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'infidelity is caused by problems in the marriage'

(240 Posts)
Wellwobbly Tue 08-Oct-13 08:59:24

This has come up again in a thread.

I can't cut and paste (copyright), but would like to post three links of differing views, and ask people's input of what they think of them?




What do you think?

Wellwobbly Tue 08-Oct-13 09:02:46

If anyone knows the copyright rules, and can clean up those links, I would be very grateful! (Still don't know how to do a blue link on Apple mac).

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 08-Oct-13 09:04:55

Not read the links. Infidelity can be caused by problems in the marriage but not exclusively. Perfectly happy people can have affairs and utterly miserable partners can stay faithful. Some can forgive, some can't, some kid themselves they're over it when they're not. C'est la vie

Anniegetyourgun Tue 08-Oct-13 10:04:40

Our counsellor stated she had never come across infidelity without it being a symptom of something wrong within the marriage. It was true in our case (except I hadn't actually committed adultery, but I had at one point considered it - I had also considered suicide) but I did think it was an extraordinarily sweeping claim.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 08-Oct-13 10:09:59

I suppose it's a self-fulfilling statement to an extent. Even if there's nothing wrong with the relationship per se, the 'something wrong' will be the dissatisfied/opportunistic/impulsive one with the roving eye...

Anniegetyourgun Tue 08-Oct-13 10:10:18

... would add that yes, infidelity is caused by problems in the marriage, but the problem can be that one partner is easily tempted by a bit of fun they think they'll get away with. Or is an entitled fuckwit (as in your case, Wobbly). A marriage, after all, like a family, is not a thing, it's the sum of the people in it. If one of those people feels entitled to cheat, that doesn't mean the other one did anything wrong, necessarily. Although sometimes they did.

eurochick Tue 08-Oct-13 10:19:30

I think it is often true. If you are completely happy and fulfilled, you are unlikely to be tempted elsewhere. I'm sure there are exceptions though, and some people are more easily tempted than others.

OrmirianResurgam Tue 08-Oct-13 10:23:26

I would be tempted to reply 'And?'

There were some problems in our marriage.
Then H had an affair and lo and behold <drum roll> there was one MASSIVE problem in the marriage...infidelity!!

Problems in the marriage? Address them or move on.

Infedelity is caused by intimacy problems in individuals

OrmirianResurgam Tue 08-Oct-13 10:25:08

BTWI think you'd struggle to find a marriage without any problems at all.

Bonsoir Tue 08-Oct-13 10:27:27

I agree with LaurieFairyCake. People who have difficulty with intimacy (laying themselves bare before another human and accepting another human laid bare before them, in all senses of the expression) tend to have problematic marriages.

Bonsoir Tue 08-Oct-13 10:28:04

Life tends to be one long problem-solving adventure smile

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 08-Oct-13 10:28:14

Happy and fulfilled doesn't make someone immune to temptation. In fact, feeling secure and stable in a relationship might make the 'no questions asked' indiscretion seem like a chance worth taking. I think people who successfully have affairs - i.e not the ones that get caught or go around being unpleasant - manage to rationalise and compartmentalise their marriage on the one hand as being happy, fulfilled, and about love and respectability and the affair(s) on the other almost as just another pastime.

ProphetOfDoom Tue 08-Oct-13 10:45:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ProphetOfDoom Tue 08-Oct-13 10:52:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blueshoes Tue 08-Oct-13 11:09:57

Agree with Cognito. What fascinating insight.

EldritchCleavage Tue 08-Oct-13 11:29:14

This is a cop-out explanation. It would make far more sense to me (if one must make a sweeping generalisation) to say 'infidelity is caused by problems in the adulterer', but people are very reluctant to do that. Possibly because traditionally men played away much more and society rationalised and excused that.

At the very least, there is always the problem that the adulterer has chosen to have an affair rather than address his/her unhappiness with the marital relationship.

mistyshouse Tue 08-Oct-13 11:31:59

well i was unfaithful in my first marriage because my exH was a dickhead and i didn't fancy him anymore i was unhappy

there are many many reasons for people cheating, there is no one size fits all reason

Firstly, I would like to ammend that statement slightly. Infidelity is ofton caused by how people deal with problems in their marriage. Every relationship has problems to some extent. Some more than others, sometimes more than others. DW and I are having a very rocky time at the moment. I could deal with it by going out and trying to find someone else, but that would (as far as I can see) solve nothing. I'd rather deal with our problems and move on.

I saw some research that said one night stands are more likely to occur in happy relationships (one assumes that to be cause by someone who just can't control their genitals). Some of them even say they still love their partners very much, they just fancied something a bit different. (Yes, total arseholes. No disagreement.)

It also siad that long running and emotional affairs are more likely in relationships with problems. In a lot of these cases, it can begin with simply turning to someone to talk and it going to far. Maybe they are only staying together for the benefit of the kids and haven't been affectionate in a very long time.

A "problem" could even be that they've been together years and it's just not exiting anymore. Every one is different, though. Pretending every affair is caused by the same thing is ludicrous, really.

wordfactory Tue 08-Oct-13 11:36:52

From observation of freinds who have cheated or been cheated on, it doesn't seem to have that much correlation to the state fo their marriages.

Certainly some of those marriages were no worse than the unions of other faithful couples IYSWIM.

It strikes me that often the adulterer and the person they are cheating with excuse their behaviour by talking up the supposed marital problems.

RevelsRoulette Tue 08-Oct-13 11:40:56

I think there is something wrong / going wrong / wrong in the life or attitude of the person for them to choose to have an affair. Whether they feel that the marriage is the cause of that is really up to them. imo, it may be their excuse, but the cause of an affair is the people having it!

The big question is why does someone choose to betray someone they claim to love? Why do they look someone in the eye and swear that they are faithful when they know they are not? Is that a problem with 'The Marriage' or the person doing the lying?

Why do they make the choice to stay and cheat and lie rather than be honest?

When you look at it, it really is all about the person doing it. If you could get inside their head, you'd have all the answers. I don't have a clue about answers, all I have are questions.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 08-Oct-13 11:47:54

They don't see it as betrayal necessarily. It's just, as said above, something a bit different. There's a tendency, I've noticed, for people to think that the OW or OM always represents 'love' - and, in some cases (such as my exH) they do believe they love this other person and should go to be with them. But there's a (I think) bigger subset who are not looking for love... they have love at home in spades ... and have no intention of breaking up the family. They don't see themselves as unfaithful particularly either. It's just 'scratching an itch'... no biggie. I say it's a bigger subset because this person, until they are careless, can carry on doing this ad infinitum

ProphetOfDoom Tue 08-Oct-13 12:05:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bogeyface Netherlands Tue 08-Oct-13 14:09:45

I agree with whoever said that the issue is the person who has the affair and how they deal with problems. If you looked forever I doubt you would find a marriage without a single problem and if that is a green light to cheat then no one would ever be faithful.

My H cheated when our marriage was (or should have been) at its happiest. Married less than a year, expecting a much wanted child, we were blissful, or so I thought. The only problem our marriage had was him.

FrancescaBell Tue 08-Oct-13 15:27:04

The statement 'infidelity is caused by problems in the marriage' is a bit like saying 'Vomiting is caused by too much alcohol' and is as reductionist as that absurd statement. It might be one of the causes, but if a person vomits and hasn't been drinking any alcohol, where does that leave us? grin

I've probably come across more affairs of the type Cogito is describing; people who were happy at home and had no plans to leave or even make changes to their set-ups, but who had rubbish boundaries when someone else showed an interest. I think for the most part, the people I knew started off their little adventures thinking they could compartmentalise and put the affair and the marriage into discrete boxes, but most of the time it turned out they were rubbish at it.

You see, these guys and gals weren't practised deceivers. So despite all good intentions, they started acting like arses at home, found the deceit too stressful, didn't cope well with the demands being placed on them by two people and as an observer looking on, it was like watching a person completely dissemble. Their work suffered (hence my involvement), they developed the memory retention of a goldfish and so in most cases, they got found out.

The trouble is, the propoganda of the 'Problems....affair' is so strong in our society, that even the people who weren't unhappy start believing that they must have been! This sort of self-excusing probably goes on more in people who have on the surface, always done the 'right things' in life. Whereas the people who make a habit of cheating and doing unethical things are probably a bit more self-aware and know that they can't kid a kidder (themselves.)

With other types of affairs where unhappiness is more obvious (and I've known a few) I still don't think it was the only cause, although of course it must have been a factor. But I have a friend who's in a very unhappy marriage, who's had loads of opportunities to cheat without any real risk of being caught (and one man in particular would have been much better for her IMO than her wretched husband) but she just won't do it. I once had a male work colleague who was in exactly the same boat as her and he wouldn't cheat either, despite other women making it quite clear to him they'd be up for some fun.

Really, this is down to the individual isn't it? That's what must make the difference, not the state of the relationship.

chaosagain Tue 08-Oct-13 15:41:35

Or perhaps infidelity is caused by a failure of one partner to more constructively address (or even raise/discuss) the problems they're experiencing (either in the marriage or elsewhere).

Saying that infidelity is caused by marital problems is to give some responsibility to the person who got cheated on. The unfaithful partner always had other options if they were experiencing problems - options which wouldn't shatter trust, make their partner feel worthless, betrayed etc...


onefewernow Tue 08-Oct-13 15:57:36

There were problems in my marriage before his infidelity. However, many of those problems were that my H was a selfish and unsupportive gut, and in reality I thought he might change if I moaned enough.

Also, I agree it can be a hobby for some. My H had a string of Internet based liaisons ( a fucking long string), and he said he did not even consider it to relate to me in any way.

I do like the Frank Pittman classification of affairs in Private Lies. He talks about 4 types, based on his counselling career.

Wobbly, you had a link for that, didn't you?

Missbopeep Tue 08-Oct-13 15:58:29

'Problems in a marriage may lead to infidelity' is a better way of putting it. An affair may be the symptom of a disconnection in a marriage. But equally it may not be.

onefewernow Tue 08-Oct-13 15:59:09

I also think that a lot of affair havers, if male, have a skewed sense of women anyway. Often a hint or more if Madonna /whore.

There was nothing wrong with my marriage when my ex had an affair.
Even to this day he doesn't know why he risked everything (and lost).
The opportunity arose and he took it.
I think some men (and women!) have a mid life crisis and just do it because they can.

MissScatterbrain Tue 08-Oct-13 17:02:52

Frank Pittman article

Yup, the cheater is usually the one contributing the LEAST to the relationship. And just before & during the affair the marriage usually suffers as a result of the deceit, self justification, selfishness

MissScatterbrain Tue 08-Oct-13 17:03:20

and secrecy on the cheater's part.

JustinBsMum Tue 08-Oct-13 17:45:25

Well, what constitutes a problem - new baby who won't settle and wife is exhausted? new job which is making them depressed and effecting their confidence and self-esteem? money problems due to anything under the sun? ---- so all those involved are possibly going to have an affair when they wouldn't have otherwise???

Too much generalisation in the statement so impossible to answer.

FrightRider Tue 08-Oct-13 18:01:05

infidelity is caused by the married persons inability to finish one relationship before starting another.

end of discussion.

I think the statement also comes from the wronged partner trying to explain it. So we think, "what did I do that contributed to this? It's often normal to wonder what we did wrong. After the affair, we look back and see big problems were there may well have been perfectly normal relationship issues. And we see them getting worse. In fact, there may have been nothing wrong until it started. As was pointed out earlier, the deceit will cause strain on the partner who is unaware. So they may blame themselves when it is the fact that the cheating partner should just have not looked elsewhere for attention.

DameFellatioNelson Tue 08-Oct-13 18:50:19

I think exactly what Cogito said in the first post, but I do think that overwhelmingly it does indicate problems or emptiness in the marriage.

What's actually caused the affair may be the insecuritis of the cheating partner. For example, I have never cheated on DW. I am happy to come home to one woman who loves me and finds me attractive, and that is all the validation I need.

She, on the other hand, feels insecure about her appearance after having 3 kids. I still find her attractive, but she says that it doesn't help because I'm honour bound to. She seeks attention from other men to make her feel sexy again. She is now involved in what I can only discribe as an emotional affair. We are now having major issues because of it, and she refuses to reduce it back to what is a normal friendship. Tonight, she is going to get up at 10-12 o'clock at night and go out with him for 4 hours wearing her sexiest underwear. She does this a lot with him. They she will go and pick him up in the car, go for a ride, have food and sit "chatting". And I am told it is only my jealously that is the problem here. Sorry for hijacking, this, amongst other things, is driving me insane.

MissScatterbrain Tue 08-Oct-13 19:17:55

TheKnight - and what consequences are there for your wife?

It has been said on here several times - the only thing that motivates cheaters is loss. You can't stop her but you can change how you deal with it.

valiumredhead Tue 08-Oct-13 19:25:52

Personally I think that done people just can't keep their pants on. Why is it something wrong with the marriage rather than something wrong with the person?

valiumredhead Tue 08-Oct-13 19:26:18

Some not done

I don't know what to do. I've confronted her about it several times, she swears they have not slept together. And she told me that if I confront her about it again, we will split up. She knows that I am afraid of that because I don't want to lose my children, and I still have some hope that things can return to normal one day.

Other than that, they exchange several thousand texts amonth (which means she never puts her phone down) and doesn't speak to me much. She deletes all their texts to him in case I look through her phone. And spend several hours on the phone most days. They go on clubbing nights out and sometimes meet up in the day while I'm in work.

It's driving me mad. At what point does friendship go too far? I've never had a problem with her having male friends and I'm not a jealous person normally. But this is too much for me to keep coping with. What consequences? I don't know. If I leave, she's admitted he'll move in and they'll "give it a go."

Can it be me being jealous of a friendship or is this beyond what you'd accept? Oh, and they do sometimes cuddle up, she has admitted.

MissScatterbrain Tue 08-Oct-13 20:13:33

It sounds like a real awful it must be for you. Its a matter of time before she leaves you.

Go and get some legal advice to see where you stand with regards to child access and finances. You might be surprised to realise that your position is stronger than you think. 50:50 child access is becoming the norm.

ProphetOfDoom Tue 08-Oct-13 21:33:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

maleview70 Tue 08-Oct-13 21:38:34

She is bullshitting you ex said this to me. We just talk, we haven't done anything etc be fair she at least then had the balls to tell me it was over and she wanted out. However it came out later than she had been sleeping with him since the start...

Take back control. Tell her to get out and fight for your kids. See how she likes that....

Hassled Tue 08-Oct-13 21:46:24

Knights - I think you've hit the nail on the head with "Infidelity is often caused by how people deal with problems in their marriage." - as opposed to being caused by the problems.

My first marriage was very unhappy but we were both basically decent, nice people. My Ex cheated because he was unhappy - he needed the validation he wasn't getting from me, I suppose. That's how he dealt with the problems. And I can't say that if some nice young thing had come along at the right time and given me validation, it wouldn't have been me who was the cheater. That could well have been a way out of my misery.

And Knights - I'm sorry you're going through this. You do need to have a long hard think (and do some serious research) about the practicalities of a split, and whether you could cope with those practicalities. The current set-up is no way to go on, though.

Oh dear knights
Yes of course she is bullshitting you!
It's an affair - end of!
Whether it's emotional with some cuddling and kissing thrown in or whether it's a full blown sexual affair, doesn't matter.
She's getting emotional fulfilment from another man and that is an affair.
You should really start your own thread on this to see what everyone has to say.
But I can tell you one this for almost certain - she is having a fully physical, sexual affair!
Why else would she need her sexiest underwear if he isn't even gonna see it.
You need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Legal advice and kick her out. She needs to understand what she is about to lose!
I really hope you can get the help and support you need.
Please realise she is really messing you around and you are letting her!

