In his book, Out of the Doghouse, Dr. Rob Weiss lists seven common behaviors cheaters engage in after their infidelity is uncovered that make the situation worse rather than better. Two of these are linked to quick fix expectations. The first is to think that an apology is enough to make things right and that it should elicit immediate forgiveness. The second is to try and ‘buy’ forgiveness with gifts.
Apologizing and Expecting or Demanding Immediate Forgiveness
Many cheaters get upset about the fact that betrayed partners aren’t acknowledging their efforts at restoring trust. They say things like, “Doesn’t my partner understand that I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing? I’ve stopped cheating and I’m taking responsibility for what I did. What more is needed?”
However, as your partner sees it, the fact that you are finally behaving the way you promised you would when you initially committed to monogamy is hardly cause for celebration. Still, in frustration you may find yourself demanding that your partner acknowledge your hard work and progress by being a bit softer and more loving (and maybe even initiating sex with you)—all the stuff that typically comes with a trusting relationship. But the simple truth is that you no longer have a trusting relationship because you cheated and lied and kept important secrets. So expecting your significant other to be more loving just because you’ve stopped misbehaving for a few weeks is a bad idea. And if you try to see things from your partner’s perspective, you will understand why. To your betrayed partner, you finally becoming honest and faithful doesn’t exactly merit a pat on the back – because you were supposed to be honest and faithful all along.
If you find that you need some positive reinforcement, consider it high praise that your partner is still willing to speak to you after everything you’ve done to hurt your relationship. If you want something more tangible, it’s best to seek your props elsewhere, perhaps from a friend, a family member, a support group member, a clergyperson, or your therapist.
If you’re expecting immediate forgiveness from someone you profoundly betrayed only a few weeks or months ago, simply because you’ve told that person you’re sorry and it won’t happen again, then you need to think again. Expecting your partner to let you off the hook that easily is just not realistic. Yes, you do deserve acknowledgment for working hard towards change, but not from your partner. At least not yet.
Trying to Buy Forgiveness
One of the most common mistakes cheaters (especially male cheaters) make when trying to win back a betrayed partner is attempting to buy their way out of the doghouse with gifts – flowers, dinners, trips, jewelry, and the like. This doesn’t work. Your partner will probably accept the gift, and he or she might even say thank you, but your partner is not going to forgive you just because you gave him or her something nice. And your partner might reject your gift altogether, throwing it back at you and walking away in tears.
Gifts, no matter how expensive, do not undo the trauma wrought by infidelity. They never have, and they never will. Still, lots of cheaters try this tactic, even though it is not a route out of the doghouse. Saying you’re sorry and then giving your partner a romantic gift will not restore relationship trust or earn forgiveness. Moreover, your gift will forever be tainted because your partner will always associate it with your betrayal.
NOTE: A variation on trying to buy forgiveness occurs when you use seduction, regret, lies, partial disclosure, good behavior, or any other form of manipulation to obtain forgiveness and keep your relationship. However, your significant other does not want to be bought off. Instead, your partner wants you to be a person who understands what he or she is feeling, cares about those feelings (even if those feelings are mostly anger directed at you), and behaves in ways that cause him or her to feel loved, valued, and adored instead of cheap, used, and abandoned.
* * * * *
For information about healing after infidelity, we suggest reading Dr. Rob Weiss’s book, Out of the Doghouse. We also suggest the free podcasts, webinars, discussion groups, and blogs available through our affiliated website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com. If you think you or a loved one might be sexually addicted, we offer residential treatment for men and online workgroups for both men and women.