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Despite the fact that there hasn’t been any big infidelity news of late (but … give it time!), HuffPost’s divorce section has been having a bit of a run on stories on affairs, one of which was written by Tracy Schorn, who suggested in Seven Ways to Leave a Cheater that people who plan to leave a cheater may want to seek the services of a domestic abuse hotline. That gave me pause.

Certainly not every cheater is abusive, although a recent study clearly finds a link between accusations of sexual infidelity and violent abuse. It’s obvious those relationships were abusive, period; cheating was the least of their problems and there wasn’t even any cheating involved, just the mere suggestion of an affair was enough to send someone over the edge. But it did make me wonder — is infidelity in and of itself abuse?   

Most emphatically yes, Schorn says.

I don’t feel that way although, yes — when people finally find out about their partner’s affair, they’re typically devastated and the emotions that one goes through can indeed be similar to emotional abuse. But, while the affair is going on and the spouse is oblivious to it? Not really. True, I think many feel something’s wrong on some level — I know I did; I just couldn’t put my finger on it. And after I confronted him — with facts, emails, receipts, etc. — the denials and finger-pointing felt like crazy-making. Then slowly the truth came out.

Still, abuse?

Infidelity may be a lot of crappy things, but I just don’t consider it abuse.

Others agree with Schorn.

Infidelity “in all cases” is emotional abuse, says rabbi Sean Gorman of Congregation Pride of Israel in Toronto, especially flagrant adultery — in which the cheater makes “no effort to hide the indiscretion.” Again, that’s an abusive person, period; he or she is probably abusive about a lot of other things, too, not just the affair.

Over at Divorce Women Online, Cathy Meyer writes:

In many instances, betrayal through infidelity can be very close to what we term domestic violence. Unfaithful husbands, especially if your husband has passive aggressive tendencies, are often insensitive to the pain they inflict, just as are perpetrators of physical and psychological violence. tweet

(Hmm, wouldn’t it be the same if we were talking about unfaithful wives? Let’s not just pick on the men!) I don’t think adulterers — men or women — are really thinking about the pain they may be inflicting, mostly because they’re fooling around on the sly (how can someone be hurt if he/she doesn’t know about it?) and they are rationalizing and justifying having the affair while often still in love their partner. Plus, many spouses do other manipulative behaviors — withholding sex, for instance, or giving the silent treatment — that they know are causing the other person pain; is that abuse, too?

An article in Australia’s The Age details how infidelity and abuse are one and the same:

Why is infidelity abusive? Why is it sometimes a form of psychological and emotional violence? Because infidelity can be as devastating as a violent attack. It results in humiliation, hurt and loss for the injured partner. The betrayal is usually perceived as a direct attack on the faithful partner’s worth as a person and as a partner. tweet

Again, that’s if the betrayed finds out; not all do.

Still, if all infidelity is abuse, than what are we to make of those who stay married to a reformed philanderer, and who find the affair(s) transformational in re-creating their marriage?

Tammy Nelson’s new book, The New Monogamy, addresses how couples can regain trust, romance, and intimacy after infidelity by redefining the monogamy contract. So, is she encouraging couples to stay in an abusive relationship?

Psychologist and author Esther Perel has an interesting three-part series, An Affair to Remember: What Happens After Someone Cheats?, on the Museum of Sex’s blog, in which she concludes:

People stray for many reasons — tainted love, revenge, unfulfilled longings, and plain old lust. At times, an affair is a quest for intensity, a rebellion against the confines of matrimony. An illicit liaison can be catastrophic, but it can also be liberating, a source of strength, a healing. And frequently it’s all these things at once. tweet

I may not know too much about abusive relationships but I have the feeling you just won’t find that kind of language if we’re talking about marriages in which there’s physical and/or emotional abuse. I just can’t imagine anyone calling a physical or emotional abusive marriage “liberating.” Truly abusive marriages clearly aren’t healthy and won’t ever be healthy unless the abuser and abused get some serious therapy and break the cycle. Not all couples dealing with infidelity can: Perel talks about couples who stay in a marriage after an affair but who define their life by it in an unhealthy cycle of grief, guilt, blame and insecurity:

The affair has become the narrative of their union. The marriage may technically survive, but their couplehood is dying on the vine. When infidelity becomes the hallmark of a couple’s life, something has been broken that can’t be made whole again. The relationship is permanently crippled. tweet

Again, that appears to be an abusive relationship, period (and most likely was before the affair in some way).

So, if we agree that staying in an abusive relationship will never be considered “transformational,” but some believe that staying in a marriage in which there has been infidelity can be transformational for the couple, I again question the idea that infidelity is a form of abuse.

I don’t think infidelity is abuse. What do you think?


71 Responses to “Is infidelity abuse?”

  1. Erika Daniels
    Twitter: ontherocksbook

    Love this article! Not sure where I stand with the idea of infidelity being abuse, but potentially a form of emotional abuse when it occurs over time and repeatedly. It creates an unextremely unhealthy cycle of jealousy and insecurity.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks for responding, Erika. If affairs happen repeatedly, I think the partner needs to answer to why is he/she staying!

      • AmberLily says:

        I had a cheating partner, who cheated on me 10 x and the dirtiest social media dating sites, I had enough, he keeps smoothing me over, visits are now very seldom, as he used to visit me every day for 17 years without fail, now there are visits one every fortnight, or none at all for a few months. I captured all his dirty stuff from date sites, and showed it to him, he laughed. He has a hooker now, he even showed me his flat last week, to prove he had no woman, he wanted to ‘rub it in my face’ to even traumatize and shock me further, baby nappy pack, hair comb for women, a vanity mirror, hair curling wand, a pink lamp shade, pink pillow case on the other side of his blue pillow case, and a hair clip, pink body lotion, and then he told me it wasn’t real, that did I know he was a cross dresser? and then in the car he declared it was some local hooker who was a stripper and topless waitress? he was seeing for 6 weeks now! my stomach dropped again, then he said “no, I was just kidding”! and he laughed and cracked jokes. Then I asked him about baby diapers in the bedside cabinet on her side of the bed, and he simply didn’t have anything else to say.

        That is domestic violence and I was with this jerk/loser for 17 years, unknowingly attracted to him, and not even aware he was dating and screwing hookers, and living this double life, which came to the surface in 2011, and he kept cheating one after the after, begging me for mercy, but I had no where in my heart to feel anything for him, he had violated my trust, and when that trust was violated in 2011, he had nothing else left, but to continuing with his sex addiction on date sites, and on his cell phone where he never spoke to me, only told me to ‘shut the fuck up’ even if I offered him food or a cup of tea! “you dumb arsed bitch” he would shout and yell if I dare spoke a word. That is verbal abuse, and emotional abuse, and the physical abuse and threats? Gosh, don’t even start me on those, I never had him charged for the 100+ assaults, but I sure wish I did , as he will keep using women for sex. I was the only one he has abused, as he got away with it, and now I am disabled. I am traumatized, I get triggers and flashback, when I see women that resemble the ‘whores’ he was dating. I get night terrors. Domestic Violence is also about cheating partners, and the victim is the person being cheated on, never forget that !

  2. Iam Aman says:

    “I wish I had never married you!”
    “You aren’t as good as my friend’s spouse at xxxxx!!!”
    “If you don’t stop xxxxx I’m leaving!!”
    “If you don’t xxxxx, then I’m not going to yyyyy!!!”

    Are these abuse? These statements can be as devastating as a violent attack. They result in humiliation, hurt and loss for the injured partner. The statement is usually perceived as a direct attack on the partner’s worth as a person and as a partner.

    Honestly, society is at the point where *any* non-positive interaction will be interpreted as “abuse” by someone.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      If those kinds of comments were said repeatedly, without a doubt that would be emotional abuse. But, said when one is angry is unfortunate and hurtful, but not abusive. Yes, it does seem as if any negative interaction gets the “abuse” label. Of course, now we’ve seen the downside of constantly praising in an effort to build a kid’s self-esteem. Perhaps we should all just shut up! 😉

  3. diane smart
    Twitter: diane3345

    Is infidelity abuse? Absolutely! If for no other reason, the financial one. My ex
    spent money on a stripper in the tens of thousands. It had always been a fight to get money from him just to put food on the table. The fact that our three children were hungry did not matter. It was not until my wonderful mother-in-law passed, that my sisters-in-law told me the truth. When my father-in-law passed, my ex found out some very unpleasant things about his dad. The children and I also got to pay for his dad’s problems. My ex begged for a 2nd chance. Sadly, he was not really sorry for what had happened. We had to file for bankruptcy. With this came emotional, spiritual, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. I will apologize to my kids for the
    rest of my life, for not seeing things as they really were. As for infidelity
    being abuse, you had better believe the children know what is going on.
    This to me, makes infidelity some of the worst abuse there is.