Lweji Portugal Wed 09-Oct-13 12:28:37

I'd think that infidelity is caused by one problem in the marriage: an unfaithful partner.

If the problems are enough that someone needs a new partner, they should leave.

PostBellumBugsy Wed 09-Oct-13 12:44:11

I used to think that infidelity was the fault of both people. I even thought that as someone whose ex-H had an affair but in the 10 years since that happened, I have changed my mind.

Infidelity happens because one person makes a conscious decision to make it happen. A one night stand might be a drunken accident (still not defensible IMO) but long term or often repeated infidelity is a very conscious choice by one person who is in a committed relationship.

Even if the non-affair partner in the relationship has turned into a psychopath, put on 20 stone, refuses to have sex etc, I still don't think that those wrongs can justify the other person having the affair. They may justify the person leaving the relationship but not the affair.

So, IMO infidelity is not caused by problems in the marriage, but by one person in the marriage consciously choosing to renege on their commitments / promises.

saferniche Wed 09-Oct-13 16:00:41

Wellwobbly - great links! My favourite quote (from david clark) 'Did Nathan say David's wives and concubines hadn't met his needs?'

I think Chump Lady has it nailed.

And I agree with FrancescaBell - about several things - but especially about boundaries. We were not good at boundaries and I was far too generous about the behaviour of female friends. The only person who in any way attributed my dh's affair to me was a friend of long-standing who herself had an affair (it ended her marriage). She managed to avoid learning anything at all from the experience except that she was entitled to everything she did and that none of the theories about affairs apply to her at all in any way, even the statistics - she's unique. It's a miracle.

Most of her friends deserted her - not me - I am prime Chump material. I mean - WAS.

Other friend (of many years) was my dh's confidante - he didn't want to face a male friend who might not soothe his ego to the same extent. 'We must think of his needs,' she told me, at the point where the dcs and I were facing the possible loss of their father, home and way of life over a bunk up at a convention with an ow my dh didn't even care about. And later, disappointed possibly by dh's evident remorse: 'He shouldn't be sorry about the affair and I don't share your boundaries.' Out she goes.

This shit brings out the worst in people, like house buying or the disposal of a body.

On the other hand we have a great couple therapist who doesn't blame me and sees the affair as a distinct event, whatever else may have been happening (and I don't mind admitting to my faults). He is nothing to do with Relate.

Wellwobbly Thu 10-Oct-13 08:01:26

"However, many of those problems were that my H was a selfish and unsupportive git, and in reality I thought he might change if I moaned enough."

You nailed it - and I am still wrestling with whether that makes me an abusive person (because a lot of my moaning wasn't very nice - eventually delivered with sarcasm put downs and verbal abuse when all other attempts to be heard had failed, which I feel remorseful about).

Wow - there has just been an academic study published - ON THE CHEATER'S HIGH. Read it here :

OMG. The study says: cheating produces a gain in self-satfisfaction and even more so when they feel they have got one over someone else!!! OFFICIAL AND ACADEMICALLY PROVEN.


(can someone teach me how to do a blue link on apple mac????)

Wellwobbly Thu 10-Oct-13 08:04:47

Saferniche, what does the couples therapist say to your H about the affair, and how does he take it?

MissScatterbrain Thu 10-Oct-13 08:37:06
Lazyjaney Thu 10-Oct-13 09:10:22

I think the correct statement is "not all, but many" are caused by problems in the marriage.

The MN mantra is that the wronged partner is always the perfumed innocent, and its all down to the cheating bastard (or bitch) and the evil OW/OM - understandable but IMO misleading.

Apart from your own observation which probably refutes that, you only have to read the thousands of threads on here where people are deeply dissatisfied with their partners who seem to be oblivious/uninterested/unwilling to acknowledge any issues, to realise the reverse sex situation must exist too.

Not all will solve it via infidelity, but statistics imply very many will.

saferniche Thu 10-Oct-13 09:16:38

Wellwobbly, the therapist hasn't addressed him in a direct way about it - in the (polite) manner of 'you know this was a really stupid thing to do' - nor does he talk about affairs as such (it just isn't what he does, he's more likely to ask me how I feel, and I have been pretty vocal about responsibility). It hasn't been an issue yet because dh regrets the affair - for himself, not just because it hurt me so much. But therapist does tell my dh that his work to restore the marriage needs to be active and ongoing and he's protective of my needs, which is a huge relief after feeling so isolated. So, while he listens equally to both of us, and is equally supportive, he's not indulgent toward my dh. And dh doesn't want to be indulged on this issue.

I looked for someone who dealt specifically with infidelity but that isn't easy to find. I did not want 'let's ignore the elephant in the room and look at what YOU were doing before, and as a toddler because I bet that's where you started getting tricky'. By avoiding such a scenario we do appear to have moved away from certain excuses dh had given himself, which seems to be a relief for him too.

Once again I don't want to suggest I have no faults, but I've stopped thinking about all of them day and night in an attempt to understand something which had far less to do with me, and indeed our marriage, than with dh and, as mentioned before, a lack of boundaries.

We had a few sessions with an analyst a while ago which involved howling over my childhood as well as the current agonies, and that was shit. I still plan to set fire to her consulting hut.

saferniche Thu 10-Oct-13 09:38:33

Lazyjaney simplistic - I've seen sympathy for posters who talk about their affairs - unless they're crowing about them.

I don't think infidelity solves anything very well even when a marriage is in its death-throes (and it often is afterwards).

who seem to be oblivious/uninterested/unwilling to acknowledge any issues

That may be the answer - seem to be. How can WE tell? But I am not for staying in a marriage if someone is deeply unhappy. End it decently is best imo.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 10-Oct-13 09:40:19

Lazyjaney - you don't solve any of the problems by infidelity, you just add another often insurmountable problem to the list of problems that may or may not have already existed.

BellEndTent Thu 10-Oct-13 09:42:56

The poster who mentioned cheating men having a touch of the Madonna/whore complex about them really resonated with me. I am married myself and my husband seems to have a healthy attitude towards women and hasn't cheated (as far as I know) but I have been propositioned by two ex boyfriends over the past few years, both married, and both the type to collect women as trophies and be promiscuous when younger. I know if I was to settle with either of these men, they would become bored with me and probably cheat. As soon as you marry / have children with a man like that, you cease to be sexy, cease to be a challenge. It is their damage though, not their wives', who could be perfect and still never enough.

onefewernow Thu 10-Oct-13 14:20:03

Problems in a marriage don't require people to become accomplished liars. Full stop.

Wellwobbly Fri 11-Oct-13 06:55:04

Lazyjaney you are mixing up the two issues again. 'The MN mantra is that the wronged partner is always the perfumed innocent, and its all down to the cheating bastard (or bitch) and the evil OW/OM - understandable but IMO misleading."

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. I was running around buying all sorts of self-help books to try and fix things, and he cheated. It turns out:
1. the person who invests LESS in the marriage is the person more likely to have an affair.
2. he is officially diagnosed as being off the scale selfish and self absorbed.
3. I didn't cause him, I couldn't control him and I couldn't cure him.
4. My ultimate fault? Picking him as a life partner. I picked someone who can't actually do love, intimacy and reciprocation.

Now whether you like it or not, that is quite a common 'model' of cheaters.

I wasn't perfect, and I would have loved a chance to go to counsellng and fix things. You know, within the relationship.

But how are points 1 - 3 as identified by therapists, down to ME and the MARRIAGE?

You are wrong in your points.

Wellwobbly Fri 11-Oct-13 06:57:01

From Chumplady:

I just have one request — quit beating up on monogamy. Monogamy is not the problem. I’d like to introduce the real villain, the culprit behind infidelity and divorce — entitlement. Yes, entitlement, otherwise known as narcissism, selfishness, or “I need a few months living alone in Spain to find myself.”

Entitlement has unfairly framed monogamy for infidelity for quite some time and I’d like to set the record straight.

1. Cheating is about the thrill of being dishonest. To “cheat” you need an agreement to renege on, namely monogamy. There’s no frisson of danger in openness, no illicit sexual high to chase. A recent study ”The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior” by researchers at the University of Washington, the London Business School, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania show that cheaters feel happier after cheating. Why? They feel superior, more clever than the people they just chumped. Screwing around feels awesome, so long as you’re short on empathy. You know who’s empathy challenged? Narcissists.

There is a power dynamic inherent in infidelity. The cheater wants all the perks of a committed partner, and the excitement of messing around on the side. The secrecy is about gaining advantage. You commit all your resources and I’ll just feign reciprocity. Cheaters don’t want a level playing field. It’s about control and entitlement. Cheaters give themselves permission to cheat, because they deem themselves more deserving than the chumpy people who play by the rules. (Rules the cheater agreed to, of course.)

2. If polyamory is “natural,” so is heartbreak. If we’ve “evolved” to screw around, well, we’re also wired to be jealous and suffer heartache when we are abandoned. Where’s all the talk of how unnatural it is to bond with other people? Gee, we should really stop doing that. This whole trust thing is really overrated.

Murderous impulses are also human, and felt very keenly after one’s been betrayed. When the cuckolded husband clubs his wife’s lover with a baseball bat, they can each claim they “evolved” to be this way — one to screw around indiscriminately, the other to react in a murderous rage. Let’s see how those arguments go over in the court of law.

We didn’t evolve to do a lot of things — farm, use indoor plumbing, wear lederhosen. Your Darwinian urges are no excuse for behaving unethically. Can we put this tired argument to rest already?

3. Monogamy is not difficult — honest conversations are. You’re not good at monogamy? Stay single or find a polyamorous arrangement. Things not working out in the marriage? Speak up and make it work or get out honestly. Unless yours was a shotgun wedding, no one forces you to monogamously commit. Lost in the “monogamy is so hard” argument is personal choice. Don’t agree to be someone you aren’t.

deepfriedsage Fri 11-Oct-13 07:04:50

Yes it is a problem in the marriage, the entitled cheat who thinks they can do as they like.

Lazyjaney Fri 11-Oct-13 07:40:19

Wellwobbly, your single experience does not translate into a general principle. A moments observation and reflection will show that the variation of reasons for affairs is huge, and IMO people here need to be more honest about this than all these self serving theories with no basis in observed human behaviour or fact.

I think the view that "not all, but many" affairs are caused by problems in a marriage is more accurate than the simplistic view that OW = bitch, MM = entitled bastard, WW = fragrant innocent. You only have to read AIBU to know there are some extremely unreasonable and unpleasant spouses on here.

Also, the MN mantra of leave first, then find your soul mate, is very much a "do as I say" thing, in that it most definitely is not what most people do. The exit affair is also a well worn path identified by therapists. I've always found it more useful to watch what people do, not what they say.

saferniche Fri 11-Oct-13 08:34:33

But Lazyjaney, you have invented 'the simplistic view that OW = bitch, MM = entitled bastard, WW = fragrant innocent.'

'The exit affair is also a well worn path identified by therapists' ... to be recommended? Many of us have watched 'what people do', and found it horrible, destructive and selfish. It is possible to leave a marriage without demonstrating your abilities as a cheat and a liar, my own mother managed it perfectly well, it was sad enough for my father as it was. She kept her dignity - so did he. And yes, she knew the man she later married, but THEY WAITED. Astonishing!

Of course stuff happens. But it's better to behave well than badly, is it not? Or do we just give up and let it all hang out? (eugh)

PostBellumBugsy Fri 11-Oct-13 09:42:49

If you married a unreasonable & unpleasant person - then don't tolerate it. If you can't get them to work on being more reasonable & pleasant, then you leave the relationship. Yes, it is vile & ghastly - but it is honest.

An exit affair may be a well worn path - but it doesn't make it a good path or the right path.

I'm not heartless of lacking compassion & I see that there are circumstances where people are so miserable they seek comfort in an affair. I understand that BUT it still doesn't make it the right thing to do. Nor does it mean that the problems in the marriage caused or made them have the affair. It means they chose to have an affair over leaving. They chose that course of action - no one pointed a gun to their head and made them do it.

Lweji Portugal Fri 11-Oct-13 11:11:44

LazyJane, even if you were right about exit affairs, there are many affairs, or rather many people who have affairs and don't want to leave their partners.
They just want the bit on the side.

They may eventually be found out, yes, but they are not often keen on leaving their main relationship/family. They will continue to lie to keep the status quo.

People who truly have exit affairs will leave before they are found out.

Wellwobbly Fri 11-Oct-13 13:06:18

Lazeyjane you could say that I am extrapolating out of my single experience, but you are doing the opposite by interpolating an issue using external environmental factors. And that does not explain why some people cheat and a whole load of other people, still the majority of people, DON"T cheat.

Using environmental factors leaves out the characteristics cheating people have: which is entitlement (I deserve), unsufficient empathy for the hurt they know they will cause, - and passive aggressive unconscious anger.

You need to look there. It is in the character of the person choosing actually a very complicated series of choices and planning, as to why people cheat.

Wellwobbly Fri 11-Oct-13 13:10:51

Sorry, pressed too soon.

This also explains why nearly 80% of marriages rocked by infidelity end. Because what is interesting is that the majority don't end straight away, usually 2 years and over, later.

In other words, people TRY to heal the rift, but that they slowly bleed to death.

Why? Again, you have to look at those characteristics again. A person who is selfish, entitled, lacks the ability to put themselves in another's shoes and who is unable to be open and honest, cannot heal what they have broken.

It also goes to explain a lot IMO the high percentage of second marriages that fail. Because the issues have not been resolved, and they play out again with a different person.

'Divorce gets rid of the person, but it doesn't get rid of the problem' - Harville Hendrixx.

I am not the same person. Never, ever again will I make someone a priority, who treats me as an option. Never. I will never be co dependent and live through another person again. I have taken this agonising pain and I am going to use it to learn my life lessons.

Lweji Portugal Fri 11-Oct-13 14:25:55

Wobbly, having followed your posts for a while, I feel really happy that you are in this place now.

I hope you don't shut yourself to love again, but you do seem much stronger in yourself and wish you all the best. smile

I don't think you should feel guilty in any way, as with people like your ex it doesn't really matter what we do. And we end up trying everything. They just don't care.

You have recognised that you couldn't control him or win and that is all you can do for yourself.
I do get a bit concerned when I see that you are still analysing your relationship with him, but if that helps you move forward and avoid falling into the same patterns, all the better for you. smile

saferniche Fri 11-Oct-13 14:38:32

Wellwobbly can you explain what you mean by 'passive aggressive unconscious anger'?

PostBellumBugsy Fri 11-Oct-13 14:49:43

saferniche - passive aggressive behaviour is often described as being an expression of unconscious anger, either towards other people or oneself.

Offred Fri 11-Oct-13 15:07:07

I think infidelity is not something that can accurately be described as having "a cause".

Infidelity is about choices. Those choices will be influenced by various internal and external factors. Talking exclusively about heterosexual relationships;

One factor is the pressure to be monogamous which is largely unrealistic and because people often agree to it without talking or thinking. That said I can see it is possible to achieve monogamy but truly believe only if it is discussed regularly in an open and communicative relationship can it be a happy and realistic choice. Can also see how monogamy can create happiness and stability if it is a free and informed choice. When people don't think through and agree to monogamy that creates conditions where they may be more likely to choose to cheat (note, still their choice) whether or not they love the person they are with.

