Understanding Why You Had Your Affair – The Simple 5-Step Process

understanding why you had your affair

One of the biggest challenges for a person trying to recover from their spouse’s affair is understanding why the affair happened in the first place.  Why did the unfaithful spouse make the decisions they did?

What compounds this challenge even further is the fact that many (if not most) of the unfaithful persons don’t really have an answer for the “Why’s.”  Some because they just can’t figure it out themselves.  And others because they haven’t done (or refuse to do) the work necessary to figure it out.

I think that it’s safe to say that for the person who hasn’t figured out why they had their affair (and behaved the way they did while in the affair), their chances of having another affair are probably far greater than that of the person who has figured himself or herself out.  There are no hard and fast statistics or research that I know of to back this assumption up.  It just seems to make sense to me.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of self-reflection or introspection, so I’m not going to repeat all of that here. (You can read about that here.) I think that we all can agree on its importance.

This post is going to be more about how to do it.  

Recently, I had a discussion with an ex-unfaithful person during a mentoring session who told me that it was 8 years since his affair had ended, but he and his wife were still stuck today.  The whole reason for their being stuck was that he has been unable to come up with the true reasons for his affair, and that it was something that his wife needed for him to do.

And in this case, it wasn’t really for lack of trying or lack of wanting to know the why’s.  He just really didn’t know how to do it – or hadn’t had much success in his efforts.  So, he got in touch with me to help him with some ideas based on how I did it. So, I thought I’d share this process with you all.

The 5-Step Process for Understanding Why You Had Your Affair

Now, in case you’re expecting some magical, mysterious potion or process, you’re going to be disappointed. 

I wish there was a book, or a subliminal recording or something that you could read or listen to and when finished, you would have the mystery of YOU figured out.  But that ain’t gonna happen. Sorry.

But the good news, it’s really not that difficult. It boils down to 5 simple steps:

1. Meditate on it. It’s important to get yourself in a good mental state while doing this.  The first thing to do is determine when the appropriate time and day to practice your self-reflection would be. 

For me, first thing on a Monday morning isn’t exactly the right time. I found that either late in the evening during the week or early Sunday morning worked best for me.

You’ll want to find a comfortable space that is quiet and free from any distractions.   Turn off the computer, the cell phone, the TV and anything else that could possibly interrupt your session. 

When I first tried doing this I would sit in my home office in the basement of our house in the dark, and it worked just fine.  Even today when I meditate (which I do every day), I do so in my office while sitting in my comfortable chair – in the dark. Or sometimes I will use a candle and meditate by staring at the flame.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing crazy.  Just me alone in the quiet darkness with myself and my thoughts.

You may find that being in a totally different environment might suit you better.  Somewhere out in nature, like by a small stream, for instance.  I think that if I lived around mountains, that’s where I would surely go.  The point is, do what works for you.

2. Focus on the right questions. Now that you’re comfortable and alone with your thoughts, your mind is probably going to race like crazy.  I think the meditation gurus call this “monkey mind.”    And this is totally normal.  What you need to do here is ask yourself the right initial question(s) and focus.  It might be best to have these planned out beforehand so that you’re not all over the map. 

By asking good questions you give your brain something to work on, as it will try to find a good explanation to it.  I would only focus on one main question during each session and then really peel the onion and delve further, deeper. 

Here are a few example questions:

  • What was I really looking for when I chose to have my affair? Why?
  • Do I have low self-esteem and needed a boost to my ego? If so, why do I have low-self-esteem? Was there something from my past that would cause me to have low self-esteem? What?  Why?
  • How did my low self-esteem cause me to make the choices throughout my life?  What were the effects of these choices?
  • What did I think was missing in my life at the time of my affair?  Why?  Where and how did that void come from?
  • Why did I continue to lie and deceive even after the affair was discovered?

(You can find more ideas in the Affair Inventory which is part of our Cheater’s Guide Program)

3. Answer your questions with 100% honesty.  It does no good to bullshit yourself here.  That defeats the purpose altogether.  Consequently, you may not always like the answers you come up with.  You may feel uncomfortable and feel that you are messed up. You may feel guilt and shame.  But it’s important not to let that stuff bother you.