  4. Psyh101 says:

    The act of infidelity itself is not emotional abuse – it’s the behavior that comes with an affair to keep from being found, out or taking responsibility for ones actions. The abusive tactics known as Blameshifting and gaslighting are definitely part of abuse patterns in all types of abuse. Therapist suggest that marriages can become better when these patterns are recognized and corrected. Just because we can correct a behavior, does not make the fact that it happened less abusive. A healthy intimate relationship is one where both partners are open, truthful, vulnerable, empathetic, have an equal balance of power, and are able to talk problems out and come to a compromise. A partner in an affair is displaying behaviors that are the complete opposite of what constitutes a healthy relationship. To preserve their sense of being a good person, they justify their abusive behaviors by shifting the responsibility for their decisions onto their partner and claim the betrayed is to blame. If a betrayed spouse were this powerful (to have any control over pushing a cheater into an affair) it would also be true that they had the power to stop it. We all know that only we control our actions, no one else has the power to make us do anything. Yes, our actions affect other people, but it is the selfish, egocentric cheater that only sees how his/her spouses behavior effects him/her, and not how their behavior affects their spouse. A mark of true maturity in a relationship is to see how our actions may affect others, take their view into consideration and give them the option of taking part in any decision that may affect the outcome of their lives.
    For example: If one were in a business relationship where money was on the line, one party would never just assume they had the right to decide for the other business what direction they will take the other business owner. Why? Because it is understood that there is a certain amount of respect, not to mention legal consequences, damage to that businesses reputation, and an understood agreement that the relationship is mutually beneficial. We have all of these understood rules for platonic relationships, yet in the most important relationships in our lives (the intimate ones), we assume that we can operate at a standard below that of platonic relationships. The grass you water grows, that’s why people in an affair think the grass is greener on the other side. Because they are watering the affair grass, while a drought destroys the grass in the primary relationship.
    We can all make excuses for our behavior, attributing it to something someone else did to us, but the bottom line is it all comes down to choosing to dull our own pain over that of causing someone else pain. Affairs do not make problems go away, they make problems bigger and hurt other people in the process. Affairs are abusive and inflict a betrayal wound, often resulting in PTSD for a betrayed spouse – the results of which they will carry for the rest of their lives, having the domino effect onto the lives of their children, passing down the seeds of mistrust and betrayal. Someone who can read all of the facts about betrayal, all the pain it causes and still justify their actions needs to take a serious look at the dysfunction in themselves. Those who are willing to commit such acts knowing the consequences often have an axis II personality disorder.
    It sounds a though the writer of this article has been a cheater, is thinking of cheating and/or believes cheating is not wrong. The need to justify and discount the finding of others work on this topic, is driven by justification. I highly recommend you seek counceling. Please, if you’re married, in a relationship, or in the future will be, let your significant other know that you see nothing wrong with hurting another person for your own gain, so they can make a decision for their own lives, and weather they’d like to take that gamble. Integrity can not be faked or forced, it’s a voice within that we choose to listen to or not.

    • Jane says:

      The abuser / philanderer often gives tremendously thoughtful gifts to their spouse to “make up” for the pain they cause – it eases their conscience. The same cycles abuse that take place with physical abusers take place with most philanderers.
      – Remorse with gifts of flowers, trips, jewelry, dinners (whatever would be perceived as important to the spouse or girlfriend)
      – Negotiating or promising not to do it again
      – Anger that the spouse is still sorry and hasn’t truly forgiven them or anger about their own inabilty to stop
      – Anxiety about whatever trigger that caused the infidellity
      – Infidelity
      Go back to the top of the list again

      No matter how you cut it this is an abusive cycle and it continues as long as the abused spouse puts up with it. The longer the abused accepts the behaviour the more damaging to their psyche. They usually come from a background where clear boundaries didn’t exist or were never clearly expressed.

      • OMGchronicles
        Twitter: OMGchronicles

        You’re assuming the person is a serial philander, not a one-time slip-up. Not all cheaters are the same, and some do change their ways.

        • anudi says:

          One who is capable of crossing boundaries once…is capable of doing it many times. It is risk to continue…to live under such a threat all the time, is undergoing emotional abuse and physical too if sex doesn’t give pure and flowing feeling like earlier. Why the hell can it not be an emotional abuse? In your case, you admit that you don’t know much about domestic abuse. Maybe, you need to clear your fundamentals and define what abuse means to you. Then we can decide why you don’t consider cheating as an abuse.

          • OMGchronicles
            Twitter: OMGchronicles

            Ever one of us is capable of doing bad things over and over again, and every one of us is also capable of changing, too; it’s case-by-case thing, right?

            True, I do not know about domestic abuse, but I sure know about cheating. I felt deceived, violated, threatened, angry, fearful and shocked when I discovered the years-long affair, but I did not feel abused. I understand what emotional abuse feel like, having grown up with it. Being cheated on did not feel the same.

            I am not telling people how they should feel; we’re all entitled to our own opinion about such a personal matter. But I do wonder, then, why so many people advocate for working through infidelity to “save” a marriage when I can’t think of anyone in his or her right mind who would say the same about physical abuse.

          • anudi says:

            Continued from my last post – And as far as definition of abuse goes: “Abuse is the improper usage or treatment for a bad purpose, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit” (Courtesy: Wikipedia). Now, if you were in a monogamous marriage (atleast that’s the values you went in the marriage with), it is improper usage and it is bad purpose (intended or not intended to hurt doesn’t actually matter). And in most cases of cheating and associated pathological psychology/ behaviour there are elements of unfair/ improper benefit gained often clubbed under entitlement etc. So, cheating is an abuse as per the standard definition of “abuse” 🙂

    • Kevin says:

      Having experienced the gaslighting and blameshifting associated with my spouse’s affair, I can tell you that it sure felt like emotional abuse. Every time new evidence would appear, I’d confront her, and she’d lie and lie angrily, and it kept happening until I started to doubt my own senses. That’s textbook gaslighting. She’d also make false statements about my mental health, and she would do this even in marriage counselling sessions. She got the counsellor onside who insisted I seek additional help to address my apparent “jealousy” issues and other investigate non-existent mental health concerns (I did, none were found, but I did start seeing a therapist about the affair that I still go to). I did tell the marriage counsellor, it’s not jealousy if she’s actually having an affair, it’s a betrayal of a legal and emotional commitment we made to each other and I have a right to object to it.
      But eventually the gaslighting brought me to a point where I was afraid to say anything, so I’d just gather evidence in the hope that I’d eventually find something that couldn’t be denied by any reasonable person. Which I did, and even still, she denied and twisted and made up a false story to fit.
      After I finally managed to blow the affair wide open and emotionally traumatize the other man enough to scare him off, she went straight into blame shifting, so I now have a very concise explanation of all my faults and shortcomings to keep me awake at night and to trigger social anxiety at random moments.
      So yes, I would agree that the behaviour associated with an affair is a type of emotional abuse. I now struggle with depression and anxiety rooted in that experience, and my therapist uses techniques associated with treating post-traumatic stress to help me, although I don’t have that actual diagnosis. PTSD is far more serious than what I’m going through, but it sure has some similarities.

