The Collateral Damage Caused by an AffairWhen I was a sophomore in high school, I had a steady boyfriend named Keith.  He was a senior and the captain of the football team, and I was a cheerleader.  We were a typical small town high school couple. Young, dumb and full of drama.

At that time I certainly thought Keith was my dream guy and we would one day get married.  Every waking moment of my life seemed to entail some thoughts about Keith and our future together.

One day in July I was getting ready (primping), as we were about to head out to his grandfather’s lake house with a bunch of friends.  We were going for a fun weekend of boating, water skiing and sunbathing.  But just before we were about to leave, Keith called me and told me he was breaking up with me. 

He said that since he was about to go away to college, it would be better to break up now since we probably would eventually anyways, and he really wanted to enjoy the rest of his summer as a free man.

Needless to say I was more than devastated. 

Now I will spare you all the other dramatic details that eventually resulted from this incident, but immediately after his call I started sobbing and was furious at the same time.  I jumped into my car and drove as fast as I could to Keith’s house. I knew I could make him change his mind.  And if not, I was gonna gouge his eyes out.

Well, on my way, through the tears and the screaming and the pounding on the steering wheel, I didn’t see the light change from green to red and I ran right through it.  At the same time, another car was starting to move through the intersection.  I stomped on the brakes.  He swerved.  I couldn’t avoid him and slammed right into him.

Luckily, neither of us were hurt, but our cars were pretty badly damaged.

The sweet, older gentleman and his car that I crushed were collateral damage resulting from my emotional response to being dumped by a stupid boy.

What is Collateral Damage?

Most dictionaries define collateral damage as a “general term for unintentional deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted incidentally on an unintended target.”

Usually the term collateral damage is mentioned in the context of war.  Like when innocent civilians are killed as a result of a rocket fired from a fighter jet.

On a more personal level it’s when we’re in an intensely negative emotional state – we’re consumed about the affair, our boss tells us we did a lousy job on the project, someone close to us passes away – and we allow that outside event to indirectly cause other negative stuff to happen in our lives. My accident is an example.

Collateral Damage and Infidelity

As many of you who have experienced an affair know, there can be a bunch of collateral damage as a result of the betrayal.

A typical example of collateral damage caused by an affair is the man or woman who gets cheated on, goes out to a bar to drown his/her sorrows, has one too many margaritas, and gets pulled over for drunk driving on the way home. Now he/she has a $13,000 attorney bill, lost his/her driver’s license and could lose their job.

Many of us have experienced some sort of collateral damage as a result of infidelity.  An example that immediately comes to my mind is the family destruction created by my brother’s affair and subsequent marriage to his affair partner.

Hopefully, collateral damage has been minimal for you. If that is the case, consider yourself lucky!  But to be safe, here are a couple of things to keep in mind that might be helpful:

1) Realize that collateral damage is a very real danger for anyone dealing with infidelity. It can make your whole life take a very unexpected and negative turn if you aren’t careful. Be smart.  Think before you act. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

2) Understand that YOUR behavior is YOUR responsibility.  Was it Keith’s fault I ran through that red light and hit the other car? Of course not. I was the crazy, sobbing, ditz who was trying to race to a stupid boy’s house because I thought he ruined my life. It was my responsibility.

(As a side note, Keith is now about 300 pounds without a stitch of hair on his head, divorced and lives with his parents.)

If we’re depressed that our spouse cheated and we go out and get pulled over for drunk driving, is it our spouse’s fault?  Is it their affair partner’s fault? I’m afraid not. The fault is our own and we’re responsible.

Just like your husband or wife’s affair is his/her responsibility – how we handle it is OUR responsibility.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Sure it’s easy – even tempting – to play the blame game and blame other people for our behavior.

Some people think… “But if she hadn’t cheated I wouldn’t have gone out and had the accident!”  “It’s his fault I’m now an alcoholic.”  “Because of his affair I got fired from my job.”

It sure is tempting to think like that and blame others, but that’s a flawed mindset and will get us nowhere except feeling like we’re a victim to life.

And just as our cheating spouses must take responsibility for their behavior, we must also take responsibility for our own behavior.

So, what about you? Have you had any “collateral damage” in your life since the affair?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

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    22 replies to "The Collateral Damage Caused by an Affair"

    • Hopeful

      Since dday I knew I would not do anything to compromise who I am as a person. That is one thing I promised myself. I have never felt hurt or pain like this before. But anything from revenge, talking to the other woman, causing my husband pain will never make me feel better. It will only complicate the matters worse. I can sleep well every night knowing I have been true to myself and my beliefs. As I have said over and over to my husband I have never changed and will not change because of this. I am happy to work on our marriage and I isolated myself and spent more time alone. But that is time for me and thinking nothing negative or damaging.

