Engaging in a Revenge Affair and Why it Won’t Work

revengeThe Revenge affair.  An eye for an eye.   Adult “tit for tat.”   These are affairs done in retaliation for a partner’s affair or due to mistreatment by the marital partner. In many cases, a Betrayed Spouse has an affair to “even the score” — and may make sure that their Wayward Spouse knows they did it.

But it’s a dangerous, immature and self-defeating response to being cheated on, which can backfire in many ways.

These actions almost always lead to separation and divorce.

It’s natural for an infidelity victim to want to seek revenge. The revenge affair is motivated by the desire to make the other person go through the same emotions as you did wishes to be set free, and that evolves into you screwing over your cheating spouse.   Research says that females are more likely to engage in this sort of behavior than men.

Unlike lust or love affairs, revenge affairs are driven by raw, primitive emotions that have little to do with genuine eroticism. Here, the hurt, the anger, the resentment directed toward one who has already strayed is translated into sexual arousal or action – often in the absence of genuine desire. The compelling urge isn’t “I want you”… it’s more like, “I’ll show you…you @%#&%!”

Not only is the Revenge Affair initiated to salve these wildly inflamed feelings, but unlike a romantic affair, discretion is hardly a priority.   Leaving a breadcrumb trail for a suspicious spouse or deliberately flaunting the affair in the heat of a fight is more likely to occur in this scenario than any other. After all, “I’ll show you” is meant literally – as in, “let me punish you with an image you won’t forget; let me show you what it means to be hurt the way you’ve hurt me!”

And yes, the loss of “moral high ground” by the Betrayed Spouse is palpable.  After maybe weeks, months, and even years of railing against their spouse’s betrayal of them (and rightly so), in person, in public maybe, to their family.  Maybe even on a blog (and Lord knows there are a lot of them written by angry Betrayed Spouses).  Yet the Revenge Cheater turns around and does the very thing that was so hurtful to them.  Often using the same failed arguments their Cheating Spouse used to justify what they did.  It’s not adult. It’s not logical.  But it is hypocrisy at it’s finest.  Maybe we should call it a “Hypocritical Affair” instead of a “Revenge Affair” in these cases.

In fact, I will go further than that.   While all cheating is wrong, and all cheaters are reprehensible, Revenge Cheaters are, to me, a worse type of cheater between the two, and more reprehensible.   Few people have an affair in order to purposely hurt their spouse.  In fact, the vast majority of cheaters have affairs because of deep, unmet and critical emotional needs in their marriages, and/or deficits within themselves.  They, in fact, go out of their way to hide their affair and spare their spouse the pain of discovering this massive betrayal.  So when the Betrayed Spouse has an affair for revenge purposes, to me, it’s even worse.  When someone decides to have a revenge affair it’s completely different, because they are actually having an affair with the intention of hurting their spouse.    Affairs are not about someone waking up one day and thinking, today I’d really like to hurt my spouse. Now let me see. What mean, evil, terrible thing can I do to hurt them. I know I’ll have an affair. That will really get them! That’s not how affairs generally happen, but that’s what a revenge affair is.

And in fact, the Revenge Cheater has purposely used another human being (the third party) as part of their plan to hurt someone else. This is not love or caring.  It’s appalling.

There are three types of “Revenge Affairs”:

  1. The One-time Only Revenge Affair.  This is usually an isolated incident in which the infidelity victim has a one-time affair with the person who is most accessible to them at the time.  Often, these kinds of revenge affairs are one night stands — sometimes with total strangers – and are often committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  The infidelity victim feels vindicated, even if the spouse or significant other who cheated on them never finds out about the revenge affair.
  2. The Carefully Orchestrated Revenge Affair.  Some victims of infidelity go to great lengths to cheat with someone they feel will cause extreme emotional damage to the spouse or significant other who cheated on them.  It could be the cheater’s best friend, a sibling, or other family member; a business rival, or a deadly enemy.  The infidelity victim carefully orchestrates the situation to ensure that the cheating spouse or significant other will be certain to find out about the revenge affair.  This kind of revenge affair is done in a very calculated manner, designed to cause total devastation, or maximum emotional “shock and awe.”
  3. The Non-Sexual Revenge Affair.   For religious, moral, or ethical reasons, some infidelity victims who seek revenge cannot bring themselves to become sexually involved with someone else.  So they attempt to even the score, or strike back at the cheater by having an online or cyber affair. Or by having an emotional affair with someone they come in contact with on a regular basis.  Because the infidelity victim is in an emotionally vulnerable state, the non-sexual revenge affair could easily progress to a sexual affair.