Another factor is misogyny. Attitudes towards women as sex objects and pressure on men to increase their standing by using women as sex objects. This creates conditions where both men and women might be more likely to choose to cheat (still a choice, unless it is an abuse in which case not cheating IMHO).

Another factor is perceptions of gender roles and restrictive social policy which supports them. Men and women are unlikely to be happy with forced gender roles, or if gender roles are particularly sexist; women are likely to be abused and this obviously places stress on relationships which need to be strong and communicative in order to withstand the pressure where they are not abusive. One unhelpful set of gender roles is men are poor communicators/women are fixers of relationships or men need sex/women are frigid. In either of these situations men or women may choose to cheat.

It is always a choice though and there are never things or situations which I think could accurately be described as causes of infidelity.

Offred Fri 11-Oct-13 15:13:02

My position is cheating is always a wrong but there are vast differences in the level of blameworthiness and the actual harm done depending on the individual circumstances and I'd no more want to make a generalisation about what attributes a cheater has than generalise about what cheating is.

Very different to think of someone trapped in an abusive relationship having an exit affair to someone shagging a whole load of prostitutes, being on dating websites all the way through a monogamous relationship.

saferniche Fri 11-Oct-13 15:13:51

cheers PostBellumBugsy! - was wondering if Wobbly had a particular angle.

Charbon Fri 11-Oct-13 16:27:17

The straight answer to this question is that No, infidelity is not caused by problems in the marriage. Not even sometimes.

Relationship dissatisfaction and a desire to end a relationship might well be caused by marital problems, but there is a huge range of choices a person might take if s/he feels that way. An affair is but one of them.

Since a huge number of affairs arise despite the absence of marital discord and a desire to exit that relationship, it is more logical to determine what is the common denominator in people's choices to be unfaithful and why they make them.

That common denominator is poor coping mechanisms.

It assails the person unwilling to make an ethical choice in an unhappy marriage, the person who feels entitled to an adventure when life gets mundane, the person whose esteem is low because of a career slump, the person who derives their esteem from sexual admiration from new others, the person who has bad boundaries with friendships, the person who has difficulty coping with change and the person who has prescriptive romantic and political beliefs. Regarding the latter, the person who believes in 'soulmates', that 'happily married people don't cheat' and has very prescriptive views of male and female roles is especially at risk of deciding to have an affair.

I'm sure it was a typically goady post and probably not worthy of comment therefore, but I don't recognise this description of a 'mantra' that exists on Mumsnet or anywhere else of fragrant faithful wives, entitled married men and 'bitch' OWs. The last time I recall that myth being espoused was by the Judge in Jeffrey Archer's libel trial 26 years ago, which was fortunately debunked by his subsequent conviction for perjury.

Obviously, those goady posts also confused the issues addressed in my first paragraph and which have been so eloquently separated and explained by earlier posters, but the myth mentioned in the title of this thread is (perhaps understandably) a defence mechanism for a great many people. It is commonly believed and expressed by those who've been involved in infidelitous relationships and those who believe that their individual efforts in a relationship will prevent an entirely separate person's infidelity - as well as easily-dismissed internet goaders looking to get a reaction to their attention-seeking posts.

onefewernow Fri 11-Oct-13 18:47:25

Oh, well said, as usual, Charbon.

Lazyjaney Sat 12-Oct-13 07:40:22

"The straight answer to this question is that No, infidelity is not caused by problems in the marriage. Not even sometimes"

That's just plain wrong, as is your reasoning that because "many" affairs (out of very, very many) happen without marital discord, therefore all do.

It's like arguing that because many car accidents happen when drivers are not intoxicated, therefore intoxication is not a cause of car accidents, not even sometimes.

And disagreeing with you does not mean someone is "goady".

Lweji Portugal Sat 12-Oct-13 08:18:20

Affairs are not accidents. They require conscious decisions.
As such, all that is needed is someone who is prepared to cheat.

Even car accidents, apart from external causes, are caused by bad drivers (intoxicated, speeding, not paying attention).

A better analogy might be suicide. Even in the same circumstances, not all people kill themselves.
Only those who are prepared to.

Yes, there may be reasons in the cheater's or suicidal's head, but it ultimately goes to how they deal with those reasons.

Offred Sat 12-Oct-13 08:47:28

Lazyjaney - ok then can you reason out the mechanism by which marital discord causes an affair?

nooka Sat 12-Oct-13 08:47:56

Every individual case of infidelity will have its own root causes, to do with every player involved, and their relationships. However having an affair is always an active choice, it doesn't just happen. That choice is made by the people having the affair and no one else. My dh had an affair, and the thing that really helped me most was my counselor telling me I was not responsible for his choices, only my own. Which is a bit of a truism really, but it can be very easy to take on responsibility for other people's actions.

My dh is not a bastard, and I don't believe he would ever have thought that he was the sort of person who would have an affair. Many years down the line he tells me he finds it hard to understand why he had that affair (and why he chose the person he had the affair with). Did our relationship have difficulties, yes, but they were fairly normal difficulties, and given that we were both unhappy it is interesting (I think) that I never considered at any point becoming attached and/or sleeping with someone else. If problem = infidelity how come it is nearly always just one person in the relationship who makes that choice?

I don't believe that either my dh or his OW were wicked evil people, they were however during that period incredibly selfish, self absorbed and cruel. I totally get that affairs make people 'high' idea - when dh was actively involved with his OW he was very happy and clearly got a big buzz out of it (think teenage crush). I on the other hand have never been more miserable, and yet even though he had totally withdrawn and was a total bastard, never thought I know what I'll shagg the milkman...

Sometimes even good people do bad things, and although there are of course perceived triggers, fundamentally they are excuses, not causes.

nooka Sat 12-Oct-13 09:02:40

The article from Pittman was I thought very good. I certainly recognise a few of the stereotyped players.

moonfacebaby Sat 12-Oct-13 10:23:52

I think Charbon hits the nail on the head - it's poor coping skills.

My marriage wasn't perfect when my exH started his affair. After it came out, he would tell me his needs weren't being met. I would always point out that a lot of my needs weren't being met either - but I didn't have an affair. I got blamed for his affair too.

If you add selfishness to the poor coping skills as well as poor boundaries, then you've often got a combination that will more than likely lead to an affair.

At the end of the day, I still believe that if you are unhappy, then you leave or work on your marriage.

The most enlightening thing about my experience of this is that a year on from my marriage breakdown, I've accepted what has happened, yet my exH is the one that is consumed by bitterness. He may have the OW but he has lost so much more & having the live with the consequences of his actions is evidently far worse than he ever thought.

I do understand that life isn't black & white - but one of the many reasons that I'd like to think that I'd never have an affair is because it's just too messy. I remember being attracted to other men whilst married - I knew how easy it would be to cross the line - but I had the foresight to see that an affair isn't the answer to whatever dissatisfaction you may be experiencing. The thought of having to see the damage done would be too much for me to handle.

Charbon Sat 12-Oct-13 11:18:22

You appear to misunderstand the basic tenet of this argument LazyJaney.

I am not saying that in the history of infidelity, affairs have never occurred after the unfaithful person has been experiencing difficulties in their relationship.

But let's work with your driving analogy because when adapted, it's a good one. The police deliberately stopped calling road traffic collisions 'accidents' some years ago. This was in recognition of the fact that no collision is 'accidental' because there will always be an error or bad choice involved, even in rare cases where the car(s) or the road maintenance is faulty.

So collisions aren't ever caused by intoxication. They are caused by someone's decision to drive unsafely while intoxicated. An intoxicated person has a range of choices other than to drive.

This is about choices and decisions. A person experiencing marital unhappiness who decides to have an affair chooses that action instead of others, such as investing more, discussing solutions, booking counselling, waiting and seeing if things improve when trying circumstances such as poverty and raising young children change, or of course leaving the relationship.

Blaming problems in a marriage for making an infidelity choice when others existed is as flawed and irrational as a drunk driver blaming the booze itself or his/her drunkenness. Just as most marriages will be unhappy at some point, most people in the western world will have had too much to drink on occasion. Not everyone has driven a car at those points and caused an accident just as not every person experiencing marital unhappiness will have an affair.

FrightRider Sat 12-Oct-13 11:35:43

why all the discussion, its covered very simply by what i said upthead, which has been completely ignored.

Infidelity has only ONE cause and ONE only. The married persons inability to finish their marriage before embarking on another relationship.

babybarrister Colombia Sat 12-Oct-13 11:41:17

But this is also about the couple's expectations and how they might change. Some of what has been said on here is very naive in the extreme - the poster who said that even if their partner went to 20 stone, became a psychopath or refused to have sex - well equally it could be said that they are not abiding by the spirit of marriage either. Relationships are not frozen in time and there are lots is types of affairs - the exit affair but also the parallel relationship affair. Having been in the position of potentially having a long term very ill DH, actually you do find yourself having conversations you never thought you would have to have. Personally for me honesty is paramount but maybe for some people in some situations an undisclosed affair is the least worst option.

Charbon Sat 12-Oct-13 11:54:42

All of those things you describe baby would be justifiable reasons for unhappiness but those things do not cause an affair, which is the premise of this thread.

There's an entirely different discussion to be had about alternative and honest solutions to deal with unhappiness, or the issues raised in FrightRider's post when we know that a relatively small number of affairs are used as the getaway vehicle from a relationship a person wants to end and so it's not inability that's the issue there, it's a complete lack of desire to finish a marriage.

FrightRider Sat 12-Oct-13 12:27:07

this is very close to my heart, a marriage in my immediate family has just broken down because of the mans infidelity.

Infidelity is caused by someone in the marriage making a conscious choice to make a physical or emotional attachment to someone they are not married to.

There IS NO black and white. You don't cheat, there is no infidelity.

babybarrister Colombia Sat 12-Oct-13 12:32:59

So the answer in all cases is to accept life long unhappiness? I thought society had moved on ...

FrightRider Sat 12-Oct-13 12:34:27

no, its called have the decency to finish your marriage before going elsewhere for it.

Offred Sat 12-Oct-13 12:34:42

? Wtf? No, the answer is to leave or sometimes to choose an affair but acknowledge that it is a dubious choice...

Lazyjaney Sat 12-Oct-13 12:39:17

"You appear to misunderstand the basic tenet of this argument LazyJaney"

I understood it perfectly, you argued that because situation A could lead to outcome X, it therefore could not lead to outcome Y, and I called you on it.

You've now shifted your position, screened by obfuscating wordplay, to a position that says that if situation A can lead to outcomes X or Y, then because a person can choose path X or Y (which is in itself debateable) therefore choice Y (the one you don't like) is not be caused by situation A.

What you are in effect arguing is that in any situation where there is a choice of outcomes, only the ones you approve of are caused by the situation.

The suicide argument above also has the same flaw, ie that because some people do not choose suicide as a way out of a situation, suicide therefore cannot be an outcome of that situation

IMO all this mental gymnastics is to hold on to comfortable myths rather than an unpalatable truth.

Offred Sat 12-Oct-13 12:42:38

I think you are reading something that isn't there lazy. Your interpretation of charbon's post makes no sense.

Can you reason out the mechanism by which marital discord causes infidelity i.e. makes it happen?

babybarrister Colombia Sat 12-Oct-13 12:54:47

Can you really not accept that in some circumstances eg long term illness an affair within marriage might be the least worst option?

FrancescaBell Sat 12-Oct-13 13:03:20

Your interpretation of a perfectly logically delivered argument with absolutely no changes in position whatsoever is most odd, Lazy. If anyone's argument is contorted by peculiar mental gymnastics, it is yours.

Therefore using your own opinion about why anyone would do that, I conclude that it is you who needs to hold on to comfortable myths rather than face an 'unpalatable truth'.

As has been pointed out, the people who hold on to the myth you're expounding have vested interests for so doing.

Seeing as your posts regularly argue on MNet for men's rights to behave badly and unfailingly blame women for their male partners' behaviour, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist or a gender determinist to work out why you take these positions and hold these views.

Offred Sat 12-Oct-13 13:38:40

How does something being the least worst option mean that it is not a choice and not wrong?

Yes, long term sick partners are one of the more understandable kinds of affairs. But still a choice and still not right.

Lweji Portugal Sat 12-Oct-13 14:27:48

What people are arguing is that cheaters choose to be so, regardless of the excuses they come up with.

For something to be a cause it has to cause the effect virtually all the time under the same circumstances.
Although some instances of cheating my be more excusable than others, it's still the cheater's choice.

In the same way that a wife swearing at her husband doesn't cause him to hit her. It's his choice.

You may not help thinking of another person, and you emotionally distancing from your partner may be caused by problems in your marriage. But, you pursuing that extramarital relationship and sleeping with that person is always your choice. And that choice wasn't caused by problems but by your own will.

babybarrister Colombia Sat 12-Oct-13 17:44:07

Just think many of the comments on this thread are very over simplistic but obviously neither side are going to change their views so I bow out

JustinBsMum Sat 12-Oct-13 18:07:27

'infidelity is caused by problems in the infidelitous spouse' would be more truthful I think

Whether that is problems in their loyalty, love for the other spouse, overwhelming attraction to someone else, anger over treatment by their spouse etc etc etc

ComfySlipperGirl Sat 12-Oct-13 18:22:36

'infidelity is caused by problems in the infidelitous spouse' would be more truthful I think

I agree with this. I am (only vaguely, doubt it will happen) considering an affair because of issues within myself. My DH is wonderful, our marriage is happy. But factors outside the home are very complicated and screwing with my mental health, and this is manifesting in an attraction to someone other than my husband, and a weird notion that physical intimacy with this person will help me deal with these problems. It's bizarre, I recognise it as a false and misplaced attraction, but intellectually recognition of what's going on doesn't stop the primal feelings.

Does that make any sense?

The point being, the urge to cheat on my husband has its root in my head and a situation completely external to my marriage.

nooka Sun 13-Oct-13 02:56:36

I think there is also something about ownership and accountability. I own and hold myself accountable for the unresolved problems in our relationship at the time of dh's affair. As does he. We reacted in our own somewhat dysfunctional ways, and again we hold ourselves accountable - there were issues, habits and faults on both sides. I am not accountable for his actions though, nor he for mine.

I thought Chandon's analogy was spot on, relationship unhappiness/ problems/ breakdown are at most a proximate cause, there will be many unique to the people in question root causes. I am sure that there is a very strong correlation between marital problems and affairs because in general the type of dissociation that is required to have the affair will have already been manifesting itself for a while and it is very hard to have a successful relationship with someone who isn't fully engaged.

I also recognise that sometimes affairs come from a place of despair and may be thought to be the least bad option at the time, but do often make things much worse (we have an example of this in my family - totally understandable, but still very wrong/destructive). Mainly because of the deceit, because it is very difficult to love someone you are deceiving, or to continue to love someone that has/ie deliberately lying to you. Plus there is often a significant amount of collateral damage to third parties (children, family, friends).

TortillasAndChocolate Sun 13-Oct-13 08:13:59

Surely every marriage has problems - I don't know anyone with a perfect marriage. It's par for the course unless you're a newly wed perhaps. Everyone has ups and downs (obviously to very different degrees!)

So it's easy to have an affair and then find some problem in your marriage to blame for it.

saferniche Sun 13-Oct-13 11:28:07

yes, yes Nooka - especially

'I am sure that there is a very strong correlation between marital problems and affairs because in general the type of dissociation that is required to have the affair will have already been manifesting itself for a while and it is very hard to have a successful relationship with someone who isn't fully engaged.'

And ComfySlipperGirl you know what we're going to say, don't you? You have a wonderful dh. Mess about outside your marriage and you risk losing everything, however good it is now. DON'T DO IT. Go and talk to someone instead. Be very careful.