    • TheFirstWife

      PTSD. That was my gift of collateral damage.

      Could not sleep for 3 months, could not eat for 90 days, constant crying (in private) and brave in public. Behind closed doors it was horrible.

      I hated being alone (never had that before).

      Totally stressed about money b/c I had very very little to my name at that point when he was leaving me.

      But I held my head up and was kind and caring in the face of adversity. I was still a good wife to him. No retaliation or anything like that.

      I did stand up for myself b/c I was forced to but I was at least respectful and firm. I never cursed or threw dishes or pounded the table. I kept my cool. We did not need two of us acting like children. Lol

      But the long term damage is I cannot tolerate knowing when people lie to me. Oh well it could be worse. We are still together and happy and I still love him and he loves me.

      • justme

        I can totally relate to your last paragraph about the complete intolerance towards lying – by anyone! It just sort of makes me go internally ballistic. He won’t stop lying so my misery and resulting heart problems are now the collateral damage.
        Lying is a most deadly toxin.

        • TheFirstWife

          That is not good – the stress of being lied to and a heart condition? That is a bad combination.

          When my H lies (and he hasn’t in a long time) I just call him on it. I put it out there. I do the same with my teens. I tell them point blank they are lying.

          One morning last month my son lied about his whereabouts. Nothing bad BUT I had proof on my phone he was not at school. I showed my H. My H said maybe the app was wrong instead of believing me. I was furious. Another bury your head and not face the fact that my son was lying. A few weeks later I caught my son again lying. Same story. This time I made sure I had proof. I did not involve my H b/c he would gloss over it. No big deal.

          Maybe not to my H but he was not the one lied to all these years.

          I hope you can get past it – I would hate to think this is ruining your health. No guy or relationship is worth it.

    • Bor

      I am 5 months2 weeks d day. and the his needs her needs love bank is now completely empty. What I felt was still a loving feeling in me she has all but extinguished. I poured out my soul to her in kindness and appreciation only to rewarded with no in kind. I had to with stand threats she would leave if i made her give up the “friendship”, ask several times for a apology, and then get a half felt one that didn’t even include what steps she was going to take to help herself, constant minimizing and blame shifting. The last one in the past week of her deflecting has withdrawn the last dime in the account. I feel nothing for this person other than sorry for her.

      • TheFirstWife

        Bor. we have all been there. There is no proven answer or path here. My experience was 6 months of a full all out affair and he was leaving me for her (twice).

        But we are still together and survived my H’s midlife crisis & affair. She may still be in the fog (called affair fog if you never heard of it) and it can be a very difficult period.

        Nithing you do compares or measures up to the OW or OM. My turning point came when his affair was exposed (by me ) and I told him very calmly I was done “understanding” and being a door mat and we were over. He had to leave.

        Boy did that snap him out of it. And fast. And then things started to change. He still made mistakes by not being honest and completely truthful. But he tries hard every day to make up for his mistakes.

        Also my H had an EA 17 years ago in grad school. At that time I told him this girl really liked him more than a friend, despite his being married. He denied it all. However now he admits I was right and it did cross a line and he perpetuated it by continuing to be her friend, despite her obvious signs of liking him.

        So he finally does get it.

        Maybe she will too. There is hope. This blog has helped me tremendously. Affair fog is a good thing to read up on. Also good tips posted about what not to do. How you cannot change someone unless they want to change. She has to want the relationship to work. If she doesn’t nothing will change for either one.

        Best of luck. Sorry you are dealing with this.

    • Falling Ash

      Like TFW, I suffered with PTSD symptoms for several months. Even 22 months on, I still have nights when I can’t get to sleep for thinking about the enormity of it all.

      I am forever changed as a person. For50-odd years I was a trusting soul who always saw the best in everyone, but now I am always looking for ulterior motives and hidden agendas. I miss that feeling of trust. I have grave doubts that it will ever return.

      I also stepped back from certain friendships, because I knew those people would tell me to throw him out and move on. It wasn’t in their character to allow me the space to concentrate on working on my relationship, so the friendship had to go.

      The knock on effects of infidelity are endless.

    • Exercisegrace

      I could tell you guys about the business they started together, and the six figure salary she didn’t earn, but was given anyway. I could tell you about the hundred grand plus! It cost us in attorney fees to disentangle her from said business she would have been incapable of running on her own. Additional thousands were spent fighting her claims that it wasn’t an affair but sexual harassment. It went nowhere but we still had to get a lawyer involved. Hers dropped her because he said she wanted to completely ruin us.

