I am having a difficult time understanding what is so appealing about a marital affair…

marital affairBy Linda

I am having a difficult time understanding what is so appealing about a marital affair because all I can see is the hurt and devastation.

I search daily trying to find something or someone who can articulate it to me. Those involved in the affair appear to have a difficult time with this as they are unable to really pinpoint the attraction.

The best book I have read on this is “Torn Asunder” by Dave Carder, and it gave me a glimpse into the process.  But I want more.

So I began thinking about it in my own terms, trying to find something that I can relate it to that will help me understand the appeal. So I chose shopping. I enjoy shopping – a lot.   I can see how it can become an addiction, so I thought I would relate shopping to a marital affair.

In the beginning when I would have an extra hour or two I would head to the mall and look at some attractive shoes. I wasn’t really into shoes but they did look good. I would like to buy them but I really didn’t need them because I had a good pair at home. But my old pair wasn’t giving me the same feeling I had when I first wore them.  They were becoming dull and worn out.

One day I decided to try on a pair. When I put the shoes on they felt wonderful and I looked fantastic. Everyone in the store commented how great I looked. I decided I needed those shoes.

When I wore the shoes I felt beautiful, I felt alive. So I decided I needed to feel that way all the time so I continued to buy more shoes. The more I bought the better I felt.

The Relationship Between Infidelity and Addiction

After I while I found myself thinking about new shoes more than I thought of my job, my family, my husband. I couldn’t wait until lunch so I could head to Macy’s. I also found myself hiding my new shoes from my husband because he wouldn’t understand why a woman would need so many. Obviously he wouldn’t understand how good they made me feel.

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I began to feel guilty about hiding my shoe shopping from my husband. I would feel great in the store but as soon as I got into the car I would feel terrible. So I would call a good friend of mine who loved to shop just as much as I did. She understood my needs; she would tell me I deserved these shoes and how great I looked when I wore them. I would call her often after a splurge and she would make me feel better.

Eventually all the shopping caught up with me.  The credit card bill arrived and I was busted. My husband told me I had to stop. I was relieved he found out, as I agreed with him because my shoe shopping was out of control and I was beginning to hate it.

The strange thing is I couldn’t stop. Something that really wasn’t that important to me a month ago suddenly became something I couldn’t live without. I loved the feeling I got when I wore new shoes. All the attention and comments made me feel great and now that it was forbidden I wanted them even more. Everywhere I looked I saw shoes. I would walk past store windows just to get a glimpse. I didn’t know what I was going to do without that feeling.

Then I decided to focus on other things – my family, my husband, my job. I threw away all my purchases and found other ways to spend my time and my money.

You know I don’t miss my new shoes. I don’t miss the negative feelings I had when I was buying them and the good feelings I received when I was wearing them. I realized those feelings weren’t real; they were my own selfish way of trying to receive love and affirmation.

See also  4 Ways to Empower Yourself After the Emotional Affair

    26 replies to "A Marital Affair is Like Shoe Shopping"

    • Lesli Doares

      Love the analogy. I understand the pull of an affair in meeting a need. However, the cost to self and others we claim to love is an exceedingly high price for something that can get resolved another way. I wish people had more confidence in their partners to be able to be honest about their feelings about the relationship and work together to make it better. The ideas that love is unconditional and relationships are natural keep couples from getting help before the bottom drops out. Thanks for the post.

      • Doug

        Lesli, Thanks for commenting. You bring up some very good points. It is a shame that many feel afraid to be upfront and honest for fear of hurting their partner’s feelings or instigating a confrontation.

        • Linda

          The fog has returned.

          My mom called yesterday to tell me that was brother was coming Sunday and he was bringing “his friend”. I guess he decided that he couldn’t completely call it off, he was just slowing things down a bit. I am sure that will work. lol. I can’t say I am shocked, I actually expected it. Affairs seem to follow the same pattern and completely ending it obviously takes time and a good kick in the butt.