ComfySlipperGirl Sun 13-Oct-13 11:53:42

saferniche - don't worry, I'm 99.999% sure it wont happen. I'm far too sensible, and well aware that the fantasy of these things is usually far better (and safer!!) than the messy reality.

But my point was that the cause of the fantasy, and if were the type of person to follow up, the actual affair, would not be a result of anything wrong with my marriage, but of something wrong with me.

saferniche Sun 13-Oct-13 12:31:49

ComfySlipperGirl I'm wiping my brow in relief here.

And yep - wise of you. I hear what you're saying - absolutely smile

Lazyjaney Mon 14-Oct-13 07:34:44

Therefore using your own opinion about why anyone would do that, I conclude that it is you who needs to hold on to comfortable myths rather than face an 'unpalatable truth

The idea that infidelity is never caused by problems in a marriage, not ever, is the myth. If you believe this you have to believe that the amount of marital infidelity would stay exactly the same whether all the marriages on the planet were blissfully happy or unspeakably miserable.

Seeing as your posts regularly argue on MNet for men's rights to behave badly and unfailingly blame women for their male partners' behaviour, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist or a gender determinist to work out why you take these positions and hold these views

That's a highly selective reading to suit your ends. I also note reading your posts that you often go in for personal attacks rather than argue the point.

My most recent posts have been this thread, which cuts either way sex wise, plus ones on: a woman being bullied to collude in an coveringbup her sisters affair by her dysfunctional family; how to organise entitled husbands to get kids to school; the grammar of maths, and that some posters on MN try and stifle debate by accusing opponents of being trollish - being accused of "goady" and "being a man" qualify there IMO.

Lweji Portugal Mon 14-Oct-13 07:50:22

But in that case can you claim that infidelity necessarily follows problems in the marriage? That at least some types of problems always lead to infidelity, if there is a cause and effect?

Problems in a marriage may lead to break ups, or detachment by partners. How they do it it's their choice.
If there are problems I can choose talking, counselling, splitting up, and yes cheat. But lots of people are unfaithful just because. Because they are bored, or need an ego boost. Not a problem with the marriage, but themselves.

The problem is that you consider it to be a cause.
Sometimes it may be a factor or excuse in the choice of the individual cheater, but not a cause.

I don't think anyone has said infidelity is never caused by problems in the marriage, because it's blatantly obvious that very often that is the cause. I would say it is pretty much universally considered to be the main cause.

As I understand it, what people on this thread are trying to say is that sometimes infidelity is more about problems in the individual than in the marriage.

Lweji Portugal Mon 14-Oct-13 08:30:48

No, sorry, that's not what people are arguing.
Some say problems can be a cause.
Others that the immediate cause is a cheater, regadless of the existence of problems.
That unless there is a cheater no amount of problems will lead to cheating.

Lazyjaney Mon 14-Oct-13 08:36:32

For Annie.....

^Add message | Report | Message poster Charbon Fri 11-Oct-13 16:27:17
The straight answer to this question is that No, infidelity is not caused by problems in the marriage. Not even sometimes^

This is in essence what many people have been arguing for on this thread.

Lazyjaney Mon 14-Oct-13 08:46:46

Lweji, just because some people make a choice you dont like in response to a cause, it doesn't mean that choice is not a valid one.

onefewernow Mon 14-Oct-13 09:03:50

In my experience an unfaithful man, on discovery, will start by blaming the marriage partner, then the marriage. If that is refuted, they will then move on to providing at least a dozen conflicting reasons for the infidelity.

Why? Because half the time, they just don't know. They have chosen to dissociate to such an extent, and probably given it so little thought before discovery ( never expecting that day to arrive), that they havnt really a clue why.

Offred Mon 14-Oct-13 09:23:14

I've certainly not said a choice to cheat in response to certain problems in a marriage is not valid. I think I'd say it was not invalid though. However still wrong and still a choice.

Could you answer my question: what is the mechanism by which problems in a marriage causes infidelity.

All I'm saying is various problems are external factors which may influence the internal choice to cheat in various ways. But they don't cause cheating. A choice to cheat causes cheating.

Well, I would disagree that it's never about problems in the marriage. BUT, I would agree that it's never only about problems in the marriage. I doubt there's ever one single influencing factor. Relationships and people are far more complex than that.

saferniche Mon 14-Oct-13 10:28:39

'A choice to cheat causes cheating' - neatly put.


'I don't think anyone has said infidelity is never caused by problems in the marriage, because it's blatantly obvious that very often that is the cause.'

No it isn't blatantly obvious. All marriages have problems at various times, cheating will certainly help to make these problems far worse. No one can force a person in a modern democracy to stay married, no one can force them to stay faithful either, we make choices. The cause of infidelity is someone choosing to be unfaithful - unless drugged or forced under duress. Perhaps there are people who believe 'my marriage made me do it!' as if the marriage is holding a gun to their heads? If you're going to cheat at least take responsibility for your own behaviour. Try to be an adult.

Of course people become unhappy and of course marriages/partnerships end and some are abusive, people may need support to leave and sometimes that may mean they involve a third party. We should (and do) have compassion for individuals facing crisis. But in so many cases infidelity is as elegantly described by onefewernow: 'Why? Because half the time, they just don't know.'

Yes, problems in the marriage are 'pretty much universally considered to be the main cause' of infidelity. Which is why threads like this are necessary and posters like Charbon so important.

Lweji Portugal Mon 14-Oct-13 10:51:48

LazyJaney, we are not talking about validity of choices, but causes.
So, you accept that it is about a choice, not a direct cause between unhappiness and infidelity.

Even if a person falls in love with someone else, they have a choice to end their primary relationship first or embark on an affair. If there is a long term ill partner, it is their choice to be faithful, to tell the partner they have found someone else, or to leave. If there is abuse, it is still a choice to leave or be unfaithful for gratification and/or validation.

I'm not making moral judgments on cheating, but stating plainly that
the only reason for infidelity is a choice made by the person who cheats.

Wellwobbly Mon 14-Oct-13 10:57:53

Lazyjaney, if it is any consolation, the goady comment some posts back was most probably directed at me.

How can we get through to you that correlation is NOT causation?

Your attitude suggests that you have never been betrayed, but can I direct you to Whatnext's post for an insight into the complete trauma that betrayal and emotional abandonment is. We were quite worried about her. In my case, no one can ever hurt me like that again. It is simply not possible to be that distraught. I once read a post from a woman whose sister was run over and killed in front of her. She said her husband's affair was far more devastating.

When you repeat the myth (which is what this thread is about) you are in essence blaming the victim which further re-traumatises that spouse.

In therapy there are two distinct stages of healing from an affair: focussing on the affair, which is focussing on the person who chose to betray, finding out what it was in them that made them make this mistaken choice, work on getting them to be completely honest and transparent about all aspects of the secrecy and deceit, and getting them to hear their spouses rage and pain and reassure them.

Then, and only then after trust has been renewed can the issues of the marriage be worked on.

Notice how stage 1 kind of requires a personality transplant and the marriage isn't mentioned at all?

Rona Subotnik defines an affair as 'a maladjusted coping mechanism'.

Charbon Mon 14-Oct-13 13:27:37

Wobbly, I can see no comments in relation to goadiness directed at you. In fact, I'd like to thank you for starting such an interesting thread that will hopefully help our understanding of such an emotive issue.

The interesting aspect to this is how tenacious the myth is in the first place and how it somehow manages to obliterate logic and understanding, even when it's deconstructed. It's a good example of how an emotive subject can do that even to people who have no difficulty grasping logic or complex arguments about other topics.

For example, anyone who is familiar with the Ladder of Inference in relation to fair, objective decision-making as a manager or team leader might recognise this problem and see its resonance to the debate.

Which is why it's essential to look at the belief or discourse that's on the lowest rung of the ladder.

I think the confusion starts with the initial 'presumed fact' that all or most infidelity arises in relationships where the infidelitous person is unhappy and dissatisfied with his/her partner and their relationship together.

From that flawed premise, various other erroneous beliefs and conclusions follow.

Because that 'presumed fact' is wrong.

There is a significant proportion of affairs where the infidelitous partner reports no dissatisfactions in their primary relationship - or at least dissatisfactions that are capable of remedy by an existing partner. In many of those affairs typically the lure of the affair partner is that s/he is new/different and the lure of the affair itself is that it provides a person with a new relationship where the feelings are intense and highly-charged at the beginning. An existing partner cannot ever be 'new' again and it is virtually impossible to recreate the intensity of a new relationship in an established partnership.

People are often drawn to affairs of that kind when they are experiencing dissatisfactions or unhappiness in other areas of life that have previously defined them to a disproportionate extent. A career failure/stagnation, the acknowledgement that looks are fading, not being 'needed' as much by dependents, money worries, the loss of other important relationships often through bereavement. Another common flashpoint is if an area of life is stressful e.g a return to work, or a new job. An affair provides a quick fix' ego boost and an artificial high and is used as a prop coping mechanism.

The push factor however does not reside in dissatisfactions with an existing relationship or partner.

So having established that infidelity in those instances is not caused by problems in the marriage the 'presumed fact' instantly becomes a belief at most and a belief that is easily challenged.

Next then, it's necessary to examine those who are unhappy in their relationships and believe that this was the push factor in their decision to be unfaithful. As we will have often seen on threads here, one of the angles posters are keen to determine is whether the unhappiness was created by the affair itself and not the other way around. If it's insisted and accepted that it was pre-existing, all we can prove in a logical sense is this:

A person was unhappy in his/her relationship and decided to have an affair

That's all.

We can agree that it's possible or even probable that the unhappiness was a causal factor in that person's decision to have an affair rather than choose other remedies to address unhappiness.

What we can't say is that there is a direct causal link, because to do so would be to miss out the vital middle phase of decision-making where other options existed and were eschewed in favour of having an affair.

LazyJaney asserted that I had 'shifted my position' when I stated that I wasn't suggesting that affairs never happen when there is marital discord.

This wasn't a 'shift' at all.

There is no disonnance between stating that infidelity is never caused by problems in a marriage because it is caused by an individual's choice of it over other options - and saying that some affairs happen after there has been relationship discord. The two are entirely different statements that do not contradict eachother.

Perhaps it's also necessary to point out the obvious. A marriage itself cannot choose the infidelity that afflicts it and neither can an individual control the behaviour of another.

So when we discuss causal links in relation to other situations, we accept that there are situations in which the people most affected by the incidence of something had no control over events. This is important psychologically because it removes blame and responsibility where it isn't deserved and is recognised as an essential step in helping individuals recover from trauma.

That's why it's vital to challenge, deconstruct and debunk the myth in this thread and it's as important psychologically for the person having the affair to understand it as it is for the faithful partner coping with the trauma of infidelity. It's also helpful to the third party in the triangle if their own collusion has been secured based on a belief that the affair occurred because of a new partner's relationship dissatisfactions.

Wellwobbly Tue 15-Oct-13 06:45:48

That's OK, Charbon! I think what I was trying to do was reassure Lazyjaney that it surely wasn't her. When you are new and putting your views out there for the first few times I can remember feeling quite vulnerable and actually quite paranoid, and that feeling of being under attack I could recognise! Whereas in fact MN is a great place to define how you really feel and actually, to change the way you think about something if you are given new information about it. So don't run away Janey it is a great place and your input is valued.

I think this is one of the most eloquent posts I have read, from an American. They are busting into a therapist who says it takes three people to have an affair, and that all narrative should be given equal weight, that the dynamics of the marriage and what led to an affair should be looked at, ie Lazyjaney's standpoint. [Needless to say, he is probably crawling out of the arena barely alive...]

'But so many of these cheaters actively DON’T want to exit. At least in the physical sense. They want all the benefits of marriage plus a side piece of of cake. Emotionally, you could argue that they were never actually there in the first place. Because I feel if you had a real, healthy, deep emotional connection with someone, they wouldn’t be able to do that to you. You know, like what we felt for them and imagined they felt for us.

That’s the scariest part… how intensely we felt about them… how sure we were they felt the same way… and then… WHAM!'

My experience exactly. I loved him dearly. I would have loved the chance to go to counselling and with the help of a neutral third party communicate better.

But that wasn't as much fun as fucking his attractive co-worker. Hard to know how that can be pinned on me, really, even though I hold up my hands to having become a nagging whining shrew. That is what being ignored for over 10 years does to you... my responsibility, still.

Lazyjaney Tue 15-Oct-13 07:50:20

Charbon, your last post just uses more verbal gymnastics to recycle the same logical flaws. To recap:

- because "many" people react in one way to a situation, it does not follow that all - even a majority - react that way.

- because people can choose how to react to a situation, it does not follow that only some choices, and not others, can be valid effects. Either all possible choices are valid effects or none are.

The biggest problem though is that to believe that problems in a relationship never cause infidelity, not ever, you have to believe some truly incredible things, as I noted unthread.

You also have to believe all evidence and research to the contrary is lies, reported by liars.

The real reason for your viewpoint emerges at the end, ie to believe troubled relationships can cause affairs is very hurtful, so it's easier to believe a comfortable myth than an unpalatable truth

Lweji Portugal Tue 15-Oct-13 08:11:45

<heads desk>

It's not about validity of choices.

But because some people chose to be unfaithful without problems in the marriage (other than caused by themselves) and others chose so when there are problems, it takes away the cause- effect relationship. The only common denominator is a person who has chosen to have an affair.

Lazyjaney Tue 15-Oct-13 08:12:10

Wellwobbly, I appreciate the olive branch, especially as you are the OP. I think that makes you the bigger person smile

nooka Tue 15-Oct-13 08:28:57

Fundamentally if problems in the marriage 'cause' infidelity, then the obvious effect that would be seen is both parties in the marriage having an affair. But this is pretty rare, I know a very small number of relationships where that is the case, and an even smaller number where both parties are unfaithful at the same time. So it really can't be a direct cause and effect relationship. Perhaps it's like fire (spark, oxygen AND fuel required) or fraud (pressure, opportunity AND rationalisation needed).

Actually I suspect that the fraud triangle probably does often apply, but even so the pressure equivalent would have a lot of different aspects, both internal and external (so mid-life crisis, difficulties in the marriage, underlying insecurities could all be potential causes). Then there is the need for a willing partner given that you can't have an affair with yourself, plus the time and other resources needed for the opportunity to be realised and finally the rationalisation part, that makes you think that your behaviour is justified (or valid as Lazeyjaney uses in this thread).

So you could say that infidelity has many causes, one of which may or may not be problems in the relationship. Thing is that once someone is chasing, looking for or even considering the opportunity they are quite likely to invent the rationalisation of 'problems in the marriage' even if they weren't that obvious previously, or if they were otherwise fixable, just because it is so often perceived as a perfectly good (or valid) justification.

As an example I overheard my dh tell his OW how terrible his Christmas had been without her, after having spent the past few days apparently having great fun with his children and siblings. I'm sure he believed it was true at the time he was talking to her, but none the less it was a fake 'my life is so bad without you justification'.

saferniche Tue 15-Oct-13 09:22:40

For reasons why people have affairs Peggy Vaughan ( suggested:

"Forces within the individual that pull them toward affairs
Forces within the individual that push them toward affairs
Societal factors"

A 'Desire to escape or find relief from a painful relationship' is one thing that may 'push' a person toward an affair. But it's a choice, even though it might be one factor making it more likely that a person will consider an affair or be susceptible if the opportunity arises.


