anatomy of infidelity

The Anatomy Of Infidelity: What Is The Heart Of The Matter?

anatomy of infidelity


How many days or nights have I sat and thought about that word; “infidelity” over the past 20 years since my divorce?

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse. You never think that word will ever be introduced into your life.

But when it is, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

The Anatomy Of Infidelity

My husband was unfaithful throughout most of my marriage to him. Though I didn’t know until after I finally caught him at year 10 upon which we sought counselling and reconciled and then again at year 13 and by then I had been through quite enough, thank you.

I had just had our second child and 4 weeks into being a mother to our baby girl, I found out that he had been having an affair with a woman for a long time.

Actually, all throughout my pregnancy apparently and earlier. But really, he was having affairs and flings throughout our entire relationship. Even when I was in college.

He drove down to San Diego to tell me that he had been unfaithful. I had been dating him for about a month, so I really didn’t care. I didn’t even really know him. I remember telling my roommates how weird I thought it was that he drove all the way down from LA to tell me this when I didn’t even know him that well.

They thought it was sweet and a sign that he really did care and respected me. I still contended that I thought it was weird, but I pretended that it mattered to me just so he wouldn’t feel completely stupid for driving all the way down on a weeknight to tell me this.

I had met him the summer before I was starting college in San Diego. San Diego State University, a mere smorgasbord of good-looking guys.

I had no intention of focusing solely on him anyway. But he was a triathlete and I was intrigued by him and his self-discipline as he fine-tuned and calibrated his body to perform in competitions throughout the year.

Over time, I did fall in love and I looked forward to our weekends when he would ride his bike down from LA to San Diego. I would pick him up in La Jolla and he would literally fall onto the couch and sleep until he felt recovered enough to go out on a date.

I stopped noticing the amazing looking guys at school and fell hard for him and I transferred back to a school in L.A. so we could see each other more. God, I look back at that and see mistake number one. I should have gone with my gut and not listened to my roommates.

Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows.


By the time I had graduated from college, we had been dating for over 4 years. My parents gave me a trip to England for graduation and when I came home, I was restless. My three best friends were all getting married, so I put a gun to his head and said that the world was at my fingertips and it was now or never if we were to ever get married.

He looked at me and said with very little energy in his voice, “okay”. That was mistake number two.

The proposal was not initiated from his heart. It was initiated by the imaginary gun I had pointed to his temple. In his obligatory way, he surrendered. I look back at that now and think I was robbed of the proposal I should have gotten from a man who really did love me.

Probably one of the good-looking guys at SDSU! After we were married for about two years, he wanted to go to Croatia with his friend to see where his father was born and meet some of his long-lost relatives.

We couldn’t afford both of us to go and I supported his visit because it was his heritage. Little did I know the trip would be the real beginning of a marriage filled with infidelity right under my nose but because we were married and I had the model of my parents’ marriage in my head, I had no idea what things he was getting into.

Or what I was getting into. The friend he was traveling with was cheating on his wife and so he, being the Yoda to my husband’s Luke Skywalker, had to introduce him to his class of “How to have your cake and eat it too all while seeing Europe in 20 days”.

It wasn’t until after my divorce that I found out that they had been cheating with random women throughout their travels. I also found out that he had a fling with this friend’s sister in law a week before my wedding. And she was an attendee of our wedding! Oh, and that friend?

Well, how ironic that he ended up being the Godfather to our son; our firstborn.

Man, you can’t make this stuff up and some people really can live with themselves after committing crimes of the heart and aiding his Godson’s father to keep on cheating. He was his biggest cheerleader and the two friends had much in common.

I’m sure this noble Godfather looked at himself as a good man through his own lens. Thank God all these years later, he has made no impression whatsoever on my son who is a better man then that guy will ever be. Oh, and his wife? Well, they are still married.

She just still looks the other way as he travels around with other women. I don’t want to make a judgment on her. She has the right to do what she feels is right for her.

I am not of her culture or thinking. When I discovered that my husband had been having a long-term affair at year 13, you could bet that his pal was front and center right there with him. Cheering him on as he conspired to help him deceive his wife and two children. One of which was his Godson.