Nothing will get better, until you tell yourself the truth. Nothing can really change. You can deceive yourself for a while, but it will eventually catch up with you. The power of this whole exercise lies within telling yourself the truth and then taking action from there.

4. Analyze your answers. You need to make note of your answers – either mentally or in writing.  I prefer to write them down because I like to refer back to them at some later date. (Plus I’m 55 and I tend to forget things!)   

This will help you to attain some level of clarity on things and hopefully help get to the core of the matter – which is the whole purpose of this exercise.  You may even have an “aha-moment” that provides you with great insight and a new perspective which then propels you onto a new level of self-understanding.  Here is where the solutions can be found.    Here is where real change can begin to take place.

5. Rinse and Repeat. Take the process I’ve outlined and repeat it for each of your questions until you come to a point of greater awareness and understanding.

You don’t have to let this be solely about affair related issues either.  Use it to reflect on other personal issues, professional issues, family situations, etc.  You may find that this is an enjoyable experience and choose to practice this on a daily basis.  That’s what I do!

Bonus Step:  Don’t be shy! Share your discoveries.  Once you’ve done this a time or two and have been able to get some clarity about things, don’t keep it bottled up inside.  Hell no!  Share your new-found clarity with your spouse.  Trust me, being pro-active by bringing up a discussion regarding the results of your introspection will make your spouse do cartwheels and allow you both to take a huge step in your recovery and healing process. 

Helping your spouse in the healing process is obviously very important.  One of the best possible things you can do in this regard is to have complete understanding why you had your affair and why you behaved the way you did while you were in the affair.  (Let’s face it, you probably acted horribly at times and said some pretty crappy stuff.)  Hopefully, the process I laid out will get you (or your spouse) started towards that understanding.

Thoughts?  Please share in the comment section below.

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33 Responses to Understanding Why You Had Your Affair – The Simple 5-Step Process

  1. TheFirstWife September 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    IMO most cheaters (not trying to generalize but from all that I have read ) blame the BS for their A.

    I heard:

    We were disconnected
    I (the BS) did not communicate
    We have grown apart
    We have nothing in common
    ILYBNILWY speech

    His was definitely a MLC A. Thought dating someone half his age was a good idea. They had a connection (her words ).

    I completely understand why he had two As. He loved the ego boost and attention.

    Get a dog or pet next time! Lol

    • Sarah P. September 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

      I started watching the show “Cheaters” on Youtube. (I don’t have cable or satellite by choice and either stream things or watch them on YouTube.)

      They busted a married guy (close to 40) who was having an affair with a real ditz who was probably around 22 years old. The host of the show asked the married guy why he did it and his reply was something to the effect of: “I was at happy hour alone and this hot woman was attracted to me. How could I say no?” Of course the married guy regretted it because his own children got to see his cheating self all over television. But, I am not sure he regretted it because his betrayal was all over TV or because he hurt his family. It was hard to tell.

      But, the thing that got under my skin was his reasoning. That is, he painted himself to be helpless victim at the feet of an attractive woman. Completely ludicrous and I am sorry his family had to be put through it.

    • Elisa September 13, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

      So sorry, First Wife. I went through something similar but EA. I got the “we were disconnected” but I never got the memo. I got the “we have grown apart” but the sad reality is I was bettering myself, furthering my education, for better employment opportunities for what I believed was US. His EA involved someone, 2 years younger than him, who gets around at work because she is so unhappy in her relationship with her children’s father. She is the type of person he would not have given the time of day too. I blame it all on MLC. The only thing that he ever said that made any sense was when I confronted him about it, some time after bomb drop, and he said she made him feel young. I think she was a horrible person, and her horribleness made him feel better about himself and made him feel needed. He couldn’t handle these things on his own of course.

      • Elisa September 13, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

        oops, 21 years younger, sorry for the typo

  2. Nearly Normal September 12, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    TFW,

    I heard the same as you except the last one. Instead of that, I got, “I love you, but I also love him,” which was extremely confusing and painful. Not sure which is worse to hear, and hope I don’t get the experience to find out.

    • TheFirstWife September 12, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

      I was getting kicked to the curb and replaced by someone 25 years younger.

