Affair Exposure: Brave or Manipulative?

Affair ExposureYou don’t have to look far to find a slew of sites that advocate the necessity and success of affair exposure, where the faithful spouse is advised to ‘out’ their cheater’s affair as a strategy to protect the marriage and bring about the demise of the affair relationship.

It was highlighted to me recently that IHG doesn’t have any articles on this subject and, while it’s probably clear what the IHG position will be, it’s a topic that does bear some discussion.

Exposing a cheater’s affair isn’t without risk - understanding the degrees of exposure, motivations, and potential consequences can help you make an informed decision about whether affair exposure is the way forward or not.

What is Affair Exposure?

Exposure is the deliberate, comprehensive, and systematic disclosure of the affair to third parties, including but not limited to family, children, friends, the cheater’s workplace, clergy, and the affair partner’s network, including their spouse, family and workplace.

Proponents of affair exposure claim that exposure is necessary in order to:

  1. marshal forces to end the affair
  2. build a support network
  3. fight for your marriage

Affair exposure is often claimed to be 100% necessary to bring about the end of the affair (that is incorrect), and 100% necessary for the cheater to feel the effects of their bad choices if the affair is to end (also incorrect). It presupposes that those to whom you expose the affair will disapprove and censure the cheater, decry the affair, and be part of pressuring your cheater into returning to the marriage.

Degrees of Exposure

1. Zero Exposure

This might be better termed, ‘keeping the secret’. Many faithful spouses feel that they must keep their cheater’s affair secret. They often balance the risk of their cheater’s wrath coupled with the shame/embarrassment against the benefits of exposure (however one views the benefits), and choose to say nothing instead.

You do not have to be complicit with keeping your cheater’s affair secret by your silence.

2. Targeted Exposure

Targeted exposure can take two forms - 1) confiding in someone for personal support 2) an intent to interfere with the affair.

  1. Confiding in a trusted and close friend(s) or family member(s) about the affair can be invaluable because it is important that you do have a support network to help you get through some of the worst of it all. Attempting to navigate an affair without help can be incredibly isolating, so a confidante can be an excellent source of practical and emotional support.
  2. Telling others in an attempt to interfere with the affair or to help bring it to an end is an entirely different matter. Firstly, not everyone is going to share your outrage at the affair, or about infidelity in general. Secondly, family and the cheater’s friends rarely side against the cheater, and though they might (often reluctantly) express their concern the relationship generally continues as normal.

As part of a strategy to facilitate the demise of the affair it is advised by many that you specifically expose to ‘friends of the marriage’ i.e. those who will side with you against the cheater and the affair. The idea is that you ask for ‘their help’ and request that they:

  • tell the cheater to stop the affair
  • reinforce how wrong it is and the importance of marriage
  • convey their disappointment and changed view of the cheater
  • withdraw their friendship/support until the cheater comes back in line by returning to the marriage.

2a. Affair Partner’s Spouse

It’s quite possible that your cheater’s affair partner is also married, leaving you with the dilemma of whether to contact them or not. It’s difficult to contact the spouse of the affair partner but they have a right to information that materially affects their lives. Telling them might satisfy a sense of vengeance and a satisfaction in making life difficult for the affair partner, even if you dress it up as ‘information’. If you are not truly motivated by compassion and a genuine concern for their well-being, you are not the best person to deliver the message - and you could perhaps consider if you could find someone better placed to make contact with the spouse.

3. Nuclear Exposure

The nuclear exposure approach -where the affair is exposed to everyone including children and the cheater’s employer- is what most exposure advocates promote.

Telling an employer can be problematic. Company policies and employment legislation are not globally similar, and what is in place for a privately owned company in the USA will not be the same for a similar company in the UK, for example. Not all HR teams will take a positive view of a faithful spouse calling to disclose the details of an employee’s private life (and many will refuse to discuss the spouse-employee with you at all) unless it directly affects company policy (e.g. a non-fraternization policy), local legislation, or exposes them to potential litigation/business detriment.

