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What does it mean if your spouse seems indifferent after you’ve had an affair?

Sometimes I hear of spouses who have just been caught for their cheating or affair. However, sometimes they are quite surprised at the response they are getting. Many expected a highly emotional response that included everything from sadness to fury to devastation, but what some get instead is an almost indifferent response.

An example is the husband who says, “I thought my wife would be so upset when I admitted to my affair that she was going to throw me out. But this is not what happened. She said she had always been suspicious of me.” and that she was not willing to give up life and the standard of living she had grown accustomed to just because I decided to cheat. She almost acts like she doesn’t give a damn about her.”

Another example is the wife who says, “My husband confronted me about cheating and I couldn’t look directly at him and lie, so I admitted it. I expected him to kick me out, file for divorce, and seek custody of our children.” son. But he hasn’t done any of these things. He just continues to act like nothing happened. He’s a bit cold and aloof, but you haven’t really addressed his anger. He would almost prefer it if he yelled at me. I don’t scold me, but he continues with his cold and uncaring demeanor. How can he act like he doesn’t care about my affair? Does the fact that he doesn’t seem to care mean my marriage is over? He just doesn’t get it.”

There are many reasons why you may not get the response you expected regarding your case. But these responses don’t always mean your spouse doesn’t care. I will explain below.

Don’t be fooled by your spouse’s aloof or indifferent reaction to your affair. Sometimes it takes time for them to express their true feelings: Sometimes what you are experiencing right now is the calm before the storm. People often need time to process events like an adventure because it is so shocking and unsettling. And some people want to take their time formulating their response because they know they won’t take back their actions and words once they’re out there.

Also, sometimes your spouse just isn’t sure how you feel. People often describe it as “numbness” or “being in shock.” If you’ve ever seen someone after an accident or other unexpected tragic event, you’ll often see similar behaviors, that kind of delayed, indifferent reaction that usually kicks in before their more authentic reaction takes place.

I’m not telling you this to insist that your spouse’s anger will soon be out in the open. Nobody knows it for sure. But as someone who has dealt with my own spouse’s affair, I can tell you that a faithful spouse’s feelings can change drastically on a whim. You can be number one second and furious the next. You may be sobbing in the morning and coping better in the afternoon.

Here is one more consideration. Many spouses are fully aware that your inability to read their response is painful for you. In fact, it was quite possible that the spouse in the above scenario was fully aware that yelling and having a strong reaction would be a relief to the wife who simply did not know how to react to indifference. Quite often, they know that her silence and indifference may actually be more painful or confusing to you than more direct negative emotions.

How to handle it when your spouse doesn’t seem to care that you had an affair: To be very frank about it, your spouse’s reaction to your affair is an entirely different matter than your own reaction and desires. He starts by asking you what you really want. Take your spouse and their reaction out of the equation and just worry about your own feelings.

Because if you really want to save your marriage, then you have bigger issues to worry about than a lack of response from your spouse, at least early in the process. Know that your true feelings will eventually come out as they have more time to process this and you begin the process of rehabilitation or healing.

Don’t rely too much on his reaction to tell the future status of your marriage. Feelings, perceptions, and intentions change very quickly when it comes to infidelity. Honestly, if you had asked my husband about the future of our marriage the week after I found out about his affair, he probably would have put money on us divorcing by the end of the year. I was that furious with him. But as time passed, my feelings and desires changed.

Likewise, just because your spouse acts like they don’t care about your affair (at least right now) doesn’t mean you’re at peace or don’t need to reconcile.

It is very likely that they care more than they appear and it is very likely that you will see changes in their reactions, feelings and desires in the days to come. But in the meantime, you need to act in a way that is in line with what you really want. If you really want to save your marriage, then the best thing to do is to start the healing process despite your spouse’s lack of reaction. I can almost guarantee that they are watching your behaviors very closely right now and that your actions are very likely to influence their feelings and plans in the future.

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