We’d forgive most things if we knew the facts.”
Graham Greene

As you can see infidelity became a way of life for my husband. And slowly but surely it became a way of life for me as well. Only for me, it was by way of ignorance and naivete.

I always hoped to convince myself that he would be faithful to his family. I always hoped that no woman would ever steal him from me; from us. But on both counts, I was dead wrong.

So, what is at the heart of the matter with infidelity?

Why do people cheat on their spouses?

Their children?

Why are these people filled with such discontent and dis-ease and insecurities?

And who on earth are “the other” people who accept these frauds into their lives and sometimes, their families?

I have spent time thinking about this because I am wired to want to know the answers. I am wired to seek to know what is behind this.

I want to know the real heart of this issue.

What is at the heart of infidelity?

Does it start in childhood? Does it start at adolescence?

Is it at the beginning of a bad relationship that just had no chance but kept on going all in the name of, “oh well”?

In my ex-husband’s case I think the heart of his matter had been an overbearing mother that developed into disrespect for women. A disdain that was manifested in infidelity.

His mother was a good woman in her own way. The culture my ex-husband was raised in was one that men are exalted, and women are an annoyance. But when he left his family which included his 4-week-old daughter, another telltale sign of disrespect for women, it was his mother that welcomed him home with open arms.

It was almost as if she was celebrating his arrival back to her womb. He returned to the woman who had no expectations on him. She didn’t expect him to be a man and deal with being a grown-up.

She was just happy to have her little boy home again.

So, did this feeling of dis-ease start with the mother? If so, did she know of her aiding and abetting? I know she never meant to hurt me.

I believed she always loved me, but her obligations to her son outweighed her sense of decency and compassion towards me. Thus, infidelity was introduced as an unwelcome word in her life too.

Maybe the genesis of a person committing infidelity is just due to living a life of want. Always wanting what someone else has. Maybe he saw freedom outside the picket fence of our home and that was a pull far stronger than any 4-week-old baby and 4-year-old boy inside the fence.

Or maybe his hatred for me was what drove him to this.

Maybe he didn’t like that I was a woman with a career that demanded periodic travel throughout the year. I was seeing the world as he was going to the same job every day that didn’t offer him any variety. The lure of a woman who didn’t work and who was a homemaker is what he knew. His mother never worked. My mother was dedicated to her career, a career my father supported totally, so my model was much different than his.

So maybe one, all, or none of these reasons is at the nucleus of the offense. It is fascinating to be outside of the eye of the hurricane 20 years later and breathe through the possible reasons why this word was so prominent in my life and remains prominent in our society with such a high divorce rate.

The national divorce rate is 40%. The divorce rate in California is 60%, so basically, as residents of California, we are a roll of the dice here in these parts!

Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.

Brene Brown

Since my divorce 20 years ago, I have wondered if the cheaters who introduce infidelity into our lives live with any shame? Or do the victims of the infidelity take it and carry it on only to now fully reside into their lives.

Those of us who have been a victim to spousal cheating find ourselves living with an intensely painful feeling that we are now unworthy of love and commitment from someone and we are left to contend with the deeper meanings of it all. The result is the shame you feel by being unlovable and your husband being “steal-able”.

I think it’s funny that the people who are unfaithful by committing the acts of infidelity on their spouses and children are proficient in living their daily lives with a huge secret. But on the day that the secret finally sees the light the day, they are emancipated in their openness only for the secret to now be quietly handed to the victims of the infidelity to carry.

The remaining family members are now consumed with shame and embarrassment that our husband and father betrayed us. As the wronged wife, you don’t want anyone to know this has happened, so they don’t judge you by thinking you were blind or ignorant.

I had many people say to me. “How did you not know!?” My response was, “It happens when you’re a full-time working mother who just had a baby. I was a little busy.”

But the saddest thing is that our children are also asked to carry their secret too. Because the last thing they want to face is that their dad left their mom and thus, left them too and they do not want their friends to know this truth about him.

So, they just don’t talk about it. And when someone asks them, they play it down as much as possible. My children are now 20 and 24 and I notice they still do this.

Compulsive Desire + Excuses and Rationalization + Willingness to Deceive + Opportunity = AFFAIR!

You may have noticed that I didn’t title this article, “Anatomy of an Adulterer”. I hate that word. It is a cop-out me. It also is an oxymoron in my opinion.