"Despite whatever factors lead someone to be tempted to have an affair, whether or not they act on the temptation depends on their willingness to be dishonest and deceptive."

saferniche Tue 15-Oct-13 10:44:23

I was just remembering a close friend whose husband had affairs throughout their marriage: the au pair, a long-standing affair with a colleague (of them both) which she found out about later, a recently divorced neighbour who stood close by as they watched her husband playing with both their dcs and said 'That's exactly what I need' and a woman who was on her own account perfectly happily married until she met him.

My dear friend had been befriended by a couple who later took dh in after she finally told him to leave (he was mystified and very sorry for himself). And what did this couple then ask my friend about her marriage? 'Don't you feel at all guilty?'

OrmirianResurgam Tue 15-Oct-13 11:59:14

What nooka said: "Fundamentally if problems in the marriage 'cause' infidelity, then the obvious effect that would be seen is both parties in the marriage having an affair."

It happens as you say but the vast majority of cases is unilateral infidelity,

Charbon Tue 15-Oct-13 12:52:30

The real reason for your viewpoint emerges at the end, ie to believe troubled relationships can cause affairs is very hurtful, so it's easier to believe a comfortable myth than an unpalatable truth

I'm not sure what you're inferring but as this isn't a personal experience, others' hurt does not inform my viewpoint. My professional experience and logic does, however. As mentioned in my first, my posts on this thread are for other contributors and lurkers, just in case anyone was questioning the validity of engaging with such aggressive and personalised obtuseness.

So my experience and logic tells me that conferring responsibility or culpability on a person for a behaviour that was not theirs has the effect of re-traumatisation and can note the progress society has made in challenging that sort of blaming culture in other situations. For example, society rightly challenges the archaic and false view that a woman is in anyway culpable or responsible for her own rape or that an individual is ever responsible for domestic violence meted out by a partner. Quite rightly, we do not concern ourselves with what factors motivated a person's sexual or domestic violence, because they are irrelevant. A rapist chooses to rape and a violent partner chooses to strike and nothing their victims did beforehand is in any way relevant.

I think there might be some extreme naivety though in believing that debunking this myth is 'comfortable' for individuals who are grappling with infidelity. In fact, it's often far more comforting for people to believe it because then the situation appears to be within the control of the faithful partner. It's very understandable too for couples in the wake of an infidelity crisis to cling on to a belief that if in the future they have more sex, organise more date nights and generally 'up their game', this can never happen again.

It's far more uncomfortable to confront the fact that a person's actions and behaviour are beyond the control of a partner. Psychologically, human beings like to believe they have control over their destiny and part of our psyche is to cling on to myths to reassure ourselves that bad things won't happen to us, either at all or again. This is why people whose lives have never been affected by infidelity are so invested in the myth and it is why someone coping with profound shock and betrayal needs to believe they could have prevented it happening and can do so in the future.

It's far from comfortable acknowledging the concept of individual responsibility because that means we can only control our own behaviour and actions and not those of others. But once recovering couples acknowledge this, it provides a breakthrough and far more nuanced understanding of what really caused the infidelity and how only the individuals in it can control their own choices in the future.

familyscapegoat Tue 15-Oct-13 13:45:01

Gosh yes! I can relate to that.

As someone who was a self-confessed control freak, it would have been bloody lovely to have believed that I personally could have prevented my husband from having an affair. That was my comfort zone after all.

But I wasn't stupid and my memory was just fine so even if he'd indulged me with the lie that the reason for his affair was because he was unhappy in our marriage, I'd have recalled what he was saying, doing and how he was acting towards me prior to it. So I'd like to think that if I'd been unlucky enough to have a history re-writer in front of me, I'd have been able to preserve my own truth.

In the event, my husband never claimed unhappiness at all. His memory was just as good as mine and he knew it would have been bullshit.

I often dread to think what could have happened if there had been acknowledged unhappiness in our marriage. I'm sure it would have skewed the picture enormously and led to a false trail in determining the real causes behind what happened. I feel real empathy and concern for posters on this site who are going down that road and aren't pursuing other causes.

saferniche Tue 15-Oct-13 14:46:43

familyscapegoat that's great (and I'm sure true) but our memories can be faulty. This is a common complaint of the perplexed spouse who was not aware of marital misery especially if it developed retrospectively during or after the affair.

I read Dan Gilbert on happiness (and memory) he makes me laugh, which has been good.

familyscapegoat Tue 15-Oct-13 15:09:10

I agree that memories can be faulty. But I had no difficulty being aware of 'marital misery' during the affair; obviously it was this contrast in behaviour and atmosphere that first raised the alarm!

What was interesting was that during his affair, my husband says he never did think it had anything to do with me or our relationship, so he had no need to challenge his memories, or mine afterwards. Besides, we'd got some jointly experienced specific occasions and conversations to draw on from the memory bank, that had only occurred in the 2 months before he'd first met the OW. Because my default was that something must have been wrong, I drove myself mad in the early days thinking I was suffering from learned memory syndrome, until my husband stopped me in my tracks and asked me to stop doing it because he remembered things exactly the same and this was in any case, a completely false trail.

OrmirianResurgam Tue 15-Oct-13 15:13:23

charbon - " In fact, it's often far more comforting for people to believe it because then the situation appears to be within the control of the faithful partner. It's very understandable too for couples in the wake of an infidelity crisis to cling on to a belief that if in the future they have more sex, organise more date nights and generally 'up their game', this can never happen again. "

This 100%. If you get a diagnosis you can get a cure. So comforting and so unhelpful in the long term. It took me a long while to stop blaming myself. H never blamed me.

saferniche Tue 15-Oct-13 16:49:23

familyscapegoat is 'learned memory syndrome' the same as 'false memory'?

familyscapegoat Tue 15-Oct-13 17:30:23

No I don't think so. After all, two or more people can have very conflicting memories after witnessing the same incident - who's to say which one is false? False memory I don't think always carries with it an agenda for believing the falsehood (although it can) and it's true that our beliefs about an incident can influence what we think we're seeing and so we might embellish facts a bit to support our take on the incident, but there doesn't have to be al pay-off for us believing the falsehood, nor a penalty for facing the truth. I suppose I'm thinking of witnesses to crimes when I'm trying to explain this and I hope it makes sense!

The way I look at learned memories is that I think we all have the capacity to lie to ourselves that something happened in a particular way and the more we repeat that lie, the more we come to believe it ourselves. We've learned to believe it because the truth would be too difficult to confront.

It really helped me in those fruitless trawls of memory to have actual tangibles; the romantic weekend away and what was said and done, a birthday card with a long and profound message of love and contentment from my husband, the pleasure he'd expressed when I'd made a huge effort for a particular thing that was important to him. All of these things happened in the 2 months or so before he met the OW. Obviously there were a million and one other things too; the daily actions and gestures of someone who loves.

His therapist did a lot of work with him on that, to establish whether there was anything about convincing himself all was well when it wasn't. I too was keen for that exploration to happen, as was he. But it just wasn't an issue and my husband kept referring to what he'd told himself during the affair and his vivid memories of how he was feeling before it.

saferniche Tue 15-Oct-13 17:51:37

I have to ask - what was he telling himself? But you don't have to answer.

'we all have the capacity to lie to ourselves that something happened in a particular way and the more we repeat that lie, the more we come to believe it ourselves.' Yes, yes - this is exactly how we can create a memory. It should make a few readers stop and think.

familyscapegoat Tue 15-Oct-13 18:08:58

I don't mind sharing this at all. He told himself that because this wasn't anything to do with our relationship or his feelings for me - and he didn't see the OW as an alternative partner - none of it had to affect our lives together. He thought he could compartmentalise this thing, which would be over very quickly anyway. He didn't manage to compartmentalise the stress the whole thing created or the effect it had on his behaviour at home and at work, though. He also remembers very clearly thinking the reason this was happening was because he was feeling a failure at work and the OW was cheering him up, telling him that none of it was his fault plus lots of other flattery and compliments. I was also supporting him through this crisis of course, but I wasn't telling him lies about how he'd handled a few situations and not surprisingly, didn't feel the need to tell him how sexy and gorgeous he was when we were talking about a career issue! wink He does remember me saying things like that in more intimate moments, but remembers thinking "she's supposed to say that, she's my wife".

Glad you understood that post about learned memories. I think because we both had always understood it we were better placed to challenge ourselves, plus we both had great therapists who encouraged us to do that.

Wellwobbly Tue 15-Oct-13 18:50:26

If it is a problem in the marriage, why was I so blindsided? I knew I was married to a difficult and complicated man, and found him very frustrating, but I absolutely adored him.

To repeat what Charbon says: the hardest hardest thing to take on board what that he did it because he wanted to. He went looking 'and if it wasn't her it would have been somebody else'. That the love of my life didn't care about the consequences of his shitty choices. That he didn't have any care about the hurt he was causing other people. I used to say to him during his emotionally gone phase 'you are frightening the children' - and it meant nothing.

It was devastating to discover quite how selfish and self-absorbed he really, really is. That he genuinely cannot put himself in another person's shoes. That he lacks an empathy chip. That he literally can stop feeling for someone if another person makes him feel better through more admiration. Facing this reality and letting go of hopes and dreams? Has been hard.

No, it would have been MUCH better if it had been the marriage. But do you know what he said? 'I was just doing it to make myself feel better. It was a fantasy. I wasn't looking to replace you'.
I spent my life with someone for whom 'I' don't really exist. confused

saferniche Tue 15-Oct-13 21:12:33

Wellwobbly - it is vile - no getting away from it. He didn't deserve you.

Lazyjaney Wed 16-Oct-13 07:57:00

As mentioned in my first, my posts on this thread are for other contributors and lurkers, just in case anyone was questioning the validity of engaging with such aggressive and personalised obtuseness

Argument is not aggression. You're the one making personal attacks, so far according to you I am goady and obtuse (plus a host of PA sideswipes).

I think you just don't like people questioning the validity of your views and reasoning, especially with your proposition is that no affairs stem from problems in a relationship, not ever, and any other view is a myth.

But to believe this requires believing a host of obviously false resulting conclusions. It requires the most extraordinarily partisan reading of research, the most blinkered observation possible of peoples' relationships and testimony, and some extremely tortuous mangling of logic, cause and effect, and statistics.

So where, exactly, is any myth more likely to be?

So why would anyone hold to this view given it's probably false. What is now clear to me, parsing your fairly circuitous reasoning, is that the main benefit of this view is that it maintains that an affair is always other peoples' fault.

But it's a dangerous myth, as it flies in the face of all observable evidence, so believers have to continually adjust reality to fit the required worldview. IMO anyone who believes it cannot find their truth and move on, but have to stay in a false limbo because of the conflict between belief and reality.

The only healthy view IMO is a rational view, that fits all research, observations, testimonies, and doesn't disobey the rules of logic and mathematics. This is that Some affairs are due to problems in the relationship, Some affairs are due to the proclivity of the cheater (and Some affairs are probably due to a whole host of other obscure causes). Some are due to a cocktail of causes.

And also accept that there is variability in the degree of fault, humans being what they are, nothing is set in stone, every relationship is different.

in my view this approach is a far healthier place to be to move forward.

Wellwobbly Wed 16-Oct-13 08:22:00


You are conflating two issues.

1. once the harm of the infidelity is dealt with (one issue, unilateral secret behaviour)


2. the marital dynamics can be looked at (separate issue, interpersonal dynamics).

It is no coincidence that so many relationships hurt by adultery fail (70+%), but around 2 years later. In other words, people TRY to get over it. But the characteristics required to heal this (empathy, remorse, taking responsibility) the are characteristics required to make a good marriage in the FIRST PLACE!!!!! You are blaming the victim.

Infidelity is an act of huge hostility and aggression, however unconscious it . It is a huge 'fuck you!'. Just as stabbing someone is a huge 'fuck you'!

How easy is it to deal with someone who has the tendencies to be passive aggressive, avoidant, self-absorbed and all the other charming qualities required to step outside the relationship, IN the relationship?

The person who invests LEAST in the marriage, is the person most likely to have an affair - Shirley Glass. You really are still blaming the victim.

I have told you all the unpleasant manipulative things I did in our marriage previous to his affair. It is part of my co dependent work to make a fearless moral inventory and to make amends. BUT those behaviours were things I resorted to to try and CONTROL a very deeply self-absorbed person I didn't CREATE and despite my best efforts I couldn't CURE! (All I succeeded doing was obsess about him and make my life unmanageable).

My point being, he was ALREADY the type of person who would make decisions without caring about their impact on other people! My idiocy was to not admit or recognise how damaging and eroding they were, and to delude myself that my love could 'change' him, and all the screaming, nagging, manipulating, wheedling, sarcasm, etc etc that co dependent people lose their sanity in.

DottyboutDots Wed 16-Oct-13 08:35:56

Wellwobbly, i am sorry you are so hurt and sincerely hope you recover soon. Your ex sounds like an arse. Your best revenge would be to move on without him and definitely not obsessing about him. However, the therapy speak you use just sounds trendy for now (believe me, worse things happen all over the world and equating infidelity with being stabbed is, well, ridiculous). Lazy janey, you are talking a lot of sense.

onefewernow Wed 16-Oct-13 09:25:56

I think it helps to ask why someone would have an affair rather than pull out of the existing relationship, if they are unhappy.

Why lie? And continuously?

The flaws which enable someone to cheat are the same flaws which enable them to lie about it.

Fundamentally, it is a view of relationships which is based on power over others, in one way or another. And often very subtly, or unconsciously.

And funnily enough, that 'power over' dynamic is extremely often in evidence prior to any affair, in the form of other lies, general selfishness etc. It just isn't visible to the betrayed party, or at least not until later.

I didn't anticipate or expect my husbands betrayal- quite the opposite, as I believed his self story about the foolishness of affairs in others. But once I discovered it, over the next year I was taken aback at my increasing realisation of how many signs there were in him that he was always capable of it.

Lweji Portugal Wed 16-Oct-13 10:21:22

You are concentrating on your argument with Charbon and essentially spouting a lot of rethoric but not addressing the actual question.

So, trying to be very plain, have you cheated?
Have you had problems in your marriage? If so, did you cheat?
If you have cheated, do you blame your partner? Was it not your choice?
If you haven't, why not? Was it not your choice?

MissScatterbrain Wed 16-Oct-13 10:29:30

Charbon is talking a lot of sense.

Lazyjaney's posts do not make sense to me confused you haven't really listened to anyone have you?

Missbopeep Wed 16-Oct-13 10:36:10

I think one point which is being missed here is that human beings are fallible.

It's not really possible to completely rationalise behaviour which stems from emotions.

There are numerous reasons why people have affairs. I don't actually see the point in debating it as a thread, TBH. The reason why one person has an affair is not going to be the same as someone else.

There may be marriage issues which pre empt that, there may not be.

I think it's ridiculous to suggest that problems in the marriage are never the catalyst for an affair. They clearly are and people who deny this often don't want to accept any responsibility for their own behaviour, which their partner may feel 'gives them license' to find emotional or physical comfort elsewhere. Equally it's ridiculous to say that in marriages which are okay one partner will never have an affair.

But trying to rationalise why people do certain things... people are fallible. It's the same as when someone smokes, or drinks, or eats that cake when they are already obese- they know it's wrong but at the time of committing the action they have a belief that it's okay, it's justified, it won't matter, or whatever.

Yes, the person doing any of those things has a choice and ultimately it's their choice. But just as with comfort eating some people have 'comfort' affairs.

I think what surprises me about this thread is the inability of some people to move on. I know the devastation an affair can cause- I've seen it amongst friends and families over decades, but equally there are worse things. Couples can and do recover.

