Sometimes I hear from wives who are trying to decipher their spouse’s comments and feelings after he has cheated or had an affair. Sometimes it almost seems like he’s talking in riddles. Common comments that cause confusion and doubt are things like “I feel empty and lost and I don’t know why I acted that way and I don’t know what I want.” As if dealing with the matter was not difficult enough, the faithful spouse now has to figure out what he means by these words and what this could mean for the marriage.

You may hear a wife say, “My husband admitted to an affair. Apparently, he broke up with the other woman and then returned home to make his confession. He says he told me because he couldn’t lie to her. Me already and he feels like If we are going to save our marriage, then he needs to acknowledge what he did and be honest. I guess this is a promising start. But my husband has been saying something repeatedly that bothers me. Lately, he has been saying over and over again that he feels ‘so empty’. I don’t know if this is a ploy to make me feel sorry for him or if he’s being sincere. What the hell do you mean when you say you feel empty?

Actually, this expression is very common. Many unfaithful spouses use this phrase and they may be referring to their feelings before or after the affair. I have my own opinion on what they might mean by this. And I base this on the feedback I get and my own experience. Of course, it is just my opinion. The best person to ask about his feelings is the husband himself, but he cannot always articulate his feelings well when he is not sure what he is feeling.

He is very disappointed in himself: This is a logical conclusion. You feel empty because now you have to take an inventory of your life and you realize exactly how reckless you have been and the damage you have caused. This can make you feel a bit depressed and empty.

It means that he was struggling before the affair and that this may have contributed to the infidelity: I firmly believe that there are times in a man’s life when he is much more likely to cheat. It is common to see happily married and well-adjusted men cheat when faced with a great life struggle. Examples include job loss or career disappointment, illness, loss of someone close to them (such as a parent), and struggling with anxiety or depression or the dreaded midlife crisis. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think they are tempted to deal with or ease their struggles by having an affair.

So when a man tells you that he feels empty, he is simply mirroring those struggles. Honestly, you may not have even connected the dots and realized that your infidelity has something to do with your personal struggles, and the only way you know to articulate this is with a simple phrase like this.

It means that you are emotionally blank due to this whole process: Everyone knows that the faithful spouse can struggle emotionally after the affair. It is a very painful process in which you have to deal with shock, disappointment, and pain. However, few people realize that the cheating spouse can go through these same struggles. They can feel all the same negative emotions and in a sense it is even worse for them because they know that it is they who have caused them this kind of pain.

As a result, it is very common for them to turn off emotionally. Think of it this way. Men in this situation have had an affair because they had trouble dealing with their negative emotions. So it makes sense for you to shut down and feel emotionally closed when the negative downfall of all of this comes to a head. If you were struggling before, imagine how it feels now when you not only have to face the emotions that contributed to the deception in the first place, combined with having to look at your hurt face now. Frankly, this would make anyone feel empty. It’s quite understandable, really.

Your feeling of emptiness shouldn’t excuse what you did, but it is a sign that healing is important: In no way is it my intention to make excuses to cheat on spouses. Having dealt with this situation myself, I honestly don’t think there is any valid excuse for cheating. Even if it feels empty beyond description, that’s not an excuse for what you did. But it may be an indication that healing for him is just as vital as healing for you, especially if you want to save your marriage.

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