          Our fifteen daughter seems to know more than my brother. She commented, “What was he thinking, slow it down, after he has taken her all over the country, gave her a dog, and they share matching “friendship” rings. She is not going to go for “slow it down” She may agree and pretend to be on her best behavior but she will not give up. He needs to dump her and move on with his life!” Pretty insightful for someone who has never had a boyfriend.

          Right now he is playing with fire. We all foresee a “Fatal Attraction” in the making. I will keep you posted.

          • Karen

            So sorry to hear that, Linda – did your brother ever attempt to reconcile with your sister-in-law during the brief “fogless” period? Did that have any part in his returning to the “fog world”?

            • Linda

              Karen, he did email her and tell her he was moving out of her apartment and back into his. She called my mom yesterday crying, saying she was confused and didn’t know what to think about what is going on. My brother has not talked to my sister in law since May, they only text and email, it upsets her too much to talk to him on the phone.

        • Kate

          Yeah, it’s that fear of hurting feelings that kept my husband from talking to me about the problems he felt we had in our relationship. But what I don’t understand is how he could rationalize “I don’t want to hurt her feelings by talking about our problems so I’ll just sleep with her best friend instead.”

          *sigh* That damn fog… *sigh*

          Still waiting for him to decide if he still wants to stay married or not. He’s in complete NC with the OW, to the best of my knowledge, but still hasn’t made any effort to make up his mind whether he wants to leave or try to work things out. Granted, the fact that he hasn’t left yet is some kind of choice as it is, but I can’t stand this limbo much longer. It’s been nearly 7 months of not knowing what he wants to do… I just want to hear the words “I love you” again. 🙁

    • Karen

      Linda – that fits in with the “fog” return, I think. Can your mom refer your sister-in-law to this site or is it too close to home? Maybe one of the other sites? Sounds like she needs some “support” – maybe, just maybe, your brother was reaching out to her in the emails/texts, and in her pain, she can’t see it. Or maybe something else. This stuff is so awful . . .

      • Linda

        Karen, Well that wouldn’t work, no one in my family knows what Doug and I have been through the past two years and we really want to keep it that way. I want to contact my sister-in-law but I am afraid that I will spill the beans. I feel so strongly about this subject it is difficult for me not to give advice to someone who is suffering from an affair and if I did I am not sure I can trust her to keep it a secret. So I have been practicing the NC rule with her, I feel very guilty about that but I feel at this point I don’t have a choice. I am just trying to support by brother and push him in the right direction. Linda

    • Lesli Doares

      Kate–why does your husband get to be the one to make the decision about your future? I know he gets to decide about what he wants to do but you don’t have to be in limbo in the mean time. If he won’t go, go to counseling yourself. Not making a decision is making one with consequences he can live with. If you’re having a hard time, please get some help and support.

      • Kate

        He’s the one who had the affair, not me. I am willing to work on our relationship and try to fix the things that made it vulnerable. He’s giving me the “I love you but am not in love with you” speech, says he cares for me but doesn’t think he wants to be married to me. I can’t change his mind on those things, he needs to see for himself that things can work out with us. He’s rewritten the history of our relationship in his mind, saying he’s not sure he ever loved me, he’s been unhappy for the past several years, etc. If you knew us, you’d know that was furthest from the truth. I’ve had more people tell me that they can see how much he loves me when we are together just by the way he looks at me, throughout our 8 yrs of marriage + 5yrs dating beforehand.

        So, I am pretty much at his mercy. I don’t want or believe in divorce. Marriage is a commitment, and we both agreed beforehand that the only time we felt divorce was ever an option is in the case of violence. Any other problem can be worked out with dedication and love. Now he just needs to remember how he felt when he said that and get his head out of the fog…

    • Jeffrey Murrah


      I like your shoe story. From your story you understand many aspects about affairs. I will try to illustrate other motives using the same metaphor.

      1. The new pair of shoes looks like your old ones did when they were brand new, so you MUST have them.

      2. You want to try reinventing yourself. A radical change in shoes is just the start you were looking for. How about these red and green striped platforms?

      3. All the successful people have more than one pair of shoes. I want a second pair that looks like theirs. It will make me look successful.