Upnotdown Wed 16-Oct-13 10:38:15

It depends on your own thinking/viewpoint, surely. I can't accept someone else's opinion if it doesn't resonate with me.

Our situation was horrendous - but as much as it was his decision to have an affair, I understand why. Our relationship wasn't great. Sex life was pretty sad, I refused to listen to his concerns. I never really approached him about mine. I worked the hours I wasn't sleeping or with playing with the children. When he started saying he was staying a few nights at a friends house, I held the door open - I did not want to know. It also suited me for the relationship to coast as it was. He (initially) was looking for comfort and re-assurance after being made redundant twice in a year and getting nothing from me. The mortgage here is in his name. We aren't married (together for over 17 years).

The conclusion now is, 'she could have been anyone'. What he was getting from her, he actually wanted from me but couldn't get it. Halfway into the affair is probably when he detached from us completely and was like a stranger with an attitude problem that grew worse every day.

So yes, whilst he took the decision to have an affair on his own, it was a bit more complicated than just wanting to 'have his cake'.

Wellwobbly Wed 16-Oct-13 10:38:40

Dotty thank you so much. I am processing it all so that I never make the same mistake again...

But your comment 'equating infidelity with being stabbed is, well, ridiculous)'? You are saying invisible wounds because they can't be seen, don't count? Are you really saying that.

Honestly? I would MUCH rather have been stabbed. Seriously. I asked him why he and OW didn't arrange to have me shot (we live in that kind of place), because it would have hurt less. Even now, given the choice would you rather be stabbed and your lung punctured, or found out your whole family is based on a lie and you were never really loved? I would choose the stabbing. Today. I would rather be stabbed.

Google infidelity and trauma.
Youtube Willard Harley, who after years experience of being a counsellor would like it to be made back into a crime, it hurts people so badly.
People have said: they have been raped, had their house burned down, lost a child. But that their betrayal by someone who was inside their heart, was much worse.

I am not always going to hurt it will all be good. But again it is part of the myth isn't it?
The marriage caused it,
affairs are no big deal.

Wellwobbly Wed 16-Oct-13 10:43:00

Good points Upnotdown. How wonderful that it was you all along he wanted!

And also, that you had the guts to face up to your part. If he had dragged you by the ear to counselling or told you he was become attracted to someone else, would you have listened? Or did it take an affair to wake you up to how much you took him for granted?

I would like to hear Charbon's comments about your situation.

Upnotdown Wed 16-Oct-13 10:46:00

As much as it rips my heart out to say it, it actually took the affair to wake me up, Wellwobbly.

It's gutting to look back for so many reasons.

Upnotdown Wed 16-Oct-13 10:52:09

Affairs are a massive deal - if you haven't been through it personally (witnessing it doesn't count), you shouldn't be so flippant. Yes they happen a lot, but it doesn't mean the pain is diluted. I've never felt anything like it, and I really didn't give a shit about my relationship. I can't conceive what it feels like for someone who thought everything was good in their marriage at the time.

Missbopeep Wed 16-Oct-13 11:12:45

If the OP or anyone only wants comments from people who have experienced affairs from either side then they ought to make this clear. Not that it would carry any weight because this is a public forum and they opened a debate. It's quite possible to have empathy and understanding for all kinds of emotional issues without having experienced them.
It's also very uncharitable to ask people - or accuse them- of having affairs simply because they show some understanding of people who have affairs.
It's called being objective.

MissScatterbrain Wed 16-Oct-13 11:14:06

I know the devastation an affair can cause- I've seen it amongst friends and families over decades, but equally there are worse things

No you do NOT know the full extent of devastation.

I have witnessed it in close family/friends but didn't understand just how traumatic it must have been for them (especially if you have a long history and believed you were in a happy marriage) until it happened to me. The cruel betrayal from someone you had regarded as your soul mate, best friend and life partner was like a train hitting me - the shock, the trauma, the loss all resulted in real physical and emotional pain.

Fortunately we were able to recover as a couple but the whole experience has left a huge mark on us and on the marriage and we will never be the same again sad

MissScatterbrain Wed 16-Oct-13 11:16:10

Then Miss, perhaps you shouldn't have been so dismissive hmm

Missbopeep Wed 16-Oct-13 11:17:50

I would MUCH rather have been stabbed. Seriously. I asked him why he and OW didn't arrange to have me shot (we live in that kind of place), because it would have hurt less. Even now, given the choice would you rather be stabbed and your lung punctured, or found out your whole family is based on a lie and you were never really loved? I would choose the stabbing. Today. I would rather be stabbed.

If anyone really thinks this then they need serious help. Having your whole life centred on someone's love for you and wishing you would rather be dead if they are unfaithful or leave you is not healthy.

A happy and loving relationship is a blessing, but to have such a huge ego or whatever it may be that makes someone want to choose death over life without that person ( or their fidelity) is not that of a balanced mind. I feel sorry for anyone who feels that way.

MissScatterbrain Wed 16-Oct-13 11:19:42

How nasty Miss.

Upnotdown Wed 16-Oct-13 11:26:30

Objective is great, but you seem to be confusing objective with being arrogant. Your last post (11;17) is pretty nasty, Missbopeep. You're talking about an innocent persons feelings. Wobbly is clearly deeply affected by her experience.

Lweji Portugal Wed 16-Oct-13 11:28:15

But the examples mentioned here where the relationship was not good, the partner who cheated could simply have walked away from the relationship.

Regardless of the state of the relationship, infidelity brings along the issue of lack of trust, and I'm not sure I'd recover from that.

Even if the fault for the bad state of the marriage lays with the other partner, it is still not a cause for the infidelity. The two are separate issues.

As is DV. It's not because the victim didn't clean enough, or wasn't sufficiently caring. It's the choice of the partner who is violent. Modern law doesn't give excuses for DV.
We shouldn't give excuses for infidelity either, other than the choice of the cheater.

Upnotdown Wed 16-Oct-13 11:34:25

I agree, Lweji.

I'm just saying that in some situations, it's easier to understand. It certainly doesn't make it right.

If we hadn't have had the problems, I would have been far less likely to be able to stay and work it out.

saferniche Wed 16-Oct-13 12:12:36

empathy not your strong point, Missbopeep?

Lweji Portugal Wed 16-Oct-13 12:15:01

Upnot, I think the problem there is that you both felt in the wrong and were able to work it out, but it wasn't your fault he cheated, nor was his fault that you didn't give enough of yourself to him.

As in two wrongs don't make it a right. smile

But, I'm glad you both were able to come together past each other's shortcomings.

My point, and in relation to this thread, is that didn't cheat because you didn't give enough to the relationship. He lied to do it, and he did it because he decided to. He chose that path instead of addressing it with you properly. So, the real cause was within himself.

As the cause of your attitude within the marriage was (I assume) yourself.

Lweji Portugal Wed 16-Oct-13 12:19:08

Missbopeep is right, though. Sorry, Wobbly.

You do need to work on yourself why you still feel that way.

It is not healthy that you'd rather have been stabbed. sad

I think this thread is to help you do that. It is major progress to feel free of responsibility over his actions, particularly those that hurt you so badly.
I believe you are having counselling? I hope you are addressing these issues of self worth.
You should be thinking he's a twunt, not that you'd rather be dead/he killed you.

Charbon Wed 16-Oct-13 12:51:35

I had been reasonably certain that only one person on this thread had misunderstood/claimed to have misunderstood my posts, but because those posts have been persistently falsely paraphrased and there now appears to be further false paraphrasing, I want to reiterate that I have never said that marital discord or relationship dissatisfaction have no influence on someone's decision to have an affair.

But the causal factor itself is always the person's decision to be unfaithful, rather than choosing other options.

The causal factor is what this thread was was meant to be discussing.

Not individual fallibility, or why people make the choices they do, or the validity of those choices. Not straw men either i.e arguing with claims that have never been raised by anyone on the thread.

Wellwobbly Wed 16-Oct-13 13:14:48

Saferniche, ha ha ha! thanks

I reiterate: when I sit here looking at everything I have lost and what my children have lost, I would rather have been stabbed.

For me, never have been stabbed, it doesn't sound like a big deal. 999, lung reinflate, a few stitches, life back to normal in a few weeks. That deal sounds absolutely preferable to me.

It is not up to you to tell me what I feel or don't feel.

Wellwobbly Wed 16-Oct-13 13:23:57

Miss Bopeep if you read properly, the issue I was debating at the time (with Dotty NOT YOU) was - is emotional injury as traumatic as a physical injury? I was telling her that it most assuredly was, using being stabbed as an analogy.

Most stab injuries do not cause death. YOU extrapolated and YOU projected.

Please don't.

saferniche Wed 16-Oct-13 14:16:01

Wellwobbly thlgrin

Well it's an interesting debate you have started here, and I can see there are as many theories as there are affairs. Personally my view is that no two affairs are the same. Some people cheat because they can, and they enjoy it, others to escape something, many are serial cheats, many are not, some even leave a partner because they fall in love, properly, and the new union lasts. You can't define anything where human emotions are involved because emotions are by their very nature at times both illogical and irrational. Love, lust, loyalty.... strange concepts all of them.

You are a strong and intelligent woman, but sometimes you come across as being almost consumed by your husbands betrayal, perhaps even allowing yourself to be defined by it. Why let him infiltrate your thoughts like this? He is history. Gone. A weak man. Not worthy of another thought.

In a strange way I've felt connected to you on here because we went through the pain together. You are right, no bystander can even begin to understand what it feels like. You have to let go though, you have to invest your thoughts, energy, passion into something outside of this.

MN relationships board is a little dangerous. I'd been on here too much recently, and you know what, it set me back. I was doing so well, and then I found myself getting sucked back into doubts and obsessions, fuelled by stuff I was reading on here. I had to step away, find myself, my independence and my self confidence again. It's back. The rest, it's over.

I'm not a therapist, I haven't read fancy theories, I don't speak the current lingo, but I have walked a mile in your shoes. It hurts like hell, but it hurts a hell of a lot less when you close that door, open a new one, and start your life again.


Lweji Portugal Wed 16-Oct-13 15:00:38

I understand what you are saying that a physical injury is easier to bear and get over with than the emotional wound.

If you think it through, though, if they had arranged to stab you, and you survived, you'd still have to deal with the betrayal and the aftermath, including the destruction of the family, etc.

One of the issues there, IMO, is that he simply didn't leave. Nor you.

I think that prolonging the break up was the worst things you could have done for yourself, and possibly your children too.
A clean, quick, break would probably be more like pulling a band aid. Or the stab wound you say you preferred.
It would have hurt like hell then, but it would have been better sooner.

Missbopeep Wed 16-Oct-13 15:41:52

wellwobbly you post here often- mostly on the same topic- but being a 'regular' doesn't give any poster the authority to tell another poster not to join the discussion. It's a public forum. If you want private or exclusive conversations with only some posters, then perhaps you need to consider if a forum is the right place.

You were comparing the pain of being stabbed or shot to the emotional pain of being hurt.

If you didn't mean that you would , as a consequence, die from those actions then you ought to have made it clear. It's not the fault of the reader when they misinterpret something that's unclear. But unless you have been shot or stabbed I don't see how you can compare- it's just in your imagination and a figure of speech you were using.

familyscapegoat Wed 16-Oct-13 16:28:52

But wellwobbly wasn't telling anyone not to join in the discussion MBP, she was asking you specifically not to extrapolate something different from what she was saying. All you had to say was 'Oh sorry I thought you meant you would rather have died, I see now you meant physical injuries in general.' Which would be the most rational and kindest response to a woman who has written so eloquently about the pain she is experiencing.

But you didn't.

Instead you went on to present her most recent request as her trying to bar posters from the entire discussion. More strange extrapolation then.

I don't know whether the OP posts mostly on this topic. I know I do when I (rarely now) come on to this site so I recognise her from other threads we've been on together. But the same could be said for you MBP. I recognise you from infidelity threads too, usually saying similar things in similar ways to your posts on this thread. For all I know you only post about this issue too. I suppose the difference is everyone knows why the OP and I are on infidelity threads, posting the way we do.

saferniche Wed 16-Oct-13 16:31:00

Missbopeep no, no sign of any yet..

Lweji - but it's the loss of a whole way of life and an idea of who you are and who you've been for many years. I don't know Wellwobbly's story but I see she fought to save her marriage. She can't have known at the outset what would happen. I'm assuming here's a new stage, not up to us to dictate the pace.

These 'breaks' are never clean or quick, really.

familyscapegoat Wed 16-Oct-13 17:34:52

I think that's right Saferniche. While I'd hate to start misrepresenting posters myself (there's been quite enough of that on this thread IMO) I've seen posts from the OP which indicate new, upsetting developments. So I could understand it if that (and the realisation that the end must come now) is freshly traumatic.

I understood what Worsestershire was saying though about not letting the actions of other people define us, but I suppose this thread and the majority of posters on it can help with that, if someone's struggling. I can read a thread like this - even the irrational comments - and feel personally unmoved (although I get cross if someone's being cruel or rude!)

Although I've said that despite what my husband was telling me I went on a fruitless memory trawl, I can honestly say I never once felt responsible for his affair and of course neither did he ever try to pass it my way. Even if he'd been claiming unhappiness, we would have both acknowledged straight away that he'd have had the responsibility to let me know and to make attempts to address it.

This to me is so obvious. I can only summise why a couple of posters don't get it.

But I'm sure those very clear lines of accountability, together with the fact that my marriage was never the only thing that defined me, is why my husband's affair has never overwhelmed me or taken over my life. That doesn't stop me having enormous sympathy for people who are still struggling with the accountability issue, or who are coping with fresh trauma and ultimately, loss.

Maybe for those posters, losing the accountability that was never yours to start with kick-starts the recovery process and then doing some work on yourself to recognise what really defines you as an individual. That might be things like personal talents or a great job, it might be the other wonderful relationships you've built up, it might be personal qualities such as compassion or empathy or it might be the difference you make to people's lives through your voluntary work or a hobby.

There are some wonderful posters on this thread for example, who I think make a real difference to people's lives through their wisdom and compassion, the OP included.

saferniche Wed 16-Oct-13 19:57:34

hi familyscapegoat - well said.

I imagine Wellwobbly's marriage doesn't define her either, it's the shock of having to reframe such an important part of a life which has caused such a blow. Perhaps if your dh had been different - not as self-aware perhaps - and the outcome hadn't been as positive, you would have felt overwhelmed at least for a while. I know I would be, in fact I was. Your advice is sound, and is something to aim for.

I don't see any excuse for cruelty on threads like this.

Lweji Portugal Wed 16-Oct-13 20:17:35

saferniche, it has been a long story and many many posts rationalising why to stay with this narcissistic man, how to deal with him, planning to leave, then delaying and so on It has been a hard process and I'm really happy at how far wobbly has gone, but still sad that she's still so caught up in it.
Obviously she didn't realise from the outset. That's not in question. smile

saferniche Wed 16-Oct-13 20:22:37

but some of you have been here supporting her. At least you were able to do that. smile

Missbopeep Wed 16-Oct-13 22:13:30

family I think that extrapolating is the new 'in' word on this thread
FWIW my opinion is you are indulging in semantics. If a poster says they are NOT discussing something with YOU then the inference is that they don't wish you to join the dialogue they have with another poster. They may have stopped short of saying f... off - but that's the inference.

Oh I forgot- that's another extrapolation.

My final thoughts are that if someone is clearly still very raw about something they have experienced, they ought to find help in RL and not use a debating style of posting to kick off a thread which invites discussion - when that discussion may include things they don't want to countenance.