  5. anudi says:

    The marriage advocates and their purposes can be many (even sinister). In some cultures, breaking marriage is just not acceptable under most circumstances. Women beating is the order of the day and nobody says that you break the marriage (eg. Indian Subcontinent). But, infidelity is one reason (almost all religions and society condemn it and allow marriages to cease to exist if the betrayed party does not wish to continue). Maybe, you need to get the facts right. Physical wounds get well but emotional ones don’t. I don’t know, why you “feel” that cheating is not an emotional abuse and what you consider as an “emotional abuse” (something you “feel” again). Now you asked for opinions. Nobody can give you that on your “feel” argument. Maybe you’d explain what you “feel”

  6. CG says:

    Continued adultery after discovery is a form of abuse. My husband continued the affair for a year after I had discovered it. I would consider him as two people living in one body. He would tell me how entitled to this affair he was. How I didn’t appreciate him enough, and all of the things that I did wrong to cause this. Then he would change his tune and tell me how much he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. His actions would not reflect those words. He would leave the house at random times without telling me he was going, where he was going, or if he was ever coming back. On our anniversary weekend, he left the house at 8am, tole me he was just going for a short ride and would call me when he was on his way back. I didn’t get that call and I didn’t see him until 7pm that night. He had taken her and her children to a local water park. The same park that he told a few weeks earlier that he didn’t want to take me to when I asked. When I told him I was unhappy with the situation, he would threaten me with divorce. I should have just left, but narcissists tend to be able to convince you that this is normal and what you deserve. Like I was the bad person for not supported his decision to hurt me. Continuous infidelity has left me a broken woman full of hate, depression, worthlessness, and hopelessness. That isn’t abuse?

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Hi CG,
      Thanks for writing. I’m sorry you had to endure this. I tend to think of what Ann Landers said: Nobody can take advantage of you without your permission.
      I know that narcissists can convince their loved ones that their bad behavior is normal, and that they can turn their wrong-doings into a “justified” reaction to all that their loved ones are allegedly doing wrong. That said, if we continue to allow someone to hurt us when something doesn’t feel right we need to own that. We’re co-dependent and enabling the bad behavior. No one should have to put up with someone leaving “the house at random times without telling me he was going, where he was going, or if he was ever coming back.” Having healthy boundaries and recognizing our needs is essential.
      I hope you can get past the past and become healthier, without feeling like the victim. I hope you have a good support group or a professional to help you do that. Don’t let him hurt you anymore!

      • anonymous says:

        Well, I think you need to learn about personality disorders. No one can take advantage of you unless you let them, yes, but narcissists take even strong, intelligent, loving women (or men) down with years of lies and underhanded manipulations and isolation. When you find out the truth, you might not be able to immediately walk away without losing everything financially (continued financial abuse during divorce) and, most importantly, you could lose your children to the narcissist and his/her perverted, borderline affair partner, exposing your young children to things that make even the most worldly adults vomit when it’s exposed online. So, it’s a nice platitude for you to spew at someone who has been betrayed that we “allow” someone to treat us this way, but often it takes years to pick yourself up and put yourself back together enough to support yourself again after narcissistic abuse.

        • OMGchronicles
          Twitter: OMGchronicles

          Thanks for writing, anonymous. Are you saying everyone who cheats is a narcissist? And every narcissist is also a cheater? Trying to understand.

  7. Jo says:

    Yes cheating infidelity is abuse. It also shows what kind of person their character is. Excuses aside, to cheat you must deceive your family, be a liar, steal money from the family/spouse, creep about lying by ommission, gaslighting. You also show poor descision making. Non empathy. No responsibility for your actions. Emotional immaturity and self delusion telling yourself your a decent person whilst cheating. Inability to handle relationships well, by not seeking assistance and education to improve what’s wrong in your marriage or at least respectfully end it before starting a new relationship. Ahh the list is quite long. In any and all cases you are not worthy of marriage..period! You are acting in a disrespectful, deceitful, immature, selfish and delusionally manner. It is dispicable and destructive behaviour and underlies a bad character of a person. People who do this are not capable of a great marriage and need to check themselves for their lack of integrity and morality. I’ve seen so many people utterly devestated by this behaviour and betrayal. They carry the emotional wounds for a life time long after the cheater has gone.

    I think once a person recognises and learns what they are, and chooses to change that based upon their new found reality, then they would make a decent spouse. But if they are under the delusion that cheating is anything other than poor relationships skills, poor character and ABUSE, i would advise to not even date them.

    Infidelity is an insidious form of abuse. It is frightening that our society is so abhorrently ignorant that it widely accepts it as anything less.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks for writing Jo. So are you saying all lying is abuse? All poor decision-making is abuse? All displays of poor character is abuse?

  8. Sarah says:

    Unless the couple has an open, honest agreement, it’s abuse. One party lies, usurps all the resources to pleasure himself and strangers at the expense of his spouse and children, tries to convince the wife she’s crazy. Makes hurtful requests (says he’s leaving right before vacation, leaves the bedroom, may demand demeaning sexual acts). He decides he’s a victim and starts demeaning and insulting his wife. Picking fights. When she finds out, he twists her arm in any way he can to gain control of the house or car or children, he continues to blame her, she’s remains the villain in his discourse. If there are apologies some of the time, I’ve never heard one. I’ve lived through all this many times over. You can see it coming through coldness, arguments, a pattern of blame and dismissal begins. Then I find out he’s cheating again. Trust, just him being out by himself, is NOT possible. The nerves alone can be excrutiating, day after day, night after night, year after year. An assumption of innocence is lost and can NEVER be reclaimed. And there is more. What about exposing this wife to sexually transmitted diseases?
    I’m just now about to financially separate. My children aren’t babies. I can date myself. But the separation is hard to do for many reasons, and I feel I was abused for a dozen years, maybe more. I agree with Ms. Shorn. There’s some craziness in society that forgives this behavior and moreover, attempts to blame the faithful party. The faithful party’s negative or something. She isn’t affectionate.
    How can she be? Why is she supposed to be loving or even respectful when he is not? Why is this man completely absolved while she’s blamed for whatever she needs to get by and to express her anger? If he’s done nothing else, he’s dismissed her as a spouse and as a person deserving respect, consideration and honesty.
    I know infidelity is common. But it’s never okay to treat a spouse as irrelevant or an annoyance.
    In my case, I was and remain the party supporting him. And that’s what he does over and over and over. I’m supposed to be a saint. And he can do whatever he likes. He’s just a philanderer. Isn’t that cute and funny? Isn’t he a charmer? Just getting his rocks off at his family’s expense.
    His friends even help him. They don’t like me. I’m a big party pooper. Big bore. I was never his type. I didn’t do enough drugs and drink that much. I didn’t let him be himself. So he has a right to treat me this way. I’m just the lady paying for his house, food, caring for his kids.
    People with more resources or common sense or respect for themselves are wise to leave as soon as they can.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I agree that it’s never OK “to treat a spouse as irrelevant or an annoyance.” That said, you stayed with him despite his cheating and I think it would be helpful to ask yourself why you stayed. No one is forgiving adulterers, but each of us has to be accountable for our own actions.

      • Stunned says:

        Are you for real? Own her actions? Clearly, you don’t understand gaslighting and long term psychological abuse. Call a domestic violence hotline. Serial cheating is on the wheel of behaviours (google it) that constitute abuse. Your lack of knowledge and empathy towards this woman is gross.

  9. Paula says:

    Yes it is…Being a survivor of domestic violence . U go through the same feelings. Most men who have affairs are physically . And emotional abusive. How does it not go hand in hand. Why women stay. Same excuses. As domestic violence survivors give. The kids. Money. Or religion. I know when I was with my ex married lover. I told his wife and sent her a letter. She sound so passive. But he. Turned hatred on me like wow.. I see him differently look how I am being treated. He claim he’s committed to his marriage found out ut have been 5 other women. During me. He dumoed me for someone new I got even . Spent 1000.00 off his credit card. But it did cross my mind. Is this man emotional abusive to his wife. Once you listen to your gut. Its usally right. Abusive meb are charmers. Soiciopathic . Niw that our child is due in march. I saw the real basterd come out. Now I feel he might harm me and the child. Because I set him up. As he wants to believe. Go figure. I put everyone on alert. I don’t trust hin.

  10. tempest says:

    The only people who don’t think infidelity is abuse are the ones who have never been cheated on. Trust me–Schorn is correct. Infidelity involves deception, emotional abuse (the betrayer typically “gaslights” the betrayed to make the betrayed spouse question their own perceptions), it involves a MASSIVE drop in self-esteem (“am I deficient-is that why he/she cheated on me), followed up with lack of real remorse.

    Sorry–Schorn is right and anyone who thinks otherwise is either a cheater or uninformed.

