forgive is the real problem here. Yet another example of “The problem is not what I did. It’s your reaction to it.”
Any cheater who can utter these words has absolutely zero interest in sincerely reconciling with you. True reconciliation, that rare unicorn, is based on humility. A repentant cheater must assume the risk that you won’t get over it, you won’t find it in your heart to forgive, but a truly sorry person will make that herculean effort regardless.
So why would a cheater say such a thing? Because then you’re cast as the bad guy. The quitter. The person who wasn’t trying hard enough. If you couldn’t forgive, hey, it’s all on you.
Your response: “What makes you think you’re entitled to reconciliation or my forgiveness?”
7. “I need to mourn the end of the affair.”
Oh hell to the no. Why should you give a flip? You’re mourning too — your relationship as you knew it, the loss of trust, your sense of personal safety. But the difference is this nightmare was inflicted on you. Your losses are not equivalent. What your cheater is suffering is completely self-inflicted.
It is the worst kind of delusional grandiosity to expect that the person you grievously harmed be the same person to comfort you.
Your response: “You mourn the loss of your affair partner? You mourn alone.”
“It’s not my job to comfort you from the affliction of your own stupidity. I’ve got my own healing to do, which apparently isn’t even on your radar. Fuck off.”