    • Elisa September 13, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

      Hello NN,
      I got “she makes me happy”. And I felt like it crushed my soul.

      • Nearly Normal September 14, 2017 at 10:35 am #

        Elisa, yeah, I got that from my wife, too. It’s as if to say, “You can’t really make me happy, but he does.” Soul crushing is right (a phrase that is much more vivid when it has happened to you).

  3. Nearly Normal September 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    Such a nasty and ugly situation you went through. I hate to say I know what you felt, because even with what I went through, I can’t really understand everything you experienced.

    It’s amazing how sane you are and how caring, as reflected in your comments to others. Many who went through what you went through would become bitter towards anything that moves. But you’ve survived and learned, in spite of the pain I know you feel.

  4. TheFirstWife September 13, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    I guess I have had changed my outlook a bit after the A.

    My theory is you are either with me or against me. You either love me and accept me and want to be with me or youn don’t.

    I no longer have the time or energy to focus on anyone who doesn’t want to be on my team. Life is too short.

    Next time I will just have to move on. No R or chances or counseling or anything. It will end our M.

    How sad to see how much an A (and his was mostly EA but they did kiss and pledge their undying love Blah Blah blah) can change people / both the BD and CS and kids )if it leads to a divorce.

    But I still am my happy self b/c we have R and put M is good. He has made many positive changes.

    I just hope that the end of a M is NOT the end of your life. It is sad and devastating and heart breaking. But I think it can also be freeing from the pain and drama of it all. I read where do many divorced spouses are just stuck and mistreated and miserable b/c they wish they were still M to the CS.

    If my M had ended I would be sad and heartbroken. But I would pick up the pieces and move on. And not look back.

    Because as my friend says “if my H doesn’t want to be with me, I don’t want to be with him”. And I agree. I would rather be alone and never have another date than live in a miserable M.

    I am not bitter. Not angry (finally!!). I am happy and look at life and plan to grab the bull by the horns and live happily ever after / the best way I know how.

    • Shifting Impressions September 14, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

      WFT
      That is a really good outlook…..I couldn’t agree more.

      • Shifting Impressions September 14, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

        I meant TFW….must be having a dyslexic moment.

  5. Shifting Impressions September 14, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    Here’s the thing….I think that the majority of BS’s would agree whole heartedly with this post. Not only should they figure out why for themselves but they should let the BS in on the process.

    But….how many of our CS’s see it that way. I know my husband just wants to “Move on”. Are they too fearful to look that deep inside themselves??? I’m not sure what the answer is. If they only knew how helpful it would be for them to gather some courage and ask themselves the hard questions.

    After almost four years….this is what I am still waiting for. And in all honesty, I’m not holding my breath. There is true remorse and we are in a pretty good place….but I believe this part is still missing.

    • TheFirstWife September 15, 2017 at 8:42 am #

      I agree 200% SI.

      Most CS really do not want to know “why” they did it.

      But I have figured out some of the “why” in my H’s case.

      Mid life crisis A

      Loved the ego boost

      Flirty with women (but always had boundaries in place)

      Mad at me when I stood my ground on an issue (and yes I sometimes believe he had the A out of revenge) – the issue was in November and he met OW in Dec and hired her in January to work for him and by Feb/Mar they had crossed the line and the EA started. Seems a bit too coincidental to me!

      First 4 year EA completely rug swept (no proof and before cell phones and texting etc)

      Big ego – thought he just do whatever he wanted – like come home late w/ no call – complete disregard for my requests in the past to please let me know when you will be late

      Lack of communication w/ us (all him / never me)

      Very unhappy career wise

      So yes all of these factors contributed to my idiot H thinking an A was going to solve his problems. That was a CHOICE he made.

      Honestly I just don’t see how very intelligent people just don’t see how an A only adds to your problems / it doesn’t make the existing ones go away.

      But stupid me – I thought M vows actually meant something.

      But in today’s World people put too much emphasis on the “me” and not enough on “we”. As in “I” deserve to be happy.

      Yes people deserve to be happy but not at the expense of trashing your family and kids. And that is the effect of cheating.

      There is a right way to handle a M that no longer is fulfilling or satisfying. But having an A is not an option.

