Affair Fog Theory: Mental Health

Part 2: Affair Fog Theory: Mental Health

Part 1 of the Affair Fog Series identified common components of popular affair fog theory as including mental health disorders, sex/love addiction, character change, psychological morphing, and biochemicals.

Find the full series here: Affair Fog Theory

This post specifically discusses if mental health disorders can legitimately be considered affair fog.

When faced with a cheater’s affair, faithful partners understandably seek to grasp the Big Why of their cheater’s choices and attendant poor behaviors.

Many faithful spouses are confused by their cheater’s affair choices and behaviors, and can be comprehensively bombarded with affair fog theory that suggests that all/many cheaters have some form of mental health/character disorder.

Affair fog theory can actually provide some reassurance because it views affair behavior, and any attendant abuse, as a transient state driven by a mental health disorder. This permits that cheaters are not wholly in control of their affair behavior, and require help and guidance for the fog to lift and right-thinking to be restored.

Operating on the premise that the affair is fog-driven, the faithful spouse often turns to online diagnostic and/or personality questionnaires, and researches mental illness.

The urge to find a hook on which to hang cheating (be it psychological/psychiatric challenges, or some uncontrollable biological drive or disorder), suggests that faithful spouses really want:

  1. Absolute ‘scientifically or medically supported’ reasons why the affair was not about them or their relationship
  2. Some reassurance that the cheater can be ‘cured’ or ‘treated’

It’s worth stressing at this point that cheating is NOT about the faithful spouse - it really is all about the cheater, but perhaps not in a way that’s comfortable for many faithful spouses to accept.

Unqualified Diagnosis

In trying to diagnose the cheater, faithful spouses risk falling into the trap of confirmation bias; we see what we are looking for. With confirmation bias, we focus on what we already believe or seek to prove, regardless of whether or not the diagnostic tool - such as an internet questionnaire - is accurate or objective. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

It’s easy to find behaviors in cheaters that fit into a multitude of different disorders and conditions - it doesn’t necessarily mean that they suffer from any of those particular issues. For example, most people do have some narcissistic tendencies that would check many of the boxes in an online questionnaire and yet not have any narcissistic pathology.

The only diagnosis of any mental health or character disorder should come from face-to-face evaluation, a detailed patient history, and formal and thorough qualification, training, and experience in clinical psychology or psychiatry.

Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders

statisticsClearly there are mental health disorders within the general population, so it follows that some cheaters may be affected. However, the occurrence of disorders often attributed to cheaters is statistically quite low:

  • narcissistic personality disorder (the most common cheater disorder claimed by faithful spouses): 6.2%
  • bipolar disorder: 2.6%
  • schizophrenia/multiple personality disorder: 1.1%
  • psychosis/insanity: 4.1% (this number includes some of the other disorders already listed)

Looking at these statistics, it follows that very few cheaters actually suffer from disorders like narcissistic personality disorder, or any other mental health disorder.

  • Is it possible that someone with a mental health disorder is also a cheater? Yes.
  • Does it follow that everyone with a mental health disorder is a cheater? No.
  • Does it follow that every cheater has a mental health disorder? No.
  • Does it follow that every person suffering from a mental health disorder is incapable of making valid, reasonable, and clear choices, because they are ‘foggy’? No.

Even if the planets aligned and your spouse has the remote but unfortunate statistical combination of 1) having a valid, professionally diagnosed mental health disorder and 2) being a cheater, does this small statistical probability provide a reasonable or robust basis for affair fog theory?

Midlife Crisis

There is no empirical evidence supporting midlife crisis (MLC) as an actual condition. MLC doesn’t have an accepted, universal definition, and is a self-diagnosed and self-reported ‘condition’ that studies repeatedly fail to validate. Nonetheless, many faithful spouses do still attribute affair fog to MLC.

Regardless of the MLC debate, cheaters aren’t exempt from experiencing the very real issues of depression and stress, and can of course experience a subjective sense of reduced well-being at any given point in time.

So do these symptoms mean that the cheater’s life choices are therefore invalid, their thinking irrational, and their values and morals clouded and/or suspended?

