I can't tell you how many times I've been asked some variation on this question. Wives want to know if their husbands feel any guilt or shame for cheating, or if he's only remorseful because he's been caught and must now deal with the consequences. They want to know if he hesitated when he decided to cheat or if he was so excited by the prospect of something exciting and forbidden that he never thought of his wife at all – at least until much later.
In short, wives wish that they could be given a pass inside of their husband's mind so that they could understand his very questionable thought process when he chose to make this very hurtful, and unfortunate, mistake. And they want to know where his head and commitment currently is now that the affair is over, and whether they can believe that his heart, and his commitment, is still with them, so that they don't have to worry about reliving this sometime in the future.
The truth is, a man's thought process during an affair can be as different as men themselves. With that said though, I hear from many men who are trying to make things up to their wives. They sometimes share their thought processes with me, and I've gone through this situation myself. So, I am seeing it from two different sides of the coin. Yes, there are very likely men who feel very little or no remorse. But, these are not the men that I hear from because these are usually not the men who are trying to get their marriages back. In the following article, I will share with you how men describe their feelings during and after an affair.
How Men Feel During Their Cheating: Again, these feelings vary with the man who is experiencing them. But, most men that I hear from describe themselves as "not thinking" while the affair was going on. Some of the phrases that I hear to describe this are things like: "I really don't know what I was thinking. I was kind of living in slow motion and I was really not stopping to think about what was happening. I just didn't want to go there in my own mind."
Some men describe very strong guilt and shameful feelings during the affair. I sometimes hear things like "I went home, locked the door, and cried." Or, "my hands were shaking so hard on the steering wheel on the way home that I was afraid that I might have an accident." Or, "the guilt was killing me. I could not even look at my wife in the eye. I always felt sure that she knew something was going on or knew that I was lying or had done something very wrong."
And some men who feel these feelings will use them as the catalyst to end the relationship very abruptly. These are usually the men who admit to the cheating on their own and sincerely seek forgiveness with genuine apology and sorrow.
Sometimes, you'll get men who, although they do feel guilty and ashamed, these feelings actually propel them to continue the relationship. They see the other person as a release from or pause in whatever negative feelings or doubts that was going on in their lives. So while they know what they are doing is horribly wrong, they might tell themselves that they are going to end things ‘very soon" but they are seeking the release that the relationship fleetingly provides. (This escape usually does not last for very long.)
Occasionally, I will have men tell me that they actually thought that they were getting a positive pay off from the affair or that they had genuine feelings for the other woman. They'll say that they felt "fun" or "free" or "alive." Usually, these feelings are short lived and the men later realize just how silly and false this whole thing was. Eventually, they realize that nothing, other than themselves and dealing with their own issues, provides the escape or the boost that they were looking for.
In short, a man's feelings can run the gauntlet when he's cheating on his wife. But, I do find that most men feel some sorrow, conflict or guilt as they are carrying it out. Some are able to brush off these feelings or to at least momentarily quiet them. And some can't take the feelings and will confess all. Some will try to justify their actions in order to continue, but most know, at least deep down, that what they are doing is wrong.
How Men Feel After They've Cheated: As I said, I very rarely hear from those repeat cheaters who are brazen enough to justify their cheating or who aren't at all remorseful. I almost always hear from men who are looking for advice on saving their marriages after they cheated on their wives. And without a doubt, these men are genuinely remorseful. Yes, they are absolutely sorry that they have been caught and that you know what they did and that you are deeply hurt. Many tell me that they would give absolutely anything to turn back the clock and to take this whole thing back.
And, many of them do understand why you are angry. They know that they would struggle greatly if the roles were reversed, but they don't know how to make themselves sound sincere without sounding like they are play acting. I often hear phrases like "she doesn't believe anything that I say and I can't blame her for that. But, I will keep trying to make this up to her for the rest of my life. If she will just give me a chance, I will do everything in my power to make this right."
Of course, the great irony of all of this is that many wives will turn this around and say "well, he didn't love me all that much when he was cheating, did he?" And, they're absolutely right. There's not much that he can say in response to this. He'll often try again with the assertions that he wasn't thinking or that he was dealing with personal crisis, but none of this really cuts it.
I often tell couples that it's the actions and not the words that matter. The marriage was damaged with the husband's actions and now, if the marriage is to be repaired, it must be repaired by the husband's actions. Over time, he has to prove to the wife that he is remorseful, rehabilitated, and worthy of her trust and her partnership.
I was the cheated on, not the cheater, in my relationship. So, I know exactly how the "cheated on" spouse feels. But, I also know that healing and moving on is possible. Although I never would've believed this two years ago, my marriage is stronger than ever after my husband's affair. It took a lot of work, and I had to play the game to win, but it was worth it. Because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is at an all time high. I no longer worry my husband will cheat again. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/