  11. Elle says:

    I think those who believe it’s unequivocally abuse misunderstand what affairs are really about. There are absolutely situations in which it is abusive, especially as Rabbi Gormon points out, it’s flagrant. But in many situations, the cheater is usually an affair to essentially self-medicate — the deal with emotions they are ill-equipped to handle: fear of failure, disappointment, grief, the list goes on. An affair becomes a distraction, a way to re-invent themselves. The wife, assuming she finds out, is sort of collateral damage. Many men are genuinely baffled by how much pain their infidelity caused (as are many women who never dreamed it could hurt so badly).
    The problem with always/never thinking is it’s loaded with judgement, which leaves little room for each of us to define our own experience.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      The problem with always/never thinking is it’s loaded with judgment, which leaves little room for each of us to define our own experience.
      Yes! Thank you, thank you and thank you.

    • Timothy says:

      Let’s substitute physical abuse for the emotional abuse we’re discussing here. Would you so casually say “the problem with always/never thinking (that physical abuse is abuse) is it’s loaded with judgement, which leaves little room for each of us to define our own experience.”

      Of course you wouldn’t. Because you’re attempting to diminish the real and actual harm that infidelity causes. And that harm is real and is significant. Just as physical abuse is real and significant.

      The spouse is just “collateral damage?” Seriously? I don’t even know what point you’re trying to make here, but it is so convoluted that I hope you attempt to clarify what you mean and why that, in itself, doesn’t rise to the level of abuse.

  12. Timothy says:

    This article is sloppy and negligent.

    OF COURSE infidelity is abuse. That we don’t call it such is not evidence; it just shows how permissive we have historically been of this form of abuse.

    The OP (OMGChronicles) seems to rest their case on “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” and seems only to concede that there is potential damage in the discovery.

    Nonsense. The very foundation of a romantic relationship is emotional unity. One of the key tools required to achieve that is trust and honesty. When one partner begins to withhold their emotional commitment to the other, when they begin to lie and obfuscate, there is real damage that is being done to the relationship, whether it is explicitly understood or not. The idea that affairs can be had in complete secrecy with no harm done is a fantasy spun by those too weak to carry out their own convictions.

    Dishonesty steals the fundamental value of an emotional relationship, and thus fundamentally destroys the aim of the union. This will manifest itself in all sorts of ways, and the injured party will notice, but will often be willfully misled as to the reasons. Therein lies the next element of the harm done; the lying, misdirection and “gaslighting” as other commenters have mentioned.

    And why does the cheater do all of this? To commit fraud; to gain or maintain an advantage that they perceive to have over their partner. They are securing benefits that they believe they would lose if they were to be honest about their feelings and actions. This is theft. Fraud.

    The amount of emotional trauma that is sustained by the one being defrauded should be enough to answer the simple question of “is infidelity abuse.” For those who’ve been through it, it is among the worst experiences in life. Many become suicidal, lose all hope, and have severe emotional damage that they must then spend time recovering from in order to heal and progress into the potential of a new or better relationship. The damage is not slight or insignificant; this is among the worst emotional pain any human ever experiences.

    The manner in which the OP diminishes this emotional toll is one of the most disappointing aspects of this article. Ask psychologists or therapists where the emotional toll of infidelity falls relative to other such harms, and they’ll tell you it’s right at the top. So, how can we classify anything as emotional abuse and not include one of the most destructive behaviors there is?

    Finally, the OP on several posts seems to mock those who have been harmed with the repeated question of “why did you stay?” Turn that question around and point it in it’s proper direction: ask the perpetrator of the abuse why THEY chose to stay, rather than end the relationship before they cheated? And the answer to that question unlocks the very nature of the abuse.

    It is willful. It is harmful. It is abusive.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks for writing, Timothy. For the record, I am not defending infidelity — having experienced it myself I know how destructive it is. I also don’t mock anyone for staying or going; there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. And I am certainly not saying, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you,” although let’s face it — if you are unaware of your partner’s straying, you are also not aware of any abuse, as you would call it. Most people being abused, emotionally or physically, are well aware of it.
      Once the affair is revealed — or rather, if it is (many are not) — then, yes, the emotional turmoil it creates feels like abuse. But in my mind, something that feels like abuse doesn’t necessarily mean it actually is abuse.
      What I question — and I genuinely put that question out to the masses because I don’t have the answer, just my thoughts — is, if infidelity is always abuse, then how can people call affairs transformative or “the best thing that happened to us” or “liberating and healing,” etc.? Because no one ever, ever, ever, would call physical or emotional abuse transformative, liberating or healing; people don’t go to safe houses to realize just how “healing” the fact that their partner beat the crap out of them is. So, Timothy, that is my question for you — how do we reconcile that?

      • Timothy says:

        Fist off, as I mentioned above, I do not believe that unrevealed infidelity doesn’t take a toll. I believe it DOES take a toll, in a myriad of ways. It steals the core value of the relationship, often the emotional bond, and that robs a relationship of what it could be. I’d suggest that many times the person who doesn’t know of the affair certainly knows that something is off; and this is often when one of the worst elements of the affair happens; denial, blame shifting and gas lighting. I’d ask you to substantiate that unrevealed affairs have no affect, but I doubt you could do so.

        I’d make the analogy that unrevealed theft of cash from your employers till takes currency from the business in the same way that unrevealed affairs steal emotional currency from a relationship. And even if you don’t think it presents a deficit in the present moment (I’d argue it always and consistently does), then it robs the relationship of what it could be, or stunts the partners from moving on in their life toward what their desired relationship goals are.

        I maintain that committing fraud on this level is abusive, even if the source of it is never fully understood. I was the victim of such actions. For months, I knew something was off. Something had changed. I was scolded for doubting. Told I was being too needy. Suffered at the change in intimacy that we’d previously shared. I was going through hell even though I didn’t technically know why. According to your theory, this is not abuse. But it certainly felt abusive to me at the time. And once I found out that there was an affair going on that was the source of all the change and distance I felt, I felt doubly bad for having been lied to and made to feel that I was the crazy one. I just don’t accept your premise that an affair can be had in secret with no ramifications.

        And, what’s this distinction “feels like abuse?” Why not just say “is abuse.” If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck…etc. Perhaps you need to define what you mean by abuse. I’ll stick to simple dictionary definitions.

        Finally, regarding your premise that if it were abuse nobody would claim that it had a transformative affect on their relationship. I’d point you in the direction of Ray Rice and Janay Rice. He knocked her out cold with one punch, and they seem to be claiming that the incident and their work has brought them closer together. Wouldn’t that, in your theory, negate the physical as abuse? Of course not. Whether or not abusers and victims reconcile is not the measure of whether the initial action is abuse. My guess, however, is that it is a tiny, tiny percentage of people who go through such affairs and come through it claiming it was a good thing for them.

        To hang your theory on this slight possibility, thereby negating the huge and damaging effects of it, is what I label as sloppy and negligent.

        What’s missing in your discussion is any sense of ethical standards. You’re simply encouraging cheaters to hide it better, and ignoring that there are real and significant harms being done even in secret. And the overwhelming evidence of direct harm is not negated by a tiny few who work through it.

  13. Timothy says:

    And another brief thought…of those couples who you claim say that the affair was transformative in their life, can you imagine them then suggesting that other couples should have affairs to achieve the same results? I can’t. Again, tragedy and pain can sometimes bring unexpected results; doesn’t mean it is the path to choose.

    • sarah says:

      Thanks, Timothy; I will be passing your exceptionally wise, intelligent and empathetic words on to my dear sister who has just discovered her husband of more than thirty years is cheating on her.

  14. Kim says:

    What I question — and I genuinely put that question out to the masses because I don’t have the answer, just my thoughts — is, if infidelity is always abuse, then how can people call affairs transformative or “the best thing that happened to us” or “liberating and healing,” etc.? Because no one ever, ever, ever, would call physical or emotional abuse transformative, liberating or healing; people don’t go to safe houses to realize just how “healing” the fact that their partner beat the crap out of them is. So, Timothy, that is my question for you — how do we reconcile that?

    SERIOUSLY??? Is it your choice to willingly put your head in the sand? How can cheating on your spouse, pulling the rug out from under someone else’s LIFE WHO YOU MADE A VOW TO HAVE AND HOLD TIL DEATH DO YOU PART, not be abuse???? There is nothing else to label it.