Well, let’s similarly apply the model of affair fog theory to the faithful spouse: If depressive symptoms and upset render the cheater’s choices and thinking invalid then we must similarly dismiss the faithful spouse’s choices and thinking as foggy and invalid on the same grounds. If we apply this logic further, then we must say that stress and depression invalidates everyone’s views and choices.

This leaves us with a clear choice:

  1. Do we continue to hold onto the absurd notion that stress and depression invalidates everyone’s views and choices? Or,
  2. Do we accept the truth that depression doesn’t mean foggy and invalid thinking -in the cheater or anyone else- but that the faithful spouse simply disagrees with the cheater’s choices and wants to dismiss them as invalid?

Many people experience stress, depression, etc. in response to life events and transitions. In fact, faithful spouses experience these very issues almost without exception when confronted by an affair.  Despite those challenges, those same people remain functional, reasonable, and rational. We don’t assume that because they are under stress, their behavior and choices are therefore invalid or fog-driven (unless, of course, we disapprove of those choices and behavior).

Family of Origin Issues

Upbringing, childhood trauma, and familial dysfunction can all influence someone’s life and shape their perceptions. However, it’s ludicrous to suggest that overwhelming traumatic influences suddenly manifest solely during an affair.

If, on reflection, it’s concluded that there have been other pre-affair choices that can be attributed as responses to traumatic influences, this further invalidates it as affair fog and instead supports that these issues are a behavioral pattern.

  • Is it reasonable to suggest that that everyone with family of origin issues is a cheater? No.
  • Does it follow that every cheater must have family of origin issues? No.
  • Does it follow that anyone who has family of origin issues has attendant selfish, abusive, disrespectful, and unethical behavior? No.

Hanging affair behavior on the ‘dysfunctional childhood’ hook seeks to excuse or mitigate the bad behavior, and fails to recognize that there are a lot of really decent people out there who also came from dysfunction who are not confused by fog, and who don’t behave as if their childhood excuses them from respectful and ethical choices.

We are all influenced both positively and negatively throughout our lives. We do not seek to dismiss everyone’s choices, judgment, and thinking as foggy as a result.

The Comfort of Affair Fog

Why is affair fog theory so appealing to so many? Most people quite reasonably tend to avoid emotional distress, and often seek to justify behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We should take this into account when considering any hypothesis that provides convenient explanation and/or mitigation for a cheater’s behavior, and question whom it benefits and what the resultant effect is of subscribing to the hypothesis.

Benefits to the Faithful Spouse

Attributing cheating to a mental health disorder, MLC, or family of origin issues implies a break from the cheater’s core identity. In essence, it blames the cheating behavior on a separate persona - one that can be jettisoned at will as the cheater returns to his/her “true”, not-disordered self.

If the cheater is broken, they can be fixed and, even better, may feel gratitude to the faithful spouse who stood by them through their ‘illness’.

This allows both the cheater and the faithful spouse to acknowledge the cheating, without personalizing it (just like a child might express outrage at an imaginary friend eating all the cookies).

Benefits to the Cheater

Affair fog induced by some form of mental health disorder can benefit the cheater by garnering support and sympathy from the faithful spouse for their ‘condition’.

It’s an attractive concept to be told that yes, while your behavior was hurtful and abusive, it was driven by pain and illness, and you can be fixed. Cheating then becomes an injury suffered by the cheater (that the faithful spouse helps salve), instead of them having to own selfish, abusive, and hurtful behavior.

Impact on Reconciliation

Offering a foundation that makes reconciliation easier, this theoretical affair fog model allows a comfort level that the alternative position doesn’t provide, which is that someone cheated because in that period of time (and perhaps in general) the cheater was simply a selfish asshole.

Are Cheaters in a Disordered Fog?

So are all cheaters disordered? Well, if we define healthy as faithful and respectful, then sure, we can say that every cheater is disordered. But does being unfaithful and disrespectful really equate to some form of fog?

