An extramarital affair, in the eyes of many, is probably the worst thing that can happen to a marriage. A breach of trust of such proportions has to signify the beginning of the end, right? Well, not really. When all is said and done, the psychological effects of affairs don’t pan out as the movies might have shown you they do.
Sure, it’s a horrible thing to go through, but the intricacies of what happens next largely depend on the dynamics of the relationship and the personalities of the people involved. Not everyone goes through the usually depicted stages, and not every marriage fails as a result of infidelity.
With the help of counselor Manjari Saboo (Masters in Applied Psychology and Post-Graduate Diploma in Family Therapy and Child Care Counseling), founder of Maitree Counselling, an initiative dedicated to the emotional well-being of families and children, let’s figure out the effect of an affair and the damage it may cause.
Reasons Why Affairs Happen
Before we get into the psychological effects of affairs, let’s first try and figure out the psychology of an affair. “A marriage is all about love, trust, respect, and care. Generally, when a partner experiences a lack of any of them or gets weaker emotionally, mentally, or physically, they might tend to look for comfort elsewhere.
“At the initial stage, the comfort of the extramarital affair is what appears most enticing. S/he may not even realize that they’re starting to develop feelings for the third person since they’re not thinking much beyond the immediate comfort and gratification it offers,” says Manjari.
According to psychologists and relationship experts, affairs may happen for the following reasons, among others that may be unique to your dynamic:
- Individual characteristics may encourage a person to cheat
- Low relationship satisfaction
- Context/situational factors
- Emotional and physical needs not being met
- A low commitment towards the relationship
- Need for external validation
- Not having a positive relationship
The psychology of an affair differs from relationship to relationship since no two dynamics are the same. That being said, what exactly are the consequences of an affair, and can a marriage be salvaged in the aftermath of an affair? Let’s find out.
How Does An Extramarital Affair Affect A Partner?
If you just found out that your partner has been cheating on you, your entire world might come crashing down. We don’t blame you, as the revelation must be draining you emotionally and psychologically. All the negatives of infidelity must be hounding you, making you feel wilted, betrayed, and traumatized. The effects of this extramarital affair must be devastating for you.
Not all cases of infidelity end in a divorce, but many do. Trust is sacred in a marriage, and once broken, it can give rise to many conflicts within the holy institution. Here we take a look at a few possible repercussions and upheavals in your marriage after your partner’s infidelity has been discovered:
1. Sense of injustice must be occupying your thoughts
From encouraging your spouse in their accomplishments to supporting them relentlessly in tough times, you have invested a lot in your marriage. After encountering spousal infidelity, you must be feeling cheated for no fault of yours. Of course, your “happy love nest” is not happy anymore, due to the toxic adultery or emotional affair.
With his treacherous act, you must feel that this breach of trust is “unjust” to you. Undoubtedly, being cheated on changes you. Your spouse didn’t honor the wedding vows and gave in to temptation. This ought to have clouded your perspective, making you wonder who is at fault in this situation.
You may blame the Gods or fate, and you may even believe that you, in some way, were responsible for your spouse cheating on you. That can be devastating for a person. Remember, all marriages have problems, and it is not by cheating that issues are resolved.
2. Betrayal might erode the faith in your marriage
When you learn of your spouse’s infidelity, the foundation of your love for them is severely weakened. Negative feelings infest your marriage and the love you shared with them once has dissipated due to this toxic influence. Understandably, things won’t feel the same as before.
One of the worst psychological effects of affairs is that it changes your equation with the cheating partner and hampers the bond of eternal love in your marriage. It will probably feel like it will never be the same ever again.
3. Trauma of cheating must be eating you from within
The emotional breakdown is primarily caused by the breach of trust by the spouse. As a result, you may slip into a traumatized state. The emotional torture and humiliation don’t end here. You may feel victimized and start thinking about the reasons and causes of cheating.
Disoriented and confused thoughts must have eclipsed your thinking capabilities. This is very likely to lead you to blame yourself. The grieving caused by an extramarital affair takes the partner on a roller coaster of emotions and creates an environment of negativity.
Related Reading: 10 Signs Your Husband Is Having An Affair
4. Future of your marriage is uncertain in your mind
The emotional upheaval is of grave concern if you are dependent on your spouse financially or if you have kids to look after. You might contemplate if you should forgive your cheating partner for the sake of your marriage, children and family. Though it may seem like the only thing you can do, putting it into practice is far from easy.
The consequences of an affair leave the innocent partner feeling unstable and emotionally weak. From a practical perspective, our experts suggest the partner should regain their confidence at this point in time. Don’t follow your impulses and take a rushed step. Talk to some friends or elders for sane advice and let the matter settle before you take a call on your future course of action.
5. Scared of the negative effect on your familial ties
A cheating partner may have a huge impact on your family. If for the sake of family and kids, you decide to stick together, it might still be difficult for you to rebuild the relationship. After knowing about the infidelity, it may seem extremely difficult to let yourself be intimate with your partner again. All these factors can thus create a distance between both the partners and drive you apart emotionally.