      But far and away that pales in comparison to the collateral damage done to our four children. During his affair, he couldn’t be bothered to attend their sporting, school, church, scout, or music events. He had to “work”. My daughter phrased it best when she told me “I went from being a daddy’s girl to feeling like I had no father at all.” When he WAS with them, he criticized them constantly. The OW was childless and even told him she “wasn’t into kids”. So she helped him cultivate an attitude that he was just a pay check to a lazy, ungrateful, pack of parasites. Never mind the older two were helping me pick up the slack around the house that his disengagement caused. In addition to being honors students and outstanding athletes. My daughter began to suffer from anxiety attacks, and frequently asked me what would happen to us if her father and I divorced. Because I believed his lies, i regurgitated them to her. He was working. He was stressed. No, they were just friends and co-workers, etc etc. this in turn deeply damaged her ability to trust ME, and she became fearful I was ignoring an impending disaster. She self-harmed at one point. Another child struggled with feeling sick all the time and lost weight. The younger two began to have behavior issues. The list goes on.

      After d-day, he has worked hard to improve his relationship with them. But the oldest is away at university and I doubt their relationship will ever be what it was. The others struggle towards a new normal, but he isn’t the father they once thought was the best man in the world. It is sad. WORSE? The ow stalked and harassed my older two on multiple social media sites. She gave them gory details of the affair. It drove the knife deep. They should never have read such vile things. Other things happened and we had to notify both their schools and church groups in case she initiated contact. Horrible.

      I wonder how many people would cheat if they could glimpse the future? If they could see a reckoning of exactly who would suffer? If they could see what it does to the children? Because the time and money stolen for the affair is debited from someone else’s account. And all too often it the account of the innocent kids.

      • TheFirstWife

        EG. That is awful. I feel bad for you & your kids.

        Your worst nightmare x 10 when she contacted your children. What an evil person.

        I told my H the same thing. What if his OW contacts our kids or starts posting things about him? And they did work together – what if she filed a lawsuit? All things he NEVER thought about. Because when you think with your di&k instead of your brain this is what can happen.

        So sorry again for your continued nightmare. I hope your kids can recover from this and see you for the saint you are.

      • TheFirstWife

        Sounds like something out of Fatal Attraction. The movie from the 80s w/ Glenn Close and Michael Douglas. Scary.

    • theresa

      I can’t remember the name of the book, but it was about… Guess what!
      The effect of an affair and the spider web of collateral damage.
      There is one scene that took place after the sh#* hit the fan that I found poignant and painful.
      It was not a fairytale. There were bumps, and there was one character to hate.
      The 2 families that have a very close, intermingled life. There were interpersonal connections with each other on different levels. (For example, the healthy bond between a father and the other family’s child.)
      It was a huge one time mistake. The husband is truly horrified over what he has done.

      The scene takes place in the kitchen. The husband walks in on the mother and angry teenage children. The kids are trying to tell mom he’s a bum and they cannot understand why she hasn’t kicked him out. He walks in and the kids do not hide their opinion of him.
      Mom gently tries to explain how she is handling the situation and how she feels about the situation, and tries to deflect some of their anger toward the father, and tries to reassure,them that she is ok. The kids leave shooting daggers at their father.
      He watches her crumble to the floor sobbing.
      He has just realized the affect the incident has had upon his wife. On her relationship with her children, on her whole life. He is shocked by his own blindness. His selfishness in only seeing the effect on him.
      It made me sad. I don’t think my husband has ever had this moment of revelation, of understanding, of not just the repercussions event, but on the way it has effected everyone else in their world.

      • Tabs

        -Theresa

        I wish my CH could even acknowledge what he did to the family. To this day, my CH doesn’t believe the kids know anything about his PA. It was my daughter who first found out. All the skype calls happened when I drove my son to school. My daughter was usually home in the AM and got to hear everything… and I mean EVERYTHING. My CH never conceded what he did to his own daughter. She berates herself for not telling sooner. She moved out and ended up seeing a therapist. I’v tried to tell her it’s not her fault, but my plea has fallen on deaf ears. To this day, she will not keep pictures of her father after dday. She explains that it was a complete betrayal of every moral lesson he’s every tried to teach. My son started asking me question about what his father was doing with “girls” close in age to his sister. I just replied with the generic “I don’t know”. I had no idea that my CH had my son on conference calls with the OW. My son said it felt like an introduction to the OW to see if he would accept her. WTF!

        So, when you remember the name of the book, please share. I would like to know how somebody else handled this situation…. even if it is fiction.

