Consequences of an Affair

Consequences for the Unfaithful Partner & the Lover

Affairs often begin with a great deal of excitement and promise, but due to the conflicting responsibilities and secrets, the middle stages of an affair are fraught with tension. Affairs often end without resolution between the unfaithful partner and the lover.

Most of the time, unfaithful partners want to hold on to the security of their primary relationship/marriage while experiencing the exhilaration of the affair, so they just want to have their cake and eat it too. Therefore they want the affair to remain a secret and they tend to tell lies to maintain this position.

Consequences for the Primary Relationship

An affair is emotional dynamite to the primary relationship and is really like an emotional rollercoaster.

It is common for the partner of the unfaithful one to feel excruciating pain, feel used, feel betrayed, feel depressed and feel intense hatred. They can even blame themselves for trusting their unfaithful partner and not seeing it coming. The unfaithful partner can feel invigorated, while at the same time, feel guilty or ashamed for putting their partner into a living hell.

When the affair is uncovered or has come to light, the couple will often enter a crisis/emergency phase.

Common characteristics of such a couple's crisis are:

  • Intense arguments
  • Spending sleepless nights
  • Experience wild mood swings
  • Encounter irrational outbursts
  • Undergo intense anger/sadness
  • Find their world is collapsing
  • Being an emotional wreck

When couples are going through this emergency phase, the situation seems hopeless and the relationship seems to be dead. It is important to realize though, that until the emergency phase is over the insights of both partners involved are clouded.

Affairs & Infidelity & Cheating

Even when a tornado like an affair hits a relationship, the relationship won't be like a chain which will then completely break. A relationship consists of many threads that connect people and it is possible that one of these threads still hangs on and can form the basis of a new relationship.  For example, those threads may be things like; the couple's shared memories/experiences, their children, their strong emotional bond or their shared interests.

Although an affair often signals the end of a marriage/relationship, there is hope for the relationship to survive if the couple is willing to work on it and face the emotional pain. Many marriages/relationships overcome an affair, but also many couples find it easier to end their relationship than face the humiliation, death of the dream, and the anger that will surface.

When considering continuing a relationship after an affair, one could look at whether the big 4 ‘ifs' are met, which are:

  1. If both partners are willing to be patient
  2. If the unfaithful partner is willing to change
  3. If the other partner is willing to forgive
  4. If the couple is willing to confront the issues that may have given rise to the affair

Remember you are not alone and relationship counselling can provide support and guidance during this difficult process.

Reference: Blow & Harnett 2005.


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