Coping with the pain of infidelity can trap us in a cycle of blame and judgment. Blame blocks our healing from infidelity and creates more pain in us.
I blamed others for my pain.
I have written a lot about working through my pain, The Affair Partner (AP), and how my husband let me down by cheating. In this post, I want to share how I blamed others for my pain and held them responsible for how I felt.
When I take the time to sit still with myself and be honest, I discover how much more healing and growing I still need to do. The life lesson I want to share today is a painful one. I used the blame bomb to avoid recovering from my husband's infidelity! Ouch!
To heal, I had to learn how to take responsibility for my power to heal and not give it away to other people. In truth, my expectations of them, not them personally, let me down. I just gave them that power over my life when I sat in blame and judgment. Double ouch!!
Is blame holding back your healing from your husband's infidelity too? I don't mean them blaming you for their choice to cheat. No, that's a whole different and very painful issue that cheaters use. In this post I am talking about my own personal form of blaming others.
For me, blame wasn't being used on purpose or as a willful act of self-sabotage. Blame came to me unconsciously as I attempted to understand what I was suffering and how to stop that suffering. Because I was in pain and filled with fear, I tried to protect myself by taking what was happening internally and pushing it outside of myself onto others.
You and I both know that discovering infidelity was agony. So I blamed and blamed and blamed my partner and The Hag for that agony. But blaming didn't stop the pain; it made it worse.
Blame kept me trapped in a pain cycle.
Much of my suffering, as I discovered, came from myself and the stories I had made up to keep myself safe. My self-talk was me endeavoring to understand my world and what was happening. However, blame and infidelity trauma stopped me from accurately interpreting the facts. It kept me trapped in a pain cycle of painful stories, stories that all pointed back to my husband's infidelity.
My blaming was as if I had placed my feelings into a washing machine stuck on agitate. It was constantly swishing and swirling and rubbing and banging around like an annoying background noise in my life. Occasionally, I would lift the lid, look at it, and complain that it wasn't done yet. Blame was an ineffective coping strategy, yet I was using it here. Subtly, blame stole my power to heal or even navigate life successfully. It had me negating my responsibility when a given situation triggered me.
Blame over the infidelity stopped me from feeling the challenging emotions life was bringing to me, feelings that I needed to work through to heal. Blame jumped to my defense and overruled my thinking rather than recognizing and dealing with feelings of shame, guilt, hurt, disappointment, sadness, inadequacy, or powerlessness. I was stuck!
"Blame is a way of feeling better without changing."
Blame is emotional avoidance.
Blame deceived me into believing I needed to preserve my self-esteem (ego) and forced me to disown my true feelings at the moment. My husband's affair with his AP had hurt my sense of self, leaving me with so much pain that I felt disorientated. Disowning my feelings about being cheated on meant that blame was a form of emotional avoidance. It was like a numbing cream. I was avoiding my infidelity grief by filling my mind with blame repeatedly.
It also turned my need to be right or justified into an empowerment issue. By hiding my pain behind blame, my husband was always made wrong by me. I cut him off even before he spoke because blame loaded me up like a machine gun! And I could spew out my justifications at blaming him in rapid fire. It gave me a false sense of power. Yet my need to be right said everything about me and very little about the person I blamed. Forcing my infidelity pain onto my husband to feel powerful at the moment didn't heal me; it hurt me.
The more I blamed, the more I cemented the habit of blaming into my life. And worst, the more I dehumanized those who I blamed, especially my husband and his AP. When I got caught up in the emotion of blame, I admit I failed to take full ownership of myself or my actions. Sometimes I didn't act with dignity or speak to my partner with respect while in the same breath demanding that he show me respect! Blame was blocking me from being who I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up in my life.
It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.
When I blamed, I handed over my autonomy.
Blame created emotional neglect inside of me. When I blamed my partner for how I felt, it was as if I handed over all my autonomy to my situation. I placed the solution for my healing, safety, or the success of our relationship into my partner's hands while positioning myself to become the poor innocent victim. Having a victim mentality was incredibly wounding to myself and my husband. (Please note, I am not justifying my husband's previous actions of infidelity here, what they did was WRONG. We both agree on this fact!)
By positioning myself from a blame mindset, I also reduced intimacy in our relationship. Getting close to someone with an arm outstretched and accusing finger-pointing is challenging. I was ongoingly putting responsibility onto my husband for how I felt, which killed my ability to feel close to him or see his attempts to connect. Blame put a blinder on me and disempowered my partner.
Compassion is the antidote to blame.
Ultimately, I am responsible for cultivating the antidote to my habit of blaming others. This antidote started with me showing myself compassion and the space to heal; self-care. I needed to accept my human flaws, accept the humanity and imperfections in others, and show compassion. No one is perfect. Focusing on their mistakes stopped me from healing. My healing is where I need to focus, not the flaws of others.
Compassion brought me back to taking care of my own needs first. Self-care helps me acknowledge and accept my thoughts and feelings with curiosity rather than deflecting them by blaming others. It supports my capacity to respond to my pain so I can heal and grow.
Blame pits us against each other.
Blame, on the other hand, sets arguments into action. It pits us against the one we are blaming. Our attempts to offload negative feelings onto another forces them to defend themselves from our blaming boundaryless behavior. Negative coping behaviors like blame set a destructive cycle where no one wins. When we drop a blame bomb in the room, everyone gets burned, not just the one we blame. Conversely, practicing self-care and facing our pain first allows us to stay connected with our partner or others rather than pushing them away with blame.
The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
Deactivate the blame bomb and replace it with self-care. When we deactivate blame, we ignite healing in our lives, and maybe even the life of the one we previously blamed. We can heal our infidelity pain with self-care, and letting go of blame supports that healing.
Learn more about using self-care to heal your pain and your need to blame. If you need support or want to talk to someone who understands the unique pain of infidelity, please take advantage of a free call with me.
It is crazy to me, as the betrayed wife (now ex), that I ever took on ANY blame for my ex’s cheating. ANY! After 5 years of therapy, and the same number of years of research, along with having a therapist as a best friend, I feel that I should write a book to save all of the abused victims of the cheaters. Cheaters make a choice to cheat. Cheating has NOTHING to do with a relationship – it is a way to deal with whatever is going on with them – either feeding their ego, needing attention, feeling inadequate, what have you. NONE OF THOSE THINGS give a partner the right, excuse, reason, to go outside of a relationship where a promise have been made, and NO PARTNER CAN MAKE A PARTNER CHEAT. Cheating is a choice. We are in the same relationship, and I can guarantee you that not all of our needs were being met. A relationship is not meant to meet every single one of your needs. People do what THEY WANT because it is what they want. If someone wants to be monogomous and be in a relationship with you, they will not cheat. It is NOT a cry for help for the relationship – it is ALL about them, and NONE about you. They didnt care enough about you to think about you. They blame because its easy and they are weak and cant face their own issues, which is why they lie and sneak around instead “manning (womaning) up”. I am soooo tired of therapists putting the responsibility of keeping your spouse from cheating on the spouse. God doesnt put this responsibility on the spouse in the vows – therapists need to stop. Cheaters need therapy for THEIR issues. If you want to save your relationship, then the partner needs therapy to deal with their reaction to the cheating (brings up nasty internal issues in the partner), but the relationship is the LAST thing that needs therapy. Serious change in the cheater needs to happen first.
I agree with everything you said. We were never to blame for our partners’ choice to cheat. Blaming someone who has been traumatized by having their life and dreams destroyed is the worst form of cruelty. YES, cheaters need therapy. And the innocent victims of their choices need support. Please write your book. I can’t wait to read it.