    As to your question above, healing from this is impossible; those that tell you otherwise selling “I can save your marriage” crap are just out to make some cash. Just like physicial abuse or other emotional abuse, betrayeds choose to justify the actions of their cheating spouse and say either I deserved it, we were in a bad place or I can live with it. There is not reconciliation. THERE IS UNBELIEVABLE TOLERANCE.

    Why do think that the abused women in the Cosby matter chose to not go public earlier? They figured it was their fault, they would not be believed and somehow they contributed to the incident. That is exactly what is sold to cheaters and their crushed spouses in this day and age. The Cheater must have had a good reason; the marriage was deficient so the chearter was entitled; to reconcile both parties must figure out his/her respective shortcomings. What a bunch of crap. The cheater MADE A UNLATERAL CHOICE to screw around regardless of any consequences instead of talking to his/her spouse.

    Get on chumplady.com for some real advice for the reality of a broken marriage.

  15. Kim says:

    Sorry for several typos above. The opinion of the author just absolutely floored me.

    Been cheated on and still struggling to find my way to sanity.

  16. LCG says:

    I find all of the comments and perspectives represented in this thread valid, however, there are two aspects of this issue that I have seen no comments on:
    1- The social impact caused by a cheating spouse
    2- The health impact, most specifically the risks caused to the betrayed spouse’s health that result directly from the cheating spouse’s infidelity

    Social impact:
    Several years ago my cousin who was at the time a high school student ran into a young man as she made her way home from school who proudly and shockingly announced that he was her brother! Surely this boy was mistaken, her only sibling was a younger sister. Long story short, her father had been secretly having an affair with a woman down the street for decades and had a second family, unbeknownst to his wife and [primary] family. The humiliation this caused his wife, children, the financial strain and privation that both women and their respective children endured was the direct result of the infidelity, and fall squarely into the behavioral definition of relationship abuse as broadly observed by mental health and social service organizations. Multiply this scenario a few million times and you have a snapshot of a serious epidemic plaguing low income and minority communities that is almost entirely the result of pervasive patterns of relationship infidelity.

    Health risks:
    A few years ago, in my work with the survivors of relationship abuse I came across a woman who during a routine screening in pregnancy tested positive for chlamydia. She was shocked and devastated. Her husband was the only sex partner she had ever had. They had been in a committed and exclusive relationship for several years, or so she thought. The discovery forced the truth about his extramarital escapades with prostitutes out into the open. The baby was born blind and disabled after a painful and complicated pregnancy brought on by the infection and attempts to treat it. And this woman was lucky! A nurse who attended that session as a consultant shared a story of another betrayed spouse in a similar situation for whom it was discovered post mortem that her husband had secretly had an affair, contracted herpes, sought treatment for himself, but never disclosed any of his activities to his spouse. She became pregnant soon after, then inexplicably developed complications and died. The deaths of this woman and her baby were due to the fact that she was not told about the infectiion. Had she known, she could have sought treatment that could have saved her life and her child’s.
    Multiply these stories by roughly 26 million and you have an idea of what [primarily] unfaithful relationship behavior has done to South Africa and India in terms of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. And a staggering percentage of these cases are children born to infected women in relationships with cheating men (not being sexist, just being factual)
    Once again, this is a clear-cut illustration of the abusiveness of infidelity. Here’s why: at its core abuse is about power and control. Specifically, power over and control of another person, their will, their perceptions, or body. Denying or witholding basic needs, such as food, clothing, proper medical care, financial resources, even sleep, is a common behavior that we see among abusive individuals as they seek control of their significant other.
    In both of the examples I have presented, the cheating spouse denied thier spouse (and children) sufficient access to necessary health care, food, clothing and other provisions, and their perception of reality was controlled by the cheaters’ pretense that nothing had changed about the relationship when in fact the relationship suffered a cataclysmic and covert paradigm shift.
    We’ve all heard it said that knowledge is power. This is especially important when considering abuse. If a person is denied knowledge of important information or given false information concerning events, conditions or situations that directly impact them, their perceptions, their decision making or wellbeing, that person is effectively rendered powerless. This is the essential goal of abuse. One person in a relationship gains control over the other by rendering them powerless in some form(s).
    The cheating spouse controls the betrayed spouse by maintaining the illusion of an unbroken union, withholding life-altering information whilst deciding unilaterally to take risks with their spouses’ life, safety, health, and security, draining financial resources and ravaging the unsuspecting spouse’s life in literally every possible way.
    I must say also that “not knowing” about the infidelity does not mean that the betrayed spouse is not being abused. Over the course of many years of volunteer work, I have encountered numerous women, children and men who were being egregiously abused in a variety of ways AND DID NOT KNOW IT! For these unfortunate individuals, systematic emotional, sexual, financial or psychological abuse was so deeply inculcated in their families and cultures of origin, that despite the devastation done to their lives they had NO IDEA that they were the victims of abuse. They so lacked a healthy frame of reference for what was being done to them.
    Another common phenomenon with regard to abuse is denial. Many times I have worked with women who are in a situation where they are in actuality experiencing one or more forms of abuse but deny that they are being abused. They simply do not “feel” like they are being abused despite their obvious and self admitted suffering. The prospect of accepting the reality that what they are experiencing is abuse seems so shameful and shattering that they would rather believe they have a different issue than believe they are being abused. In other cases, the abused individuals had a very narrow or uninformed idea of what constitutes abuse and therefore did not know that their situations were abusive.

    I strongly encourage readers of this website (and the author of this article) to form their understanding of what abuse is by reading the published works of Anne Ganely, Michael Samsel, Lundy Bancroft, Bill Eddie, Alice Miller or any other competent LCSW. Abuse and all of its adjuncts, including infidelity , is far too pernicous to be left open to public opinion as to what its true definition is. Furthermore, since the mental health professionals, social workers, and domestic violence advocates who have devoted their lives and careers to the study of abuse, the recovery of those ravaged by it, and the rehabilitation of those who perpetrate it define infidelity as abuse, disputing their professional assessment not only insults their expertise, but invalidates every person who has experienced the horror of this type of abuse.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      “Abuse and all of its adjuncts, including infidelity , is far too pernicous to be left open to public opinion as to what its true definition is.” I’m sorry, LCG, but each of us gets to decide what we consider OK or not; I’m not going to leave it to an “expert” to decide what feels abusive or healthy to me as we all are different. People who enjoy BDSM are going to have a greater tolerance for things others might consider “abusive;” same with people in open relationships. So, no, sorry.
      It’s the same with infidelity; while some people may be able to heal and strengthen their marriage after discovery of an affair, others won’t and will divorce. Neither decision is “wrong” or “right.” While studies indicate that the discovery of repeated infidelity can be traumatic (the key word being discovery, as many affairs go undiscovered), not everyone experiences repeated infidelity. A one-night stand, as crappy as that may be, is not the same as staying with someone who has repeatedly cheated on you. Again, I can’t imagine anyone recommending that couples stay together after physical abuse, yet there’s no big outcry over emotional abuse — contempt, withholding sex, passive-aggressive behavior, narcissistic behavior — which is just as damaging. So, what kind of abuse does infidelity fall under — the kind we care about (physical) or the kind we don’t? Because if it falls under the latter …

      • Timothy says:

        Hey OMG…thought I’d come back to see if you’d done any follow-up.
        While I feel I could spend a lot of time deconstructing this latest response, I’ll leave it with this thought:
        Do you not see the extreme irony in stating “each of us gets to decide what is OK or not?”

        THAT is the very problem of the abuse of infidelity. The cheating partner is deciding, for another person, what is OK or not. They are making life-impacting decisions for their partner.

        You continue to be an apologist for infidelity and it makes no sense.

        As for your oft-repeated canard that nobody is creating an outcry over couples staying together after these kinds of abuse…YOU’RE creating a self fulfilling prophecy. I, for one, wouldn’t choose to stay in such a relationship, and I don’t think others should either.

        • Timothy says:

          Also…I spoke to the notion of “undiscovered” infidelity above, and you didn’t respond. You’re reliance on this distinction is weak.

          First, you cite a study of “discovered” infidelity and seemingly, therefore, conclude that the only problem is in the “discovery.” But none of the research you’re looking at is telling you that; you are simply making a false conclusion. Why do I know it’s false? Because studying this would be damn near impossible. How do you study the impact of undiscovered infidelity? You can’t.