Assuming that you encounter a company that is receptive to your agenda, it is still sensible to consider the potential fall out if the employer takes a punitive stance towards the disclosure. Transfers, demotions and associated pay cuts, and job losses (which can and do happen) can have a significant impact on the family’s current finances and the cheater’s future employment or progression opportunities. In the event of a divorce this could affect a financial support order for the spouse and/or children.

The issue of children is also complex. Weaponizing your children against your cheater is unacceptable - they are not pawns to help manipulate or guilt your cheater into ending their affair, and are not there to take on or share the burden of your upset. However, lying to them can create even more distrust and uncertainty in an already difficult situation, and could damage their relationship with you. Children can be told an age-appropriate version of the truth (which might be as simple as Mommy and Daddy need to go their separate ways) but the faithful spouse should guard against burdening children unnecessarily with details, commentary and censure of the cheater. Similarly you should ensure that you are not guilty of parental alienation and be aware of the legal consequences of such issues.

4. Authentic Circumstantial Disclosure

If we were to recommend any particular course of action in terms of ‘exposure’ outside of your few trusted confidantes, it would be this:

  1. Do the affair partner’s spouse the courtesy of informing them of the affair (but avoid becoming part of their support network).
  2. Respond to organically occurring enquiries honestly and authentically, but without salacious details, moralizing, or unnecessary commentary.

You do not need to avoid questions about the affair but can instead quite clinically and factually state the situation where it’s relevant. This response is a composed, dignified, and honest way to impart appropriate information when you need to, without drawing others unnecessarily (and often reluctantly) into your personal drama.

Control Freakery Gone Wild?

manipulationUnderneath all the window dressing by exposure advocates is a murkier and uglier motivation for affair exposure: control.

‘Fighting for the marriage’ is dressed-up language for a righteous indignation that the cheater has the temerity to make choices of which the faithful spouse does not approve. ‘Fighting for the marriage’ basically means that the faithful spouse wants a return to life in the confines of the marriage, and presumes to impose that as ‘best’ upon the cheater.

No, infidelity is not ethical, but ultimately people DO have a right to cheat or to exit a relationship in which they no longer want to be part. It is obvious that deliberate affair exposure has a masked undertone of not just vindictiveness and punitive retaliation, but the presumption that the faithful spouse’s wishes, desires and beliefs are somehow superior, more desirable, and ultimately correct.

It is an arrogant trick of the ego to hold that the faithful spouse’s wishes are more valid than the wishes of the cheater, and to assume a ‘right by injury’ to manipulate and engineer a desired outcome with impunity. It’s worth noting that one particularly manipulative and self-serving tactic in this approach is to claim that keeping the family intact is ‘best for the kids’ (regardless of the quality of the relationship, past, present or future).

In truth, the faithful spouse is working from a position where they presume to know what’s best for the cheater, and sets about working towards the ‘optimal’ state of the cheater returning to the marriage, corrected, faithful, and contrite. Unfortunately they are rarely challenged with the questions:

  1. Optimal for whom?
  2. Optimal for what?

The answers are perhaps most honestly a) for the faithful spouse and b) to achieve the faithful spouse’s unilateral agenda. Fundamentally, working to interfere with the affair to bring about its demise and return the cheater to the marriage, is an issue of control.

But it Works …

Some will claim that exposure ‘worked for them’. It’s worth asking the question: How do you define ‘worked’?

  • Is it possible that the faithful spouse got a sense of satisfaction from exposing the affair? Yes - and if that was their goal and how they defined it as ‘working’, then it worked, regardless of the consequences.
  • Could carpet bombing or targeted exposure apply so much pressure to a cheater that they get back in line? Maybe. But in line with what? With the faithful spouse’s idea of what’s ‘best’?

‘It works’ (exposure causing the cheater’s return/end of the affair) doesn’t make room for the impact of disregarding the differences in desires and values between the cheater and the faithful spouse. It doesn’t make room for the likelihood of the cheater taking their doubts, reservations, and resentments underground, potentially poisoning your future relationship with them.

‘It works’ in this context means, ‘I was able to manipulate the return of my spouse/end of the affair’ - it doesn’t address the faithful spouse’s issues of control, manipulation, and sense of entitlement any more than it addresses the same issues in the cheater. Upon what foundation is the resulting relationship built?

