Most of the time, the people who post on my blog looking for advice or who just for someone to listen are the spouses who were cheated on. Occasionally though, I hear from cheating spouses who are looking for help in saving their marriages or in helping their faithful spouse to heal. Sometimes though, the process is much harder than they ever would have imagined because of their spouse's troubling reactions or behavior.
I heard from a husband who said: "I admit that I had an affair and cheated on my wife. In that aspect, I am the bad guy of the story. I would be willing to do almost anything to make this up to my wife and save my marriage. But, as patient as I try to be, my wife has become almost impossible to live with. She is filled with bitterness and she is so sarcastic and nasty that even our kids know that something is drastically wrong with her. She's lashing out at anyone and anything in her path. And the second I walk in the door, she will ask who I cheated with today or what I've done to destroy her within the last 48 hours. I'm left not knowing how to respond to these things. When I answer with reassurances that I love her and that I am not trying to destroy her life, she will say things like 'well that wasn't the case when you will with that tramp in a hotel.' She says these things in front of our kids and she slams doors and marches around our house. Once, she threw a plate at me when I asked her what was for dinner. The other night after one of her tirades, I told her that she was acting a bit erratic and crazy. Her response to me was 'well I have a right to be crazy. You cheated on me. You betrayed me. It is my right to be crazy. And if you don't like crazy, then feel free to leave.' Is she right? Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life? What about my kids? Will she always be like this?"
I really felt for this husband, but it was very interesting for me to see this from another point of view. Because frankly, I am sure that my husband thought that I was crazy in the weeks after I found out about his affair. And I've broken a dish or two myself. At the time, I felt perfectly justified in doing so. However, I haven't broken a dish or said anything particularly nasty to my husband in years. Because I have healed and because, when I needed it, I got help.
Why Faithful Spouses Feel They Have A Right To Act Erratic Or Crazy: Did I feel I had the right to my out of control behavior after my husband's affair? You bet I did. I had every right to be as furious as I was. Yes, some of the ways that I expressed my anger were unfortunate and they are a little embarrassing to me now. I never did act out in front of my children though. That was one line I would not cross. I am sure that I gave my husband evil looks and frosty cold shoulders, but my kids never heard me utter one negative word, although I'm sure they knew that the vibe in our home had most definitely changed. In fact, their father was away from the home for a while, but they thought he was on business, which wasn't particularly unusual.
The point is, finding out that your spouse and the parent of your children has betrayed you in this way is just about the worst news imaginable. Of course, you react. Of course, you grieve. Of course you might utter some insults. But typically, it doesn't go on forever. Typically, the behavior wanes as the shock wanes, which leads me to my next point.
When It Crosses The Line: So while I agree that it's natural for a person to act in atypical ways when they find out about the infidelity, this shouldn't go on indefinitely. Of course, you should allow them to have their say. And you should accept that you are going to be on the receiving end of their wrath for a while, but if things escalate to the point of physical abuse or behavior that is negatively affecting your children, then it is probably time to suggest some counseling to help you to navigate this. Because truthfully, once the faithful spouse feels heard and they are able to release their feelings, their behavior should improve over time. And the more you help them to heal, the quicker this process will be.
So to answer the question posed, yes, I feel that it is the faithful spouse's right to act in a way that isn't typical of them because you have dealt them a huge blow. Understand that they are struggling, which is why you are seeing behavior that just isn't like them. But, they definitely didn't ask for this. And your actions have caused them grave pain. However, the troubling behavior shouldn't go on indefinitely. And if it does, it tells you that they haven't yet begun to heal. And that they may need your help in doing so.
As I've said, I did have reactions that were very atypical of me after my husband's affair but I was more angry and hurt than I had ever been in my entire life. I did draw the line at showing any of this behavior to my children, but I am sure my husband was counting the days until I calmed down and was more myself. These days did come, but not until I've begun to heal. If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com.