Does fidelity signal clear thinking? If so, are we consigning all the ethically non-monogamous people out there to being in some form of invalidating fog? Does disrespect equal affair fog? If so, my mailman, mechanic, and boss have all been in an affair-fog-induced cloud this week alone.

 It can seem incomprehensible that someone you know and love, whom you believed shared similar values, can suddenly make choices that take them tangentially away from what you believed was a shared foundation.

From here often springs the assertions that a cheater is ‘insane’ and ‘crazy’ and ‘in the fog’. In reality, the cheater is simply making choices of which you don’t approve, and don’t accept as having any reasonable, valid or healthy foundation … but it’s far easier to justify why you’re fighting reality if you’ve told yourself that it’s not reality you’re fighting, but insanity.

IHG: Accepting Their Right to Cheat

Our approval of someone’s life choices does not automatically validate those choices as sane, rational, and reasonable. Similarly, our disapproval does not automatically invalidate them as insane, irrational, and unreasonable.

You don’t have to have a mental health disorder to be an entitled, selfish, disrespectful, and abusive, promise-breaking asshole. You don’t have to ‘suffer’ from a condition or be temporarily insane to be a cheater. Is it reasonable to conclude that a cheater has to be out of their minds to want someone other than their spouse and to make choices consistent with that? Is it rational to consider someone mentally disordered for wanting a different life, or to try to have more of what they want for themselves? Selfish, yes. Mental health disorder? No.

A cheater might well be an asshole, but they don’t need some deeply held, underlying psychiatric issue to BE that asshole. Being a selfish asshole isn’t the product of compromised mental-health-induced affair fog - it’s being a selfish asshole.

If your cheater does unfortunately fit into the statistically unlikely category of a cheater with a mental health disorder, that’s a difficult situation to face. However, it’s not valid to therefore extrapolate that to every other faithful spouse.

Using an assumption that every faithful spouse represents a cheater with a mental health problem is a flawed and inaccurate foundation for affair fog theory - there is no statistical foundation for such a hypothesis.

Affairs Make Cheaters Go Crazy?

It is of serious concern (and potentially very damaging) that although subscribing to affair fog theory provides some mitigation by transferring some accountability for the affair behavior to mental health issues (my disorder made me do it), any post-affair clean-up is rarely robust enough to address any claimed ‘disordered behavior’ (if there is any clean-up at all).

Many cheaters will go to talk therapy with a counselor after their affair (to work on themselves) but very few seek long-term psychiatric help for the mental health issues that apparently gripped them so thoroughly during their affair that it significantly (albeit temporarily) altered their core identity.

For the number of faithful spouses who do believe that affair fog has a mental health component, it is surprising how few have a legitimate, vigorous, and long-term concern about their cheater getting psychiatric treatment.

Break glass in case of affair-induced spousal insanity and confine until no longer insane, and then carry on as normal?

(For easier reading, the term mental health disorder has been used throughout this post. It intended to encompass neurotic and psychotic mental health conditions, including personality/character disorders and disturbances etc.)

Part 3: Affair Fog Theory: Sex Addiction


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw


  1. My husband thinks depression, with this definition, is not a reason for any kind of behaviour (whether that be an affair, or inability to function in their daily lives - as I have been unable since finding out about his affair) that is detrimental to the functioning of a person or a family. That depression can not be used as an excuse for any kind of behaviour.

    • Hi Hamp

      Clinical depression can actually be severely debilitating, and it absolutely can affect the daily functioning of a person - and yes, this can in turn affect a family.

      What this article is saying is that depression (for example) does not mitigate personal accountability for the choice to have an affair (or any other harmful or unethical behavior). Depression is often proffered by the cheater and/or the faithful spouse as a mitigating factor for the cheater’s choices, essentially as an attempt to depersonalize the affair, and to contain the damaging and unethical behavior and thinking within the neat constraints of ‘altered affair thinking’.

      The prevalence of depression in the adult population suggests that there will be some cheaters at least who are challenged with diagnosed clinical depression. However, depression is not causative for an affair.

