It’s normal to look at your spouse differently after you find out that they have cheated and had an affair. You may even come to believe that they have changed dramatically (both in their personality and in their outlook.) What you may not expect is that your spouse may actually acknowledge and celebrate this change.
One example of this is someone’s outlook on romantic love and infatuation. Often, the cheating spouse will almost put the other person – and the relationship – on a pedestal, especially at first. They do this for a few reasons, but the main one is that building up the relationship makes it easier to justify and carry out. The cheating relationship must be awful “special” or “rare” in order to justify taking so huge of a risk for it.
So yes, cheating spouses can almost have an unrealistic infatuation about the relationship and about the other person. Unfortunately, this does not always completely end once the affair does. You might find yourself with a spouse who has a new outlook on relationships and love in general. For example, a wife might say: “honestly, even when we were dating, I would never have called my husband a romantic. Certainly, he could be sweet when he wanted to. But my husband is a very practical person. He will buy gifts and show appreciation on special occasions, but he pretty much figures love is implied between married people. Well, ever since he had an affair, he has totally changed in this regard. From all of my snooping, I know that he constantly bought the other woman thoughtful gifts and did nice things for her. And that really hurts and angers me. I also know that he was considerate in ways that he hasn’t been for me in a very long time. However, I am 100% sure that the affair is over. I am confident that I don’t have to worry about her anymore. Still, when I turn my attention to my marriage, I notice that my husband still has his romantic idealism going. He has starting buying me gifts and attempting to show his ‘appreciation’ for me. I know that I should be grateful, but it kind of annoys me. Where was all of this consideration before? It takes another woman and an affair to show my husband that I am worthy of his affection? He’s like a man who suddenly learned how to be infatuated from another woman and it really annoys me. I’m not saying that I want my grumpy husband back – the one who never showed any appreciation. But he’s acting like a silly old fool with stars in his eyes. Middle aged people don’t need to place all of their focus on being in love like they did when they were 18. Don’t get me wrong. I want a happy marriage. But my husband is just acting foolish. How do I get him to stop this without insulting him?”
I understand your frustration. It might have been nice if he had shown a little more affection on his own, but now that this is coming after the affair, it is as if she has “awakened” something in him. And of course, quite understandably, you find that distasteful and a little insulting.
But the situation is a tricky one. If you want to save your marriage, you will eventually need to be the recipient of his affection. So it’s not like shutting him completely down is what you want. I think that what you truly want is both the affection (eventually) and the belief in its sincerity.
Right now, understandably, it’s hard to believe that this newfound affection is completely sincere. You might suspect that since he can’t have her anymore, he is projecting his feelings toward her onto you. And that makes you feel defensive. And like you might want to push him away. It’s a catch 22 because once you push him away, then you worry that he’ll cheat again.
I would suggest not coming right out and blatantly or harshly asking him to stop. But if you need to, you might insinuate that he may want to tone it down in the short term. The next time he goes over the top with the infatuation behaviors, you might try something like: “although I’m flattered that you are making such an effort, I have to be honest with you right now. Because I believe that we need honesty like never before. Sometimes, this is a little overwhelming. It’s very different than how you were before and it’s happening right after the affair, so sometimes it makes me question things, partly because it’s so dramatic. For the time being, can we tone it down just a little? Don’t misunderstand me. I am receptive to the affection, but I don’t want us to feel that we have to try so hard.”
Hopefully, he will take this in the right way and will tone it down. I’d like to point out that many people have affairs as a way to face the idea of their own mortality. They are aging and they realize that “you only live once.” The whole idea of infatuation and romantic love can be an extension of that. They can decide that this type of love is very important to them and they want to make sure to invite it into their life and enjoy it. Frankly, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they do it inside the confines of your marriage and you are both comfortable with it.