Time for a reality check.
Is an old flame reaching out to you on Facebook? Or, is there a "friend" you're spending more time talking to or hanging with who makes you feel better than your partner does? Do you feel that you deserve better attention emotionally, physically, or both than you currently receive in your relationship?
If you're reading this article, most likely you've either contemplated an affair, committed an affair or been hurt by one. And if you're experiencing situations similar to these, I highly recommend you take a moment to reflect.
Hear me out. I don't know you or your circumstances — therefore, I'm not taking any sides. But I do believe in the idea of happy and fulfilling relationships. And entering into an affair is fully a choice — and I've never found anyone who can give me a valid reason for making the choice to cheat.
But if you feel like you may be heading in that direction, consider a reality check by owning up to these eight things:
1. This is all about you and no one else.
You're struggling with some unmet want, need and/or expectation that's (maybe) due to your relationship. You either don’t know how to communicate to your partner or do not trust they will meet this need. The only one who will benefit from this affair is you.
2. You're probably confusing fantasy and reality.
An affair has more to do with your imagination and perception than reality. The one you're thinking of cheating with — he or she may feel like a confidante, or a comfort, but most of what you know about the other person is coming from your own mind, and from the context of your own marriage.
And what Katy Perry considers a “Teenage Dream” will eventually turn into a nightmare once the fantasy and reality collide.
3. You're like the rest of them.
The essence of an affair is about coping with a deficit in your life. Similarly, alcoholics, gamblers, drug addicts, food addicts, etc. all use their addictive behavior to cope with a deficit. While you're probably not addicted to sex or the other person, the “high” you experience from the temptation and time with the other person (or persons, for those on sites like Ashley Madison) keeps you enthralled and returning for more.
According to Dr. Scott Haltzman, psychiatrist, relationship researcher and author of The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity, you may have a “flame addiction.”
4. You're playing Russian roulette.
You may pride yourself on being intelligent and able to cover your tracks well. And you may have had affairs in the past that your partner hasn't discovered. But no one plans to get caught; it just happens. And neither intelligence, sneakiness nor creativity provide you with an advantage. So beware … every affair and every moment you’re in an affair is an opportunity for discovery and lethal to your relationship. And you will never know when that time will come.
5. Your spouse's emotional pain knows no boundaries.
There's no way you will ever know and understand how traumatizing your affair is to your partner, even if this has been done to you before. Everyone responds to affairs and traumatic experiences differently. If you're concerned about your partner’s pain, I challenge you to imagine the worst thing your partner could ever do to you and multiply that by 10. And then imagine having no idea when that pain will go away.
6. Your spouse will never fully heal.
It’s not just trust in you that you affair will damage. Communication, compassion, vulnerability, respect, support, love, appreciation — to name a few — will need repairing as well. The road to recovery for your partner is long and lonely. They have no guarantees that you or anyone else won't hurt them again, thus making the healing process just as painful and scary as the discovery of the affair. If you have a heart, this process is also painful for you as you watch helplessly while your partner recovers from the trauma of your affair.
7. You're gambling with the 100/50 rule.
If you commit this affair, you are 100 percent responsible for only 50 percent of the relationship’s future — because that's as much as you have control over. In other words, no matter how much you apologize, how much therapy you attend and how much you commit your life to God or some Supreme Being, your partner has just as much influence on the relationship's success. Additionally, they have the right to leave the relationship and pursue a life without you forever and perhaps with someone else. AND there’s nothing you can do to stop this.
8. You need professional advice.
An affair is never the best practice to improve any marriage. Get some help. Work on figuring out why you feel you want to stray, and how you can address these issues in a more constructive way. If you don’t seek professional advice on the front end, it may result in legal advice on the back end.