Things to Consider Before You Have An Affair

Looking back 3 years ago when I embarked on my affair, there were numerous potential fall-outs from my affair I really didn’t consider. Did I consider how my life might blow-up if it was discovered? I did.  Or how incredibly embarrassed I could be personally and professionally if it blew up in my face? Yes, those things I thought about, but honestly, only in a fleeting way. I was too invested in getting my needs met. Totally sucked into the affair to worry too much about the consequences.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on various blogs and message boards, it’s this:  Cheaters never think they will be caught.  They think are too clever to be caught. Their spouses are too disinterested or dimwitted to figure it out.  They know all the “tricks” and they will be able to successfully have their cake and eat it too.  And some do!  But most get caught.  Sometimes by a spouse more clever than they think, or by some stupid accident or slip-up.  But most do get caught sooner or later.  And that’s bad.  Worse than you can imagine even in your mind now.  It’s simply awful.

But beyond that warning, I thought about this — Have you considered the other things that are the fall-out of an affair?  I doubt all of you have.  I’m not even going to deal with the fact that your affair partner — your “soul mate” — might turn on you the moment you don’t do what they wish (like mine did). But what are the unexpected fallouts some of you haven’t considered that will have long, lasting and caustic impacts on your lives because you had an affair?

1. The corrosion to your self-image, mental health and soul.  Unless you are a total narcissist or an unfeeling person, you have no idea how much you will punish yourself for participating in a large-scale deceit and betrayal on your spouse.  You will wake up at nights hating yourself and what you’ve become, and questioning what kind of person does this. It will truly corrode your soul.  You will become exactly the kind of person you don’t want to be — someone with a huge capacity for selfishness and lying.  You will have become someone that even YOU wouldn’t want to be around.  The former cheater often struggles with guilt, self-esteem issues and depression as a result of having an affair.

2.  Huge implications of getting caught in an affair, whether you leave or not.  Most of you don’t really realize how difficult it’s going to be for you in front of your kids, in-laws, extended family, neighbors and friends when they find out you had an affair. You will be likely ostracized.  The subject of ridicule. Whispers.  Silent and not-so-silent judgments.

There could be professional implications if news of your affair is blabbed to your work (and frequently, dumped lovers and jilted wives/husbands will do this in order to hurt you back).  Anyone heard of David Patreus?  Or John Edwards?  Hello?? Consider that your affair could end up being blabbed everywhere and be completely humiliating for you. Your career could be stunted or completely derailed. You could end up losing a lot of money because of it. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty. It’s not worth it.

In and above that, do you realize how hard it will be on you financially to be divorced? On dividing your money and assets?  Alimony? Child support?  Leaving your spouse for your affair partner makes it worse!  Once the affair is known to the aggrieved spouse – it’s all over. No chance. The separation would be called for what it actually is – “you are leaving for someone else” – even though that may not be your first step. If kids are involved – worse. That would keep your ex-wives and husbands in your lives forever – juggling holidays, family reunions and weddings, school and sporting events indefinitely. Can you imagine having to deal with our lover’s ex-partners for the rest of your Lives?

If the children find out, they are incredibly angry and hurt at the offending parent.  The affair puts the children into a loyalty bind between their parents that is unfair and caustic.  They will probably resent you at some level for the rest of their lives.

3.  You become less marketable on the single scene:  Have you considered how much you become damaged goods if you leave our spouse and lover for the dating market?  You think you are hot stuff because you had someone to have an affair with you, but are you?  Would a person of quality – a potential future mate – want you?  I mean, if you are really being HONEST, then you have to, at some point, disclose to your new lover/gf/bf that you had an affair on your previous spouse. That went on for a long time. Or had 2 or 3 affairs. They might find out anyway, so hiding it is a bad idea.

And if anyone thinks that this wouldn’t be a negative on the dating scene…well…I think you’re fooling yourself at least to some extent.  It’s not like we are criminals or ex-cons, but in many peoples’ eyes, we are the next worst thing. Most people look at a former cheater as, at minimum, an iffy choice in a partner. No matter how much you convince them that it was circumstantial more than a character issue, it’s a red mark.  The Scarlet Letter on your forehead.

Imagine you are on a third or fourth date with someone you totally connect with.  They are amazing. Attractive.  Interesting.  And they want you back. Maybe you’ve gone further and had a lot of sex and become exclusive.   And then one night, they ask you, “So did you ever cheat on your husband/wife?”  What then? The blood will drain from your face because you won’t know what to do and you will be caught off guard.  Because if you tell the truth — something like, “Yes, I had several affairs, one of which lasted more than 2 years”, they may very likely react in disgust and horror.  The magic is broken. You would find it easier to tell them you had herpes than this!  Think that won’t happen? I guarantee that at some point it will and what will you do?  Lie?