    • Doug September 15, 2017 at 9:21 am #

      You’re right SI and TFW. Most CS don’t or won’t do it. But that’s precisely why I wrote the post. Hopefully, to convince some CS that it is a worthwhile and important process to complete (or at least try). That said, I’ve had several conversations with CS over the years where they were interested in knowing how to look within and discover the reasons why, and just didn’t know how. Unfortunately, it’s a small percentage of the CS!

      • Nearly Normal September 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

        Hi Doug.

        Granted what you said is true (and it was a good article, I might add), yet all the while we BSs are usually left agonizing over why this happened, looking obsessively and repeatedly inward at our partial fragment of the truth to try to figure out the whys. At the same time, the CSs are happy getting away with as little info and as little introspection as they can get away with. The frustration can be mind-shredding.

        Sorry, that’s not very constructive. Just a little venting. I had a rough couple of days. Maybe I should post something like this under the name “Mr. Grumpy Pants”.

        But thanks for the article. I hope a few CSs will hear and think about it.

        • Doug September 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

          I hear ya, NN. I talk to BS all the time who echo your thoughts.

        • Shifting Impressions September 15, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

          Nearly Normal
          Exactly…..mind-shredding for sure

          I am working hard at not letting it make me too crazy. He needs to be motivated from within to do the necessary introspective work. It’s just so obvious to us BS’s that this is what needs to be done. Sometimes I just feel like smacking him. He’s an intelligent and caring man with a background in psychology. Go figure….

      • Pepper October 18, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

        Hi, I was the OW and have been on a journey to find out why. It has been a truly humbling experience. My last child had left for college and I was lonely in my marriage; been married for 23 years. My husband was also not happy in his job and it was he second job change in a matter of a few years. (That is still no reason to have an EA). I started chatting with a married man on Words with Friends. He was very friendly and persistent. (That should of been a huge red flag) he flattered me and gave me an ego boost. I became addicted to his constant texting. We talked on the phone and FaceTimed too. He said his wife and him never had sex and she was controlling. I asked why he didn’t leave and he would never say why. He told me he loved me and acted like head over heels in love. I did feel so much guilt and would tell this guy, but he would only plead with me not to “leave him” as he would say. I’d break up with him for a few days and then I’d go back to him when he’d text me constantly. I guess this was feeding my ego.
        My husband is a great guy, but we were stuck in a the same ole same ole. I eventually ended up telling him. He was crushed and told me he loved me and wanted to work it out. He even called the guy and told him never to communicate with me again or he would tell his wife. I think was the only thing that would stop him from contacting me and it’s worked for six weeks now. I’m trying to rebuild trust and we are seeing s counselor. I just have so much guilt and still think about my AP. I mostly miss the friendship. It is the most pain I’ve ever done through. Since I can’t apologize to my AP s wife I’m apologizing to all you women. You are so strong and I don’t want to ever do such a selfish thing again.

        • TheFirstWife October 18, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

          Pepper. Thank you for sharing your story.

          It is interesting to see how easy it is fall down the slippery slope b/c it starts out innocently enough.

          I hope you and your H can work things out.

        • Doug October 19, 2017 at 4:53 am #

          Hi Pepper. Thanks for your comments. I understand how one can “fall down the slippery slope” as The First Wife put it. You and your husband now have an opportunity to do the hard work of recovery and hopefully create a new and stronger marriage. If you focus 100% on that, the thoughts of the AP will fade away soon enough. Make sure you block him from your phone, Facebook, etc. so that you never have contact with him again.

  6. TryingHard September 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    So my h and I went to almost 2years if MC. Curiously when the therapist took our counseling to the next level, I.e. She wrote 5 questions she wanted him to answer that would have made him delve into “why” and do a little introspection, is when he decided “enough MC” and we stopped going. It’s been some time and I’ve asked if we need to go back for a tune up and he always says no he is good. We are good.

    My h does not have the capability to look that deep into himself or his relationships. It would be like me studying physics!! But if we are to judge by their actions and not words then maybe we are good. But heck I thought we were good during his very secretive affair!!! So who knows?