      4. I like these shoes. I know my spouse will hate me for them. She may even throw the shoes or me out. If she does, I have a convenient excuse to curl up next to my shoes in a new shoe closet. Since she kicked me out, then I won’t feel so guilty.

      5. Who said I had to be loyal to this one pair of shoes? They have been dependable, but I want to have the fun and experience of as many pairs of shoes as I can. I deserve some happiness.

      6. Shoes are just something to put your feet into. I do not believe I was put here to have just one pair. The purpose in life is to try on as many pairs as possible. I may just find a ‘good one’.

      7. I need this pair of shoes to wear in secret. When no one is around I can put them on, walk around and feel better. It will be my secret source of feel goods.

      8. “I don;t know what happened”. I was walking down the street and the next thing I knew when I woke up the next morning, was that I had on a new pair of shoes.

      9. My parents always had more than one pair of shoes. It is what I am used to. I don’t see what is so bad about having a second or even third pair. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, what is the problem?

      10. Shoe guilt is something made up by people who just want to restrict shoe sales. God never intended us to just wear one pair of shoes (even though I only have one pair of feet).

      These perspectives may give you some insight on some of the thinking with cheaters and their activities.

      • Linda

        Jeffrey, Wow, first of all I am impressed with your knowledge of shoes. Are you keeping a secret from us? lol. Also I am sure you have heard all of these excuses before. I am amazed how irrational a person in an affair thinks and acts. My brother’s situation has really opened my eyes to their illusions and justifications. It is beyond my realm of thinking. I guess that is why I am still trying to understand and search for meaning. I need to come to the conclusion that I will never grasp what makes a sane, logical person act so stupid. Linda

        • Jeffrey Murrah


          When you said that “I will never grasp what makes a sane, logical person act so stupid” you nailed it! The cheater is not acting in a sane, logical manner. They are in a trance-like state where they operate according to emotion and urge based rules, NOT logic. When spouses try to use logic to “understand”, they will often come up short. They do not realize that the rules of the game are not the ones they assumed. It is akin to the cheater holding up a baseball. The spouse thinks, I know how this game is played and what the rules are, just because they saw the ball. It is quite an awakening when the come face-to-face with the realization that their spouse is operating to a whole different set of rules than they thought. The spouse is playing a whole different game, with their own set of rules. The simple truth is “Just because you see the ball, does not mean you know the rules of the game”.

          • Linda

            Jeffrey, I guess I should stop trying to understand, however I feel I could be more helpful to others if I understood. One of the aspects of the affair I have such difficulty with is how “brainwashed” Doug appeared during and after the affair. I tried to have him explain it to me but he was unable to tell me why. It was almost like the time he went on spring break with his college buddies, he could tell me he had a good time, but the how and why totally dismissed him. Is an affair like a drunken stupor? Doug told me things that I knew weren’t true about us but he truly believed them? What happens during an affair that makes them think that way? What can a spouse do bring them back to the good reality? I wonder do they trust and respect their affair partner so much that they believe everything they say? I would appreciate any insight you have about subject. Linda

            • Jeffrey Murrah


              I am glad that you asked about the “brainwashed” phenomena. They truly are in a trance-like state. While in that state, they are more susceptible to suggestions. It is not by accident that some love songs talk about ‘putting a spell’ on someone, this ‘trance’ is the equivalent of that spell. Your comparison of it to a ‘drunken stupor’ is correct. They are out of it. While in this ‘trance’ they will operate as if they were brainwashed. Brainwashing, drunken stupors and trances are all forms of altered states of consciousness.

              With all the changes in their brain, and chemistry, they are a different person. Sexual activity involves more than orgasm. Many chemicals are released both inside and outside of the body, which are powerful mood changers. Those chemicals also create a bonding between two people. The bonding occurs emotionally, within the brain and within their spirits.

