For the purposes of this article we will discuss an affair within the confines of a marriage relationship.
An affair can be physical, emotional, or a combination of the two. A physical affair might be described as an expression of lust or passion, without the intention of a relationship. This type of dynamic is more likely to be shorter in duration and to focus on physical/sexual intimacy.
An emotional affair may not cross any physical boundaries, but instead may include the sharing of very personal information and expression of feelings. The two individuals may find themselves having long, serious conversations, talking and texting late at night, and developing genuine feelings of closeness and emotional intimacy. An emotional affair can last for long periods of time, for months or even years. In fact, this type of affair may not even require face-to-face contact to start or continue, which makes it easily accessible.
Both types of affairs run the risk of developing into something more. What may have started as a friendship or a person to confide in can develop into a sexual relationship. The individuals may not have had any intention of the friendship being anything but platonic, but the emotional connection created and fostered desire. On the flip side, a relationship that started out as only physical can grow into something deeper, which is a natural outcome of sexual intimacy.
Experts believe the emotional affair is the most dangerous because long after lust fades away, legitimate feelings of love or companionship will remain, which keep the relationship going, makes it harder for the unfaithful spouse to walk away, and is the most likely to cause a divorce.
Luckily there is a window of opportunity prior to an affair ever starting. If you have been considering having an affair, or feel tempted to let a current relationship develop into an affair, there are a few things you might want to consider.
Below is a list of realistic complications that can and will occur if you choose to have an affair. As you read through these categories, consider yourself in these situations and imagine what it may feel like to experience it firsthand, and then ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?”
6 Hard Truths if You Have an Affair
1. In order to keep an affair a secret, you will be forced to live a lie
There is a span of time between when an affair starts, and when a spouse finds out about the affair. A lot can happen in that space between. A multitude of lies and deception must take place in order to keep the secret, and keeping the secret becomes a full-time job.
You may have to come up with stories about where you go, who you are with, and why you are late or don’t answer your phone or texts. Then, you will face the challenge of having to explain away your disinterested, inattentive attitude towards your spouse.
He/she may want to know why you don’t make eye contact, why you don’t have much to say, or why you don’t talk about the future of the relationship or family. Eventually, you will run out of excuses, stories, explanations, and reasons for your change in behavior.
Also, your interest in physical intimacy or affection from your spouse will likely diminish, and he or she will notice. At first you may not realize that you no longer initiate hugs and kisses, or that your body becomes stiff and tense when your spouse reaches out for an embrace.
In an effort to hide the obvious signs of loss of interest, you may feel obligated to accept unwanted affection and put a smile on your face to pass it off as authentic. Before long, there will be nothing about your dynamic with your spouse that will be authentic, genuine, natural, or honest. Eventually, the marriage itself becomes a lie.
2. Your relationship with your spouse will change
As discussed above, the level of deception needed to keep this kind of secret is extensive. When a spouse is continuously hiding something over a period of time, it is fair to assume that their spouse will start to notice that something is going on.
It’s also fair to assume that most people cannot lie that much without it becoming apparent in their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Even if their spouse doesn’t know the details of the secret, they will notice behavioral changes and wonder what is causing it.
We all know that trust is a vital component of all relationships, and most definitely essential to a healthy marriage. So what happens to a relationship dynamic when one person has reason to believe that they cannot trust their spouse?
How altered are a couple’s daily interactions when there is suspicion and distance between them? How many conversations stay superficial and how many topics are avoided? How many plans are cancelled, date nights abbreviated, forms of affection lost and forgotten?
It may be fair to assume that everything about the dynamic between a husband and wife would change even prior to the affair being discovered or confessed.
Lastly, the way you see your spouse will change. Relationship experts Henry Cloud and John Townsend suggest that when a person decides to have an affair, they naturally view their spouse in a less endearing light, even blaming them for the need to have an affair, and begin ruthlessly picking them apart.
No spouse can compete with the excitement and draw of a part-time thrill that requires little to no commitment, compromise, selflessness, or maturity. Soon, the spouse is seen as boring, a burden, or something that should be discarded. This new image is a far cry from the spouse that you promised to love and cherish.
3. You will have to face your spouse
More often than not, spouses eventually find out that an affair has happened or is happening. They might stumble upon some evidence accidentally, get suspicious of your lies and confront you, or a friend or relative tells them the truth. In some cases, the offending spouse may confess their indiscretion directly.
Regardless, at some point you will most likely have to look your spouse in the eyes while they process pain, rejection, and anger that you created. Your spouse’s feelings and negative emotions may need to be expressed again and again, until healing takes place and they can move forward.