“Adult”- ery. Think about it. A real adult person who can decipher between right and wrong, good and bad, faithful and unfaithful is not given a permission slip to be an adulterer.

And the usual suspect is someone who can’t grow up, face responsibly and wants to run away from home! And the usual co-conspirator in the equation is a woman who wants to save him and be the mother they always wanted.

Good grief! They are meant for each other! But they are far from acting like adults! Enough said on that.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

Maya Angelou

So, what is the last lesson in all of this for me?

What do I know now that I didn’t know while I was in the storm, married to a man capable of deep infidelities?

Did I subconsciously deny what was happening all along?

Did I miss a million clues that presented themselves to me in the 14 years I was married to him and the 19 years I knew him?


After all, he did show me who he was when he showed up at my apartment door in college to tell me he had cheated on me well before we had even started our relationship.

How long had I been sleeping?

And as I asked earlier, what kind of woman accepts a man who leaves an infant?

Well, here is what I have concluded. The last lesson is that it was never about me. It was always him and his demons. And I would assume it was about her and her demons as well. I look at them now as two lost souls who came together under the shroud of secrecy and at the expense of three people that did love him unconditionally.

But I am not burdened with that task any longer. Our children are his most valuable parting gift from me because they do continue to love him unconditionally. I don’t know if that kind of love is inside of the second marriage, he now finds himself in.

He married the woman and they have been together longer than he was with me now. Maybe he grew or just grew up. Maybe he sees the value of family and the sacredness of a wife now.

Or maybe he has never rehabilitated himself and she is his new easy target. I somewhat doubt it because she went into that relationship with a lot of information. I only hope that he has indeed improved his situation of “dis-ease” or “discontent” because we three were a high price to pay and he still has two young adults watching him and his actions still make impressions on them.

So, I suppose the closing arguments for the case of infidelity is that two people who had differing ways of approaching commitment had two very different relationships with each other. And he will never know what I loved in him and I will never know what he loved in me. And that will have to be the last piece on the definition of Infidelity as far as I am concerned.

The post The Anatomy Of Infidelity: What Is The Heart Of The Matter? appeared first on Divorced Moms.


wife cope with infidelity and divorce

How Does a Wife Cope With Infidelity And Divorce? Here’s How I Did

wife cope with infidelity and divorce


The morning after our divorce negotiations began one of the horses on our farm became trapped in wire. The mare was starting to panic and the more she moved, the harder the wire cut into her flesh.

Fence fixing, indeed most tasks mechanical, had been my husband’s job.  But he was gone.  Broken boards swung from rusty nails and wobbly fence posts surrendered to buffeting winds.

The small section of high tensile wire in the back pasture had collapsed under the weight of a fallen tree where our herd of horses grazed. The mare had stumbled onto it and her hind legs were ensnared.  I called my husband’s cell once, twice, three times.

No answer.

I asked my teenaged daughter, Isabelle, to get wire cutters.  More than 20 agonizing minutes later she brought back three wrenches. We’re on our own, I thought. Then I stopped thinking and let my hands move.  I lifted each trapped hoof, talking quietly to the horse in what I hoped were soothing tones.  When the last loop of wire came off and she was freed the mare ran back to the barn.

Living on my own on a farm in rural Maryland wasn’t in the cards.  But that is what happened after my husband fell in love with another woman and moved away with her. My daughter and I remain in the marital home as tenants with an absent landlord, fixing what we can, living with what we can’t.

When our courtship began 25 years ago, my husband drove me to the farm for the first time.  I surveyed the herd of horses grazing in paddocks of billowing orchard grass, the green scape of wooded foothills cresting the Appalachian Trail.  My decision was not how I would live there, but when. With him.

I ignored the red flags that should have stopped me at the wedding altar; bounced checks, a quick temper, alcoholism.  He eventually chose sobriety, which fixed many problems, but not all.

Our marital history was writ large with financial lapses – unpaid bills, debts, and secrecy. We always managed to soldier on after each expensive hiccup.  Then I found out about the tax bill.  We had amassed $40,000 in debt because he didn’t file our tax returns for several years and never told anyone.

