I often hear from wives who do not understand the division between the man who is begging them not to not to leave him because of his affair and the man who risked literally everything in order to have that same affair. The wife often wracks her brain in order to figure out what his thought process might have been. Because he seems completely sincere in being desperate not to lose his family now. But what about before? Why was he willing to risk them in order to carry out the affair?
A wife might say, “honestly, my head is spinning. I truly do not understand. I have always told my husband that I would never, ever tolerate cheating. He seemed to understand this and emphatically said that he would never do that. I believed him. My husband is a man of high integrity. He doesn’t make a habit of lying and being deceitful. He has been a good husband. But he cheated on me with a coworker that I actually know. I am in a club with her and at times we would chat about our families. My husband had to know this. And still, he had an affair. He knew full well that if I found out, I would probably take our children and move. The other woman also has children and a husband. Worse than this, at my husband’s company, they are not supposed to date coworkers. So both of them were breaking the rules and there would probably be consequences for their careers if they were caught. Plus, my husband was very careless as if he wanted to get caught. But when I do confront him about it, he freaks out. He chases me around the house sobbing and saying that he can not handle it if leave him and take the kids. When I tell him that he should have thought of this before, he says that this is the problem, that he wasn’t thinking. But the thing is, my husband is a thinker. He is not the type of person who doesn’t know what it is doing. He had to be aware of the risks. I am sick that he did this. Why would an otherwise reasonable person risk everything to have an affair? He actually claims that he didn’t even care all that much about her. He insists she means about next to nothing to him. If this is actually true, why would he risk all of this to cheat with her? I simply don’t understand.”
I truly do get what you are saying. I had the same questions. I asked these questions of my own husband and of men that I’ve interviewed for articles. Although each man, each affair, and each set of details are different, you tend to see the same themes come up over and over again. I will share those now in the hopes that something will be helpful.
They Minimize The Risk In Their Own Mind In Any Way That They Can: If you straight out ask an honest man why he risked everything for an affair, you might get a blank look. Why? Because when they think about it after the fact, the risk is staggering, but at the time, they didn’t internalize the risk. In fact, they did everything that they could to minimize it in their own mind. That’s why this is all so perplexing to wives. If most of our husbands sat down and thought about exactly what might happen if they were caught, most would never go through with it. Because it’s just not worth that risk. But they don’t sit down and really think about it. They tell themselves that it will be a one-time thing. Or that they can and will end it very quickly. They tell themselves that their marriage and the affair are two different parts of their lives and they can keep the two away from one another.
People who have had affairs describe it like juggling a bunch of balls in the air – constantly keeping both things going. Some even try to break off the affair, but the other person makes every attempt to keep it going. Many of them are in the process of ending things when they are caught. At that point, they’d started to acknowledge the risk that they were taking, and they began to try to untangle themselves from it. But of course by then it is too late and they are caught.
I can’t claim that there aren’t some husbands who are invested in the affair and who may want to continue on with it even when they are caught. But in my experience, this is not the case with many. Most of them will tell you that if they had sat down and thought it out, they never would have done it. Most claim that they would give anything to take it back because they don’t want to lose their family. Statistics bear this out, since more marriages survive an affair than not. In short, most men do their very best not to think about the risk.
A Day -To-Day Perspective: When I was trying to come to terms about this in my own life, I realized that, if we are all being honest, there are some mind games that we all play with risk, but on a much smaller scale. For example, I have a family history of skin cancer. When I drive carpool, I am in the car (and therefore in the sun) for a long period of time. I know that I should wear sunscreen and most of the time, I do. But if I get in a hurry and am rushing out the door, there will be times when I will think “stop what you are doing and put on sunscreen. You know you can’t leave your skin unprotected.” But because I am running late and I don’t want to be at the back of the line, I just go without it. This puts myself and my family at risk (if I were to get cancer.) I fully know this. And yet, I push those worries in the back of my mind and I carry on. I know that this isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Sunscreen and an affair are two very different things. But I wanted to point out that we all tend to minimize risks in our own minds. It’s just human nature. This doesn’t excuse your husband by a long shot. But I did want to show the process that goes into the mind games that we all play with ourselves. On a larger scale, that is how people risk everything for an affair. They simply push thoughts of risk to the very back of their minds – until they are caught or are trying to end it.