              You asked, “do they trust and respect their affair partner so much that they believe everything they say?” -I am not sure if they respect their lover, but I do know that they are vulnerable to the suggestions of the lover. The lover can manipulate their thinking and emotions. When they are in this chemical induced trance, they are not totally with you. Like getting someone out of a trance, it often takes time to get them to ‘snap out of it’. I would give you a time frame, but if often varies. Bear in mind that with the mindless routines that many people have and the trance inducing qualities of music, drugs, drinking, etc., they can ‘keep the trance going’ for quite some time.

              It would take me a while to explain some possible ways of getting them out of the trance, so I will have to avoid that discussion at this point.

              Bottom line:

              -You are not imagining things. They are technically ‘brainwashed’.
              -Trying to hold a meaningful conversation with them while they are in such a state is an exercise in futility.
              -The bonding and chemical inducement of their trance occurs internally and externally.
              -Like recovery from drug states, you will have to wait for the drugs to wear off. While waiting for them to wear off, be wary of behaviors or substance that may keep their trance going.

              This should answer many of your questions.

            • Linda

              Jeffrey, Thanks for your input. I am sure your comment will be helpful to everyone. I often wonder if the spouse is afraid to leave their “brainwashed” state, because if they do they will realize how stupid their thinking was. At first I thought Doug held on to his illusions because of he was holding onto his feelings for Tanya, he was so in love with her that he wasn’t willing to let that go. Looking back I wonder if he was afraid to let his illusions go because then he would have realized that the relationship wasn’t everything he thought it was and as perfect as he thought she was, it is hard to admit that maybe her feelings were an illusion too. I feel that if a person comes to this point they must feel terrible and wonder what they were doing and why they almost risked everything for this person. No one wants to feel guilty, so it is more comfortable to stay in their “brainwashed” state and not really analyze what happened, that is why so many spouses just want to move on and forget about it. The reality of it is too painful. Linda

    • Lesli Doares

      Kate–You’re right that he needs to get his head out of the fog but you aren’t helpless in this matter. The more you think you are at his mercy, the more of your power you give away. I am not suggesting giving up on the marriage. It can survive this but waiting for feelings to come back isn’t going to work as you’ve already experienced. Please find a marriage-friendly therapist in your area to help you find your way through this. Michele Weiner-Davis of Divorce Busting has proven that marriages can be saved with only one person in the office. Getting clarity on what is in your control and how you want to proceed is possible.

    • Donna

      hmm, interesting topic… sorry to hear about your brother too, although as you said, it really is to be expected. I use my once food addiction to my husbands affair addiction… so I can see how the backwards and forwards to OW or OM occurs. It sucks and it hurts so many in the process, but I do kind of understand it from the cheaters side (kind of!) Food and marital infidelity are so very different.

      I have a question though. My husband is at the stage of self loath for himself and some days just wants to curl up and die. He thinks about all the time what he has done to his wife and family and that he is so messed up and just doesn’t know what he wants. He does really, he wants his family, he is just so messed up inside his own head. He does not understand why I love him when he has done the most dispicable thing to his family and doesn’t understand why I would want to stay with him when he hates himself so much. I tried to explain why I love him and want to be with him, but I don’t think I did a very good job of conveying my feelings. I thought a letter would be better to write all my feelings for him. Any iny one ever been through this as well, if so… how did you explain why you love your spouse and want to be with them even with the hurt they have caused.

    • Donna

      ok, new question. EVERYONE is telling my husband that they think he should just leave me as he is only going to make my life miserable etc… EVERYONE is tellingme that I should leave husband becasue he will never give OW up and for all the hurt he has and still putting me through. He does want to be with his family, although he does love another woman. He says she is more compatable to him than I am and that he said the best chance of our marriage working is to allow him to still talk to her so they can still have their arguments and that will likely push the 2 of them away. Is this true?? let the affair run it’s course, will they likely argu, I know they do, but will they argue becasue he is still kind of with his family and not fully with OW??? I have been to counselling, free as I just cannot afford to pay for a decent one. Not putting the non paying ones down, I have just found I come out of a session like I gained no insight at all.

