As stated in Part 1 of this series, anger and/or a lack of respect typically propels the errant spouse to begin an affair. When an affair begins, these common risks and consequences are seldom considered, yet the aftermath’s misery lasts for years.
- High Risk Behavior: When in a monogamous relationship and accustomed to enjoying sex without condoms, you’re not in the habit of using condoms. This increases the risk for your spouse. It is then difficult to protect your spouse if you later find you have been infected. Suddenly introducing condoms with your spouse is a dead giveaway.
- Unsafe Sex: The term “safe sex” is a misnomer. No type of protection makes sex RISK FREE. Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STDs/STIs) are spread to the spouse who often finds out about the affair after contracting a disease. When in pursuit of fleeting moments of pleasure, consider the fact that those short moments may bring a lifetime of illness—or a life-ending illness for both you and your spouse.
- The fact that someone is HIV negative does not mean they are completely disease free. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is now found to be a common cause of Cervical and Oral Cancer. Body parts which have had contact with infected genital regions are also at high risk. On average, condoms prevent the transmission of HPV only 70% of the time. Many carriers of HPV are unaware of their infection. Other diseases (such as Herpes) can be transmitted when using a condom.
- Emotional needs of the lover: When in an affair, one may not consider the emotional needs and demands of the lover. If you don’t have the emotional availability for a spouse, you may soon find you don’t have it for another person—once the “new-ness” of a new partner has worn off.
- The lover may have a desire to confront the spouse to expose the affair if their feelings for the errant spouse are deep. This can also be done in retaliation—or as blackmail for the end of the affair.
- Legal trouble for Spreading Infection: In some states, individuals who have spread infection willingly have been sued—for the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as less dangerous diseases (yet lifelong illnesses—such as Herpes). Likewise, if you later find you have spread a disease to your spouse without warning him/her to get checked, you may find yourself in legal trouble. As you might imagine, no one wants to find out about their spouses’ affair this way.
- Lingering Anger/Mistrust: Affairs tend to drive a wedge between couples. Previous levels of trust and intimacy seldom return.
- Inability/Unwillingness to Trust: Your spouse may not only have a difficult time trusting you, but others as well. In the event of a divorce, the wronged spouse can find it hard to trust in future relationships.
- Retaliation: Even if you don’t divorce or separate, the hurt spouse may decide to retaliate by having his/her own affair. Their hurt feelings could cause them to seek solace from a friend, and the friendship can turn into an affair. Even if they aren’t trying to hurt you, they may want know what it’s like to stray as well.
- Facebook/Twitter, etc: Reports of your misdeeds can be spread in new forms of gossip. Before the internet, gossip spread—but left no trace. To paraphrase a popular saying, Hell hath no fury like a scorned spouse. That fury frequently finds an outlet on social media platforms. This information can be retrieved years later by a quick search—by anyone—revealing information which could prove embarrassing. Friends, enemies, a future employer, basically anyone could have access to this information.
- Would news of an affair reflect poorly on you professionally? Politicians, Clergy members, and others whose have built their careers on a squeaky-clean image don’t tend to realize that secrets can’t be kept forever.
- People always want what they can’t have: There’s a reason you married your spouse. You might have forgotten what drew you to your spouse when you’re drawn to someone else, but you are likely to remember it once you can’t have it anymore.
- Spouse will find out: While you are preoccupied with carrying on the affair you don’t notice you are leaving tell-tale signs. Your behavior will likely change and your spouse will begin to suspect. At some point, your spouse will discover the secrets you are keeping. Resolution is always easier when you’ve had a chance to confess, not when you’ve been caught “sneaking around.”
- Stress of keeping secrets: Instead of enjoying your affair, your time is spent covering your tracks. Worrying over your spouse’s discovery of emails, credit card expenses, and other evidence can lead to restless nights, and carrying on the affair and covering it up become a second job. The stress often leads to a confession. Even if the person you have chosen for the affair isn’t high maintenance, your new secret-keeping activities are!
- Can’t talk about the affair: Since the affair should be a secret, talking about the affair increases the number of people who are keeping your secret. Spouses often find out about the affair from a friend or from a friend’s friend. If you couldn’t keep your own affair a secret, how can you expect someone else to keep it a secret?
- The end of the affair: If the affair has been kept a secret, when it ends, you still can’t talk about your loss to a friend. This increases feelings of loneliness.
- Guilt: If you don’t feel guilty about the affair before your spouse discovers it, you are likely to feel guilty once they find out.
- Your value goes down: If you do divorce, you’ll be back on the dating market. At some point, a new person you’re dating will find out that your divorce was caused by your affair. (Even if you marry the person with whom you had an affair, those relationships typically end within 3 years which leads you back to the “meat market.”) Your new partner will likely suspect you of cheating—maybe not right away, but your affair may be mentioned in a fight, or your behavior may be questioned as your new partner could have trouble trusting you.
- Divorce: According to economists, the unhappiness from divorce causes a net happiness loss; the equivalent of losing $66,000 per year. (See the previous article “What is your happiness worth?”) If this unhappiness factor sounds implausible, it may be due the fact that you have not considered the stress and unhappiness from these various common factors:
- Child Custody: Childishness over custody and child visitation can linger for years. To retaliate, a hurt spouse may dredge up painful secrets in court in order to increase their chances of gaining or maintaining custody. Child Support battles and Child Support payments can be emotionally and financially draining in any divorce—if the divorce is caused by an affair, the situation becomes especially intense.
- Cost of Divorce and Legal trouble: Not only is divorce costly, a shift from shared expenses negatively impacts credit scores for one or both involved.
- Separation of Stuff: Even if there are no children from the marriage or problematic shifts in ownership, the separation of low-value yet sentimental “stuff” can be another awkward issue.
- Online Affairs: Facebook and other Social Networking sites (Second Life, etc.) are often cited as a cause of divorce. The digital trail left by “oversharing” can be easily exposed, and are often used as evidence in divorce court.
- Hiding: If you are engaged in online activities that you would hide from your spouse, it can only lead to trouble. “Harmless flirting” is typically behavior that would cause a spouse to worry—and for good cause. Such behavior normally doesn’t end at this point. (A good guideline—if you wouldn’t do it with your spouse sitting next to you, It’s probably a bad idea.)
- Non-Physical Affairs: When engaged in an online relationship, it’s taking time from your real life. Emotional detachment from your spouse either begins or deepens. The time you spend sharing your attention, affections, and sexual energy could be time spent with your spouse/family.
For more help with this issue, contact CrossRoads to make an appointment at 317-842-8881 if you are in the Central Indiana area. Click here for the next article in the series about Affairs.
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