          But what you can do is extrapolate from the experiences of others. I’ve told you my experience. And honest appraisal should simply inform you that undiscovered infidelity certainly does take a toll. The fact that you keep holding onto this notion makes me wonder what is motivating you to become such an apologist for terrible behavior?

          Again, I’ll repeat…I’m extremely progressive on issues of sexuality. Want to sleep with multiple people? Build your life that way. Talk to your partners. Obtain agreements. Do the work to shift the very nature of the relationships you enter into.

          Unwilling to do the work? That’s infidelity, and that is abusive to those you lie to.

          • Timothy says:

            pardon the typos.

          • OMGchronicles
            Twitter: OMGchronicles

            Hi Timothy,
            Sorry it has taken me some time to respond.
            First, discovered infidelity; if my partner is cheating on me and I have no clue, while it may distract him and perhaps keep him from spending time with me/family, that may be unhappy and yes, it may take a toll — disappointment, resentment, etc. — but it’s hardly abuse because I am not aware anything’s going on. How can I feel abused if I am clueless? I might feel the same if he spent too much time at the gym, or watching sports (or porn) or visiting with his parents or … whatever I felt was “too much time away from me.” Is someone who spends hours on end watching sports on TV abusive?

            And when I said “each of us gets to decide what is OK or not,” I meant each COUPLE, decided together, not each person in the couple. That’s a recipe for disaster! Perhaps you misunderstood.

            I am not an infidelity apologist. I am, however, someone who looks at what is, not what we want it to be/think it should be, even if that is “right.” Of course I am for honesty and transparency. Many of us have problems with that. It does not excuse them or their behavior, however. But if I don’t know what you’re doing behind my back, and life seems to be moving along as usual, I am not going to feel abused.

          • OMGchronicles
            Twitter: OMGchronicles

            Somehow I missed your earlier post so I will answer it. You say:
            “Finally, regarding your premise that if it were abuse nobody would claim that it had a transformative affect on their relationship. I’d point you in the direction of Ray Rice and Janay Rice. He knocked her out cold with one punch, and they seem to be claiming that the incident and their work has brought them closer together. Wouldn’t that, in your theory, negate the physical as abuse? Of course not. Whether or not abusers and victims reconcile is not the measure of whether the initial action is abuse. My guess, however, is that it is a tiny, tiny percentage of people who go through such affairs and come through it claiming it was a good thing for them.”
            That is a good case but here’s the fatal flaw in your thinking: What a couples decides to do between themselves is one thing; what society at large believes is another. There are many people who stay in abusive relationships. Why? “Because I love him/her.” That does not mean than they aren’t being abused.
            Society at large recognizes abuse. Any therapist who recommended a couple like the Rays work things out would lose his/her license. Any author who wrote a book recommending people like the Rays try to work it out for a transformative experience would be a laughing stock and have to deal with Jezebel, etc. In other words, no one would look at them as a model of health. But, as I have mentioned before, there are many books and many therapists who suggest that couples can indeed work through infidelity. Even in my poll, more say they would try to work it out than flat-out leave.
            So, infidelity is crappy and painful (and I know this first-hand), and when it is discovered it can feel the same as is you are being abused. That, however, does not mean it actually is abuse.
            I am not apologizing for cheaters nor do I encourage cheating nor do I believe it is a transformative experience (I’d rather transform some other way, thank you!). But I think we are going to have to respectfully agree to disagree.

          • sarah says:

            Hi Timothy! I don’t mind your typos, if any, but really wish you would stay in the thread…sure hate OMG having the last vacuous word!

          • Both Sides of the Coin says:

            Wow, this is certainly a strange article.
            Timothy, you just laid it all out perfectly, makes perfect sense.
            OMG, I don’t know what your deal is, but you seem to keep ignoring reality with everyone saying they experience cheating as abuse.
            They experience cheating as abuse!

            Seriously, “But if I don’t know what you’re doing behind my back, and life seems to be moving along as usual, I am not going to feel abused.” WTF?… What about when you find out eventually?

    • Both Sides of the Coin says:

      Oops, I’ve made so many typos in my posts :-/
      I so hate when I make typos! Sorry all.

      & I meant that LCG laid it all out perfectly.
      Though I have liked what Timothy had to say as well.

      LCG, what you wrote is amazing & spot on.

  17. Zac says:

    Most of the focus here is on whether adultery is emotional abuse to the innocent partner. But for me, the question is whether adultery is emotional abuse to the children. In my case, I think yes. My mother’s adultery has caused me lasting emotional and psychological damage. I asked myself, “is it emotional abuse of children”? And thinking about that question, the answer for me is yes. A deliberate wrongful act which causes lasting emotional damage to one’s child is emotional abuse of that child. How to define emotional abuse? One definition is “a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.” My mother subjected/exposed me to her adultery, which resulted in psychological trauma, including anxiety and depression. Hence, she emotionally abused me through her adultery.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Zac, I apologize for taking so long to respond.
      I am sorry you were subject to your mom’s adultery (and I plan to write about the impact of adultery on kids very soon; perhaps you’d want to share your story in confidence and anonymously?)

      Parents (and I am one of them) create all sorts of trauma, anxiety and depression for their kids, often when they are unaware. I was a favored child (not stated as such and not openly shown as such), which has caused my sibling a lot of pain (later inflicted back on me, as adults, in the form of emotional/financial bullying). Were my parents being abusive to me or my sibling by acting that way? No one would say yes, as parents have kids they like better than the others (I’m not saying that’s good or healthy; I’m just acknowledging it is). There have been books and studies written about the life-long ramifications of that. Are we going to call that abuse?

      Thanks so much for writing, and I hope you are in a better place.

      • sarah says:

        How ridiculous, if your parents were “acting that way,” then favoritism was obviously felt by your sibling. I think this will be my last reply to your ridiculous and incompetent attempts at counseling. I know now why Timothy gave up.

      • Both Sides of the Coin says:

        It doesn’t matter if you were aware or not, if you cause trauma, you cause trauma. I think it is safe to say that most people if truly aware, would not cause trauma, being unaware is the root of it.

        & no, good enough, solid parents do not cause trauma & depression. There is a huge difference between imperfection & dysfunction.

      • Both Sides of the Coin says:

        Yes, favoritism is abuse.

      • Both Sides of the Coin says:

        It’s an abuser’s move to invalidate the legitimate suffering of other’s.

  18. RavSean says:

    Hello to all. This is an interesting discussion. I figure that since I am quoted in the original article (just found out today), I might be able to offer some opinions.

    Vicki, whether or not one is aware of the abuse does not take away the abusive nature of the behaviour. It merely delays the recognition. I imagine that most of you read the blog entry I wrote for Elle (Hi Elle….how are you?). The points in that article stand. Bear in mind that the nasty insinuations of adultery are not just made to the offended spouse. They are also made to the homewrecker. How would anyone feel if our spouse told someone else, either in word or in deed, that we were lousy in bed, etc?

    At the end of the day, adultery is abuse, whether or not immediately recognized or acknowledged. And when it is discovered, I have heard often the statement “all the evidence was there.”

    Have a great day everyone.


    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks so much for writing.
      What no one seems to answer is this essential question: We would never talk about physical abuse as being transformative nor would we as a society encourage couples that experienced IPV to work through it. No, we say, run. So if infidelity is also abuse, why do couples sometimes call it transformative? Why do therapists help couples stay together after affairs? Can you answer that for me?

      • Timothy says:

        I actually did speak to this…but you passed right over it. No point in going back to repeat myself. 🙂



      • RavSean says:

        Dear Vicki, et al,

        Whether we should encourage folks to run is a question in and of itself. I am not in favour of that. The reason is simple: we do not encourage a shopkeeper who has been robbed to close up shop and leave. It is the shopkeeper’s store. We find the perpetrator and respond accordingly. No victim of IPV should ever have to leave his/her home. Again, we should find the perpetrator and respond accordingly. Take note that other factors may well be involved in the decision to leave an abusive relationship. For example, I am in the city of Toronto, Ontario. At this very moment, it is -15 degrees Fahrenheit (brrrr). Suggesting leaving is easy. When the temperatures are that dangerous, there must also be a place to go.