Manipulating someone into a life they don’t want, under threat of divorce, financial ruin, loss of the kids etc, is like shackling them to the wall. Forcing someone to live by your values and standards, denying them their right to choose differently, isn’t a loving relationship. It is not your job, your place, nor in your own interest to engineer, force or coerce a cheater into a life with you in the way that you want it, when it’s not something they want for themselves.

IHG: Accepting Their Right to Cheat

If the faithful spouse wants a relationship based on mutual respect, ethical behavior, equality, and shared values, they cannot then complain about how lacking their marriage is when it is the coerced result of their own manipulations.

When it doesn’t ‘work’ and the cheater didn’t come to heel after exposure, you are often left managing a divorce avoidance plan/separation/divorce process with a vindictive and difficult spouse and a severely fractured and dysfunctional network of family and friends - and it’s quite possible that exposure contributed to that.

If we feel entitled to manipulate, threaten, blackmail, or otherwise attempt to control another for our own ends, then perhaps we deserve nothing more than living with a cheater who feels exactly the same way.

Manipulation: Eyes Wide Open

Cheaters are not the only people who get a buzz from the drama of it all; faithful spouses get their fair share of buzz from their own power plays in the drama. It’s common for us to see self-congratulation, glee, and ‘power giddiness’ in a faithful spouse who has upset the affair apple cart somewhat, or who has infuriated their cheater with exposure. It’s understandable - it’s empowering to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and to feel the freedom of making your own decisions and expressing yourself - sometimes even despite the consequences.

Whilst I would advise that you actually stay well out of the affair dramarama, I would not censure a faithful spouse who did deliberately interfere with an affair for revenge or spite; I understand it as a normal, valid, and emotional response to hurt and upset - it’s a counter-punch. However, dressing it up as some noble form of fighting for the marriage is dishonest and repugnant. If you’re going to deliberately expose the affair so that your cheater suffers the ‘wrath’ of consequences for their choices by the hands of others, at least admit what it is in truth:

  • controlling
  • manipulative
  • vengeful
  • presumptuous (that you know what’s ‘best’ for all involved)
  • self-serving

We all have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Before you write that tell-all book exposing the details of how hideously your spouse behaved and the details of their life from your perspective, reflect for a moment on whether you would think it acceptable for your cheater to write their own tell-all book exposing your secrets, flaws and wrong-doings, and how hideous YOU were in their life, from their perspective.

“When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.”

~ David Brin

Affair exposure is often framed as a ‘brave fight’ for your relationship that attempts to paint you as courageous and strong. It is uglier and less palatable to acknowledge it as an attempt to manipulate and control, especially since we find it reprehensible when cheaters engage in manipulative and controlling behavior towards the faithful spouse (and we most certainly don’t praise them for being courageous or strong for doing so!). If we consider that the cheater’s manipulations of the faithful spouse are unethical, indefensible, lacking in character, and selfish, it’s reasonable to find manipulations by the faithful spouse equally reprehensible.

Your Response

You do not have to take an affair lying down. You don’t have to mewl like a kicked kitten and lap at the feet of your cheater, trying to please or placate them. You don’t have to keep their affair secret, or offer another soft spot for them to kick. You don’t have to ‘be the bigger person’ in a settlement, or give them a second chance, or manage their relationship with the children. You don’t have to help them by agreeing to a quick divorce, or filing joint tax returns, or signing away your assets, entitlements, or interests in any way. You do not have to ease their path away from you.

However, before hotly defending your right to expose the affair and therefore make it as difficult as possible for your cheater to leave you, pause and ask yourself some questions:

  • Why fight to stay with someone who doesn’t want to be with only you?
  • Why beg friends and family to pressure your cheater to stay with only you, when you have been unsuccessful in that same venture?
  • Why potentially risk your financial future by smashing your relationship into their workplace?
  • How is holding tighter to the known more brave than letting go and facing a different future?
  • Are you truly incapable of providing stability, protection, support, care, love, and life skills to your kids, as a single parent?
  • Do you really want to be in a relationship where you coerced someone into it?
  • Are you more outraged at the rejection and replacement of you than you are at how they have behaved towards you?
  • If you were leaving them, would you agree that them spitefully telling the details of your marriage, your behavior, and your faults to all and sundry to keep you from leaving was okay?

