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Anyone Can Fall into a Destructive Affair
Written By: Mark Smith


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I hope that this article helps to elicit a bit of healthy fear of slipping into inappropriate relationships for anyone who might currently be toying with the concept. I do not have the writing skills to adequately convey to you the sheer agony, the life destroying shock and the core sense of complete betrayal and rejection I have witnessed in my office so many times through the years as shattered people struggled to deal with the horrifying reality of their spouse’s infidelity. The word ‘depression’ doesn’t begin to describe it. Facing the evidence of a spouse’s affair is bone crushing, spirit wounding and it conjures up the deepest and most powerful feelings of abandonment possible. And, of course, the effect on the children of the marriage is perhaps even more profound. A weak moment or some very poor judgment during a mid-life crisis can and frequently does break families apart forever. I don’t think that a straying parent has ever had a good answer when asked by their child why they are packing their bags to leave home, never to return. The ‘loved ones’ aren’t the only ones who feel the pain – the unfaithful partners themselves go through massive amounts of their own personal hells. Let me see if I can capture just a small portion of their agony...



1. They have to see the person they vowed to love forever be completely devastated.

2. They frequently get to face the fierce legal representatives of their rejected spouses whose sole purpose is to extract of pound of flesh as well as more than half of everything that you own.

3. Many times couple’s friends side with the cheated upon spouse, leaving the cheater feeling socially isolated.

4. There is somewhat of a social status change when someone moves from ‘happily married’ to ‘divorced due to cheating’.

5. If they are the husband, they get to move into a small apartment and they get to see the kids every other weekend or if they are the wife they have to go back to work and they still might have to sell the house.

6. The inner sense of guilt, shame and regret is something that many of them never work through. It haunts them like a bad dream each and every day for the rest of their lives.

7. Again, the worse consequence possible – the wails and the tears of their broken-hearted children. All and all, affairs frequently result in untold amounts of pain and anguish for all concerned over the course of several generations. It just isn’t natural and it just wasn’t meant to be – families are meant to stay together and love each other. The fleeting emotional and sexual highs are never ever worth all the pain and destruction.

Given that the price tag so incredibly high, it begs the question - why are affairs engaged at in such an alarming rate? Why to do nice, caring, thoughtful and otherwise quite loving people get involved in behavior that ultimately is exposed for being immature, selfish, destructive and even down right cruel? There are reasons why people do what people do. None of my comments are meant to excuse the unfaithful partner, but rather to make some sense out of behavior that many times just seems so completely shocking and out of character for that individual.

People truly are needy creatures. If our marriages aren’t meeting our needs, we will instinctively seek to get our needs met elsewhere. There are many directions we can go to overcompensate if our spouse isn’t meeting our needs – we could over invest emotionally in our children (which is ultimately harmful to them), we could draw a little more self esteem from over working, we can become best friends with a parent or a friend or we can attempt to lose ourselves in a new hobby. The classic beginning to an affair is the innocent lunch meeting that opens the door to some emotionally intimacy – usually some sharing related to the distant and unfulfilling marriage. Emotional intimacy leads to sexual intimacy. If you are literally starving for attention, admiration, romance, magic and touch then your behavior might even shock yourself as you find yourself entangled in something powerful and out of control that you never ever would have dreamed of starting.

A growing number of marital affairs have at its root cause relationship and or sexual addictions. Relationship and sexual addicts are so caught up in their fantasies and their sexual acting out that they have long sense lost the ability to experience true love and true intimacy from which qualities such as loyalty, fidelity and appropriate sexual boundaries flow. While the subject of sexual addiction is beyond the scope of this article, you can read more about in Patrick Carnes’ book ‘Beyond the Shadows’.

Is a marriage doomed if an affair occurs? Fortunately, the answer is absolutely not. Any chance of reconciliation the illicit relationship has to be completely severed. Both partners need to fully own their 50% of responsibility for the distance and emotional cutoff which lead to the affair and for both partners to get into a recovery program for all of their unresolved issues which have their roots in childhood. When both partners humbly work together in their quest to learn and heal, they can eventually forgive one another and then build a truly satisfying, intimate and life-long lasting relationship.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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