Friday, February 14, 2014

The Devil Made Me Do It

The phrase, "The Devil made me do it," became popular back in the 1970s. No doubt the concept, if not the words, have been with us for our entire history. Indeed, the earliest recorded instance of the phrase comes from Genesis 3:

And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. (Gen 3:13 KJV)

When all else fails, blame the Devil. This is known as blameshifting. In that chapter, when God addresses Adam about his actions, he blames God and the woman:

And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (Gen 3:12 KJV)

Then the woman blames the serpent. None of them take responsibility for their actions. Men and women have been committing this same sin ever since.

It is part of our fallen nature to avoid the shame and guilt of committing a wrong.

Most of us will attempt to justify it in some manner. The easiest way is to point the finger at someone else. "If he didn't berate me so often, I wouldn't have hit him." In other words, the devil made me do it.

Blameshifting happens in three ways when dealing in the aftermath of discovering an affair.


This occurs when the unfaithful spouse shifts the blame for their affair onto the hurt spouse. This is a typical response to any abuser-victim scenario. With infidelity, the action or lack of action can be varied. Whether lack of respect, lack of being made to feel important, lack of sex, or passive-aggressive behavior, the unfaithful spouse will often attempt to point to a deficiency, real or perceived, in the hurt spouse as to why he ended up in the arms of another woman.

I dealt with that specific topic more in depth in my article, "The Blame Game." Good to read it, but I'll summarize it here. Problems in a marriage, and every marriage has some, are rarely the fault of just one spouse. Both usually share in the blame to one degree or another.

The decision to have an affair, while it might be in response to a deficiency, is still fully the unfaithful spouse's responsibility.

The hurt spouse might have increased the temptation in some cases, but just like Adam and Eve didn't get off the hook for taking and eating the fruit they knew they shouldn't, neither does the unfaithful spouse.

Some unfaithful spouses may feel they never made a decision to have an affair. My wife would be one of those. She never intended to have an affair. By the time she realized that's what she was doing, she didn't have the will power to extract herself from the desires raging within her. Yet, she still made a decision.

The first time her initial affair partner flirted with her via text, she told me about it. She said it was just a fun game and nothing more. I told her no, it was not a game. Maybe to you, but to him, he's getting the signal that you're available. If you are, that's cheating. If you're not, that is mean and stringing him along. I specifically said it is inappropriate for a married woman to be flirting with another man. She confessed it to our priest and he told her the same, that she should end all contact with him.

At that point, she had a choice. She would either respect that boundary and not cheat, or she would violate it and choose to cheat. She elected to continue the flirting. She made this decision before the addictive pull of desires kicked in. In so doing, she had initiated an emotional affair with that man. It wasn't too long before he started sex-texting, sending a dopamine rush in her, and she was sucked into the current, still believing it was just a fun game, that she wasn't cheating nor would she ever cheat, believing she could handle it. But the affair was underway.

She made a conscious decision to cheat even after having been warned by me and our priest.

Sometimes it is true that a spouse will think to themselves, "I'm not happy in my marriage because of X, Y, and Z. I'm tired of dealing with it. I'll go find someone else who will treat me right." While that may be a valid consideration in certain circumstances, there is a valid route to that and a destructive route. The valid route is after discussions, reading books, going to marriage counseling, you give up, then if it is a deal-breaker, you prepare and file for divorce. Either that or you accept that this is the way it is going to be as long as you're married to him, and put up with it.

If you have sexual intercourse with the affair partner, you are physically divorcing your spouse.

Most emotional affairs also involves emotionally and spiritually divorcing your spouse. The only thing saying you are married is outwardly you live like you are and a legal piece of paper says you are. Cheating undercuts your marital relationship. The deception is damaging to the unfaithful spouse, the affair partner, the hurt spouse, the family, even if they never find out. You hurt everyone much less by not pretending your still married to him when in reality you are not.

But many unfaithful spouses are like my wife. They cross boundaries, believing it is innocent fun. Sometimes these can be fueled subconsciously by feeling a lack in the marriage, but almost always boils down to something making a low self-esteem higher knowing someone desires you, treats you important. Comes across as wanting the unfaithful spouse. But they aren't looking for an affair. They often don't believe it will happen, even when it is happening at the time. Once raging desires take over, they feel out of control, as if they are being carried through the rapids and the only solution is to ride it out and hope for the best.

For these unfaithful spouses, they tend to look back, after it hits them that they are cheating, and viewing the marriage through affair-fog eyes, then point to areas in the marriage that justify their path, causing them to feel like the victim. Yet is is obvious this is an attempt to justify actions they know are wrong after the fact. They demonstrate the need to blame anyone but themselves.

The more prideful (narcisistic) a person is, the more likely they are to blameshift. The more humble a person is, the more likely they are to not get involved in an affair in the first place, but if they did, they'd confess and take full responsibility for it.


A second type of blame is when the unfaithful spouse blames the affair on circumstances that caused them to lower their guard, become overwhelmed, or any other number of reasons. A common example is a spouse going to a bar, getting drunk, then due to lowered inhibitions and slowed thinking, end up cheating.

Another popular one is blaming the affair partner. They'll attribute it to the seduction of the affair partner, or getting him drunk and snapping a picture of the unfaithful spouse in a compromising situation, using it to blackmailing the unfaithful spouse into a real affair, etc.