One would ignore this red flag on us at their own peril. Heck, if I was in the dating scene and met a woman who did what I did, I’m not sure I’d take the risk myself, all other things being equal! I would be forever looking to see if they were being honest with me. I would question every time they hid their cell phone from my eyes. Or lingered in conversation just a little too long with someone of the opposite sex at a party. Or questioned their unknown whereabouts. It’s normal.

Believe me, I considered all this too during my decision process to leave the affair and reconcile. My wife was willing to forgive me and largely overlook all of this because of our connection and shared, multi-decade history.  But would a stranger?  Maybe, maybe not. Any quality stranger would wonder about our ability to be honest. To commit. To deal with relationship issues appropriately. They’d be foolish not to.

Would I find a great woman of quality if she knew where I’d been and what I’d done? It’s at least in some doubt. No matter how we see ourselves, it’s how others — who are good, honest, grounded potential mates see someone like us. Someone who could so selfishly engineer and enthusiastically participate in months and years of lies and betrayal without batting an eye and glibly blame their spouse for it.

Heck, I even wondered if my ex-OW would really ever fully trust me if I was with her in real life based on the large scale deceit and betrayal I put onto my wife. She said she wouldn’t hold it against me, but really? I saw signs of her seemingly inappropriate jealousy and accusations of me that I believed were largely based on the fact that I was cheating on my wife! I wondered how this would play out in a real life scenario with her?

And that’s the trap — we get out of a marriage because we think there is something better out there for us, but we arrive into the dating scene as damaged goods and with more than a little baggage. “Everyone has baggage!” some will say.  And yes, that’s true.  Especially after a “certain age”.  But some baggage is heavier and harder to relieve ourselves of than others. We wear the Scarlet Letter.

Trust me, I thought of this. Often. That no matter what I did or how I lived my life “from this day forward,” I was an adulterer and always would be. An enormous stain on my character and reputation. A permanent badge of dishonor that is more than a red flag to my wife, or, under some other circumstances, some future partner or spouse.  I can’t take it back.  Hiding it is wrong.  It speaks about my character and ability to commit. Period.

I’m not saying that being an adulterer precludes the possibility of finding someone right for ourselves if we find ourselves free again.  It just makes it harder. You either have to hide the truth about yourself (and therefore you’ve already placed your relationship in a place of non-honesty), or you tell the truth and watch scads of “good prospects” flee in the other direction. Or worse, a good one stays, but never quite fully trusts you either.

It’s a hell of a burden to carry.

Even staying in the original marriage isn’t necessarily a panacea and a way to escape the tarnish. Even with my own wife — forgiveness and reconciliation, yes. But will she ever fully forget? Nope. Ever fully trust me? Doubtful. I’ve tarnished the marriage and my sins can never be fully erased. I realize that. Even with the kindest, most understanding spouse, the judgment, even if silent, is there. The 800-pound gorilla in the room.

What I know is this — no one comes out of an affair unscathed. One way or another, we pay.   These are things I wish I had considered before I embarked on the affair. It didn’t dawn on me until much later what a permanent taint I now have on myself because of these choices. Consider this before you start one.

The bottom-line when it comes to affairs is they are caustic to individuals and families.  No one comes out of an affair undamaged and the ripple effects are often far reaching.  Before you enter into an affair be certain that you are willing to bear the brunt of your actions.  Also be certain that you’re willing to have your family bear the brunt of your actions.

Don’t just blindly put your relationship in jeopardy.  If you aren’t happy at home, then speak up!  Get help if you need to, but don’t run away via an affair.  There’s never an excuse for having an affair and the repercussions are far worse than you predict.

© COPYRIGHT 2006, 2007, 2013 Recovering Wayward Enterprises, LLC

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12 thoughts on “Things to Consider Before You Have An Affair

  1. “It speaks about my character and ability to commit.” – No it doesn’t. It speaks about the fact that you made a bad choice under marital distress…problems you were having with communication and needs not being met in your relationship.

    Having an affair isn’t who you are. You aren’t always going to be a cheater because you’ve done it before. Yes, you are branded as someone who may not be 100% trustworthy in a relationship, but you have to give it time. Consistency with honesty and transparency over time will prove that your bad choice was simply that…and not a trait of who you are.

    • Thank you for the supportive comment. I guess I didn’t write it exactly well. I should have written, “To my current spouse and any potential future partner, my history would likely indicate to them negative things about my character and ability to commit.”