        • TheFirstWife

          That is awful that your children feel responsible. I hid everything from my kids but it was not easy as it was summer vacation and they were not in school. Funny thing is my H walked around like nothing was wrong.

          He went to parties and BBQs and acted like nothing happened.

          And he told the OW all about our kids. Details and more! I think it was her introduction (without face to face) to start getting to know our children. At one point I asked him about photos – did she have any of our children? He said definitely not. Turns out he had sent her some of him & our kids.

          Boy was I furious. Now our kids were involved. Thankful she never did anything. But my H could have been sued b/c she worked for him too. He sure put us in jeopardy.

          Selfish men thinking with their di^ks. That is all I can say.

        • TheFirstWife

          Why doesn’t he believe it? Doesn’t he see the change in their relationships w/ him? How can he be so clueless?

    • Tabs

      TFW,

      I’ve often asked the same question, over and over. I can only come up with one answer. My CH is in complete denial and refuses to think that he could do something so cruel to the people he supposedly loves. It makes him look like a monster. I keep asking the same question in hopes that one day he’ll confront his demons.

      • theresa

        I’m still looking for the book info. I’ll pass it along as soon as I find it.

    • Believe

      Hi

      My wife had a 3 year affair. It’s been a tough 13 months since d-day. I’m sure many of you know how an affair affects you. My brother passed away suddenly within 8 months since d day. I lost my job last week I’ll be honest i struggled to focus on my job. Now I’m at home looking for work. While I’m at home i struggle with the triggers as i know where they intimate. But I accept these triggers are normal and strive for peace of mind rather than get stuck with the triggers. My main focus is myself and being mindful. How i cope with the thoughts, feelings, images and triggers. Maybe now I’m at home is a way to face the fears of the triggers. They’ve been intimate in my home for 3 years and i should take this time to take back the power that this affair has robbed from me. I told my wife our old bed matress is still in our yard where she was intimate with him. All she does is just sit there and say nothing. I’ll have to get rid of it myself. I’ve had to get rid of other triggers. But i have to accept she is the way she is. I’ll have to be the bigger person and think what is the spirit i want to be.

      • Doug

        Sorry to hear about the loss of your brother and your job situation. Perhaps you can look at the job loss as another new beginning for you. Anyways, I think I mentioned to you before that I like and admire your mindset, though I do hope she gets to a point where she realizes she needs to help in the healing process and make some changes. Stay strong!

      • TheFirstWife

        I am sorry you are going through such a rocky period. Having marital infidelity does not help the situation.

        Use this time for you!

        Put yourself first!!!! For once.

        We have all been in your shoes. A few months after my H’s affair ended he lost his job. Who was there for him? Me his wife. His dad is now recovering from surgery. Who is there for him? Me his wife.

        So it may be your wife has no idea what to do now (most cheaters don’t). Have you gone to counseling? Even if she won’t go with you it may be helpful to go alone.

        Why is she silent on the topic? That would bother me. When my H was silent I knew he was lying to me. And I was usually right.

        After 2.5 years from DDay1 and 2 we are past it. I have changed. Now I live for me. Not being selfish but I no longer say yes to things that I would have years ago. I make sure I make time for myself.

        Regarding the bedroom. When I found out my H’s OW sat in his car, I made a comment to him I will never get in that car again. One month later he traded it in. If I were you I would do something to the bedroom. Erase all memories of the affair. Paint it a different color maybe. But SOMETHING. Why hasn’t your wife thought of this?

    • bor

      ok so more trickle truth, i found out that the care giver for our autisic son and one our family friends and stronger friend of my wife’s was complicit in allowing my wife to cover for her while she had the affair. I never did call to ask her if she was there but that is what my wife had instructed her to do if i ever called that “she just left” and i imaging try to text her that i was looking for her and get her butt home. The AP and her friend are about two minutes apart in distance by car. Now I go to reference at least one book by shirly glass that state friends that helped with the affair must go they are not friends of the marriage. I am willing to let the woman stay and help my son until i can get a replacement if ever but I have asked that she not be invited to our house or my wife to socialize with her. Actually my wife said to defend her that she told my wife to not kiss him early on in the EA phase. So she knew of the dangers for a long time and said nothing to me to. She could have just sent a anonymous letter to me. it would have saved everyone a lot of grief. but instead she covered and allowed my wife to carry out the affair. Does anyone have a different take on keeping someone like this around?

      • TheFirstWife

        It must be difficult to know that everyone around you knew what was going on and even helped it occur.

        I feel bad for your son as he will be forced to suffer by having to transition to someone new. But you did not create this situation. So there will be fall out.

        I know you have your family’s best interest first and foremost. But you should also make sure you are putting your feelings first as well (whenever possible).

