What happens when an affair ends a marriage?
What Happens When an Affair Ends a Marriage?
These days, nobody's social circle is without someone who's gotten, getting, or about to get a divorce. The impact of divorce looms so large--or perhaps it's so commonplace--that it's easy to ignore how it comes about.
A couple I know is in the middle of a divorce. In this case, one partner moved out suddenly, filed for divorce, and "quickly" took a lover. All indications point to the prior existence of a hidden affair.
In this situation, our hearts go out to the partner who remains monogamous. We understand their feelings of humiliation, envisioning themselves as the butt of derision from the trysting couple--or as the object of scorn from neighbors and coworkers. Overwhelmed by a potent mixture of anger, guilt, and wounded narcissism, they're often kept afloat by the solace and support of caring friends. The faithful spouse is perceived as the more disadvantaged, almost without fail. After all, the other partner is now comfortably ensconced in a new relationship.
PATTERNS OF FALLING OUT As a sex and marital therapist, I've seen lots of marriages dissolve in this pattern, and it has changed how I focus my efforts to help both partners. For all the emotional turmoil monogamous spouses endure, I've also known them to emerge from this situation in better emotional shape than they've ever enjoyed before. Not so for the spouse who "found someone new" before separating from their current partner, all the while lying about it.
While the pain of the monogamous spouse is immediate and apparent, the fallout for the adulterous spouse is usually longer in coming and less predictable--until you understand what's going on.
PATHS TO GROWTH Some people become richer, fuller, happier human beings by staying in their marriages; others accomplish this by getting divorced. But I've never seen growth occur when someone continues an extramarital affair while ending their marriage.
"I've outgrown you"--sugar-coated as "We've grown apart"--is often the stated reason for the split. They may look like they're standing on their own two feet, or even standing up to their spouse, but when there's an extramarital affair going on, it only seems that way. Such behavior is a charade of independence, integrity and personal growth, not the real thing. The departing spouse isn't just holding onto a "new" partner while they let go of the other; more often, they're leaning on the new partner because they can't or won't stand up--or hold onto--themselves.
Although real efforts towards autonomy may get worked out in the new relationship, that's not often the basis on which the new partner is selected. The spiffy new relationship frequently lacks sufficient resilience and motivation to support the tough struggles of self-development and bonding. But neither spouse appreciates this while they're divvying up the household.
MAKING A HEALTHY BREAK Getting out of your marriage is one thing; how you go about it is another. Using an affair as a support system or transitional process is often like leaning on a rubber crutch. It offers the least benefit to people who have difficulty standing on their own two feet. Yes, some people find this is the only way they can "make the break." But in that case, what looks like an act of autonomy and growth is really pseudo-maturity--which actually interferes with personal development while masquerading as the real thing.
The bottom line: If you've got to go, use different advice for extramarital affairs than you do for your credit cards: "Make sure you leave home without one."
Re:What happens when an affair ends a marriage? jen: fd-
thanks for posting the article. It was just what I needed to hear today :)
Re:What happens when an affair ends a marriage? OldSchool: Good article, feelingdown. Thanks for posting it! I just wanted to elaborate on this, since I've recently talked to an ex-friend of mine on Thanksgiving. Long story short, he separated from his wife about a year before my divorce. He admitted to having an affair, and his new-found life took precedence over his spouse and-then 2 yr old daughter. Well, I couldn't bare or stand to be around him but I knew he was struggling with his decision. He was trying to justify his actions to me... all the while he seemed empty and kind of hopeless in his actions. Now looking back on it... he seemed very lonely and depressed.
Fast-forward to a year later when my situation arose, and my wife tells me of her affair(s). Well, my ex-friend was still lingering around and now thought he had a buddy to go clubbing with. We did hang out a couple of times, but it seemed so pointless. At the time he was dating 3 women and one of them was married with 2 kids. He tried to convince her to divorce her husband. That didn't work and within 1 WEEK all three of them dumped his @ss!!!
Not only that, I also said adios as a friend to him. I didn't want anything to do with him esp. when he knew what I had just gone through.
We spoke for the first time on Thanksgiving since about 2 years ago. His ex-wife was getting remarried. She was a very cool women, so I'm happy for her. Now he had this new girlfriend and under his breath said he was thinking of marrying her. Well, he's got no money, has a Lexus payment, motorcycle payment and child support and now he's living w/ his parents. He doesn't have any/many friends still and now he thinks getting married will help his situation.
I don't think I'll ever see/speak to him again, but that does give me a big glimpse into what does happen to a person that decides to bolt from a marraige w/ a slut or two under his arms... it doesn't last! I don't feel sorry for him, but his ex is now doing great!
Just thought I'd share that....
Re:What happens when an affair ends a marriage? in_search_of: [quote"> "I've outgrown you"--sugar-coated as "We've grown apart"--[/quote">
Ummm, I didn't cheat, though, I was the leaver, and I used this, and I never thought of We've grown apart (which we both felt we had) as being "I've out grown you, until just now, because that is exactly what had happened, and which could explain why he is 25 and dating and 18 year old, and I am 24 and dating 34 year olds.
Re:What happens when an affair ends a marriage? raistlynne: Thank you for posting the article - it's very enlightening. :o