The world is falling apart and nothing matters. We’re all going to die alone. Seize the day as if it were your last! When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
It feels good to give in to lust. It’s natural. You are but a random blip in the universe, so why not live according to what brings you pleasure?
These are just a handful of lines you might conjure up as possible rationalizations for why you should take part in an illicit affair. Or maybe they’re the lines someone will use to try to lure you into one. Some of them are, to be fair, pretty solid reasons.
But there’s always the other side to consider. Here are four things you should consider if you’re thinking about cheating, according to experts and people who have personal experience with infidelity.
1. You may turn into a miserable liar.
Lying is, of course, a necessary part of cheating, which is itself a sort of lie. But one lie begets more lies, and for many people, this web o’ lies can turn into a very troubling situation—and not just for your conscience.
According to the findings of Anita Kelly, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Notre Dame,
The study found a strong link between improved health and actively not lying. According to a write-up by the American Psychological Association, participants in the no-lie group who told three fewer white lies than they did in previous weeks reported an average of four fewer mental health complaints such as experiencing tension or melancholy. On average, they reported three fewer physical complaints such as sore throats and headaches.
Still, when the control group members (those who hadn’t been given any specific instructions about lying less) happened to tell three fewer white lies than they had in previous weeks, they reported on average two fewer mental health complaints and approximately one less physical complaint.
This seems to imply that at least some of the physical relief came as a result of participants feeling like they were “following the rules” rather than actually lying less. Still, both groups showed improvements in health when they lied less.
Maybe a little more honesty a day really can keep the doctor away.
2. You’ll hurt people deeply, maybe irreversibly.
Aside from the damage you may cause yourself in the process of being unfaithful, you might also inflict suffering on the people your infidelity affects. This includes not only your partner and your lover, but also your children, your lover’s family, your partner’s family, your own family…you get the picture.
One Reddit user, ConnieC60, tells this account of the long-term effects her fiancé’s cheating had on her:
“I was engaged, and in the relationship for a total of 7 years. He cheated on me with a girl from his work.
“Whenever he mentioned her, it was to [say] how annoying she was, or how bad at her job, or that he didn’t like her, or something about how overweight she was,” she wrote.
“Then I found out that he’d been sleeping with her.”
This, understandably, sent ConnieC60 into the twilight zone for a while afterward.
“It made me incredibly mistrustful of lots of people. It also made me really question people’s motives – why does X like me? What is he really after? Is this all a big trick being played on me?” she recalled.
“I was like this for quite a long time, and to be honest, if I’m feeling a little down the anxieties come back. I’ve started seeing someone now and while things are (objectively) going pretty well, I’m a bit hesitant to open up and commit fully in case it all goes horribly wrong.”
Children may also be affected in ways that will influence their relationships in the future, according to sex and family therapist Dr. Don-David Lusterman.
“Some people have what’s called a reaction formation. Their development is not about themselves, but about a reaction to their parents,” Lusterman, the author of Infidelity: A Survival Guide told The Daily Beast in 2011.
“It doesn’t tell you what you want to be like, [it] only tells you what you don’t want to be like. People who say they’ll never do what their father did end up doing exactly what their father did if you’re working with a negative model.”
3. Relationships that are important to you may be lost.
Despite the onslaught of thought in recent years that upholds polyamory as the new monogamy and calls the promise of a fulfilling monogamy a fiction (and the glitch in the whole system of marriage), the fact remains that “till death do us part” is still an expectation of most people who enter into marriage.
Regardless of our intellectual willingness to acknowledge that monogamy is a difficult—and maybe even unreasonable—standard to place on human beings, the stigma of infidelity remains.
Just like lust and passion, the guilt associated with cheating is experienced viscerally, and the social consequences of the decision are real. You’ll struggle with your decision to cheat at some point, and you might not like the impact it has on others around you, either.
Loved ones who may want to understand you might suddenly be unable to treat you with genuine respect because of the lies you’ve told. This can affect you both personally and professionally, especially depending on where and with whom your affair plays out.
Your moral compass and decision making in all areas of life may quickly be regarded as suspect by anyone who knows about your affair.
One Reddit user can relate to this reality. He laments the damage done to his relationship with his son as his own affair unfolded:
“I took him out to dinner a few days ago, in an attempt to somehow bridge the gap between us and in some way improve our relationship. I tried to engage him in conversation but he remained quiet for the duration of our dinner. I could feel the anger rolling off of him, and it hurts me deeply to have him feel this way towards me,” wrote concernedparent38Majestic Pictures/Wikipedia .
“Towards the later part of the evening, when we were about to leave, he told me ‘I f***ing hate what you did to our family. I hate hearing mom cry every night because of you, she thinks I don’t hear her, but I do. You completely destroyed our family and I don’t think I can ever forgive you for that.’ He left and has ignored all of my calls and texts since.”
4. You’ll learn the power and disappointment of illusions.
According to GoodTherapy.org, up to 20 percent of adults in the United States will participate in an extramarital affair at some point in their lives.
Although some may do this because they’re deeply dissatisfied and in the wrong relationship, others are cheating for different reasons—from low self-esteem to intimacy problems to depression—none of which will be remedied by an affair.
When you’re trying to escape from yourself, any form of stimulation can be intoxicating enough for temporary relief, and cheating is no different.
Because the object of desire in an affair is a human being and not a substance, an affair may even seem like a more substantial and less nefarious pursuit: the pursuit of true love!
Ultimately, however, if you’re using a lover as a stepping stone in a search for the happiness that can only be found within, that person is just a fix. And like any other fix, an affair can leave you feeling empty, exhausted, and still searching for a sustainable solution.