      That’s what I intended by the sentence.

      That being said, I’m sorry, but it DOES say something about character, honesty, ability to commit. It truly does. I’m not saying it’s definitive, but it’s a factor. It would be a question raised in anyone’s mind. To what extent that’s the case and to what extent it’s an indication of future behavior is unknown to anyone on the outside. That’s what I meant. ANYONE would be foolish to not ask that question about someone like me. Even if silently and in their heads.

      Heck, I even question it myself!! What kind of person am I that I allowed myself to do this? And to do it for so long? What does it say about me?

      That being said, I can redeem myself through openness, honesty and consistency over time. By demonstrating growth out of this experience and a higher level of maturity. I agree.

      But I know that the question will forever follow me around also. It’s a stain and a mark you never fully expunge. It’s like being an ex-con or recovering alcoholic. No matter how many years go by, you’re STILL an ex-con or recovering alcoholic.

      • Oh yes, it would always raise a brow and it should. But if someone who was unaffected by actions from your past holds them against you currently, then they have problems. I think that people could learn to listen to what you have to say about your affair, why you did it and how remorseful you are now and be able to look beyond that and see what THAT says about your character.

        I do agree that most people would just see that as a HUGE red flag and write you (you, being someone who has cheated, not you specifically) off. I would have definitely had to inquire further about what happened and determine where I’d want to go after that; whether or not I could pursue a relationship with you.

        I think you said it best earlier, that you and your wife have a “connection and shared, multi-decade history” together. This will definitely help her to come to trust you more and more over the years.

        As for a new relationship, it would take someone with incredible strength and courage to look beyond your affair.

      • Well put. I’ve come to believe that forgiveness has to be premised upon the assumption that character is never entirely fixed. People can learn, they can evolve. They can do better. And it holds true for both the betrayed and those who do the betraying.

    • Not sure I agree with all of that. We are ALL judged by our actions, our choices, even if they were in the past. It’s human nature and we should be. We ALL do it. Fair or otherwise. We are in fact the sum of our circumstances + our choices.

      I agree my affair doesn’t define me as a person. My life has been much longer than my affair and there are many more things about me than this horrid 2-year period in my life. BUT if someone was looking to bind their life to me, they would be foolish to not take this into consideration.

      Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. If I were single, I would never get serious with someone who had an affair on their spouse. Not in a million years. Nor would I get involved with someone who had been in prison. Or was an active drug user. Or was heavily in debt. Or earned their living in a questionable and/or illegal way (eg, I’m not going to commit to a stripper, a drug dealer, etc). Too many fish in the sea who don’t have these major flaws in their past or present. We all have deal-breakers. Being a former cheater is frequently a deal-breaker for a lot of people.

      I would expect others to have the same opinion about me. In fact, I would be surprised if they thought these choices I made as being of no consequence. I would question THEIR judgment, in fact.

      So it’s good I’m still married and my wife has forgiven me and loved me, because I’d be fucked in the real world. Like Groucho Marx, I would question the judgment of someone would want me.

      but yes, time and change can overcome it to some extent. But it’s a stain on your person that never fully goes away.

      • Very refreshing for someone, especially a man to see this so clearly. It is a shame, but it is true that cheating is a huge major offense, at least to the betrayed. It is not simply a ” mistake,” it is usually premeditated, intentional act done over and over again, and is a hugely hurtful act against the one most loyal to you….and even has serious health risks for the one who gets nothing out of it. In addition, the affair partner is getting all the good stuff while the wife begins to wonder why she is being treated poorly, differently, etc. None of these are typical of a “mistake.”

      • thanks for the feedback. I would only quibble a little with what you state. First, few cheaters actually set out to cheat. It’s not really premeditated in many cases. Not saying that we aren’t responsible for our choices — we are — but few of this actually set out to have an affair. It’s more like you have this long, long period of critical unmet needs in your marriage, and then someone floats onto your radar and you dip your toe in the water just a little. And you like it. Then you want a little more. And a little more. And then you find yourself up to your neck in a full-blown affair. And you’re in a panic. You desperately love that your needs are now being met by someone, but you don’t like that you are doing it as part of a deceit and betrayal. That would be what the majority of cheaters would say. We’re not the coldly-calculating, completely selfish, monolithic person that we are portrayed as. All of us are different. All of our stories are different. We were human and we did an awful thing and the vast, vast majority are extremely remorseful and sorry for it. This is why we DO consider it a “mistake”. Not a little one. A HUGE one. A whole series of them. But we didn’t set out to hurt our spouse — we were getting unmet needs met. Critical ones. We hoped that nobody would be hurt. Naively. But inevitably people do. But this doesn’t imply that hurting you was the purpose at all. We hoped to avoid it all.