        I wonder how you are able to forgive all of this. It feels like an Avalanche every time you turn around.

        Do not expect your wife to help in your recovery. She doesn’t sound capable of acknowledging others’ needs

    • Angela

      My collateral damage could have been much worse and I cringe to think of it.

      I am a recovered addict of painkillers. I had been clean for years when I suspected my spouse of cheating and the pain was so immediate and intense, I ran out the door at 4am to meet a former contact to buy pills. I just wanted to get high and kill the pain so I could think what to do. The person I met up with had a different agenda though.

      I hadn’t moved in that circle of people for so many years that I didn’t know this guy had resorted to using needles (something I’d never done and will never do). When I realized he didn’t have pills I could just take by mouth, I said “no never mind”, but he really tried to persuade me to try it, assuring me it was a much better high than just taking the pill. When I kept refusing, he finally tried to forcibly put the needle in my arm, saying that I had troubled him at that time of night and I should be grateful he was willing to hook me up. The needle touched my skin, but I pulled away in time and bolted from the house.

      There is no telling what was in that syringe. He did not make the substance in front of me. It had been prepared before I arrived. I was in immense distress and emotional pain, desperate for relief from the blindsiding I had just suffered. I was thrown into an instant relapse, where I knew the one thing in the world that could make me feel better and I went for it.

      This man sensed the opportunity that presented itself: an emotional distressed female seeking the comfort of the drug and he thought I’d be desperate enough to just go with it. When I didn’t,he did not accept my answer, but tried to drug me with whatever was in the syringe. I’m certain it was planned and very intentional. Had he been successful, I’m also certain I’d have been a BS and SA victim all in one day.

      I ran back home, and my husband was asking questions. When I told him, he called me stupid and several other horrible things. It wasn’t bad enough that he was spending his life preoccupied elsewhere with another woman, but he had to make me feel even worse. I had run from one sort of monster straight into the lair of another kind of monster due to the irrationality and desperation created by betrayal.

      Seeing that literally no one cared what happened to me, I silently waited for my husband to fall asleep to try to kill myself a couple hours later. I tied a belt from a robe to the inside of a closet doorknob and put it around my neck.

      I had just fell unconscious, I think, when my husband suddenly woke and opened that door on his way to the restroom. The belt released and I fell forward, banged my head on something and came to. He saw what was happening and again, basically called me an idiot and accused me of just trying to get attention. I gave up on him right then and there I think. Something in me broke and I realized I was really on my own. Really really really alone. It was so devastating, if D-day itself hadn’t shocked me enough, the events of that evening must have fully paralysed me. I was helpless to stop him and he didn’t care, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to get my shit together and forget him.

      The next couple or three months are a blur, except the day that I found the OW had sent my husband some inappropriate photos that he’d “failed to tell me about”, but it sort of comes into focus on Dec. 26 of that year when my most beloved grandmother passed away. I don’t really know how or why I ended up still being here. I regret to this day not demanding he leave or finding a way to leave him the instant he spoke the first lie.

      Point is, the potential collateral damage is limitless when someone is blindsided by such a devastating betrayal. BS are not allowed the opportunity to slowly become aware of someone else in the WSs life. We get the full force of every action from the beginning of the betrayal up to and including the moment it’s discovered. Hit by a Mack truck anyone?

      The other potential collateral damage that CSs never seem worried about is their own demise. Now, anytime I see one of those TV shows where some BS has killed their CS, I fully comprehend why and how it happened, whereas before, I would just think “Why not just divorce that cheating asshole?!” Yeah, I had unbidden and unwanted “revenge” fantasies pop into my head that were just beyond anything I could have ever done. I would shudder at my own thoughts, but they came without me even considering such a thing. I’d get an image of me horribly harming my WS which is the last thing I’d ever do, but there it was, a perfectly clear image of me acting out my anger, pain and rage on him for his betrayal.

      I understood that it was an irrational, crazy thought and in a sane moment, I couldn’t even tolerate the idea of him having a toothache, but there I was getting images of me doing deathly harm to him, even though I would never want to. When I see those cases where it happened, I only feel grief for the BS, not the dead WS, and I figure they asked for it.

      I have successfully re-empowered myself to stop turning pain inward. I refuse to think that I am at fault for ANYTHING, at least for now, and I am to be considered a saint, and flawless, if you will, until trust and love are restored. If he utters one word that sounds like a complaint, I tell him the Complaint Department is closed until further notice. Suck it up for now, like I had to. I know it sounds mean but in reality, it keeps me from constantly tearing myself apart trying to understand why and how all this happened.

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