a couple having a fight - the man angry and the woman crying

What They’d Wish They’d Known: The Fallout from Infidelity

by Jeannie Assimos - April 25, 2013

Most people who make the extremely unwise decision to be unfaithful do not realize all of the ways their lives (and their loved one’s lives!) will be impacted. A good amount of women might, at some point, have had a passing thought about an affair — but only a fraction of them actually go through with it. We talked to women who did make this sad choice: Here are the things they wish they’d known beforehand.

1. It probably started out innocently.

Chances are they didn’t set out to cheat. Maybe they were bored and lonely, or just vaguely unsatisfied. Perhaps they “reconnected” on Facebook, forged a friendship at work or started flirting with a friend. At some point, the line between right and wrong got blurry…but in hindsight, all of the signs were there.

2.They didn’t consider the ramifications until it was too late.

It felt good or right or just different enough, and at the time they felt powerless to resist. When hormones were raging and someone was telling them that they were beautiful and special and fabulous and really listening to them, thoughts of broken families and hearts were a million miles away. It wouldn’t be until they physically crossed that line that they realized everything they stood to lose.

3.They lived in constant fear.

What if their lover called? What if he didn’t? What if someone saw them together? Should they call him? Were they acting differently? Dressing differently? When they were not busy obsessing about these questions, these women were playing over all of the possible outcomes in their heads until they were spinning.

4. The guilt was all-consuming.

They are someone’s wife, possibly someone’s mother. They took vows and were building a life and a family. Now they were living a lie, day in and day out. They cried in the shower, in the car, in the bathroom at work. Sometimes they were not even sure how this all happened. They used to talk with friends about skanky cheaters, and they were so sure they’d get what was coming to them. Now the cheater was them, and the shame would never, ever go away.

5. They pulled away from their friends.

In the beginning, the totally exclusive, utterly secretive nature of the affair was one of its biggest appeals. It was the two of them against the world and they relished that bond. But eventually something happened and they wanted to talk to someone about it, and there was nowhere to turn. They realized that even telling a best friend would put her in a bad position, and could possibly put the affair at risk. So they stewed quietly and felt very much alone.

6. They discovered that no relationship was perfect.

Just when they least expected it, this perfect lover — the one they risked life and limb to be with at every secretive turn — would do something to irritate, disillusion or disappoint. The arms they sought solace in to escape a spouse’s apathy would turn indifferent; the one who drew them in with quiet confidence would turn needy. All relationships take sacrifice, work and compromise, they realized. This ah-ha moment was as profound as it was painful.

7. Guarding the computer and cell phone was a full-time job.

Even if they tried to keep communication to the bare minimum, they had to arrange risqué rendezvous. Which meant the computer and cell phone harbored all sorts of damning evidence. They suffered regular panic attacks wondering if they actually left the laptop open, and when they forgot the mobile phone — they had to run home to retrieve it immediately, every single time.

8. They appreciated things about their spouse they had never noticed before.

Blame it on intense guilt (or maybe they were suffering a bit of buyer’s remorse), but when their spouse would bring them coffee just the way they liked it, or remembered to send their stepmom a birthday card, their hearts would break just a tiny bit.

9. To conceal or confess? Both options suck.

At some point, a part of them — maybe a huge chunk from armpits to ankles — got tired of the lies and desperately wanted to come clean. And then they’d remember what was at stake and shuddered deeply. Fessing up would likely mean the end of their marriage. It would hurt and anger their partner and, if there were kids, upend their world if the marriage dissolved. They would be branded with the scarlet A, and life would never be the same again.

10. They have serious regrets.

Even if the affair was the catalyst that ended a disastrous, miserable marriage, there were things they wish they’d done differently. Hearts, promises and trust were broken, and if they knew then what they say they know now, they wish they could go back and rewrite at least a few pages of history.

 Have you ever been tempted to cheat? What advice would you have for those considering this poor choice?

More from iVillage:

Single dads! Enter to win serious prizes in the Hot Dads Photo contest!

6 Things Men Enjoy That Might Surprise You

Divorce Advice for Parents: 18 things no one tells you about getting a divorce