        I do not know why marriage counselors work to find this transformative. In and of itself, there is no physical danger. That might be part of it. Beyond that, many people (many counselors) do not understand this as abuse. The classic pattern of abuse – buildup-blowup-honeymoon- is not present, although that pattern of abuse is not necessarily present in other types of abuse either. We also have an idea of ‘friends with benefits.’ As soon as we enter the realm of such friendships, we are also able to say “it’s just sex.” If we can say that in any one context, we have allowed the logic to stand that lets us say it in any other context. Last, therapists probably work on the assumption that if a couple has made it to the therapist’s door, then the couple wishes to repair the relationship. That could be why counselors try to work through it differently than they otherwise might.

        Have a good day everyone. I hope it is warmer where you are.


      • Michele says:

        Here is the answer to your essential question!!!! Because society STILL accepts infidelity!!! And physical abuse is looked down upon and rightfully so… All therapists feel they have a moral and lawfull right to tell their patients to RUN from physical abuse.. In their minds when they hear all the garbage that’s thrown at them from their patients dealing with infidelity they probably want to tell you to RUN, but they can’t tell you this , they can only make you realize this little by little through your own words. It’s all about being politically correct and Abuse is not. We see advertising that tells us so. When we see an ad on TV telling us that infidelity destroys lives and they call it abuse, then it will be ok for everyone to follow .. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what you already know !!!

        • OMGchronicles
          Twitter: OMGchronicles

          Society = you and me, your friends, your family, your coworkers, etc. Do they “accept” infidelity? There are places where society doesn’t accept infidelity (for women, only), and they stone them to death. Are you suggesting we do that in the States? We recognize that physical abuse is a crime and people need to be protected from it; infidelity, while horrible to the person deceived, is a morality issue. It’s not a crime (although in a few states, people can sue under heart balm torts). To call infidelity abuse is to diminish the very real life-changing damage of the crime of physical abuse. Infidelity is a lot of crappy things and it hurts like hell to be deceived, but it isn’t abuse.

          • RavSean says:


            With respect, I must disagree with you.
            First of all, let me state emphatically that those countries in which women are stoned for adultery are not exactly the paragons of justice in the world. Their response to it should have no bearing on this discussion.

            Physical abuse is a crime. And it should be. It is an assault, plain and simple. It continues to boggle the mind that it was ever considered differently just because it was within the context of a relationship.

            If you wish to remove the category of abuse from anything other than the physical realm, that is all well and good. You must then come up with a category not just for physical abuse, but for verbal, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. In an abusive marriage, the physical abuse is usually the tip of the iceberg, and is usually very late in presenting itself.

            Moreover, the internal scars from emotional and verbal abuse in particular last as long as the scars from physical abuse.

            Vicki – are you willing to remove emotional, verbal, psychological, financial, and social abuse from the category of abuse? If you are, then I might be able to accept that adultery could also be removed from the category. Absent that, it remains a form of abuse, with all of the other non-physical forms of abuse.

            Warm regards,

            Rav Sean

  19. Michele says:

    Infidelity is abuse on EVERY level!!!
    Physically (sleeping with someone other than your spouse)
    Risking std!!! Emotionally it destroys spouses AND children!!
    And what about all the aftermath? The arguing, raw emotion. And maybe having
    To deal with your spouses AP. Now to address if you do not know the affair is going on.
    Abuse definition from the dictionary: the improper usage or treatment of any entity(ex. Marriage) often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit.So you think it’s ok for someone to go behind your back and use you or your marriage for their benefit? If your in a partnership with someone and they steal from you it’s ok if you don’t know about it? Until one day your finances are gone!! Vows remember those very important words!! Sorry but I emphatically disagree with anyone who does not think this IS abuse!

  20. Michele says:

    Thanks for replying so quickly. Your really reaching by bringing countries that are so ignorant into the conversation! Some of these countries do not respect Human Life, let alone women’s rights. Enough said about that. So what your saying is just because it’s not a law it’s not abuse.. Years ago there were many practices done that we’re wrong and abusive, but until they were recognized as breaking the law they were still done. Ex. Children working at young ages ( sweatshops) being able to hit a child in school, selling cigarettes to minors etc. just because a law was passed did not make it right Before it was passed. There’s no law ( that I know of ) and now I’m really reaching, if I step on an ant But am I still abusing that ant YES!! So you say comparing adultery to physical abuse diminishes the very life changing damage physical abuse does? Seriously you put your foot in your mouth. Infidelity is LIFE CHANGING DAMAGE!! Yes I am part of society and Do NOT accept infidelity as part of Normal behavior in a marriage.. There are all kinds of abuse and infidelity IS one of them. As far as your argument for people saying its transformative, look up the word in the dictionary. As well as abuse like I wrote in my earlier post. Yes infidelity is a moral issue because there is no law against it. I’m not Interested if there is a law or not it’s still abuse.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      India is an ignorant country? Years ago we had laws against infidelity, they are mostly gone. I have been cheated on and, yes, it was life-changing … for the better. I got smarter from it. And I forgave, I moved on, we co-parent well. It did not damage me for life, although you bet at the time it was devastating. That’s why therapists say affairs can be transformative. No one will ever, ever, ever say that about physical or emotional abuse. Ever! No one will ever, ever, ever encourage someone to stay with an abuser. Ever! And Clinton was impeached because he lied under oath, not because he cheated. We will continue to agree to disagree, but I appreciate your comments.

      • RavSean says:

        Good morning Vicki….

        I am perfectly happy to agree to disagree. My worry is that you are missing some crucial information in the discussion.

        First, and foremost, the most dangerous time in a physically abusive relationship is the point at which the abused partner leaves. By dangerous, I mean lethal. More women die in the 18 months or so after leaving a physically abusive relationship than at any other time in the cycle. To recommend leaving may be a recommendation for a death sentence. As well, abuse is about control. An abused spouse/significant other must be encouraged in whatever decisions he/she makes. To be so directive, to encourage leaving, merely perpetuates the sense of being controlled that the abusive spouse has already developed.

        I remind you further that whatever the nature of the abuse, leaving is very often more easily said than done. There are questions about finances, where to go, children, and probably a dozen or so other things. It is not easy. As well, very few abused partners leave only once. There is a pattern to this. Part of the pattern involves leaving multiple times.

        A very wise pastor once told me that the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation are separate concerns. I commend you, Vicki, for having managed to do both with your ex. One can forgive though, but also reach the conclusion that an abusive person has no place in his/her life. Thus, there can be forgiveness without reconciliation. Whatever the merits of one or the other might be, to lump forgiveness and reconciliation into one word puts an unfair burden on the abused partner. It forces that partner to do both simultaneously, and therefore perhaps at an uncomfortable pace.

        Vicki, we can agree to disagree, as it were, on the question of infidelity and abuse. I think that you are flatly wrong, but that is my opinion. You may well think that I am flatly wrong. Well and good. From your writing above though, I am deeply worried that you have not read as thoroughly on IPV. Blithely recommending leaving shows a failure to understand how much of a challenge that can be. It shows a failure to understand what an abused partner risks in the process (loss of home, children, friends, community, financial well-being). As much as we would all like to think that it is black and white, it is not. Please read up on this. There is good material out there.

        I apologize for calling you on the carpet on your own turf.

        May the best of the day be yours.

        • OMGchronicles
          Twitter: OMGchronicles

          Thanks for your reply. I have never encouraged forgiveness and reconciliation; in fact, I don’t offer advice at all. That’s not what I do here whereas you will find a lot of advice from people who were cheated on and supposedly have the answer for everyone else, or the any number of books on healing from infidelity. I have forgiven but chosen not to reconcile. There are many types of infidelity — a one-night stand to years of cheating; forgiveness and reconciliation would be different for each type along the spectrum. I know enough about IPV to know that to consider a spouse who has a one-night stand as being the same kind of abuser who beats his/her spouse diminishes the violence the victim of that beating endured and the whole concept of IPV. It is not the same and it will never be the same. Thanks again for commenting.

  21. Michele says:

    One more thought. And you will find a million things to debate just as I will.to me abuse is a Feeling of being taken advantage of. No one can dispute how it makes you feel.you feel abused when your physically hit. You feel abused when your verbally assaulted. Well infidelity has both. Being physical with someone other then your partner is abusing their body (especially if no protection is used) and verbally what emotions take place during an affair is abusing to the spouse. It may be indirect but it is still abuse. Cause and Effect. When Bill Clinton was President, did he Abuse the power he was given ? Why did so many feel he should be impeached? Because what took place was in a government office meant for use to take care of our country. So the people felt he was abusing them by abusing his power. If he did it in his own personal bedroom then that would be for Hillary to decide. Not the American public. I personally loved him as a President, but did he abuse me as an American citizen by using a public space for his own personal benefit?? You bet he did!! Back to the definition of ABUSE!!