When the notification from the Internal Revenue Service arrived via certified mail my response was to unleash a fury of rage and hateful words.   After a few days of silence I attempted to repair the damage.  I said what I hoped were the right words – that I was sorry for what I said; we’d dig ourselves out, come up with a plan somehow.

He said, “This marriage is no longer a priority for me.”

He spoke as if he had practiced each word in front of a mirror to achieve a certain tonal quality of indifference.  My initial response was confusion:  why he was addressing me as if I was a house guest who overstayed her welcome?

This was the same husband with the sunlit hair who reached for me and spoke in a singsong voice when he was happy; who painted clouds on our ceiling and built a giant bug out of plaster for our daughter to take to school for “Show and Tell.”

I reasoned that with work and patience we would find our cadence as a couple again.   I was wrong.

His affair partner was an acquaintance I had invited to Thanksgiving dinner in a charitable impulse.  I first noted her as a middle-aged jovial divorcee who stood in the sunlight at an equestrian event talking to my husband.

I thought to myself how unfortunate it was that the sun’s glare revealed pocks in her pale skin.  I remember walking over and interrupting their conversation to tell my husband it was time to go home.

She inspired nothing in me beyond a sense of sympathy as a matronly woman trying to look young, someone who seemed alone and in need of friends.  The ensuing months she sat at our family dinner table numerous times, stayed in our home during a snowstorm and rode our ponies across our hill in the spring.

I sensed her envy, that grinding emotion of being on the sidelines of something joyful.  I enjoyed her company because my husband was happy when she was there.  When he was happy, our family was happy.

In looking back I feel a tug of empathy for the person I was – a wife so comfortable in the bonds of marriage that betrayal was unthinkable.

I laughed it off when neighbors and friends suggested there seemed to be more to her friendship with our family.  I even jokingly called her “the other wife.”   Then I found the emails, the texts and gift receipts.

Chronology became important. 

When was the exact moment they became a secret?

When did she decide to become both my friend and lover to my husband?

Friends later observed they saw it all along – the stolen glances exchanged, the smoldering conversations on the sidelines of social events.

Where had I been while my marriage unraveled?

My sleuthing, a typical response to infidelity trauma, turned up a trove of besotted emails, photos and dinner dates.  A cell phone bill revealed the repeated calls to the same number – hers.

There were on average 20 calls a day to each other, sometimes even after the other woman and I had lunch or tea together.  Even on Christmas Day, at 8:05 in the morning before we got up to open our presents, he sneaked away to call her.

After the divorce papers were filed, anger became my drug of choice.

I specialized in rage texting at 2 am, morphing into a high octane Dorothy Parker, hurling insults and unflattering remarks about the other woman, picking apart her choice of haircut, her unfortunate hips, and tight-fitting dresses.

My response to the abandonment of love was to become unlovable. 

My husband, on the other hand, was audaciously remade as if he had been through an episode of “Queer Eye.”

The man who never shaved and wore only muck boots suddenly shifted into metrosexual country squire —   skinny jeans, a vast collection of Fedora hats, Italian leather shoes, and enough tweed jackets to attire an entire tea party at Downton Abbey.

“His soul is hijacked,” I observed to my friend, Melissa.  “Maybe what you had in those early years was the best of him, and now it’s all spent,” she said.   That was some consolation; that I was loved by a man who tried to be good until his resources ran out.

Or perhaps he saw an opportunity to rewrite himself, sanitize the mistakes of the past.  The other woman was not me, the one who bore witness to his flaws, mistakes, the private vanities, habits, and quirks that reveal themselves over time.

The unwitting matchmaker, I laid before him the opportunity to turn away from the wife who held all his broken pieces and tried to love him anyway.

How does a wife cope with infidelity and divorce?

I searched for a manual, then devised my own plan.

First, find your people. Some friends and family may not possess the emotional skillset to provide ample emotional support during a divorce. No one knocked on my door with a casserole or offered to mow my lawn as one might a widow who lost their spouse to a heart attack or car accident.

My divorce was an awkward circumstance for friends and colleagues to navigate.  Most condemned my ex privately and one friend, whom I will never forget, banned my ex’s affair partner from attending an event he hosted.