But, let’s be clear:  Having a revenge affair is going to make your life worse, not better. . It ends up doing more damage, to your marriage and to your own soul. In fact, before you embark on one, you might as well draw up the divorce papers, because that’s where you’re likely to end up. It’s disastrous.

Revenge affairs don’t work.   When you have a revenge affair, your spouse doesn’t feel the same level of betrayal. Instead they generally end up feeling better after the revenge affair, because there is something inside human beings that experiences guilt – that feels we need to be punished, to pay a price for our wrongs.  If we pay a price (our debt), then we can be forgiven, restored and released from our guilt (we think).  If the Betrayed Spouse has a revenge affair, the unfaithful spouse got their punishment. The price has been paid. Their guilt is diminished. They feel better about themselves, not worse.  So the revenge affair does not have its intended outcome.

It’s like saying, “well, if she did it, now I’m off the hook! Great!”  Guilt, shame, and a desire to fix the marriage are often washed away in one great tide caused by the revenge affair. In fact, you may have given your spouse a guilt-free reason to walk out on you. Or have another affair. Or both.  They won’t feel pain. They will feel RELIEF!  They may even think that now they have the green light to re-ignite their affair or move on to another affair partner.  Your revenge affair has given them the excuse by removing your ability to express moral outrage for their behavior.

And then they may show you the door.  That’s what I would do at this point.  It would destroy any chance of marital reconciliation.

Revenge affairs also fail to make the initially Betrayed Spouse feel better, like they think it would.  They think, “He/she got to go out and have all that fun. I’ll go out and have that fun too.”  The problem is, when you go out and have an intentional affair, it’s usually not that fun. When the initially unfaithful spouse first has their affair there is a thrill and an excitement as they gradually slide across boundaries.

A non-revenge affair is, frankly, different than a revenge affair.   The typical love affair will often start at work, or some other similar contact point, sharing emails which gradually become compliments, flirtations, sharing of information that’s more personal than should be shared, and eventually even explicit. The next thing you know they’re all excited to check their emails, or get on their computers, or meet that person at the water cooler at work again, trying to time their coffee breaks at the same time, to get another compliment. Everyday is getting more and more exciting (and this is often long before the unfaithful spouse is even aware they’re getting caught up in an affair).

However, for the Revenge Cheater, who merely decides, “I’m just going to go sleep with somebody!”, this is not out of the motivation of excitement, unmet needs and longing.  It’s instead an expression of anger and pain. You don’t get to experience the fun of an affair. Revenge affairs don’t give you the same thrill, excitement or the chemical high that you think they will.

Instead you feel scummy, especially after.

tombRevenge Affairs rarely yield the expected result, and often have consequences not considered by the Revenge Cheater.  The infidelity victim may think he or she is teaching the cheating spouse a lesson, or showing the cheater how it feels to be cheated on. But revenge cheating rarely has the intended effect.  Instead of solving the problem, it could actually make a bad situation worse.

There’s always the danger that the revenge affair could backfire and produce the opposite results. The cheater who is being retaliated against by his or her the infidelity victim’s revenge affair as an excuse to continue cheating on their mate, or as justification to have other affairs.

A revenge affair is often the beginning of a downward spiral that will eventually destroy what’s left of the marriage or relationship.

You might feel exhilarated with the thought that it’s not just your partner who can play this game. Since you know about his/her affair, perhaps you think that once he/she finds out about your affair, he/she would apologize and want to come back. Or if we look at the scenario from a completely different point of view, maybe you want him/her to suffer the same pain, betrayal, and heartache as you once felt. Whatever the reason behind this affair may be, in the end, it’s only you who has to deal with it.  Getting over an affair is not easy, but lowering yourself to their level, losing face in front of yourself is not the only way.  You may think that the pain you went through could be inflicted to your partner by this affair, but the results could be either way.  If he/she was oblivious enough to have an affair in the first place and cheat on you, what makes you think that he/she would give a damn. Your dignity and self-esteem are the two most important things in your life, so don’t waste it after an adulterous partner.

Of course, the problem with revenge affairs is that they are a bit more “nyah nyah nyah” than we, as adults, would like to admit.  Tit for tat is a rather immature approach to dealing with hurt, and revenge affairs are nothing if not regressive. The urge to get back at those who bully or injure us emerges when hurt morphs into rage, before we are even able to put words to our feelings.

Revenge, retaliation, vengeance: these approaches to dealing with pain may seem initially satisfying – and they can certainly energize us out of the numbing depression that betrayal can impose – but in the long run revenge only eats up the souls of those who invest energy in it.

And if you have children together, and they know (or may know one day in the future), then the unfaithful spouse can feel redeemed by saying, “well, mommy/daddy had an affair too.”