If they just want cheer leaders and sympathy then a forum which includes a range of opinions is not the right place- surely they are just rubbing salt in their raw wounds by inviting comments they don't want to hear and which don't fit their own belief system?

nooka Thu 17-Oct-13 00:54:40

Upnot I think that's an interesting idea, that where both partners want to make things work again and can see areas of improvement it is much easier to do so than when an affair has appeared completely out of the blue for one party.

My uncle walked out on his wife of 20 odd years having told her that for the majority of that time he had been having an affair with a neighbour. She (and the rest of the family) didn't have a clue that there was something fundamentally wrong, and that he had effectively checked out of their relationship years before, and had just stayed for the children (very old school). He had zero intention of ever allowing her to make things better, assuming that that was possible. Obviously a unique situation but not I suspect that unusual.

Personally, and I am a risk manager and trained in public health so generally good at logical thinking, cause and effect etc I would say that anyone who states even that most affairs are 'caused' by marriage problems isn't looking nearly deep enough at the root causes of individual behaviour. Clearly there is a strong correlation, but you'd really have to track a lot of couples for a long period of time and make many recordings to be able to show that a higher proportion of couples experienced problems prior to the affair than those that didn't and also that the claimed prompt or trigger for the affair was those problems.

Then you'd have to control for factors like the relationship status of the parents of both partners (higher likelihood of marriage break up if your parents themselves broke up, presumably a % of those break ups were because of infidelity), issues like illness or death in the family and other traumatic events that are associated with relationship failures etc. Oh and stress and poverty too, again associated with relationship failures.

So Lazyjaney with your obvious access to 'all research, observations, testimonies' etc please do direct me to the research that meets the tests above (which are pretty mainstream I shoudl add, nothing contentious or extreme) because I would be fascinated to read it.

familyscapegoat Thu 17-Oct-13 02:15:12

MBP Wellwobbly didn't say she wasn't discussing something with you. She just asked you to stop misinterpreting what she was saying and putting your own spin on it. Which is projection and extrapolation and so yes, you did it again in your last post. That's not semantics - it's just a matter of written record on this thread. Just like everyone can read Charbon's posts and see how they are being twisted and misconstrued, yet everyone else appears to be able to grasp what she's saying which isn't difficult given the clarity and articulacy of her posts.

I profoundly agree with your post Nooka but although I'd agree it must be ^ easier^ to reconcile if you believe the main issue that caused the decision to cheat was an unsatisfactory relationship, I still think it could be a false trail unless the person who's cheated transforms his/her way of dealing with dissatisfaction which is bound to crop up again in some form or another in the future. That might be hard for some posters in the initial honeymoon period of reconciliation to imagine just yet, but speaking as someone who's years on from this now, those low moments will come, as they do in any long term relationship. I do think it's a grave mistake if people think a great relationship can ward off infidelity on its own and I hope that's not the case for some of these posters.

By the way, I think the ' all research, observations and testimonies' Lazy Janey claims to have read is a false trail too. This poster said that 'all of it' would state that some affairs are due to problems in a relationship and others are due to other factors. Not strictly true and probably just further evidence of misreading (or possibly no reading at all) and therefore aberrant conclusions. We read loads and whereas most research acknowledged that there could be a correlatory link, not one stated categorically that an affair of any description could be attributable to a single cause. The correlatory link incidentally was not between problem marriages and an affair. The link was between problem marriages and a decision to cheat; a very different thing entirely.

Not one person on this thread has said that affairs never happen in unhappy marriages, or that unhappiness (if it exists) isn't a relevant factor in a person's rationale and perceived justification for being unfaithful. Neither does the literature. So there is no clash here, apart from in a poster's imagination.

onefewernow Thu 17-Oct-13 09:03:31

Unhappiness in a marriage is also not neutral.

My H would have said that the unhappiness we had contributed to his decision. However, any unhappiness on my side related to his selfish behaviour with regards to family life, and on his side with the disputes which resulted from it.

He now sees that turning a deaf ear to me, when I was working too, was no solution. And he has learned, at least somewhat, through counselling that a genuine willingness to communicate a path through disputes is more productive and satisfying for him too than the alternative- which was to ignore me, feel undervalued by my complaints, do even less at home and stay up late sexting.

Lazyjaney Thu 17-Oct-13 09:13:31

"I want to reiterate that I have never said that marital discord or relationship dissatisfaction have no influence on someone's decision to have an affair"

You stated it was a never a cause, ever, upthread. Now you admit it's an "influence". I think you are playing with semantics now.

"But the causal factor itself is always the person's decision to be unfaithful, rather than choosing other options"

This line of argument completely misrepresents the cause/effect relationship. If A is a cause of B, and B is a cause of C, then there is a causal link and A is a cause of C.

So if relationship problems cause a person to take some new decision, and that decision is to have an affair, then there is a causal relationship and the relationship problems are a cause of the affair.

That the person has other choices of action does not invalidate the choice of action they made. Different people make different choicest.

In this case, the person chose this action. In another case, another person will choose another action. Both are effects of the same initial cause.

Missbopeep Thu 17-Oct-13 09:14:04

Family even though I am far too busy in RL to get bogged down here, I can't let you get away with your comment: 'WW didn't say she wasn't discussing something with you'.

WW wrote:^the issue I was debating at the time (with Dotty NOT YOU) was^.....

Errr... which bit of that don't you understand? confused

I don't like this over use of extrapolation which keeps coming up to actually defend ambiguity in the post, or as a kind of cop-out when someone responds - 'Oh, I didn't mean THAT- you are extrapolating.

When people write things there is inference. I prefer to think that certain things are inferred, because language has shades and nuances - which is not the same as extrapolating. If posters were clearer and avoided writing anything from which ( possibly) unintentional inferences could be made, or even extrapolated, then there wouldn't be any confusion.

For example if someone says they'd rather be stabbed or shot, most readers assume that means they'd prefer to die- if they then come back saying 'oh most people don't die from being that's not what I meant'- who is at fault for the misunderstanding?

Lazyjaney Thu 17-Oct-13 09:19:33

So Lazyjaney with your obvious access to 'all research, observations, testimonies' etc please do direct me to the research that meets the tests above (which are pretty mainstream I shoudl add, nothing contentious or extreme) because I would be fascinated to read it

Have you tried Google? Or looking at more divorces than your Uncles?

Mind you, if you have never yet read, seen or heard anything that disagrees with your point of view, it's unlikely you will in future

Lweji Portugal Thu 17-Oct-13 09:29:00

If you could link to the research you did mention, I'd find it very useful, actually.

Always one to consider evidence, being in science.

onefewernow Thu 17-Oct-13 09:30:49

MBP, I wish you were too busy in RL to nitpick over Wws pain. So unnecessary.

Lweji Portugal Thu 17-Oct-13 09:38:51

This line of argument completely misrepresents the cause/effect relationship. If A is a cause of B, and B is a cause of C, then there is a causal link and A is a cause of C.

This argument works in a deterministic model, if A always causes B, and then B always causes C.
If problems in marriage, unhappiness, then cheating.

However, it's more problems in marriage, unhappiness, then several paths open for a choice a) working to solve them, b) leave the relationship, c) find someone else and lie to current partner.
In that sense, the problems didn't cause c). They may have led the person to make a choice, but that person is ultimately responsible (and the cause) for choosing c).

By your train of thought, and you haven't addressed this, do problems in a marriage cause a person to beat up their partner?
Because there is option d) violently force partner to accept one's point of view so that this person can be happy again.

If the problem is lack of sex, would option d) rape be caused by refusal to have sex, in the same way that you are proposing that it causes c) sex with another person (cheating)?

Or is it only and only caused by the person making that choice?

PostBellumBugsy Thu 17-Oct-13 09:45:04

It is strange how when you've had the "light bulb" moment, you can't understand why others can't see the light too!

My ex-H had an affair 11 years ago. At first I was livid and full of anger - how could you do this? How could you break the promises? How could you deceive me? etc.

Then we went to counselling in an attempt to see if we could find a way forward. The counselling was all about my ex-H. All about how hard he found having young children, how hard he found sharing my attention, how lonely he sometimes felt, how he no longer felt I was interested in him, how I didn't understand him anymore. I sat through week after week after week of this shit and I started to doubt myself. I started to think that somehow it was my fault that ex-H was so miserable that I had somehow pushed him to the point of having an affair. I'm a control freak, a pleaser, a fixer & he is a narcissist. I started to think I could fix him & make it all better.

I tried, he didn't. We got divorced.

However, it took a decade to undo that mind set that I had somehow unwittingly, unknowingly made ex-H be unfaithful to me. That having babies (that he wanted more than I had done) and not being able to give 100% of myself to him meant that I had forced him to the point of an affair.

Having an affair is a selfish choice that one person in a marriage makes. It is not because of the problems, it is because that is the course of action they choose. Other people might choose to improve communications, to go to counselling, to get away together & rediscover themselves as a couple, to help the partner with drink issues, eating issues or MH issues etc etc, but the partner who has an affair makes a conscious choice to do lie, deceive & be unfaithful, rather than leave or try to sort out the problems.

FrancescaBell Thu 17-Oct-13 10:02:52

Wow I can't believe this is still going and that there are two posters still bothering to post not about the issue at hand, but about how others write and their (mis)understanding of the meanings involved shock. If Lazyjaney and MissBoPeep met, I'm not sure either would understand what the other was saying at all and god knows how they'd accurately report the conversation afterwards wink.

What's that sort of behaviour on a thread all about though? It's so odd when everyone else can understand what folk are writing. Such a weird personality trait to do that too especially on a thread of this kind where posters have talked about their own personal pain and upset. Apart from the insensitivity of this bizarre nitpicking, why would anyone make themselves look so foolish deliberately? confused

MissScatterbrain Thu 17-Oct-13 10:04:47

Yup FB hmm

OrmirianResurgam Thu 17-Oct-13 10:09:26

"MBP, I wish you were too busy in RL to nitpick over Wws pain. So unnecessary."


I could point to a hundred little things that MIGHT have led to H's decision to have an affair. I could also point to a hundred little things that might just have easily led to my decision to have an affair. But none of those hundreds are unusual in a long-term marriage with children and the usual pressures of family life.

I am fighting a rear-guard action against my need to take the blame for not being X, for not doing Y etc. Because I like to think that I am in control. H's affair was one thing that I was no in any way in control of. My need to blame myself was a way of counteracting that. But it wasn't my fault. It wasn't the fault of the marriage. It was his fault 100%. 100%! Even typing that makes me uncomfortable. But it is a fact. H tells me, has told me many many times. that I did nothing wrong, that the affair was nothing to do with me, it was to do with him and bad boundaries. He is ashamed. I am not (or I try not to be) because I was not to blame.

OrmirianResurgam Thu 17-Oct-13 10:12:01

I have noticed on other sites dealing specifically with relationship issues that there is a tendency amongst some posters to be quite antagonistic to betrayed spouses/partners. To downplay their pain, to try to analyse their behaviour, their shortcomings. Some of them are ex or current OW, some of them aren't but seem to have difficulties with empathy. I don't understand it.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 17-Oct-13 10:22:16

Orm, I think people spend a lot of time justifying why they had an affair or were the "other" person in an affair. Unless, like your H, they can admit that they made a selfish choice, they have to come up with lots of justifications for why that action was "right", or even if not right, somehow justifiable.

The easiest way to do that is to blame shift, to make someone else responsible for the choice that they made. The easiest person to blame is going to be the non-cheating partner. No single person on the planet is perfect, so there will undoubtedly always be a long list of flaws they can point to for how those flaws "made them" have an affair.

Lweji Portugal Thu 17-Oct-13 10:28:49

That's why I wonder about Lazy. She seems too invested in defending the indefensible.
She seems either to be a cheater or OW, or, more worryingly, be caught up in a damaging self-blame pit.
Although, she could also be one of those counsellors who blame the cheated on partner. shock

FrancescaBell Thu 17-Oct-13 10:32:12

Well yes Orm. But I don't suppose it's just some OW who'd do that (or OM) but also people who've had affairs while still married and who are still blaming their partners for it.

Anyway, I want to acknowledge the great posts on this thread, because they are at risk of being overlooked while all this nonsense keeps hijacking it.

Terrific post PostBellumBugsy. That 'lightbulb moment' you mention and how long it took you to get there was kind of what Charbon was saying upthread about how, because this is such an emotive issue and is the last bastion of societally-approved victim-blaming, it's sometimes difficult for people to see this through a different lens.

What made the lightbulb come on?

PostBellumBugsy Thu 17-Oct-13 10:54:40

Not entirely sure if it was a light bulb moment or more of a tiny glimmer that slowly became a giant flood light. For a good 8 years, I really did think that somehow I was to blame, that if I'd tried harder, lost the post baby weight quicker, realised I was anaemic quicker, been less ill & exhausted that somehow I would have prevented ex-H having the affair, but then a combination of being relentlessly pursued by a married man - and finding the Chump Lady website made me realise that I need to get over myself. It wasn't me, it was him. It was ex-H's choice, ex-H's actions - not mine!

I think the biggest eye opener was the married man who tried so hard to persuade me to have an affair with him. It is a complicated story but I did NOT yield to his endless flattery & charm & have an affair. However, it was genuinely a light bulb moment when I realised how all the crap that he was spouting about how lonely, misunderstood & unfulfilled he was in his marriage had nothing to do with his wife - it was all about him. I imagine that it was the very same stuff ex-H must have said to OW.

OrmirianResurgam Thu 17-Oct-13 10:57:13

fb - yes, I am sure some OW, OM, WS etc can be like that. No monopoly on being an arse wink

FrancescaBell Thu 17-Oct-13 11:08:25

That's so interesting. Isn't it so mad, bad and sad that people still blame themselves for what someone else did? But it must be especially hard if that person blames you for it and society seems to support his viewpoint. Like others were saying, I'd hope that sort of thing is rare now for crime victims because society itself pours scorn and approbation on victim-blamers and IME, eventually if enough people condemn that blaming it starts to enter public consciousness and bit by bit, that view becomes so unpalatable that most people are forced to change their minds and even the diehard dinosaurs would never risk saying what they think.

You were very insightful to see the parallels between what the MM was saying and what your ex likely said to his OW. How wise you are and how well-dodged that bullet! thanks

FrancescaBell Thu 17-Oct-13 11:11:34

WS = Wayward Spouses?

onefewernow Thu 17-Oct-13 11:13:57

H tried to part blame me at first but I didn't accept it, and he backed down. I think it was only slowly over the next year that I started to look at the relationship differently, and to notice other examples of power imbalance. We went back to counselling as a result.

However, I do think I was a bit of a fixer etc. Working on strengthening my own boundaries instead of looking at his, stopping complaining and letting H experience all sorts of consequences instead, have been very useful.

So, for me, although I very much regret that he did put this nasty blot on our relationship, I do think the resulting trauma, or the working through it, helped me to develop as a person.

OrmirianResurgam Thu 17-Oct-13 11:38:20

Yes, wayward spouse.

FrancescaBell Thu 17-Oct-13 11:40:32

Ta, orm smile

Wellwobbly Thu 17-Oct-13 16:01:15

PostBellumBugsy awesome post, thank you!

nooka Fri 18-Oct-13 01:50:10

Lazeyjaney I have to say as a response that really lives up to your name.