Instead of manipulating the cheater ‘back’ to you, why not instead choose a life free of the uglier aspects of them? Don’t take an affair sitting down - stand up, make a bee line for your own life (or a divorce lawyer), and begin to forge your way without them. Put aside your fears and ego - if a cheater is walking away from you, believe them and wave them a cheery goodbye (and yes, it’s okay for that to be in the form of an extended middle finger!).


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw


  1. A very interesting and relevant topic as this has come up in the last week with my ex wife, who had an affair, which has now turned into a steady relationship. She recently found out that I told our/my financial advisor about her affair with an old bf. I told my advisor about her affair a year ago, a mere month after I found out about what was going on.I was obviously a wreck and not thinking totally straight. She had him do her taxes this year. When she found out that he knew, she was upset. To me she is now in self preservation mode, hoping that what she did will be forgotten by all who know, and hoping to maintain/save her image. She told people about her affair as well so it wasn’t just me. She became defensive (obviously) and said “can’t we keep some things private?” Here are my issues with this… She now wants me to keep things private so the less people who know the better…for her. But a year ago, she was blabbing to her affair partner about our marriage and how “horrible” it was. She was making no effort to keep things private then, but now I have to follow the “rules” and keep my mouth shut. Typical, she always thought that she could follow whatever rules she wanted but no one else can. I admit that my motivation in many cases was to ruin her reputation, but why is she allowed to act reckless, with disregard to others, while others have to act like adults and do the “right” thing now that it’s all said and done. to me it seems like pandering to the cheater so they can have the impact of their affair lessened.

    What do you think?

    • Hi Sean

      I confess, I frame this differently. I think you are bound by your OWN ‘rules’ and ethics in this, not some imagined ones of hers. If you can live with the consequences of your choices, and are able to accept that your choices too are manipulative, retributive, and self-serving, then act accordingly.

      What I would stress is that opposing a manipulative and vindictive affair exposure as a strategy to end the affair or have the cheater return to the marriage is not a jot about protecting the cheater. Exposure for this end is a control issue, where the faithful spouse presumes to know what is ‘best’ for the cheater and works to impose that on them.

      If you expose them as retribution, that’s a different discussion because it embroils you in drama (and cheaters LOVE drama), and it doesn’t protect you from the manipulations and upset that results from your continued engagement with them. As you see, she still feels entitled to have a say in your life and choices, when really, there should be zero contact and therefore, zero drama. She is not your problem any more, and neither are her woes and worries.

      The reality is Sean that we are ALL ‘allowed’ to act recklessly with disregard for others. Some of us simply choose not to because we have no desire to be the kind of person who does so. If she started abusing puppies, would you abuse some too, because she got away with it and you want a piece of that action? I suspect not. It’s a question of choice - if you want to mess with her then you probably will. If you don’t, then you probably won’t. One will remove you from her drama, one will keep you in it.

      If someone wants to inflict ruination, shame, and detriment on a cheater, and can honestly own that for what it is and live with the consequences, have at it. Ultimately we all get to live with our own behavior. What we I am saying here is if you dress it up as bravery and fighting for the relationship, I will call that for what it is - flimflam. And I don’t buy into flimflam. What I do advocate is an honest, authentic statement of fact, when the the issue is raised to you organically.

      I know that a lot of this feels unjust - that they get to behave badly and you feel obliged to behave well. But I don’t see ANY negative in a choice to behave ethically. It’s not pandering to a cheater to simply exit their life, without giving them the drama high they do so enjoy. It’s not pandering to a cheater to be who you are, regardless of who they are.

      I know this sounds trite, but the best way to take that vengeance is by having a content life, well lived, without care or concern for her troubles.

      I know - none of this is easy. But ultimately, it’s about living an authentic, honest, eyes wide open life.

      I hope that helps. Take care.

  2. Wayfarer,
    I was wondering how you feel about telling the affair partner’s ex-wife? Should she be entitled to the knowledge of the affair and some of the details about the person who just moved in with her ex-husband so she is in a position to make informed decisions regarding her children? Perhaps letting her older teenage and adult children know the circumstances leading to the new person in their life?