This was the hardest habit for me to kick post-infidelity; that is, the craving to foster outrage by reciting my increasingly tiresome narrative of loss and betrayal until a therapist suggested my anger was becoming toxic.

My arc of healing also ascended from unlikely sources:  online forums with strangers; the seduction of an old boyfriend; a trip to Seattle where I found a quiet Airbnb to read and think; from my sister who was recovering from the betrayal of her partner.

Second, keep moving and eventually, the weird stuff feels manageable. I developed a playlist. Music, in my case hard rock from the 1990s, helped rewire my anxiety during divorce negotiations. Raucous electric guitars, percussive anthems all helped focus my brain beyond the spiral of emotions that were overwhelming at times.  I also joined a gym and lost 30 pounds.

Third, get out of your comfort zone.  I tried a new hairstyle and started online dating.  Initially, it was an awkward phase, dwelling between marital death and single life. I treated it as an adventure, commuting from my rural valley to the evening cacophony of the city where I met a date for drinks or dinner, sometimes more.

I watched the dawn fold over the rooftops of the urban landscape, thinking that just 45 miles away my horses were waiting for breakfast, the dogs needed to be let out for a pee, the barn cats waited for their kibble.  Yet here I lay next to a man with nothing in his refrigerator but Red Bull and mayonnaise.

Look for context. It helps to know infidelity is not about you. The data and information about who cheats and why bear this out.  My ex’s decision to have an affair and abandon the marriage was about him, not me.

Yet most articles about infidelity typically dwell on the question of repair and reconciliation within the marriage.

Sometimes there is no fix.

One can wake up and find themselves married to a stranger who starts dating and there’s no reasonable explanation for it.  My ex never admitted to any affair, not in divorce court papers, or even as people tagged him and the affair partner in Facebook photos.

Perhaps his silence came from a place of shame. My ex hated cheaters until he became one.

Eventually, the affair partner doesn’t matter. Trust me on this. I came to realize my anger throughout divorce fueled their love triangle.  A therapist observed that my ex and the other woman loved the noise of my fury.

The vengeful ex-wife specter offered a convenient “victim status” to claim and provided a distraction as they transitioned from an illicit affair to a committed relationship in which realities such as finances, family, friends come into play.

In the initial phase of my grief, it was hard to follow the often expressed advice that the best revenge is living a good life.

And then I came to realize I was enjoying life without my spouse around; that I could travel unencumbered, parent my daughter the way I wanted and own my financial future.

Use free legal resources that may be available at your local courthouse. 

I saved myself thousands of dollars filing for my own divorce after getting a marital settlement agreement which took the better part of a year to negotiate.  Use the money you save to spend on self-care, which is also essential to healing.

Time and patience are your warriors. 

Healing from betrayal also forces one to acknowledge that grief is a process and one never reaches the end of it.

It also requires a mindful commitment to dismantle the broken self and make room for the new one that emerges, cracked open and yet not quite whole.  I am no longer that woman who sat down in the grass and decided to marry a man for all the wrong reasons.  I am someone else, someone still becoming.

Love again. 

I worry about choosing a wrong partner again, someone who will bring about another circumstance of abandonment.  Yet being vulnerable to the possibility of love is our reckoning as humans.  Rarely are we wired to accept any other choice but to love and be loved again at our own peril.

I write as if divorce and infidelity are in the rearview mirror.  It is not.

My ex-husband and I pass each other in the paddocks or the barn during the course of any day on the farm, courteous as old enemies after the peace treaty is signed.

We meet for co-parenting counseling. We exchange texts about farm chores and our daughter’s schedule. The anger ebbed, I am at the place where I thought I’d never arrive – acceptance.

Sometimes the entrenched intimacies of our old marriage seem as if they could be summoned forth if only the right words or opportunity presented itself.

I often pass my hand over a scar on my thigh where several years before a mare kicked me backwards into the dirt, tearing open the muscle. The skin is now puckered and drawn, shaped like the mouth of an old warrior.  I am proud flesh closing over a healed wound.

I am looking for a new place to live.  My task is to turn from all that has been familiar — the fiery red maples that light up in autumn now jeweled with leaf buds.

My soul is scattered on the farm where I spent my married life. It is caught in the sudden flight of sparrows, swooping from the ground in a motion like silvery fish snared in the net; among wild ducks that argue among themselves as they float in aimless patterns on the pond.