      So yes, your husband is correct that clinical depression does not explain, mitigate, or excuse shitty behavior but he is incorrect that it cannot and does not affect behavior in any way. It is entirely possible to be severely affected by clinical depression to the extent that it does affect quality of life and behavior - what it does not do is compel someone to act in unethical or damaging ways.

      I hope that helps.

      ~ Wayfarer

  2. Thank you Wayfarer. That is what I said to him …

    It seems that this website is way too challenging for him at the moment. It is the exploration of self that is hard for him I think because you have to admit you were an asshole.

    I must admit I sort out this site to justify the affair fog theory to myself, because it didn’t feel right, but found instead validation of what I was thinking.

    Thank you. This is refreshing. - HAMP (8 months post dday and still struggling)

    • Yes, affair fog theory is damaging and encourages people to stay in dysfunction. It is excuse smog, intended to give excuses for the affair and reasons to stay in the marriage even when none exist in reality.

      It never ceases to amaze us how people (cheaters and faithful partners alike) would rather characterize a cheater as disordered, mentally unstable, dangerously unable to resist the influence of others, irrational, and unable to predict how their actions hurt their spouse, than to admit that they simply chose to behave like an asshole.

      Bizarre but worryingly common.

  3. Love this. I feel like we are finally finding someone who looks at this in a similar way!

    Mindless has FOO issues and so do I, but I didn’t cheat. His cheating was his choice. While he is working through the foundation of his beliefs, he is still responsible for his choices no matter what.

    Here was my husband’s response to “why?”

    “There can be a rational answer to the question. But, it will be a heartbreaking, disappointing answer that says the cheater is psychologically unfit and needs to grow up. The answer, in my case, is I cheated because I was selfish, self-centered, never satisfied, lacking compassion, lacking empathy, entitled, and nursing self-pity. I suspect most cheaters will have similar reasons for cheating.

    If they suggest, in any way, that they cheated because of something the victim did or did not do, that’s unacceptable. Love is not transactional, love does not demand perfection from the object of desire, and above all love cares deeply about the spouse’s well-being. If such love exists, there can be no way to respond to perceived needs by cheating, by hurting their spouse.

    “Why” is a big question. Just be prepared for a big answer: your cheating spouse valued himself more than he valued you. Any other answer from the cheating spouse would be a lie, victim-blaming, or manipulation.

    Can that change, for the better? Yes, it can, but only with long-term re-prioritization and practicing empathy, compassion, selflessness, and real love.”

    • Hi TigerLily

      I am glad that you like the article.

      Family of Origin issues offer a comforting narrative for those seeking to mitigate the issues of conscious choice - and most Pixies want to do that. Confronting the bald and ugly truth of someone’s deliberate intent, systematic abuse, and conscious disregard can be uncomfortable. Understanding where you are on the cheater’s totem pole of value can make reconciliation all the more difficult. When a Pixie’s much-desired reconciliation is threatened by the cheater’s lack of change they can cling to the issue of the cheater’s ‘childhood’ by way of explanation - far better to blame the cheater’s past than their current character and world-view.

      I would argue though, that love, expectations of perfection, and quid pro quo are in some ways rather beside the point. One can love, not expect perfection, and not see their relationship as transactional, and yet still cause harm and behave unethically. Similarly, one can lack empathy, love, and compassion and still behave ethically and without causing harm.

      Cheating is the result of a cheater’s personal narrative and world view, not whether they subscribe to a particular definition of ‘love’. The real issue is how their thinking and ethical framework drives their behavior. Love is not a prerequisite feeling for marriage - loveless marriages can be highly ethical and functional and not involve cheating whatsoever.

      I would say that reconciliation without a change to the underlying thinking tends to be little more than a Divorce Avoidance Plan, regardless of love.

      Thank you for the comment - it highlights an interesting cultural skew towards notions of love as being an overriding ‘fail safe’ for ethical behavior. And that supposed fail safe hasn’t prevented people who love someone from subjecting them to systematic abuse. It’s an important issue to keep on the table.

      Take care.

