Do Affairs Just Happen?

Extramarital affairs are devastating to everyone. The betrayed spouse, kids, immediate family, and even friends and coworkers bear the brunt of this earth-shattering event.

After the infidelity is discovered, the unfaithful often say, “We never intended for this to happen.” True. Most spouses don’t set out, when leaving for work, to come home having begun an inappropriate relationship. However, things like this don’t “just happen.” Many factors contribute.

There’s a commercial on television for the Plan B pill. It is a contraception that stops a pregnancy before it begins. Their slogan is, “Because the unexpected happens.” I’m sure the unexpected does, but I can’t help but think when I see this TV spot, “If you have unprotected sex, you could get pregnant. What did you think would happen? Were you sleeping in health class?” The same is true with affairs. While someone may never set out to have an affair, if you neglect your spouse and develop an attraction to someone else, what do you think is going to happen?

Another response is, “It just happened.” This statement, as well as the first, minimizes the events leading to the affair and also the hurtful ripple affect that will be felt for years. It’s like saying that September 11, “just happened.” Both statements give little credence to what has occurred and, for this reason, both are quite maddening to the betrayed.

Many marriages end when an affair takes place, but if you decide to work things out, there are some things that must occur. The cheater must grasp the extent of his or her behavior, and this understanding must be communicated to the hurting spouse. An empathic understanding is key.

In regards to the offended spouse, his/her part in this must be seen as well. Maybe he or she spent too much time doing something else. Oftentimes an affair can be the result of what both spouses have or have not done.

If you decide to work things out, keep in mind that it is a great deal of work. I have a slogan on my office wall that says, “Every true strength is gained through struggle.” Things can get better.


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