There is also the issue of the other person you have the revenge affair with. You will be using this person in a selfish way, and that person didn’t do anything to you to deserve that.   At some point this person will likely get hurt. How can hurting yet another individual be okay?   How do you live with yourself using someone else this way?

Oh yeah and by the way?  Male responses to a cheating spouse or partner sometimes are characterized by domestic violence.  You’re risking a lot to even the score, in this case.

So before you engage in the same immoral, tawdry activity your spouse did, ask yourself these questions:

  • “How does me becoming a lesser person make things right?
  • “What kind of person am I if I allow my spouses bad choices to cause me to make bad choices too?
  • “Am I going to lower my standards, just because they lowered their standards?
  • “If they choose to be lesser, how does me choosing to be lesser make things right?
  • “Am I going to lose my dignity just because they made a choice to lose theirs?”

Two wrongs. Or 4.  Or 10. ….still don’t make a right.

The best revenge is to refuse to compromise your dignity or your principles by stooping to the cheater’s level and having a revenge affair.  The best thing to do is to seek qualified professional help in order to deal with the trauma of the affair, and move forward with or without the cheater, move on with your life.

So if you’re thinking seriously about having retaliatory affair, consider the advice below:

• Don’t lower yourself to the cheater’s level by cheating too. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

• Don’t sell out your own dignity or compromise your principles just because your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend had an affair.

• Seek qualified professional help in dealing with the discovery or the aftermath of an affair.

• Remember – revenge may make you feel better for the moment, but in the long run it’s not worth the time and effort.

I believe all affairs are wrong.    I’ve been very consistent on that point in my blog. I learned the hard way.  If you are that unhappy in your marriage, leave.  But I do think redemption is possible. I’m living it.  I try and look at all actions by both the Wayward and Betrayed through the prism of “Does this help the marriage or hinder it?  Is this a positive thing to say/do to help in reconciling the marriage, or is it a step back?”  To me, the revenge affair is one of the worst possible reactions to affairs and will almost always lead to the end of the marriage, and other, possibly, worse consequences.

I don’t suggest doing it.

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


7 thoughts on “Engaging in a Revenge Affair and Why it Won’t Work

  1. I agree that a revenge affair will typically make the betrayed spouse feel worse not better. However to claim that a revenge affair is worse than a romantic affair is ludicrous. Both are painful and hurtful.

    If a cheater refuses to reconcile after his hurt spouse has a retaliatory affair due to hurt, unresolved anger, and great pain, caused by learning a trusted spouse acted in a deceitful waym than the cheater still loses ALL THE MORAL ground.

    If the cheater expects his hurt spouse to forgive his affair, the cheater should also forgive, and to a greater degree, a hurt spouse’s retaliatory affair. How could he/she a caught cheater, not forgive a retaliatory affair, and still look themselves in the eye in the morning.

    For a cheater to then divorce the hurt spouse or to cheat again, is the really immoral thing to do, after a hurt spouse engages in a retaliatory affair.

    The cheater, IMO, needs to finally suck it up and except responsibility.

    The cheater after all caused the revenge affair by emotionally damaging the hurt spouse. When the hurt spouse has a revenge affair, it is caused by pain and horror and self doubt caused by being cheated on and stabbed in the back by the person they are suppose to trust most in life.

    Now for the cheater o again cause more damage to the marriage by refusing the give the forgiveness they asked for from the hurt spouse, after a retaliatory affair……Now that is hypocritical and even sick.

    Now after the revenge affair, both should STOP cheating and work on the marriage.

    Your posting here sounds as if you are expecting a retaliatory affair from someone and are trying to demonize this person? Are you?

    • *sigh*. No I didn’t write this blog, or any blog entry, specifically about myself, situation or my spouse. And no I don’t worry about it. If you took even 10 minutes to scan this blog, or read the “about me” section, you would’ve realized that.

      As far as you thinking that revenge affairs are somehow ok, well, that’s your opinion. Just because someone cheats on you, it’s not a license to do whatever you wish. to engage in a revenge affair, to me, is even worse. And I laid out the reasons in the blog, so I’m not going to state them here. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and if you want to save your marriage, a revenge affair is about the worse thing you can do. That’s my point. Perhaps too hard for you to grasp?

      But thanks for the input. I’m always happy when perfect people arrive here to instruct the rest of us from their moral high ground.

      • First, I’d like to say that you’re article is excellent. It speaks to the person considering doing such a thing and dissuaded them from doing so. There is no redemption for the hurt spouse in a retaliatory affair, and there is no healing. The hurt felt by a Betrayed Spouse is massive and they are looking for anything that will help them cope. A retaliation is our desire to lash out at the one who hurt us. But when that retaliation hurts us too (and affair damages the self no matter what) then we are left with more hurt than when we started. If you can’t bear the hurt, then be righteous in your action and just leave. These are tough choices, but the choice to have a revenge affair hurts you to inflict hurt… And you’re already hurting.