  4. I fully agree that blaming the cheater’s past rather than his current character and world view is inappropriate. To be precise, family of origin issues, or other psychological issues may explain, in part or in whole, the cheater’s thinking, but they can not and should not excuse his choices and behavior. They were deliberate, conscious choices, and there is no excuse.

    You are right to point out the importance of ethics. I think of it as honor, humility, and commitment to spiritual principles. Ethics is a good shorthand. Yes, I lacked ethics when I cheated. I’ve been working hard to develop myself in that way. Before D-day, I was unethical and dishonorable. I thought of myself rather than of my duty to my wife, children, or God. I thought of selfish gain rather than behaving with integrity. I measured myself by childish notions of masculinity rather than taking pride in acting with integrity.

    After D-day, I learned and practiced integrity, ethics, honor, and spirituality. I don’t mean I’ve perfected it. Like physical and mental health, moral health is a never-ending quest. I used to go to the gym often, for physical health. Now I also turn to ethical and religious teachings regularly, for moral health. I know that might sound simplistic. I’m neither a religious fundamentalist nor an esoteric New-age freak. I use the terms spirituality and morality here because there are really no other simple ways to describe it in our language.

    And, OK, maybe there are some people who can improve their motivations and behavior purely through ethics, without empathy, compassion, and love. More power to them. I find that focusing on empathy, compassion, and love, as well as integrity and morality, is very helpful.

    For me personally, the definition of love is crucial. I suspect other cheaters will find it helpful. I could be wrong. But, learning that love is selfless, not transactional, was a watershed discovery for me. It actually tied directly into thoughts about ethics. How can you not make your wife’s safety, feelings, and honor a top priority if you truly love her? How can you not make her less important than yourself if you only view love as transactional?

    Some of this may be semantics. My point is that I learned to change my world view for the better. I hope, but don’t demand, that other cheaters might be able to learn something from my experience. I also hope that other victims of cheating can see that there is at least one way, probably more, that cheaters can reform, and that there are also many ways a cheater can fail to reform or feign reformation.

    Let’s be clear. If a cheater has the wrong understanding of love, it is absolutely not a fail safe protection against abuse. There may be no fail safe protection at all. But, my experience is that a proper view of love is very helpful to the marriage. And, even if the marriage must end in divorce, a new understanding of love can benefit both the cheater and the victim.

  5. Mahalia: IHG Staff

    Hi Mindlesscraft,

    The topic of love, and assumptions about it, interests me considerably. And having come out of a long, and unhealthy relationship, and witnessing others do the same, relying on love to be the transformative lynchpin is a scary idea for me.

    The idea of a universal, or “proper” definition of love is scary too. The fundamental core of any relationship, whether intimate, professional, familial, or neighborly is what you believe you are entitled to, and what others are entitled to. It’s about respect. For me, it’s quite simple. From that basic understanding of what others are due *from* you flows much of everything else, including the way you behave in love.

    Is someone less of a person, is the way clear for mistreating them if you don’t love them? Do employers “love” their employees unconditionally or selflessly? I don’t think so. The notion is rather creepy, frankly. 🙂 Marriages are not sacred spaces, they aren’t “apart” from other sorts of human interactions. They are just people intimately sharing a life within (usually) a defined set of parameters. If someone does not bring to the union a basic understanding of respect, and a worldview that defines how others should be treated at *all* times, not just when love is present, then the marriage is already compromised.

    Finding your footing, and way toward changing your thinking, is wonderful. However, I personally steer clear of love as a guiding principle. I think it is quite possible, and far more likely, that someone will consider my wellbeing *not* because he loves me selflessly, but because he thinks that treating people well is the right thing to do. I would want to work for such a man, have him as my neighbor, or vote for him-and it’s a criteria for my intimate relationships too.

  6. That’s a good point. Respect is an important foundation for any good relationship. I do see that learning to respect other people is a big part of my self improvement. We’ve also talked about the importance of ethics here. I actually have selfish reasons for respecting other people and for behaving ethically: it gives me a relaxed confidence about myself, life, and the unknown, and it gives me greater understanding of people and life.

    Yes, there are plenty of other valid definitions of love. There are also invalid definitions. Love as a transactional relationship is definitely invalid.