      I do need help though as I am so confused. I will take on what Dr. Bob Huizenga says about, Why “Working on the Relationship” Leads to Abject Failure. I have been working on our marriage to only get NO WHERE! I need to in a sense forget about husband and work on me. My husband said the same thing lastnight. He said he needs to work on himself, he needs to workon loving who he is again as he loaths himself at the moment. I do agree with this, I just don’t know how to put aside what my instincts tell me to do and leave my worry for husband and worry about me. I am so messed up and conflicted with advice. I am scared of when the time is right to work on us and that we will make progress and then he will leave int eh end becasue we are just “not compatable” like OW is for him.

      I am so sorry for my lengthy post, I just have no one who I can talk too as I have developed such a trust issue with everyone. I live in a small country community.

      I am having surgery in 2 weeks which means I will be out of action physically for up too 6 weeks. My husband said lastnight, he will move back home after 4 and a half months.. into another bedroom to be here to help out, and if at the end of that time he feels he can’t do it, he will move back out. Am I setting myself up for more heartache, or is this really an opportunity for us to make a start at salvaging something. What do I do… I am crying out for your advice. I know in that time we cannot salvage our marriage to happily ever after status, is it an opportunity though for something to happen to help my husband want to remain with his family… So very muddle headed and needing some SOUND advice from anyone… PLEASE!

      Forgot to mention… I asked him lastnight how everything led to the affair.. he said it is just everything about her that he loves… the compatability thing again. He is so truly in love with her and for a time their I thought he was fooling himself where as I now listening to him lastnight I really think he is. This just breaks my heart. He says that they didn’t choose to have these feelings for each other, what they did choose though was to act on them which he recognises is wrong. Says I didn’t do anything wrong, he has and that is because he fell in love with someone who attracted him on all levels, resulting in a hurt wife and children.

      Again, sorry for my length post and my desperation 🙁

      • Linda

        Donna, I believe Jeffrey is correct when he says trust your gut instincts. During Doug’s affair I felt that I followed my intuition , strangely I felt that I was being led by a higher power. I prayed so much to my grandmother that I felt she was guiding me to a place where I would be happy. I tried to follow the books and take everyones advice but ultimately I followed my heart. I know there were things I should have done differently but I will never know if that would have made much difference in the end.

        The only thing I can tell you that would have helped me tremendously is to educate yourself about affairs that is about the only way you will have power. Understand what is going on in your husband’s head. Physically he may be the same man, but his thoughts are someone who is very foreign to you. He will say things that will blow you away. I viewed Doug’s relationship to be more than it ever was. I believed he had found this woman that was perfect for him in every way, he had found his soul mate and compared to their relationship ours meant nothing. He had convinced me Tanya possessed all these wonderful qualities-confident, outgoing, always happy. He set the bar so high that I knew I could never compare to her. So I gave up, my confidence hit rock bottom, I tried to be perfect in a our world of reality, nothing seemed to work. My advice is to try not to compare yourself to the OW, your husband is seeing an illusion. Try not to be pulled into their fantasy relationship, he may believe that they are meant to be but please don’t buy into it. As Doug has said right now he is under a “spell”, he doesn’t know what he is doing. As difficult as it is try to continue being you, you are ok, it was your relationship that may have needed help and that is something that you will have to work on together. Linda

      • Karen

        Donna – my heart goes out to you. Only you can make the decision what to do. Keep posting, keep reading, keep working on yourself separate and apart from your husband, both physically and emotionally. Only then can you make a
        wise choice as to how to move forward. Just know one thing: you so deserve to be the ONLY love of one man and NOT share him with anyone else. Take good care of yourself.

        • Sherry

          I agree!. I have posted a very personal history of my wrong choice and personal pain, with a lot of mis-spelling ,but i feel like I have taken a very heavy weight off of my heart and mind..

    • Jeffrey Murrah


      Your situation is a painful one. With so much going on, it is understandable that you would feel confused. There are many issues at work.

      1. How to deal with your husband and his self-loathing
      2. Whether to write a letter to express your emotions or to tell your husband your emotions verbally.
      3. Whether to let the affair play itself out.
      4. Whether or work on yourself or your relationship.
      5. How to deal with your husband when he returns home.