    • Hi Geoff

      Interesting comment, and it’s an issue that comes up here quite often. Honestly, I don’t think that advising the affair partner’s ex is appropriate. She’s his ex for a reason, and one of the benefits of that is that she doesn’t have to deal with his drama any more (whatever drama that was).

      A cheater or affair partner has as much right to introduce their kids to their new partners as the other parent does, within the confines of their custody agreement/morality clauses etc. Others might not like it, but they are within their rights.

      Being an affair partner doesn’t mean that they are either an unfit parent or a danger to the safety of their children, and as a parent they are entrusted to take reasonable steps to protect them from harm (from others in this context). The ex wife would have to prove in court that either her ex husband or the married woman pose a credible threat to the children, in order to suspend his access to the children or prohibit the married woman’s access to them. That their relationship started out as an affair isn’t an indication that either of them are any danger to children, so this information just doesn’t cut it … and rightly so.

      Where there is material evidence of actual harm, or substantive information to reasonably predict harm, then I see every reason to tell the ex wife and bring the full weight of legal and social services to bear on the situation. In the absence of that, exposing the relationship to her as one that started as an affair does nothing but burden her with information that is no longer her business. I would also strenuously advise against involving the older children in this way.

      It’s common for us to see people dress up interference etc as being ‘in defense of children’. Unfortunately, people in this situation are generally reacting from issues of control, jealousy, fear, anger, and retribution. Resentment and rejection are powerful motivators for punishment and a pound of flesh but they are not reason to involve an ex wife in her ex husband’s current relationship.

      If you have material evidence that he or she are a danger to his children, that’s one thing. However, manipulating the ex wife into thinking this so that she will attempt to limit the couple’s access to the children (at the ex wife’s legal cost, I should add), is unreasonable and unfair.

      That’s my take - I hope it helps.

  3. My opinion on this is real simple. Anyone who asks why a divorce caused by cheating is happening gets the truth,without any of the gory details. My reason for this is that cheaters are damn good manipulators, and are real good at maintaining a good image to others. Anyone who has any type of relationship with a cheater has the right to know what kind of person they are dealing with. As far as I can tell, anyone who is willing to abuse their spouse in this fashion,would be quite willing to abuse anyone else they were involved with, in any type of relationship. I would even take this one step further. After what I have been through, I will never remain silent if I should find that someone is cheating on their spouse. I will always tell all I know to the injured party,including how I know it,and who I am.

    • Hi Fishfast, thank you for the comment.

      I agree entirely - it’s not the faithful spouse’s job to lie for, cover for, or protect the cheater, and disclosing the affair authentically as situations arise is, in my view, the appropriate approach.

      Of course, the point the article is making is that there is a distinct difference between giving authentic and honest answers to enquiries during the normal course of life, as you’re describing, and being motivated to expose as a means to bring your cheater back in line. It’s absurd of course for anyone to claim that they’re outing the cheater and exposing what a terrible person the cheater is, when outing them is fully intended to keep the marriage together … not so terrible that the faithful spouse can’t be in a relationship with them then, huh?

      If the cheater is genuinely so heinous that others need to be warned about them, it seems logical that the faithful spouse would be celebrating the exit-by-affair, having immediately put a lawyer and restraining order in place, thanking their lucky starts that they escaped such a hideous person. And yet that’s rarely (if ever) the case.

      I too agree that the affair partner’s spouse should be informed - I believe that faithful spouses have the right to information that could materially affect their choice to stay in their marriage.

      Thank you for taking the time to share - I appreciate it. Take care.

      • This is such a hard subject to wrestle with. Another way to look at it is that the cheating spouse isn’t in control of their actions much like an alcaholic or drug addict. In that case, is not more of an intervention? Also, many of these former cheaters who credit the exposure as a big part of their reconciliation with their spouse say things like, “I was crazy. I don’t know what I was thinking” and “We are happier now than we were before the affair”.

        It certainly seems that if you motivation is revenge, you should reconsider. And if your motivation is to control and bring them in line, I would agree that is unhealthy as well. But if you honestly believe you are ultimately helping them, and in so doing helping your marriage and your family… But alas, there is the arrogance, isn’t it? How do you know the difference?