    Maybe he’s done thus introspection in his own head privately. I know he feels horribly guilty and ashamed of himself. He’s expressed a lot of gratitude for me fighting for our marriage. But as I said, who knows? Certainly not me

    For myself I have done enough work to figure out the why’s and it’s not pretty so it is what it is. I hope he’s learned a lesson because if there’s a repeat performance of that shot show I am gone for sure. No more.

    • Nearly Normal September 15, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

      TH,

      I know that feeling.

      I hope he finds the strength to face things better.

      Does he know this is important to you? Perhaps more communication would help.

      • TryingHard September 15, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

        Thanks NN. Yes he knows and I think he’s tried as much as he’s capable of. But as you said in your top comment, we continue to agnonize, although mine is less and less these days, and we are vigilant, I dont spy anymore, but I think thru my participation through blogs like this and therapy and reading a ton, I’ve made peace.

        I can’t keep beleaguring the point with him. It does no good. I see this with all his relationships. Especially his closest ones. It’s almost as if when he’s with someone he’s not vested in he’s a different person. I know this is how the affair happened. He was never really invested in her and it was easy for him to dump her.

        We were watching the interview with HRC the other night. She addressed her betrayal and after the interview I said “we BS are vilified for taking back the cheater”. He gave me a hug and kiss and I said “I don’t. You are my hero and I’m grateful”. That was it. But it was good he recognized and let me know. That’s as good as it gets with him and I have to accept that OR divorce right?

        • Nearly Normal September 15, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

          TH,

          I am glad you have made peace in spite of his limitations. Those moments of recognition like you described help a lot, too. It sounds to me like you’re on a good (if not perfect) path.

          • TryingHard September 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

            NN. Thank you for your Li deordsifencouragement. It means a lot to me. In fact I feel my oath is anything but perfect but I do what is right for me. I’ve learned I control no one but myself. If I want him to be open and honest then I have to be open and honest to lead the way. I’ve also learned I don’t dictate someone else’s path to recovery or reconciliation. Anything short of that recognition would be projection on my part. We are only responsible for ourselves and our actions. My path of detaching emotionally has helped a lot too. I do not put my whole worth and value in the status of my marriage. My h has been great but I know he has a very dark side that he keeps buried. Maybe we all do.

  7. Rachel September 16, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    I was kicked to the curb too, but why can’t he just leave me there??
    Got a letter from my attorney and my ex wants me to pay for my sons appendix surgery back in February. Yes, MR. 6 figures wants money from me?????!!!!! My son is on his insurance and he’s over 21 so sorry bud, it’s all up to you.
    Geez it’s been 4 years from the divorce and that moron won’t leave me alone!!!!
    UGH!
    Hope you are all well!!😉

    • TheFirstWife September 17, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      Rachel. I am so sorry for you.

      It seems as though your xH doesn’t like the fact you are no longer in his control. If you owe him $.06 he sounds like the type who would spend thousands of $ in legal fees to collect it from you.

      He is like a piece of gum stuck to your shoe. Just can’t get rid of it.

      I am sure he is very upset you changed your email accounts etc. narcissists don’t like losing and losing control over someone.

      He should find someone else to harass

  8. Rachel September 17, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

    The first wife,
    Yes, it is all about control.
    I am finally at a point in my life to just laugh and say to myself “how did you do it”?

  9. Spell_itOut October 16, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    Really wish people would stop abbreviating words. Aren’t you adults? Are you typing with two fingers? I have not idea what the majority of people are saying and I do not want to google it.

    • TheFirstWife October 16, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

      I think we all use some abbreviations.

      MC marriage counseling
      A affair
      CS cheating spouse
      CH cheating husband or WH wayward husband
      CW cheating wife or WW wayward wife
      IC individual counseling

      Hope this helps.

    • TryingHard October 20, 2017 at 10:30 am #

      LOL Spell it Out YES we are indeed mostly typing with two fingers as I have found it quite impossible to put all my fingers on the home row while typing on my iPad or smart phone. Whether or not I am an adult is still in question 🙂

      Maybe you could be more specific in regards to the abbreviations about which you are confused. I’m certain many here would be happy to clear that up for you.

  10. TryingHard October 16, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

    Hhhmmm. That’s sad

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