There’s no telling how many long, late night conversations, difficult texts, and painful phone calls will need to happen for the topic to lose its momentum and become a thing of the past. Even then, the memory may return or be triggered back to the surface, and the process will start all over again.
4. You may distance yourself from God
One of the consequences of sin is that it can distance us from God. Not because He moves away from us, but because we move away from Him. Having an affair can cause immense shame, and shame has a way of making us want to hide and isolate ourselves.
It may begin with simply avoiding prayer time with God. You know that if you talk to God you may be convicted of what you are doing, and therefore start to limit or minimize time alone with God.
Guilt may make you feel like you don’t have the right to sing or worship in church, so you start showing up late so you don’t have to face that activity. You don’t want to talk to your friends in church, because they don’t know what going on, so you rush out of the service before anyone notices you. Pretty soon you stop showing up at all.
At home, you may avoid your Bible and devotionals like the plague because you don’t want to read something that will force you to face what you are doing. Slowly, over time you have all but eliminated the opportunity to encounter God in your daily life.
The unintentional distancing from God will have an impact on your heart and well-being. You may place the blame on God and convince yourself that He has indeed rejected you due to your behavior, and not the other way around. Once you are convinced of God’s rejection, you are even more likely to turn to your affair partner for comfort and distraction, which only perpetuates the problem and creates an unhealthy cycle.
5. Friends and family may see you differently
It isn’t uncommon for the knowledge of an affair to somehow go public. That can happen in a multitude of ways. Once your spouse knows, the conversation has been opened, and will continue to be open for a period of time. That creates the opportunity for other people to observe or overhear these conversations. Maybe a neighbor hears through an open window and then shares with other neighbors. Maybe children overhear their parents arguing about the incident and then talk about it at school or with a grandparent.
For many, the indiscretion starts out being shared voluntarily. The listening ear may be from a pastor, member of the church, co-worker, neighbor, friend, or family member.
Once the information is shared, it can spread intentionally or unintentionally to other people like wildfire. It may be that a friend shares the story with their spouse or friend, or a pastor shares with another church staff member, or members of a small group share with outside members. Gossip spreads quickly in workplace environments, schools, and clubs/groups.
Once the affair is public or known by outside parties, the judgement begins. The gossip, the accusations, the opinions and discussions. You may have no way of even knowing who is aware, yet you see the looks and stares, the frowns and the disgust on people’s faces. People who once thought you were an upstanding citizen are now questioning your character and integrity.
Additionally, it is likely that if children are part of the picture, they will find out as well. Children have a tendency to hear conversations that were never meant for their ears. Also, they are skilled at picking up on nuances between their parents and making assumptions for themselves.
Even if they don’t hear or see something, another party may choose to inform them. Once they know, a child will rarely see their parent in the same light after finding out that they violated the other parent with an affair. The parent-child relationship then becomes about taking sides, alliances, distrust, and anger. If a divorce occurs, the children may very well ask to live with the parent who did not have the affair out of principle.
6. You will never see yourself the same way again
If someone asked you to describe your character, how would you answer? Most people would like to at least consider themselves to be fairly honest, trustworthy, and possessing a fair share of integrity. These are some of the building blocks to self-respect.
So what happens when the way you want see yourself, the way you want to define and describe yourself, can no longer match up with the the choices you are making?
According to theorist Carl Rogers, when an individual’s ideal self is not consistent with what is actually happening in life, this is called incongruence. Rogers also states that a state of incongruence robs an individual of peace, as their sense of identity and reality is shaken.
To be fair, the average person does not get married with the intention of cheating on their spouse. So once it happens, the individual may be in disbelief and confusion. This can lead to fear that they are not really the person they thought they were all along.
If they are capable of having an affair, the individual may wonder what else they are capable of. The identity crisis that develops from wondering who you really are is not just taxing and stressful, it is confusing and discouraging.
In the end, the impact of infidelity within a marriage has the potential for catastrophic outcomes to self, the marriage, and to the other parties involved. If you have already had an affair and are experiencing some of these struggles, just know that healing and restoration is possible and available if you seek out counsel and are willing to accept it.
A good counselor can support you in your journey to repair damage and rebuild your life and identity. Additionally, God has made forgiveness and grace readily available to those that accept this gift. There is no condemnation is Christ. In fact, in Christ we are new creatures. Scripture reads, “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold, all things are new” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17).
If you’d like someone to walk alongside you during this time, feel free to contact one of the counselors in our online counselor directory.
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