If you decide to separate from each other, the divorce proceedings might be emotionally draining. The effects of extramarital affairs on the family can be difficult too since the separation between parents and kids can have a negative effect on both. When you decide to work past it and work on your marriage, it may not seem like the easiest journey to be on, especially during the beginning.
You can separate within the marriage and live as strangers or as partners fulfilling family responsibilities. So, it can be said that an episode of cheating can wither or break the family relationships in a marriage.
6. Disorientation may disturb your ‘peace of mind’
Discovering that your partner is cheating on you may completely mess up your world. It may lead to large-scale emotional disorientation. It is possible to feel a huge gap in your life due to the lack of support that your partner provided you. The immediate feeling of being “alone” can often be extremely unnerving and lead to a mental breakdown.
Related Reading: How To React To Your Partner’s Extramarital Affair?
7. Carry the relationship baggage all ‘alone’
Spousal adultery may make you feel weak and exposed to a lot of uncertainties, especially when your partner leaves you hanging without ever really committing to change. S/he may even choose to stay with the “other” and not return to try and fix the marriage.
Such times test your patience and make you emotionally distant from the spouse. With family responsibilities in hand or other circumstances, you may feel like a withered soul carrying relationship baggage all alone. You may become dry and dull, and withdraw emotionally from a relationship.
8. Jealousy against the “other” person in their life
An extramarital affair is like a tug of war between a spouse and the “other” partner. Once you get to know about your spouse’s cheating, you may start feeling jealous of this other person. You may find it difficult to accept that your spouse would rather be with someone else.
It’s no surprise that the psychological effects of affairs include developing hatred toward the third person in your relationship. You may even feel like expressing your angst through a heated confrontation.
9. Self-esteem issues will crop up
An extramarital affair by your partner may strike a heavy blow to your self-esteem. You may start to see it as your mistake and start questioning your actions. It’s likely that you will question your own ability to keep your partner happy. Emotional and mental stress often results in self-accusation, leading to an inferiority complex in most cases.
Related Reading: Why It Is Important To Save Evidence Of Cheating Spouse
10. Experience loss of trust in the marriage
Trust is the foundation of every relationship. When your partner cheats on you, it destroys the trust bond in your marriage. There is every chance that the effect of infidelity will sustain itself over a long time. Getting over it may prove to be an extremely difficult task.
If you decide to reconcile with your partner, it may be quite a while before you can bring the trust back. You may start to question your judgment of people and feel doubtful all the time.
Help For Mending A Broken Marriage After An Extra Marital Affair
If reading about all the effects of extramarital affairs on a family and on an innocent partner has got you convinced that a couple can never work past it, think again. A 2021 survey reported that of the marriages that admitted to experiencing infidelity in their dynamic, 24% managed to stay together.
“Though it may seem like the end of the world, an extramarital affair is not certain to end the marriage. The first thing the couple needs to do is confront each other, deal with the issues, and honestly communicate about the loose ends that led to infidelity,” says Manjari.
“Marriages can be fixed after an affair when the couple deals with it constructively by facing it and not running away from addressing the elephant in the room. Apologizing genuinely, forgiving the offender, and simply accepting it are all necessary.
“Weigh out the pros and cons of staying in your relationship and analyze the priority and timely needs of each other. For example, keep in mind things like your financial status, children, future goals and aspirations, mental support, etc.
“In some cases, the effects of an affair may just end up being positive, since couples come out the other end feeling a lot more secure in this newfound commitment,” she adds.
It is quite evident that an extramarital affair brings out the insecurities of your personality, which may never leave you at all. Even if the partner comes back to you, finding it within yourself to trust this person again is a long journey. You might have suspicion, accusations, and resentments in your mind, but you’ve got to tell yourself to work on them every day.
If you decide to move on, the lack of trust may cause emotional trauma. It is important to resolve your trust issues, taking professional help for doing so can do wonders for you and your marriage.
Such relationship experts listen to your tormented tale and guide you on how to come out of this negative cycle. Based on your personal case history, they may even help you decide whether to get out of the marriage or continue living in it. You can participate in this relationship consultation all alone if you want a separation; or with your spouse, if reconciliation is on the cards. If you want more information on it, Bonobology’s panel of relationship experts is just a click away.
An extramarital affair does have the potential to turn into love, but stats suggest that the chances of that happening are next to none.
The consensus is that affairs that break up a marriage don’t usually last too long. Since the infidelity is fueled by the need for external validation, the affair ends up being a transactional relationship. It usually only lasts till both people get what they want/need from it.
Whether having an extramarital affair is okay or not is a highly subjective question that depends on the morals your relationship has and the morals you have as an individual. If your marriage practices monogamy and it has been clearly established that an affair is not okay with your partner, indulging in one is probably not the best thing to do.