Unfaithful people are often skilled in compartmentalizing the affair.

Compartmentalizing the Affair

By “Alisa”

Recently I listened to a book on Audible called Madoff Talks, by Jim Campbell.  It tells the complex story of Bernie Madoff and his 64.8 billion dollar Ponzi scheme that he managed to pull off over the course of almost 4 decades.  The author mentioned that besides being a narcissist, Madoff was able to pull off the fraud by being very proficient at compartmentalization.

We’ve all heard of compartmentalization before, but what is it exactly? In its simplest form, compartmentalization is the act of separating out different parts of your life and keeping them separate. For example, you might have a work life and a home life, and you keep them separate by not bringing work problems home with you.

Featured Download: “The 24 Most Common Mistakes Made by the Unfaithful Spouse After Infidelity”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

In a more complicated sense, people can use compartmentalization to rationalize things that they know are wrong. For example, someone might cheat on their spouse because they’ve compartmentalized their affair as something that has nothing to do with their marriage or family. As long as they don’t bring their affair into their home life, they can rationalize it as being okay.  My husband was a master at this during his affair. 

Obviously, this type of thinking is quite flawed. Cheating is never okay, no matter how much you try to rationalize it.

If you’re here on Linda & Doug’s site you’re probably struggling with infidelity in your own life, so please seek help from a therapist, counselor or mentor who can help you address the underlying issues. Compartmentalizing your problems will only make them worse in the long run.

Here are 5 ways I think that unfaithful people can compartmentalize their affair…

They can separate their feelings for you from their feelings for the person they’re cheating with

People who compartmentalize the affair they are having, can temporarily disconnect their emotions from it. They may feel guilty but not let that stop them, or they might find themselves attracted to someone else while still staying dedicated to their partner.

See also  When Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Other Person Are All Best Friends in their Non-Existence

It’s important to understand that compartmentalizing the affair in no way makes it a healthy relationship; even if they can separate their feelings for you from the person with whom they cheat, infidelity is still a wrong and hurtful act. Although compartmentalizing might make it easier for them to carry on without feeling overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, it can be damaging for both of you in the long run.

“How Could You?” – The Psychology of Justifications, Rationalizations and Excuses for Infidelity

They’re able to convince themselves that what they’re doing isn’t wrong, even though they know it is

People are extremely skilled at compartmentalizing their own moral misgivings. They can convince themselves that an affair, for example, is not really wrong or hurtful to anyone, even though they know this in not the truth. This compartmentalizing allows them to feel better about their actions, even if they are not actually morally sound.

It is a way to overlook or ignore their own values in order to avoid feeling guilty or anxious about the situation. It’s no wonder so many people resort to compartmentalization when faced with a moral dilemma – it’s a powerful way of convincing oneself that something isn’t wrong even when a different judgment may be made on the surface.

They’re very good at hiding their affair from you, and may even be able to keep up the lie for years

Those engaging in extramarital affairs are often skilled in compartmentalizing the affair, allowing them to keep up the lie for years. From compartmentalizing certain details to utilizing technology, individuals can use a variety of methods to protect their secrets.

See also  Managing Your Anger After the Affair

They may demonstrate extreme caution and go to great lengths to ensure that no one discovers their affair. It’s smart not to take anything at face value if you suspect someone of being unfaithful; pay attention to how your partner is behaving and trust your gut instincts if something doesn’t feel right.

Denying an Affair

If confronted, they’ll likely deny everything and try to turn the blame on you

When confronted about an affair, cheaters will often deny the allegations and instead make up their own excuses. They’ll try to shift the blame on you, blaming your suspicions on your insecurities or a misunderstanding. It’s all just a tactic they use to deny the affair and keep it hidden.

Instead of denying it with words, many cheaters will deny it with their body language – avoiding eye contact, becoming defensive or speaking in quiet whispers. Although confronting a loved one about an affair is never easy, it’s important to trust your instincts and not let them deny the truth.

Cheaters are often master manipulators who are experts at making you feel like you’re the one in the wrong

Cheaters are some of the most masterful manipulators, and gaslighting is one of their favorite tools to use against you. It involves making you second-guess yourself and eroding away your sense of trust in the relationship. When they gaslight by completely denying or minimizing any wrongdoing on their part, they can make you feel like you’re the one in the wrong.

It can be a difficult situation to navigate when a person who has broken your trust so deeply is also gaslighting you, but recognizing it as gaslighting is an important step towards standing up for yourself and getting control back over your life.

Featured Download: “The 24 Most Common Mistakes Made by the Unfaithful Spouse After Infidelity”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

See also  Universal Behaviors of Wayward Spouses that Sabotage a Marriage After an Affair


Finding out your significant other is cheating on you can be an incredibly difficult and traumatic experience. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that cheaters often have a deep ability to separate their emotions for their spouse from the person they’re having an affair with.

They are able to convince themselves that what they are doing is okay, and all too often these manipulators can cover up their affair for many months – or years – only for it all to eventually unravel.

Cheaters will do just about anything to avoid answering uncomfortable questions or acknowledging the truth, which often results in them trying to turn the blame onto their spouse. It’s important not to fall victim to their manipulation tactics and instead take a few steps back while figuring out how best to resolve the situation.

Taking care of yourself is paramount as heartbreak and betrayal are often some of life’s biggest challenges, so please make sure you’re equipped with valid emotional support during this difficult time.

It can also be helpful to use this time as an opportunity for growth and reflection. Accepting that your relationship is in crisis can give you strength and resilience going forward in your marriage or into any future relationships.

Lastly, don’t forget to practice self-care; meditate, exercise, go on walks or engage in activities that give you joy and make sure you are taking care of yourself emotionally as well as physically during this hard time.

Please share your (or your spouse’s) experiences with compartmentalizing the affair in the comment section below. Thank you!

(Thanks so much to “Alisa” for providing this article for us.  We love to share articles from our readers.  So if you’d  like to submit an article for us to possibly post on the blog, feel free to contact us about your ideas.)

    4 replies to "Unfaithful People Are Adept at Compartmentalizing the Affair"

    • wendy bornstein

      My spouse will tell me he wants to work on our marriage and end his affair. He says he has shared his feelings about this with his affair partner but he has lied about this. Unless she is a true narcissist she would then tell him to work on his 38 year marriage. He lies and doesn’t follow thru with ending his affair as rationalizes it in his brain without answering to me when confronted. He has pulled this for 2 years and I am now done and have filed for divorce.

    • Caroline

      Good for you! This is no way to live.

    • Shaun

      Can we do one for the executive female cheater now? Maybe it’s one where everyone blames her husband and comes to her rescue as she humiliates him.

    • Dawn

      I have learned about my husbands compartmentalizing through alot of online research toword healing.. Learning that he had childhood abuse and early exposure to porn, a lifetime of compulsive lying, an alter ego and history of acting out and that compartmentalizing is somerhing that goes hand in hand with all of it…its helpful for me to understand how he could be vulterable …so f-ed up really… but anyway I have a clearer picrure now of how compartmentalizing works. They keep guilt and traumatic emotions, shame and any unwanted feelings separated in little boxes in their mind. They can be with their AP and not think of their spouse and family. What I cant understand though is how can someone keep everthing separated when they can be with their wife and get sexy pictures or messages from the AP, or have a playdate with or share photos of their kids? How does it work if the lines are crossing?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.