    I suppose you can get along fine in a marriage with only respect and ethics. But, TL and I want more than that out of our marriage. Even Maslow said we need love. You and I may not agree on this. That’s alright. But, I want a loving marriage. TL wants and deserves a loving marriage. So, it’s imperative for our emotional health that I love in a way that is most conducive to her safety, health, and hopefully joy. That means love as selfless concern for your mate. It does not replace respect or ethics, it compliments them.

    • Just a few thoughts from me to wrap this up:

      1. I also find it a far preferable measure of character if someone takes a holistic ethical approach to life in general, not just reserving ethical treatment for those deemed to have specific ‘ethics-worthy’ relationships with us.

      2. I don’t share your opinion that transactional love is invalid. It seems hubristic to dismiss transactional love as ‘invalid’ based on one’s own ideals of devotional love being the only proper and right-minded definition.

      3. Swinging back to the issue of abuse here: I’d caution that in touting one’s own definitions of and beliefs about the rightness and righteousness of ‘selfless’ or devotional love, one must be mindful not be part of the cultural pressure on abuse victims (in which I include victims of infidelity) to endure their situations out of this very notion of unconditional, selfless, devotional love. We battle this every single day and will not be party to its perpetuation.

      4. I don’t personally support the notion that demonstrating selfless love to another is somehow more right-minded, wholesome, righteous or important than acting ethically in your own self-interests. It is entirely reasonable and valid to not continue to make someone you love a priority when it is not reciprocated or when doing so results in your own detriment.

      5. You and your wife might wish for a particular kind of love in your relationship and that’s valid - but as we’ve already agreed, it is not what everyone else necessarily seeks in their relationships nor is it THAT aspect of a relationship that prevents abuse.

      A cheater focusing on ‘love’ gives me two causes for concern:
      a) It likely plays into the faithful spouse’s own neediness and insecurities in that area. Most faithful spouses in the aftermath of an affair are desperate for the cheater to prove their love for them, not the cheater’s commitment to treating everyone else ethically.
      b) Many cheaters use a lack of feeling ‘properly loved’ as their rationale for an affair. It is unsurprising that a cheater will focus on love and not respect and ethics.

      Focusing on unconditional love means that failures in fidelity can then be attributed to the imperfect pursuit of love, not failures of ethics and respect. It also builds-in something we reference here quite often, for both parties: unconditional love can be self-effacing and unhealthy.

      If your love is -as you claim- not transactional then it obliges you to keep loving her selflessly even if she were to behave unethically, abusively, or disrespectfully. That idea itself is entirely contrary to the purpose of this site. Similarly, if her love is similarly non-transactional, that means that should you cheat again she will be obliged to continue to love you selflessly, despite your serial infidelity. Neat trick.

      Unconditional, devotional, non-transactional love does not immunize a relationship from dysfunction. This is why we advocate for healthy and mature romantic relationships that have a ratio of transactional love and devotional love - that balance is an intelligent and ethical approach to relationships. Ethical treatment of others, however, is non-transactional while also not compromised by being devotional.

      Our focus here is to redirect this idea that love conquers all and that it should be the overriding focus in recovery. Notions of unconditional, selfless, devotional love are music to the ears of Pixies - and cheaters know it. Love is, frankly, rather irrelevant.

      6. It is important -when aspiring to selfless or unconditional love- that one doesn’t then build codependency into the relationship under the guise of it being healthy and righteous behavior.

      7. I admit, this last line of your previous post raised my eyebrows:
      Quote: “But, my experience is that a proper view of love is very helpful to the marriage. And, even if the marriage must end in divorce, a new understanding of love can benefit both the cheater and the victim.”
      That strikes me as a masked implication that your wife didn’t love you ‘properly’ (in terms of what you now vauntingly deem as ‘proper’) until you showed her the light after affair discovery. It implies that your wife’s ‘old’ understanding of love didn’t ease or aid your marriage in the way that her ‘proper’ love could have. That’s not so far removed from, “If she’d loved me the way I wanted her to love me, none of this would have happened.”