        I certainly didn’t say to myself, “Hmmmm, how can I REALLY hurt my wife? Oh right, I’ll cheat on her!”. Hurting her was the last thing I wanted to do. Despite our fairly poor, disconnected marriage and even as much as I felt like a low priority and neglected and unwanted, I certainly wanted to protect her. She didn’t deserve what I did. I went to incredible lengths to avoid hurting her while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. Leave? Stay? End the affair? I was torn. In fact, it was my frequently stated fear that my wife not find out about the affair that was my undoing — my ex-OW used it against me and made sure my wife knew about it.

        My affair was a HORRID thing to do and an ILLEGITIMATE response to a very unsatisfying existence and legitimate marital grievances. I’m not escaping my responsibility for that. But I did not do it to hurt my wife. I did it because I wanted to be happy in my life, and this was stupid. Naive. I got caught up in something I never intended to be and in WAY over my head before I knew it.

        It was far more “stupidity”, “naivete”, and “selfishness” than “pre-meditation” or “malice”, I assure you. I didn’t want anyone hurt. I was just an idiot. A naive fool.

  2. Very wise and insightful. For those who have higher standards than most, I can see how this will always be a “stain”. You didn’t live up to your own values and expectations and that will always be in your mind a mark against you, a scarlet letter. My husband feels the same way. He appreciates how I tell him that although he may have failed me that doesnt make him a failure. He’s remorseful and making amends. But he is the one who lives with what he did who questions who he is, what he became–if only for a short while–the knowledge of how low he came. I finally got how painful that realization is for him, how its a burden he’ll carry for a long time. I used to think the affair somehow diminished us both, that we were both shamed. But now I see how he feels deeper shame, in letting me down. And he will always struggle to compensate for this failing…

  3. I’d be interested to see if someone was about to embark on an affair and didn’t do so after reading the hundreds of articles out there telling them to stop. At the beginning of my ‘A’ I searched around looking for people in a similar situation. At the time we were definitely in an EA, but no PA yet. So many articles screamed out saying much of what you said. It will only end badly, the damage is never worth it, etc. I read all the articles, but couldn’t pull myself out of the fantasy, excitement and way my xAP made me feel. Like most others, this was my one and only A (I’m not serial), I do have a good marriage and few real stressors or problems. I’m independent and am not an attention seeker, and am pretty logical with the rest of my life. I’m one of those “least likely candidates” yet it happened despite all warnings.

    I guess my point it for all of us who have been there and want to help others by warning them to not even start, I’m pretty sure 99% of the time it will fall on deaf ears, until they come back here for support.

    • you are probably right. But we do what we can. We try. That’s all we can do. I hope that my blog saves even one person from embarking on an affair. I get a lot of notes from people thanking me for helping them to heal from one, but never had one where someone said, “Thanks for helping me before it was too late.”

  4. You are very wise. My husband and I recently separated as a result of his indiscretions. As a woman, I would never consider having a relationship with someone who was willing to have an affair while married or otherwise committed. It would speak volumes about their ability to commit and would always leave me questioning whether they would easily do it again given the chance. I am the betrayed and it hurts like hell. Knowing that the person I was married to for twelve years and made love to is so easily able to give that to someone else without a thought for the consequences and the fall out for their children, extended family and friends. I know he was able to so easily convince himself he no longer loved me. Of course it’s easy to convince yourself of that when someone else is satisfying your sexual needs, someone who doesn’t have the commitments and responsibility of a family herself. Removing yourself from your family and home allows you the opportunity to have a sex life free of guilt with the person you met while married. It also means that there are no children lying between you, waking you up in the morning, expecting anything from you.

    My family has been shattered by this.The pain is real and raw for all of us. Please don’t do it. The fall out for the betrayed is not worth your moments of pleasure with someone else.

    • I agree with wifemidlife. I found that 2 months ago my finacee has been having an affair with a woman before we met, and he kept it until I found out by accident. In the meantime, he proposed and bought me a ring. We were in a long distance relationship but we spoke everyday, email every day, talked 2 times a week, see each other at lease 4 times a year.
      I tried to do my part in the reconciliation process but I couldn’t. The amount of lies he retorted to hid it, acussing me first of being jelous and by his reluctance of giving me information after I showed him proof I knew ant then keep on lying was too much for me to bear. It left me with no energy to try to save the relationship anymore.
      I finally left him. I don’t want him in my life, in my bed and in my future anymore.

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