Why not be honest and just say no, you have no links to research it's just your opinion. And yes of course I know of more people that have divorced. What an incredibly stupid thing to say.

nooka Fri 18-Oct-13 01:55:53

I recall reading somewhere that women are particularly inclined to believe that they must be at fault somehow because of being strongly socialized to please others from childhood up. I don't know if men who have been cheated on have the same urge to go over and over things that they could surely have done differently to avert the infidelity. It seems quite a human urge to me, and the outside world doesn't help.

familyscapegoat, I totally agree, I think that relationships post affairs have to be different, really you need to start again with a recommittment and a mutual promise to do things differently. Otherwise they just limp on and are likely to disintegrate.

Lazyjaney Fri 18-Oct-13 09:29:55

"However, it's more problems in marriage, unhappiness, then several paths open for a choice a) working to solve them, b) leave the relationship, c) find someone else and lie to current partner.
In that sense, the problems didn't cause c). They may have led the person to make a choice, but that person is ultimately responsible (and the cause) for choosing c)"

Lweji you are making very elementary errors in the way cause and effect works, which i have pointed out before. Also, as someone else showed you way upthread, you have created the convenient but impossible outcome that now no effects are possible for a troubled relationship.

Also your points on determinism clearly show you're unfamiliar with probability, which has been used for centuries to deal with multiple causes and/or effects.

Anyway, since your (and most others on here's) subsequent posts then go in for personal attack, there really is no point in continuing this debate - you know what they say about those resorting to the ad hominem....

Lazyjaney Fri 18-Oct-13 09:43:48

"Why not be honest and just say no, you have no links to research it's just your opinion. And yes of course I know of more people that have divorced. What an incredibly stupid thing to say"

I suggested you Google, because if you were right there wouldn't be page after page on there refuting your point.

Tweetypie27 Fri 18-Oct-13 10:49:35

I don't agree with this my husband looked me in the face daily and told me he loved me we were very close best friends he still went out and did it to me and I think that's what hurt more is that I thought we were perfect together and so did everyone else.
I thought we were happy so to me it was like a bolt out of the blue and he still turned around and blamed me for it and said it was my fault so I think it's a bollocky excuse that cheaters use because cheating won't fix your marriage it will just ruin it!

Lweji Portugal Fri 18-Oct-13 10:51:44

Lazy, but we are very incompetent and biased, so I'd really appreciate it if you could do the search and point us to the page results.
Or provide at least 3-4 links to the actual research.

Much obliged.

Lweji Portugal Fri 18-Oct-13 10:54:03

Lweji you are making very elementary errors in the way cause and effect works, which i have pointed out before.

I'm not. But that's my word against yours.

Please do answer my question about outcome d).
Don't you agree that by your logic you are giving problems in the marriage as cause for domestic violence and rape within the marriage?
And if not, how do you reconcile the two?

Lweji Portugal Fri 18-Oct-13 10:56:39

Also your points on determinism clearly show you're unfamiliar with probability, which has been used for centuries to deal with multiple causes and/or effects.

Do enlighten me how probability deals with multiple causes and effects?
The term cause implies determinism, whether you like it or not.

And, do tell, where did I personally attack you? shock
If so, please report to MNHQ.

OrmirianResurgam Fri 18-Oct-13 11:02:48

If I switch on a light I cause the bulb to be illuminated
If I turn the key in my car ignition I cause the engine to turn over.

That isn't the way people work. We aren't machines. We have choices.

if I stabbed H in the heart I might cause him to die. If I am in some way in his view an unsatisfactory wife I do not cause him to be unfaithful. He might think it was an excuse to be unfaithful but that's a quite different matter.

FrancescaBell Fri 18-Oct-13 11:03:11

It is honestly a very strange and unedifying experience watching someone who is reading the same posts as everyone else, constantly alleging that those posts said something different and then inferring that the posters who wrote those imaginary words therefore lack knowledge or intelligence.

There is certainly no point in continuing a 'debate' with someone who a) is strange enough to try to gaslight people about the written word b) refers to research to back up opinions but won't cite it and c) thinks it's appropriate to do any of that on a thread when people are talking about pain and loss.

onefewernow Fri 18-Oct-13 23:01:06

FB, we all suspect why, too.

Bogeyface Netherlands Sat 19-Oct-13 00:15:46


I think you are confusing reason and excuse.

The reason someone cheats is because they decide to, that they are unhappy in their marriage excuses it, at least by their own standards.

Bogeyface Netherlands Sat 19-Oct-13 00:16:37

Shall I ask?

LazyJaney how often have you been the OW?

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 10:22:23

This is still going on? :/

Lazyjaney yet to explain how problems in a marriage cause cheating I also see.

I think it is quite simple to understand, I don't know why it is being made so complicated.

My understanding of the word cause in this context is that it is being asserted that infidelity happens as a result of problems in a marriage. This is evidently not true given that many marriages have problems without there being infidelity. Also significant infidelity happens without problems. Also because it is irrational to attempt to argue that choice is not the primary cause of infidelity, now that choice may be varying degrees of morally wrong or otherwise depending on the circumstances but it still doesn't mean that choice isn't the cause of cheating.

Lazyjaney Sat 19-Oct-13 12:14:22

"My understanding of the word cause in this context is that it is being asserted that infidelity happens as a result of problems in a marriage. This is evidently not true given that many marriages have problems without there being infidelity. Also significant infidelity happens without problems. Also because it is irrational to attempt to argue that choice is not the primary cause of infidelity, now that choice may be varying degrees of morally wrong or otherwise depending on the circumstances but it still doesn't mean that choice isn't the cause of cheating"

This is the same basic error that Charbon, Lweji etc get caught up in. A cause can have multiple effects, an effect can have multiple causes.

For example - smoking does not always cause lung cancer, and lung cancer is not only caused by smoking. But you cannot therefore argue that smoking cannot cause lung cancer.

And arguing that infidelity is only caused by choosing it, while ignoring the causes of it's choice, is like arguing that lung cancer is only caused by rogue cell growth, and ignoring the causes of that growth.

The need on this thread to believe something as absurd as "no affairs are caused by relationship problems, not ever" is so visceral that I can only assume those defending it so vehemently have some fairly deep seated issues they have not yet faced up to.

Anyway, you may now continue with the personal attacks - which again says much about those so invested in this thread.....

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 12:36:20

Please do report the personal attacks.

You still haven't answered the question about DV...

So, are problems in the marriage a cause of DV as well?

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 12:43:08

Also because it is irrational to attempt to argue that choice is not the primary cause of infidelity, now that choice may be varying degrees of morally wrong or otherwise depending on the circumstances but it still doesn't mean that choice isn't the cause of cheating"


Try as I might and re-reading this several times, I can't make head nor tail of it. The grammar is all over the place-not to mention the logic- and a few commas would possibly help me to fathom it all out. confused

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 12:45:03

The issue with lung cancer is that it is not "caused" by smoking itself, but directly by lung cells going rogue.
They go rogue by a number of reasons, but they don't choose to go rogue. In the right conditions (enough damage to the DNA, defective copies of the controlling genes and escaping from the immune system) they always go rogue, sooner or later.
There is usually a fairly deterministic path to the development of lung cancer, which involves certain steps and there is a mechanism to it.

Unless you are stating that humans are conditioned to cheat upon certain conditions, then they have free will and can choose not to cheat, regardless of what happened in their relationship.

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 12:48:27

is there a thing called the reverse Superman effect? Where certain two people always show up together? And they are not a couple.

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 13:41:17

Ah- you're talking about yourself , Charbon and WW? Yep thought so.

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 13:44:04

Choices don't have causes. Choices may have influences.

Still yet to explain how problems in a marriage cause infidelity.

I say that as someone who has both been cheated on and cheated.

Very sorry if my last post doesn't make much sense and a lack of commas confuses you. Mumsnet isn't an english exam and I'm recovering from a very nasty tummy bug and haven't eaten for 2 days now. I'm not sure how it detracts from the point though.

You two can bang on all you want about how you disagree but neither of you has articulated your point; how do problems in a relationship cause infidelity? Do you have a different understanding of the word cause?

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 13:52:13

And I'm aware that a cause can have multiple effects btw. It really is totally irrelevant to the conversation here, which is about whether problems in a relationship cause infidelity.

I'm struggling to understand how you are unable to understand the difference between effect and choice and cause and influence. They are distinct from each other for a reason.

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 13:57:03

Some philosophers and those who study metaphysics do not believe there is such a thing as free will. Discuss.

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 14:01:11

Right, ok then...

So, how do problems in a relationship cause infidelity.

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 14:06:26

See it is will we are talking about rather than free will. No-one on this side of the fence has been perverse enough to argue that problems in a relationship do not influence a choice to be unfaithful.

We're simply saying it remains a choice no matter what way you analyse it. It remains a choice, and that the circumstances surrounding affairs differ wildly. The only common factor being the choice to be unfaithful.

Not sure why you're so invested in the idea that problems cause infidelity? Not sure because neither of you have articulated how problems cause infidelity...

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 14:07:20

Offred- I don't know if your post 'you two' includes me?

I don't think I've said anything along those lines. I believe that people do have a choice. I also believe that there are circumstances which influence choice. Choices are made when we take many factors into consideration both consciously and sub consciously.

I fail to see why it's so hard to understand that someone who is unhappy in a marriage for whatever reason and who, at that moment in time, does not want to leave the marriage, may be drawn into another relationship.

What I cannot understand is why this entire thread appears to miss the point that emotions cannot be explained rationally or logically.

People can behave in a way which they know intellectually is wrong, but their emotions carry them forward, even though they may feel regret afterwards. It's called human fallibility.

It's the same principle which applies to almost half the population who are now overweight- they carry on eating cake even though they know it's wrong and will in the end make them ill.
They have a choice to have an apple or a cake- they choose cake.
No one would deny emotional eating. A set of circumstances which predispose someone to comfort eating.

Why is it so hard to accept that marriages may have factors which predispose someone to an affair?

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 14:09:46

It isn't and I've consistently made those points that you say no-one on the thread is making.

Those points do not mean that problems cause infidelity though.

So what's your point on this thread exactly if you seem to accept problems are an influence on the choice to be unfaithful rather than a cause of infidelity?

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 14:09:47

Offred- are you wanting specific examples of couples? I could give you at least 3 - close friends- but I'd feel disloyal in case they felt outed. But in each of their marriages there had been severe discord, lack of connection and unhappiness for years and years. They had all tried counselling too- but one partner (wife and husband) chose to have an affair at the height of their unhappiness when someone came into their lives with whom they felt a huge connection.

There- is that what you want?

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 14:11:56

Offred- I think this whole thread is falling apart through semantics. I am tired of it now because there is too much confusion over what people means by 'cause'.

I don't know what your point is anyway, so I'm off.

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 14:14:08

Well, that's what I'm asking. What do you mean by cause? It seems to be that you are equating influences with causes. The semantics are pretty important because as others have explained the idea that infidelity is caused by problems in the relationship is quite victim blaming and often tied to misogyny.

Offred Sat 19-Oct-13 14:16:34

Influence being a compelling force on an outcome and cause being the reason for an outcome.

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 14:24:05

Emotions are not rational.

Falling in love with someone (else) is not caused by problems in the marriage. It could happen regardless.
But it may not be avoidable.
Still, choosing to have an affair instead of leaving the previous partner is a conscious decision. It involves lying and deception, as well as compartmentalisation.

A man could say he fell out of love with his wife because she was a bitch. If he fell in love with someone else is an accident. If he chooses to have an affair (whether he loves this other woman or just wants a shag) is his choice alone and not because his wife is a bitch.

It's like saying I lied because I knew you wouln't like it. You didn't lie because of the possible response by the other person, but because you didn't want to face the consequences of the truth.

Affairs happen because someone doesn't want to leave their partner while or before embarking in a sexual relationship with someone else.
No other reason.

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 14:30:39


Problems in marriage can cause infidelity.

Problems in marriage do not cause rape in marriage, it's the choice of the rapist.


It's interesting how you choose to argue small points (you didn't really argue against free will, though) and miss out big holes in your argument.

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 14:46:58

I'm not missing anything.

Let me try again if it's so hard for you to get it.

Problems in a marriage do not cause infidelity, per se. But problems in a marriage may be the catalyst for someone's infidelity. The behaviour of either or both spouses may create a marriage in which one partner is unhappy. Their unhappiness may lead to infidelity.

Equally, another couple with the same problems may not experience infidelity.

There is a lot of research about the 'infidelity gene' as well as how family background may be an influence ( men whose fathers had affairs are more likely to have them, for example.)

The couples I know well- where an affair has happened- would all, without hesitation accept a share of the responsibility for creating a marriage which pre-disposed one of them to have an affair.
My closest friend whose DH had an affair believed firmly it was his choice but did say she had behaved in a way that pushed him away, destroyed his self esteem, made him feel unloved, and therefore it was not a surprise that he turned to another human being to feel good about himself. She doesn't blame herself but she does take equal responsibility for the state of the marriage.

I accept there are men who just want to fuck women whatever- even if their marriages are ok- but I also believe that there are times when problems in a marriage can lead to one partner choosing to have another relationship.

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 14:47:56

I;m not going to discuss rape except to say it's an act of violence. I think it's spurious to compare it with an affair.

Wellwobbly Sat 19-Oct-13 14:51:04

Not if you accept that infidelity is abuse.

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 14:53:15

Rape within marriage is not necessarily spurious and it's often claimed by the rapist that it's caused by lack of sex.

And on your previous post you seem to be agreeing with us.
I'm sure he claimed he felt pushed into another woman's arms.
I'm sure his wife would still get the wake up call if he had threatened to leave. So, his choice.

Oh and by the way, a catalyst facilitates a reaction, it doesn't cause it. Basic chemistry.

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 14:56:50

It was your comparison that was spurious- not the topic of rape.
and I didn't say cause- I said catalyst- I know precisely what it means, love.

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 16:02:15

But we are arguing causes, not catalysts, so what is it?

And it was not a spurious example, it's something concrete within DV.
So, please replace with DV, if you want, and try to answer my question, if you love me so much.

Missbopeep Sat 19-Oct-13 16:09:21

Sorry- can't be bothered. If you want to start you own thread comparing affairs with rape or DV then feel free.

Lweji Portugal Sat 19-Oct-13 16:10:53

Of course you can't.

It's not the subject but the logic behind it.

familyscapegoat Sat 19-Oct-13 16:13:39

It is an entirely relevant comparison. Rape still happens in marriages, as does physical violence. However we know better than to blame the victim and say that he, she or the relationship itself caused it, or that anything was an excusable catalyst for it.

many moons ago on this thread Charbon wrote:

Relationship dissatisfaction and a desire to end a relationship might well be caused by marital problems

Which is presumably why MBP, your friend doesn't blame herself for her husband's choice to have an affair but takes responsibility for her part in the problems that beset her marriage. Since you appear to agree with your friend's take on this, I struggle to see where there is disagreement on your part to what posters (including Charbon) have been saying.

This is precisely the distinction posters have been making; that people have joint responsibility for their relationship but no responsibility for the unilateral and secret decisions made by the other half of the partnership. Their actions might have caused unhappiness and dissatisfaction in their partner either entirely or partially, but if they are not equal partners in the solution and aren't even privy to it, those actions cannot be held to be a cause of a solution chosen by only one of them and kept secret.

As for this:

I accept there are men who just want to fuck women whatever- even if their marriages are ok

This is ridiculously simplistic and sexist. Not all affairs when the marriage is okay are just about 'fucking' and those that are, engage women as well as men.

Wellwobbly Tue 22-Oct-13 13:48:55

Blimey, familyscapegoat, that's clever. I think you hit MBP right out of the park!

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