The ancient bank barn braced against mountain.  Another broken board strays from the paddock fence line and horses within it forage for grass.

Everything constantly changes and yet remains fixed in place as the seasons pass.  My former father in law died over the summer and we spread his ashes on the farm.  We said goodbye to the past and each other.

I do not consider the future beyond what is in front of me — our child, a dead love, a divorce.

I cannot outrun this fate, nor abandon it.  I can only retreat to the barn at dusk, where I find my favorite pony and throw a saddle on his back.

We hack toward a band of distant horizon, a cloud cluster the color of fire.  So long as we are moving the destination no longer matters.

When the sky gets dark, I turn my gelding back to the farm, that hollow place where something was and no longer is.

The post How Does a Wife Cope With Infidelity And Divorce? Here’s How I Did appeared first on Divorced Moms.


what drives men to cheat

Emotional & Sexual Infidelity: What Drives Men To Cheat

what drives men to cheat


Webster’s defines infidelity as unfaithfulness to the marriage vow or contract; a violation of the marriage contract by adultery. If you have ever been the victim of a cheating husband, you know it is much more.

Infidelity is the breaking of trust that has negative consequences in every area of your life. The first step in surviving a husband’s infidelity is being able to rationalize and understand the actions that have caused so much harm.

There are two types of infidelity, sexual infidelity, and emotional infidelity:

Sexual Infidelity:

Sexual infidelity, as its name suggests, refers to sexual activities that are engaged in with someone other than one’s spouse. Activities that constitute sexual infidelity include all forms of physical intimacy, from kissing to sexual intercourse.

Emotional Infidelity:

Emotional infidelity refers to becoming emotionally involved with someone other than one’s spouse. Dr. Seth Meyers, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, describes emotional infidelity as “behavior that one partner engages in that fosters emotional intimacy in the here-and-now and sometimes promotes the possibility of sexual intimacy in the future.”

It all sounds fairly simple, huh? Either your husband did the hanky panky with someone else or he has put someone else’s emotional needs before your emotional needs. If you’ve been on the receiving end of either, the need to understand runs a bit deeper, doesn’t it?

It has been my experience, after coaching many women who were victims of infidelity, that the roots of the infidelity can generally be traced back to one of three underlying causes.

What Drives Men To Cheat


Men who suffer emotional injuries during childhood are more likely to cheat on a spouse. Emotional childhood injuries may cause a fear of intimacy, a fear of commitment, and a fear of being unworthy of love.

If your husband has had problems with attaching himself to you intimately, was commitment-phobic, and suffers from low self-esteem, these traits probably played a role in his infidelity.


Some men cheat because of the sense of loneliness they feel in the marriage. Usually, this type of man is not able to fully engage with his wife. He doesn’t fully participate in the relationship and is a sitting duck for any woman who can give him the companionship he feels is missing in his marriage.


Are you married to a conflict avoider — a man who thinks that any show of disappointment by you is an affront to the relationship?

According to Emily M. Brown, author of Affairs: A Guide to Working Through the Repercussions of Infidelity, the conflict avoider is “terrified to be anything but nice for fear that conflict will lead to abandonment.” They don’t have a way to stand up to their spouse where there are marital problems, so the problems go unresolved and the marriage erodes.

This guy acts as if he is happy, everything is coming up roses and all the while, he is seething with anger inside. He is angry because you poked fun at his bald spot. We all know that a woman who truly loves her husband would never poke fun or so he believes.

He is angry because you failed to pick up his dry cleaning. You will be the last to know how angry he is, though, because of his skewed belief that his marriage is perfect and perfection means putting a lid on anger.

He doesn’t even realize how angry he is until he meets a woman who would never poke fun at his bald spot and never forget to pick up his dry cleaning. Not until she got comfortable in the relationship, anyway. Once she becomes comfortable and turns into a normal human being, he can go back to repressing anger again.

Whatever drives a man to cheat, be it fear, loneliness, or anger, it is important to know that the decision to cheat was his. Infidelity has nothing to do with a shortcoming on the part of his wife.

There are many things a wife can do to improve the quality of her marriage.