        But to John’s point (which I don’t see as justification for a revenge affair) the one who first caused the betrayal must ‘see’ the pain they caused and would be completely hypocritical for trying to take the high ground over the spouse exacting revenge. I don’t think John is wrong here, but consider that the Betrayer is not the person I would trust to set things right again. After all they are they one who was messed up enough to have an affair in the first place.

        So as unfair as it is, it usually falls on the Betrayed Spouse to do the heavy lifting and find forgiveness in their heart. The reward should be the dedication and appreciation of the Forgiven. If there is no promise of this reward, then just leave and find someone else. Forget using an affair for the sake of revenge.

      • Thank you for your input. It was thoughtful and reasoned. I do appreciate it.

        I agree that it’s important that the betrayer sees the pain they caused. But a revenge affair is not the way to do it, for all the reasons I laid out in the blog entry. John seems to be saying that he doesn’t agree that a revenge affair is even worse than the original. I disagree. Again, for all the reasons I laid out in the blog which I won’t I won’t repeat. Affairs are bad. Awful. I’m consistent on that point. but to me, to engage in an affair (revenge or otherwise) with the express purpose of hurting someone is worse.

  2. I entertained this idea for all of about 20 seconds, and then discarded it. It’s a fantasy, born of pain, a severe blow to your ego & self esteem, and the baser human need to return an injury in kind. And it almost certainly wouldn’t work. I think you’re right – I think it’s the difference between doing something you know is wrong in the heat of the moment, and doing it in the cold, calculating light of revenge. One, I could consider forgiving, the other, not at all. And if revenge evens the score in any sense, I don’t think this is a sense you really want to be even in. Unless you & your spouse’s view of marriage is attrition warfare. In which case, unless you both enjoy that sort of thing, get a divorce already.

  3. My wife had an affair if you can even call it that as she asked repeatedly to have sex with another man. She felt she needed sexual diversity for various reasons. I always told her “no” as we had had our time and now it was the kids time to explore the world. She after waiting a couple years went off and did what she felt she needed to. When I found out I within a day said: 1. without fidelity there isn’t obligation and that I felt free of any to her; 2. our past is not valuable anymore to me; 3. I can never be a cheater as I am freed of obligation and might engage women in the future if it so happens; 4. if she did it again the marriage is over; 5. that our relationship is now 2/3 marriage and 1/3 divorce; 6. that we might be together 50 more years but that we will always have a space even if it is 1/100 of an inch between us.

    I have been careful not to act quickly as there is no rush after being together over two decades. I have been careful not to fall out of love with her. I have been careful not to forgive. I will never lover her again as my one and only; my lover that made life unimaginable without.

    We have a much better time together two years after. All hostility between us is gone now that she got it out of her system. Life is nice. Kids better off. All good.

    So why not forgive? Frankly because I don’t see the need to. I’ve been honest with my position. I did the one and only thing for a long time and why not feel something else. I’m I pissed, yes; hurt, yes; possessed by negative NRG, yes; but listen frankly we are here such a short period that why not live a different way other than the traditional model that is permanently erased anyway. I appreciate love and hate; help and hurt; peace and war as I both have a civil and caveman side.

    So on we go; very close but not one; our life’s intertwined making being together the only smart move; kind, close, together. A new life was forced on me and I am rolling with it. I love her, help her, wish her the best but do so at a slight distance which she senses because it is real. I don’t seek revenge and don’t really see how being with another will bring resolution. It won’t, clearly it doesn’t per the Internet. This is about living a different way one that accepts the dual reality of positive and negative.

    • If you’re both happy and your marriage is great just the way it is, then there is nothing to say that you can’t have a non-traditional marriage. It doesn’t sound like you’re all that happy though – more like you just haven’t found a good enough reason to leave yet. Like if opportunity presents itself, you’ll feel free to pursue it and not sweat the consequences. But there most likely will be consequences, whether you appreciate them now or not. I would advise you to seek professional help & actively try to repair your marriage. Whether you think you need to or not, it’s obvious there was a problem, and it’s still unresolved. Counseling could definitely help. She did something terrible, and you were deeply hurt by it. She needs to own that, and try to repair the damage, and you need to decide if you’re willing to let her. But just ceasing hostilities, and moving on without addressing the problem & seeking a resolution is not going to make either of you happy long-term. You’re right, life is short. Why waste years of precious time just keeping the peace, and all the while resenting her, when you could both put in the time and effort now to have something great for the rest of your lives?

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