      Any one of these by themselves would be challenging enough to overwhelm most people. You can intervene in these situations on many different levels, the personal level, the relationship level, spiritual level, etc. Prayer for wisdom is always a good place to start. Then take a deep breath, then another, then another. Clear your head. You mentioned ‘instincts’ and your difficulty trusting them. I have often found that when people trust their ‘gut’ feelings they are rarely led astray.

      I am also puzzled by the extremes of your husband’s behavior from the self-loathing to how he loves and is compatible with the OW. I would be confused as to how to deal with it also. You have mentioned many concerns. If you try to take them all on at once, you will feel overwhelmed. They can be handled if you take each concern one at a time and work through them one day at a time. Since you can not do much about the affair right now, you can scratch that one off the list. Since you can not take away your husband’s self-loathing, you can take that off the list. Since your husband is not back at the home yet, you can put off that action item until he is back.

      Since you are already working on yourself and the relationship by contributing to the blog, you are taking that step, which is a good one to start with. By writing out your issues, it will help clear up your thinking. It will help sort out your thoughts. You have taken a big step in opening up to a group of strangers. That takes courage. It took courage and vulnerability to open up with your husband about your feelings. Use that same courage now to face the challenges ahead of you.

    • J

      Donna no advice, I am more or less at the exact same spot as you. Wish I had an answer.

    • Last2know

      Donna, you must work on yourself first, maybe he is attracked to her self cinfidence and independence. You have to get to that place. With yourself because regardless if he choses to stay or go you need to be happy and being self confident and being happy is the best revenge. He has you right where he wants you. Do you really need him to help you after your surgery?maybe you may for a few days (if it’s not major) but I wouldn’t use a time in your life when you are most vulnerable to try and get him to work on the marriage. You would surprised of what this self confidence can do. I used to be like you and now I have all the power in the marriage and when I speak he listens. yes my big macho ex-marine. He realizes how close he came to losing it all. Now he knows I can and will walk away in a heartbeat if he ever even gives me a reason to think he is crossing the line. Did you ever get angry at him for this? I went off on my H many times and that is so not me and that shocked him and still does when I have one of my bad days. They say to wait and see what happens and your doing that but more than anything you have got to work on yourself. What about yourself do you need to work on? Tell us so we can help you.

    • Sherry

      I have a problem with all of this. almost 40 years ago My Husband had an affair that almost destroyed me , my health, self esteem, and my daughter ‘s relationship with us both to this day . I will never forgive myself for not seeking my Minister for advice on divorce, and just suffering the pain of having to live without him . I have in reality never had the same man back again … when he reluctantly stopped seeing her, When he lost his job and was forced to come back to me and never said once he was sorry ,or ask my forgiveness and told me a pack of lies about the reason he left her, and they still had contact after he lied, and said he had told her it was over . I found out he called her the same night he told me he was though with her from his Dad’s house miles away and she was allowed to call and harrass me so she called when he hung up and told me they had talked and that he had not broke up with her, and she was pregnant . When he came home he did not know she had called me and when I ask he lied and said he did not, and never stopped lying about it for so many years I finally did divorce him and he said it was my choice when I ask him to ask me not to leave… I came back to him to my house where he lived .and was forced to marry him again by our church’s teachings of living together because I could not afford to move out or live on my on with bad health .. I am now “old” sick and alone , and not able to take care of myself. Now I live with someone I love, and hate everyday . I am in couseling and he has never cared enough to seek on going help . My present and future looks so pointless and sad. and to tired and sick to cast him out ….and the most traumatic thing to me is that I still love him but I do not feel like he ever did, has or will love me ..and certianly not like he did her. I so wish I had let him go the firs time I saw him with her and kissing her.. I feel like there are certianly times and in many cases prople need to leave theses abusuive and traumatizing relationships and move on while they still have the youth and health to start over. ,but I know this pain would still have never gone away . because I really love him but I know from exsperience and other information now he did not love me

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