  22. Michele says:

    This will be my last post on this subject. I’m exhausted !! Ironically that is always my answer to a dispute!! We can agree to disagree . I am very strong on my convictions But I always try to understand Both sides of an argument, not to persuade someone else’s feeling but to go deeper into mine, and question my own thought process.I did not say India was an ignorant country. I am referring to ANY country that would stone someone to death for infidelity. Or any country that thinks of women as subservient! Yes that’s ignorant!! As far as Clinton goes, he was impeached then acquitted . The public was outraged that he would do such a thing as president . He lied under oath about SEX. But still he lied. Interestingly enough the 11th article brought against him was ABUSE of power. So abuse takes on many forms. As far as this word transformative being thrown around. Again please look it up in the dictionary. Simple meaning is change . And as one who has experienced physical as well as emotional abuse. YES it has been transformative for me. No not a good experience , of course not! BUT it transformed me into a much stronger person. It’s called transformative learning. So if anyone calls an affair transformative to their marriage it can mean many things. Change in the relationship change in the individual , just like physical or emotional abuse. Thanks for responding over and out on this subject!!!!

  23. Davina says:

    I was once with a cheater. In order for him to keep his affair going, he repeatedly lied to me, gaslighted me up to a point where I questioned my reality. Put me down with his words and actions repeatedly. I become depressed, lose my self esteem, and I was merely shell of a person I used to be, most of the time I feel crazy….and very scared. It took sometime to recover….Sure it does not leave marks on your body, but cheating leaves a scar in your emotions and psyche. That in it own self is abuse….

  24. SuAn says:

    Vicky This is such a good article with comments and I must add some important perspective here. My husband was abused by his mother for the year his father was overseas. It was sexual in nature and as an isolated only child who moved around w his parents he was more abused by this total mindset for life. We have been married for more than half a lifetime and have two well educated adult children with spouses, and grandchildren, all of whom have suffered along with both my husband and me. This unmentionable abuse (one in 5 men are sexual abuse survivors) became the cornerstone of his existence and the dysfunction in our relationship. He survived whereas many commit suicide rather than see this big picture they have been blaming themselves for (taught that they were the perpetrators…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). This is an insidious condition that is coming to light more and more in this world today. I have my AA groups and bible study and chanting group and now my husband is wholly back (daytime dalliances) and he has had survivor weekends, we have therapy, couples weekend coming in future. This cruelty has spawned a lifetime of inner turmoil and hell to pay. How to place blame (demented 94 year old in nursing home who we think was so abused herself) and “get over ” it? Cheating was just a symptom of extreme mental cruelty perpetrated on a child. Compassion either develops or one walks out on one’s totally suffering mate.

  25. Both Sides of the Coin says:

    Cheating is abuse, period.

    I have been on both sides: My father cheated much on my mother (& therefore his children as well) & I was someone’s “affair partner”.

    When cheating happened to me, I was abused. When I participated in cheating, I participated in abuse.

    It did not matter that I did not mean to, it did not matter that cheating is basically a drug to self-medicate. Addictions are abusive.

    It is abusive on so many levels: There is the lying & betraying & there is the fact that one can bring disease to another.

    Above it was mentioned that an affair can be liberating for an individual (yes it can), but that being physically abused is not. That is right. The wrong comparison was made though. The abuser’s experience was being compared to the victim’s. The one who does the cheating & physical abusing “enjoys” what they are doing, the victim does not.

    Hurting someone is hurting someone. It doesn’t matter if someone feels liferated doing it.

    I cannnot get happiness from causing another’s suffering. No one can. Doesn’t matter if you meant to or not, the result is the same.

    & yes, lying is abusive too.

    Coming to terms with reality is the best thing we can all do. It doesn’t matter if “no one is perfect”, that I have since come to understand that I had issues that lead to my actions, if I abused, I abused & it’s best I admit that.

    We are evolving, though it may be a step forward, a step back. We are coming to realize that the things we as a society minimized & denied in the past, Like spousal abuse, sexual harassment & bullying are actually abuse. That is the cas here. It’s like we have been brain-washed to invalidate how insidious it is. But if it is horrible for someone, then it is & we cannot pretend away from reality.

    Being lied to about how awful it was when it happened to me, led to me ignoring how awful it would really be for someone else. When we deny pain, we are prone to cause it.

    Cheating is abuse.

  26. Black Man Ray says:

    Scenario 1:
    A man lets his anger get the best of him and for the first time ever, slaps him wife. EVERYBODY LOSES THEIR MINDS!!!! “Abuser”, “Wife-Beater”, “Coward”, “Criminal”.

    Scenario 2:
    A woman destroys her husband’s state of mind through her infidelity and subsequent gas lighting, coldness and blaming leaving him suffering from PTSD-like symptoms for the rest of his life and everyone in the counselling community is like: “well he needs to reflect on what his responsibility is in nurturing the circumstances for the affair to have taken place”.

    When I hear the relationship counselling industry say that rape victims and batterered wives need to take responsibility for the part they played in being made victims, then I’ll listen to the (frankly anti-male) garbage they spout that too often blames victims of infidelity for their situation.

    Infidelity is abuse. I’ve been beaten unconscious and left bleeding in the street but nothing compares to the life-long torment and psychological injuries I carry from the non-violent action of the person I trusted most. If infidelity isn’t abuse then why do I wish she’d taken a bat to my head instead of sleeping with someone else.

    In the words of Louis C K:
    A man will cut off your arm but leave you a whole human being. Women are non-violent but they will sh*t inside your heart.

  27. My now ex-husband committed serial adultery throughout my pregnancy with our 4th child. I suspected something was up, but when I questioned my spouse he acted shocked and concerned that perhaps I had pre-natal depression for even questioning my concerns – because obviously he would never, ever cheat; I must be crazy! Shortly after, in a fit of jealousy and rage, the secret affair partner revealed that she had been sleeping with my husband for nearly a year. I was almost 6 months pregnant with our 4th baby aged 5 and under. I had no job, $9 in my bank account, had been with my husband since we were teenagers, and I was in an advancing state of pregnancy. I filed for divorce anyway. The secret affair partner was a divorce attorney by profession (several years older) and it was a nasty, cruel divorce to go through, especially while expecting a baby. Two days before my due date, I had what I thought was an allergic to soap or lotion, but my OBGYN told me he thought it was a primary outbreak of genital herpes. I had to have an emergency c-section as a result. My baby was born with a large blister on her fist. The pediatricians were afraid it was congenital, neo-natal herpes, a nearly always fatal illness for babies. My daughter’s first human touch on Earth was STD testing. I got to hold her for the first time the next day. Our blood work for herpes (HSV 1 and 2) came back negative. While still in the ICU, a very special team of doctors called Infectious Disease Specialist created a “Risk Algorithm” for me and my infant daughter based on my sexual history. For me, 17 years of complete physical and sexual fidelity to my then-husband. It was explained to me that without the risk of my spouse’s sexual affair(s?) during my pregnancy, my daughter and I would be cleared of any risk. However, the doctors were concerned about the risk of seroconversion, the waiting period of testing falsely negative for an std, because the virus (incurable and highly socially stigmatized in this case) has not yet had a long enough incubation period for reliable results. So, my 1 day old baby and I were given the anti-viral medicine used to fight the virus. For my daughter, her medicine was very much so considered life or death. After ten days in the ICU, I was permitted to unplug my infant from all those machines and bring her home. After the proper amount of time for seroconversion to occur with certainty, my daughter and I both ended up testing negative for all STDS. Words cannot describe the pain, agony, and fear I felt during the seroconversion waiting period. As in, I literally cannot express to you the pain and fear I felt during this time…words fail me to communicate the physical and emotional agony I endured.

    So yes, adultery is absolutely abusive. Adultery is abusive: Emotionally, Sexually, Physically, Financially, and as I and others before me stated, it is also a form of abuse for Children.

    Adultery is abuse.

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