      I might not share your views and thinking on these foundational issues, but I wish you well.

      [As an aside for readers interested in the Maslow reference: There are some widely accepted concerns about Maslow’s theory. Notwithstanding that it’s a theory that lacks empirical evidence and that modern study demonstrates it does not apply to all situations and cultures, there are concerns about the pyramid model itself. In actuality, one does not need to fulfill one layer of the pyramid in order to move to the next. For example, in the traditional pyramid, love comes before respect - and yet it is clearly evidenced that we can respect others without satisfying some definition of love. It’s fair to say that love is not required for respect, and that disrespect can happen even where there is love.]

      • I wish there was a like button for your response. My therapist suggested I go to a codependency group with her and another therapist. The other therapist leading the group was discussing family of origin issues with another participant. Apparently, her dad cheated on her mom and her dad was guilting her about being more supportive of her mom and the therapist said something along the lines of “My head hurts. So, he had to step outside the marriage to get his needs met, and he expects you to stay and deal with this. I was so offended that the therapist assumed that this dad’s affair was a byproduct of the mom not meeting her husband’s needs well enough that I refused to go to that group ever again. I decided if I was paying good money for therapy, I deserved to have a therapist who could be more supportive in helping me heal and grow.

        A second thing that bothers me about the theory of “needing” to have an affair to get your needs met is that it assumes the only way an adult’s emotional needs can be met is in a romantic relationship. So, when a faithful spouse divorces and wisely takes a fair amount of time to grieve before dating, that individual is exempt from having his or her needs met for quite some time. It also implies that a person who chooses singleness as a way of life, say for religious or other reasons is choosing to forfeit ever experiencing getting those needs met. But, a cursory glance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that those needs are often met in a variety of ways, even when we are in a romantic relationship. You can have self confidence, respect, a sense of belonging, companionship and love from friends and family, security of the body, of employment and of resources without having a significant other.

        In fact, I’ve considered it helpful to seek out respect, companionship, etc. from friends and family, because I feel like I was too dependent on my ex to be the one to meet those needs. This made it hard to leave, because I thought leaving would cause me to have even less than the few crumbs he occasionally tossed my way. After leaving him and making friends, I find that my need for physical touch, respect and companionship is actually better met by friends than it was when I was begging for crumbs from my ex. I hope this encourages those who are still “begging for crumbs” from an unremorseful spouse to realize that even when you are single, you are far from alone in the world. Often, there are friends who will be more generous to you than your cheating spouse.

        • Hi Janna

          I was happy to read your comment - you make some excellent points.

          1. Subscribing to this idea that your romantic partner is responsible for meeting your emotional expectations and desires is common. However, that pop-culture narrative about ‘proper’ relationships largely ignores the issue of emotional servitude that the notion requires. It perpetuates self-effacing behavior and thinking where one’s significant other is deemed of greater importance than self. And to reinforce what I said in my comment because I think it’s an important issue, the potential for exploitation of those who think this way, is considerable.
          2. Yes! It is perfectly possible to live a fulfilled and satisfied life, rich with caring, respectful, and ethical relationships without being part of a romantic couple.
          3. It is not unusual that people feel lonelier in dysfunctional romantic relationships than they do when they are single.

          Something we battle here frequently is the pop-culture absorption and perpetuation of the term ‘needs’. There is a vast difference between ‘needs’ and desires. There is a distinction between one’s dreamy Hollywood or Mills and Boon-esque idealization of romantic love and what that will look like, and what is necessary for a long-term and ethical romantic relationship. There is a chasm between something vital for well-being and an affair - to equate the two is absurd. You might be interested in this article: Their Needs, Your Faults.

          One major component of the advice we give here to help people work past infidelity is to develop relationships with others - it can bring considerable balance, clarity, and reward in the aftermath of an affair without the pressure of a romantic entanglement. As you say, relying on an unchanged cheater as one’s primary relationship is unlikely to bring anything but more heartache.

          Thank you again for taking the time to comment and to give encouragement to others going through the same situation - it helps and I appreciate it.

Leave a Reply