There is absolutely nothing she can do that will guarantee with 100 percent certainty that her husband will never cheat.

She can know though with 100 percent certainty that if he does cheat it is about him and whatever issues he is dealing with.

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Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce

Will Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce?

Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce


Infidelity is a common cause of divorce throughout North America. However, the effect that an affair might have on the outcome of your divorce case will vary depending on your jurisdiction. Different laws set out different standards for how infidelity impacts a divorce, and the following is some information about adultery and some examples of how your divorce outcome might be swayed if your spouse was unfaithful.

Adultery as Grounds for Divorce

For a long time, a spouse had to state “traditional” grounds for divorce that were based on marital misconduct, such as adultery. While all jurisdictions in North America now allow no-fault divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, some jurisdictions still allow spouses to claim fault-based grounds for divorce. In many cases, fault-based grounds can eliminate the need to be separated for a period of time before obtaining a divorce.

If you allege infidelity as grounds for a divorce, your spouse will have the opportunity to contest your allegations. If your spouse does contest, you will need to sufficiently prove the adultery occurred to obtain your divorce. This does not mean that you need to catch your spouse in the actual adulterous act, though you do need to present credible evidence that infers they were engaged in extramarital sexual conduct. Such evidence may include:

  • Statements from friends, family members, or other witnesses who knew about the affair
  • Credit card charges for gifts, hotel rooms, romantic meals, trips, or other expenses related to the affair
  • Emails or text messages
  • Not coming home often or another departure from normal routines without explanation
  • Seeing your spouse with another person

If you are unable to present evidence to support your claims of infidelity, the court can deny your petition for a divorce based on those grounds. You might need to file for no-fault divorce, which might require a period of separation before the case can get underway.

Adultery in a No-Fault Divorce

Many people file for no-fault divorce because it seems simpler or because their jurisdiction does not allow fault-based grounds. In this situation, infidelity may or may not play a role in the divorce process. While you can end your marriage without the court considering infidelity, your spouse’s conduct could still come into play when deciding certain issues in your divorce.

Property Distributions

In some cases, your spouse might have wasted marital assets on an affair. If you have records showing your spouse racked up credit card debt or otherwise spent money on gifts, meals, vacations, or other expenses related to their infidelity, you can claim your spouse wrongfully wasted assets that were rightfully half yours. In this type of situation, the court can decide to award you a larger property award to make up for the funds your spouse wasted for extramarital purposes.

Spousal Support Awards

Whether infidelity affects spousal support (or alimony) awards will depend on the law and policies in your jurisdiction. The laws can vary significantly, including the following:

  • Some jurisdictions prohibit judges from considering infidelity when it comes to spousal support, as the focus should be on the financial need of the recipient spouse
  • Some jurisdictions prevent a spouse from receiving alimony if they were unfaithful
  • Some jurisdictions entitle a spouse to a higher spousal support award if their spouse was unfaithful

It truly depends on where the divorce is occurring, and a knowledgeable divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction can advise you how infidelity might affect your alimony award.

Child Custody

Some spouses might think their children should not be around a parent who sets an immoral example by having affairs. However, a spouse’s infidelity does not make them automatically unfit to parent under the eyes of the law. Instead, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Some factors the court might consider include:

  • Is the adulterous spouse engaged in affairs with numerous people at the same time?
  • Does your spouse expose your child to inappropriate situations as a result of his affairs?
  • Is the adulterous behavior accompanied by substance abuse, being gone for long hours, or other behavior that puts the child at risk of harm or neglect?

If the court believes that your spouse’s parenting abilities are impacted by the circumstances accompanying the infidelity, it might impact the custody determination.

Resolving Your Divorce Case

Even if you are rightfully angry and hurt by your spouse’s infidelity, this should not be the driving force leading to a certain outcome of your divorce. Family courts encourage divorcing spouses to focus on resolution instead of blame and fault, as this often makes it easier to compromise and reach out-of-court agreements. In some cases, raising the issue of infidelity can improve your divorce outcome while, in others, it might simply distract from the important issues and not impact the outcome at all.

If you are filing for divorce because your husband was unfaithful, it is important to examine all of your options and strategies with an experienced divorce lawyer. This way, you can take the best approach to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.

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