"Excuse me, but that is a slippery slope you are going down!" She pointed a perfectly manicured finger upwards, then turned to all the other women in the room to launch into her sermon. "I have suffered the indignity of being cheated on repeatedly by my husband, and my therapist told me that the worst thing to do is to blame myself. It is his problem and his problem alone. And ladies, let me tell you, if you start to ask what you have done wrong, you will never heal from this."
She sat down with a flip of her hair and looked defiantly back at me. Trying to pull out all my diplomatic skills, I continued to say with a smile that a cheating husband is, indeed, the one at fault and has no excuse for his behavior etc., but STILL, we have to ask the question: Did I contribute to this?
We can't be so simple minded as to demonize the one who broke trust, and sanctify the victim. No one's a saint.
Question one: Have I been neglecting my spouse over a long period of time? Before whipping out a list of all the things he or she has neglected to do for you, just look honestly at yourself. Have they asked for more time alone with us, but we always had a reason to say no, like the kids, the budget, work, a sick family member, just plain busyness? Has he or she asked anything of me that I haven't provided? Is this affair just an act of final exasperation because he or she is convinced I really don't care anymore?
Question two: Do I have a tendency to ridicule his or her ideas? "Well you can't expect me to just stand by and listen while she talks about ideas that make no sense!" If you want to prove he or she is wrong whenever they come up with a thought, no matter how right you are, you can drive them away from you, starve them for affection and drive them into someone else's arms. If your husband or wife really is an idiot and doesn't deserve to have his or her opinions valued - why did you marry them?
Question three: Are my insecurities making me irritating? Allowing your husband's or wife's approval or praise (or lack thereof) to determine how you feel about yourself which then determines the way you behave around them, turns you into a slave of their opinions. If you find yourself moping because he or she didn't speak to you the way you had wanted, or if you lash out at because you are convinced that he or she gave you that look, you're reacting to how badly you feel about yourself and how dependent you are on how they treat you from moment to moment. You assume the worst, that they don't really love you, that they don't care. So you act like it, and then you confirm to them that you are irrational and impossible to please.
I have known many an unhappy woman who has given up on her husband because he doesn't speak to her in a way that makes her feel attractive, so she stops trying to be attractive, which makes him unhappy that she doesn't want to be attractive, which causes him to say unkind things about her appearance, which turns into a never ending cycle. Actually it does end, when someone else appears with kind words for either her or him, rekindles those feelings of being wanted, and it's good-bye marriage, hello affair.
Question four: Did I fool myself into believing I was marrying a trustworthy person in the first place? There are often plenty of visible signs that a person has an unfaithful character, but sadly, both women and men can be blinded by emotions and choose to ignore them. "I know she's still good friends with her ex, but I'm open minded." "He's giving up going to strip joints with his buddies just because of me - isn't that sweet?" Yeah. Real sweet.
Out of that intense desire to love and be loved, we see what we want to see and rational thought goes out the window. When reality strikes, it's only after a lot of damage has been done.
The good news is that damage can be healed, turned into a great learning experience, and used to make you stronger. And yes, you can be healed, even though you ask yourself these questions. These are only four of the biggest ones, and there are many more that can be asked. So I beg to differ from my former student who dislikes dealing with her own flaws, but solutions to relationship problems can only begin with yourself.