If you’re thinking about having an affair, it’s likely there are things you haven’t thought about. People rarely see their circumstances objectively though clouds of passion and obsession. And even if you think you’re being realistic about worst-case scenario outcomes, there are always unforeseen consequences.
How do I know this? Because I’ve lived it. And because over decades, I’ve seen many others live it.
I write this in hopes I can spare a sister from the same stupidity of those who have gone before her. I’d like to think some women can learn from the mistakes of others and not have to learn everything the hard way herself. It’s worth a shot.
So without any attempt to justify or sugar-coat the ramifications of this decision, here are four things to think about if you’re thinking of having an affair.
Secrets Rarely Stay Secret
You likely assume no one will discover your secret or that a trusted confidant will keep it, but an assumption is not a guarantee. Slip-ups happen. Confidants share tales with confidants of their own. Spouses get suspicious.
So unless you’re ready for an affair to become public knowledge and you’re ready to deal with the fallout from it (anticipated and unanticipated,) don’t start it.
Your Marriage Will Never Be The Same
Prepare for your marriage to die – at least to some degree. Even if it doesn’t end (statistics say one-third of marriages survive infidelity,) it will never be the same. Understand that to forgive and forget is purely a sentiment. Of course, your spouse may forgive you, but short of being lobotomized, it’s impossible to forget such a hurt. Nor should they. Only a fool learns nothing from their pain.
That goes for you, too. Every awful decision we make in life should be something new, not a repeat of things we never learned from. That requires a degree of remembrance of our past sins. I don’t mean wallowing in them. I mean maturing through them.
Also know that the marital issues which existed before you had an affair will only get worse afterward, at least for a long season. Your spouse will need time to process their anger and grief. And you don’t get to decide how long that should take.
All Of Your Relationships Will Be AffectedAlthough the morals of our culture are quite elastic, society is still harsh toward marital cheaters. And that’s as it should be. Click To TweetAlthough the morals of our culture are quite elastic, society is still harsh toward marital cheaters. And that’s as it should be. God forbid we lose all respect for the covenant of marriage.
In addition to the probable loss of your marriage, you’ll also lose friends. Your attached girlfriends now have reason to suspect your loyalty and will give you the side-eye around their men. Some will not take the risk of remaining your friend.
Your parents, siblings, and extended family will lose respect for you. They just will. They may understand your marriage had issues, but they also understand marital infidelity is no way to handle marital problems.
The relationship with your lover will change. Even if you leave your previous lives behind and marry, the passion will be dulled by shame, guilt, blame, suspicion, or a stew of it all. Some lovers marry because, with reputations in shreds, they’re all each other has left. Or, they feel they need to marry to prove the affair wasn’t an exercise in futility. With foundations as weak as these, it doesn’t take long to begin asking “What have I done?” By then it’s too late.
Without a doubt, the most affected relationship will be with your children. It’s still a big deal for a child to have their nuclear family destroyed even if most of their friend’s parents are divorced too. And it will be painful to watch their resentment grow as their understanding grows. If you go into an affair presuming your children’s resilience and adaptability, at least admit you don’t deserve their trust.
Prepare For A Lifelong Haunting
Finally, if you’re thinking of having an affair because you’ve fallen in love with someone other than your husband, know that conflict won’t end even if the affair does. It’s hard to unlove someone even if you try hard.
Your lover will appear unbidden in your dreams. He’ll come to mind when you hear certain songs, go certain places, watch certain programs. And when a national tragedy occurs, you’ll know he’s hearing the same news. I’ve never come across anyone who wrote about this maddening aspect of affair fallout. The recollections are never-ending and exhausting. Nevertheless, you should brace yourself for it.
So if you’re thinking of having an affair, think about these things too. Nearly 30 years ago, I wish I had.
(If you’re interested in how I picked up the pieces of my life after wrecking it with an affair – and how you can, too – check out this post.)