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.
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