However, like victim-blaming, events only increase our temptation. The unfaithful spouse is still responsible for their actions. Boundaries were still chosen to be crossed. If a person knows they do stupid things while drunk, guess what? Getting drunk is not an option. It is a boundary you don't cross. If that is hard, move the uncrossable boundary further back. Refuse to go to a bar with friends. Avoid parties where drinking occurs. Crossing those boundaries means you accept responsibility for your actions, no matter the degree of temptation you have.

One common reaction of a hurt spouse, in order to make some sense of their spouse's infidelity, is to assist in event-blaming. If the hurt spouse wishes to rebuild, a third-party to cast the blame on gives the hurt spouse a target to take their anger out on, instead of the unfaithful spouse. The affair partner is an easy target in most cases. Easier to blame and hate since you don't plan on living with them or reconciling with them.

However, this can be a problem. Mainly because an affair takes two people. Both are fully responsible for initiating it and continuing it. The affair would end if either of them said, "no" and followed that up with actions reflecting that decision.

The percentage of blame is not divided between the two, but both the unfaithful spouse and the affair partner are each 100% to blame.

The only time this may not be true is when the unfaithful spouse lies to the affair partner about their marital status. The affair partner isn't to blame for the affair other than general immorality in that case.

The main reason that event-blaming should be avoided is because it avoids dealing with the real cause of the affair:  the unfaithful spouses inability to face their sin, repent of it, and take proactive steps to heal so that the cycle doesn't repeat. So that you go and sin no more. Victim-blaming and event-blaming are methods of hiding from the real problems that are more difficult to face, and require real change to address.

If the hurt spouse assists the unfaithful spouse in event-blaming, whether on the affair partner or some extenuating circumstance, they are simply asking for another round of cheating. You'd be more forthright to say, "Awe, that's okay honey. You go ahead and cheat as much as you want. I don't mind."


The third type of blaming is when a hurt spouse blames themselves. Sometimes this is a result of an effective victim-blaming by the unfaithful spouse that the hurt spouse accepts as true. Most often it is the natural reaction of a hurt spouse upon discovering an affair to assume the unfaithful spouse is doing this because of some deficiency in them.

The night I first found out my wife was having an affair, some of my first thoughts was how could she be cheating? I thought she was happy with our marriage. I took the fact she wanted sex frequently to be a sign she wasn't straying. Why would she need more? But my first thought is that she no longer loved me. Or that she'd been hiding the fact that she wasn't satisfied with our relationship.

The hurt spouse will tend to see the affair as a rejection of them. To a large degree, it is, even if the unfaithful spouse doesn't feel that way. The actions mean more than words. Someone who loves you wouldn't hurt you like that. It's the equivalent of preparing to punish your child for misconduct, so you stab their shoulder with a knife. Saying, "I love you" to the child is meaningless.

If you have a strong self-esteem, as I describe in my articles here and here, those will be temporary thoughts. If you have weak self-esteem, however, it is easy to allow those doubts to fester into full blame-fests. Especially if the unfaithful spouse is supporting it with victim-blaming.

This is a big problem for several reasons. One, it isn't true. Rarely is it the case that a hurt spouse is responsible for decisions made without their knowledge or consent. As we've explained above, you may be responsible for marital problems, but you cannot be held responsible for the affair of your spouse unless you were holding a gun to their head, forcing them to cheat.

Two, tt also falls into the problem above: causing the unfaithful spouse to avoid dealing with why they allowed the affair to happen and fixing that. As long as they can point to someone or something else to blame, they can avoid the unpleasant task of healing themselves and therefore, your trust in them.

Three, the biggest problem that self-blame feeds is enabling. Focusing the blame on yourself ends up enabling the unfaithful spouse to continue in their infidelity. After all, if it is your fault and not theirs, they can't help it if they are continuing to be attracted to the affair partner. Not until you get your act together.

The reason this is such a temptation for hurt spouses is control.

When you discover the affair, you feel out of control. Your whole world has been turned upside down. Chaos reigns. The wrong was committed behind your back. How do you regain control?

You know you can't control the unfaithful spouse, but you can control you. If you can place the blame for the affair on yourself, then you feel you have control over fixing it. You can stop it. Accepting that the unfaithful spouse is to blame is to give up control. To feel insecure. To feel helpless.

Because self-blame is a misdiagnosis, the hurt spouse is treating a disease that doesn't exist while ignoring the one that does. While it may be scarier to trust your unfaithful spouse again with the healing process and the rebuilding, that is the only way to actually fix the relationship.

Love requires taking that risk. Because the truth is in 99.9% of the cases, them having an affair has little to do with you, and all to do with what is going on in them. If they don't deal with that, you can bet they'll do it again. By focusing on your issues as the blame for the affair, you enable them to continue the affair lifestyle because they won't change.

In each of the three types of blameshifting, the common problem is it becomes a way for the unfaithful spouse to ignore the real cause of the affair--themselves--by pointing the finger to influences exterior to them. By so doing they hide from addressing their issues, refuse to accept responsibility, fail to repent, give themselves victim status that really belongs to the hurt spouse, thus ensuring that any rebuilding efforts will fail and more rounds of cheating are in store for the marriage.

Don't allow blameshifting in any of its forms. The relationship will not heal if the real causes of the affair are not addressed.

No, the Devil didn't make you do it.

How have you dealt with these forms of blameshifting?

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