You are married, maybe you have children. Suddenly… you are very attracted to someone who is not your spouse. The new partner is irresistible. You’re having an affair. Now what?!
I cannot advise you whether to continue or to end the affair. Matters of passion rarely submit to rules.
But if you are married, and having an intimate relationship with another person, or you are serially dating while married, there are consequences of cheating on your spouse that you should consider.
How infidelity ruins a marriage
If your spouse learns of the affair (even if you deny it), you have created a triangle, not a partnership, and the inherent instability will cause either your marriage or the affair to end. If the affair continues for several months, take responsibility for your part in the marriage’s decline, even if you don’t tell your spouse about the affair. Ask your spouse to go to therapy with you, to help each of you to decide if your marriage should continue.
Financial consequences of cheating on your spouse
The money you spend on your new partner is most likely marital funds (unless you and the new partner go 50/50 on all meals, dates, hotels, gifts, etc., and even then, your spending can be challenged). You are engaging in dissipation of marital income and/or assets, and if you divorce, the court will consider this factor in deciding how to divide your assets. You may have to reimburse your spouse for at least a portion of money
There have been instances where women spent money during an affair on personal enhancements—cosmetic surgery, breast enlargement, liposuction. These expenses might be tagged as “dissipation” if a divorce action follows not long after such enhancements occur.
If your marriage is on thin ice because you are having an affair, don’t make risky financial decisions during that time. One client made substantial investments in high-risk products during his affair, hoping to increase his marital wealth in the event of a divorce. The investment failed and the court deemed the entire investment an event of dissipation, awarding the wife the entire remaining investment.
How affairs affect the family
If you and your spouse decide to stay married after an affair, both of you will need to do the emotional work of reconnecting, telling the truth about the details of the affair, acknowledging the hurt spouse’s anger, forgiveness and more. Most couples go to marriage counseling, but one or both of you may need individual counseling as well. The cost of therapy (and possibly psychiatrists and medication) are another financial consequence of the affair. Other costs of “affair recovery” could be lost income if either spouse lost a job due to the affair, legal fees spent consulting with divorce lawyers, counseling or extra help for your children, and date nights and expensive gifts to make up for the betrayal.
Your relationship with your children can be significantly affected if they learn about the affair—even after the affair is over. Duplicity is something children instinctively understand, even at a young age. Children often lose respect for and trust in a parent who has an affair. They may feel betrayed themselves, especially if the affair results in a divorce, upending the family life they are used to. It can also give your child subconscious “permission” to do the same thing once he or she is married (imitating an errant parent).
Many people having affairs consider them to be a sign of new-found happiness. But that belief masks the deeper truth–it is a sign of unhappiness in your marriage. If you just can’t face the idea of marriage counseling, consider individual therapy as an avenue to explore your own feelings and help you center your choices.
Copyright 2019 by Kelly & Knaplund
Image © Wernerheiber