        Personally, in answer to your question about how I would feel if I was the cheater and they did it to me? At first, I would probably be livid. But once I calmed down, I would probably thank them for saving me from my own weakness. I was in that position years ago and wish someone did splash some cold water on my face.

        • Hi Fred

          The reality is that cheaters are in control of their actions. Affairs take planning, deliberate cunning, and careful execution (often in the long term, too) to create an environment that supports their ability to have an affair. Cheaters are not out of control and they most certainly do know what they are doing. The responses you’ve cited are very typical in cheaters because most still try to either avoid or control the narrative after discovery. I have yet to encounter a cheater who hasn’t attempted to deflect or minimize the reality of their deliberate choices in order to maintain control of the narrative.

          None of a cheater’s actions square with these common but fuzzy misconceptions of them being in a biochemically induced fugue or adverse mental state. However, it serves Pixies very well to believe that their cheater was compelled into behaving so hideously by some uncontrollable ‘fuzzy’ factor - it is on this spurious premise that Affair Fog Theory is founded. It serves to allow the faithful spouse to separate the act from the cheater and rationalize that the cheater in their ‘right mind’ would never have behaved in this way.

          You might find these articles interesting on this point:
          Affair Fog Theory: Mental Health
          Affair Fog Theory: Character Change
          Affair Fog Theory: Biochemistry
          Affair Fog Theory: Excuse Smog

          So no, exposure is not an ‘intervention’. And even if it were an intervention, to undertake to intervene in another’s life in this way is a notion of incredible arrogance, as you have rightly pointed out. It is hubristic, smug, and imperious to presume to know what is ‘best’ for a cheater when in reality it is more truthfully what the faithful spouse considers best for them.

          Cheaters are adults, able to make their own choices in line with their own views, values, and narratives. If their choices don’t align with those of the faithful spouse it is controlling and self-serving for the faithful spouse to position themselves to correct the cheater’s ‘compromised thinking’ when that really means nothing more than the cheater being required to fall back in line with the faithful spouse’s own thinking. I see very little difference between a faithful spouse’s unilateral attempt to ‘help’ a marriage by manipulation like this, and a cheater’s unilateral attempt to manipulate the faithful spouse in order to continue their marriage and their affair.

          As for, “We are happier now than we were before the affair”:
          1. This is a common claim but a rare reality.
          2. Successful reconciliation is dependent on the cheater’s internally driven change, not exposure of the affair.

          This isn’t really issue about whether or not a cheater would be outraged about being exposed: it is a question of ethical behavior. One cannot reasonably censure a cheater for their harmful, hurtful, and manipulative actions towards you while engaging in behavior that is similarly harmful, hurtful, and manipulative towards them.

          To expose an affair to bring about the end of the affair and engineer the return of the cheater is an incredibly manipulative and self-serving act. To then dress it up as a loving and righteous act for the cheater’s own good is akin to the cheater dressing up their deceit as concerned protection of their spouse’s feelings; both are absurd claims.

          You might also find these articles interesting:
          The Magical Reconciliation Pixie
          The Magic Reconciliation Recipe

          I hope that helps! I wish you well.

  4. This is something a little different-when the AP announces everything they know to the world.

    My H’s latest AP (I knew about 1 other affair, which we reconciled over, relocated to a different state and he supposedly cut off all contact-NOT)—was in possession of emails, texts, pictures (of him, our daughter, his family- some taken BY ME during this affair timeframe-and “intimate” pics of him), voicemails, etc—and she and her friends/family created blogs about my H and their year long affair.

    She posted pretty much everything, including commentary about their sexual trysts at my home, in my garage, in our family vehicle-posted his voicemails telling her how much he loved her and misses her (while vacationing with me and our daughter, visiting my family out of state!).

    I had been sent the pictures, emails and voicemails at my work with a letter that she was sorry and wanted to let me know what was going on, that she had dumped him (she claims she didn’t know he was married and when she found out she dumped him)—and that I should get informed on what he was doing while I was at work.

    Now the whole world knows-my work subordinates, friends, family, neighbors, people who go to my church and my daughter’s friends and families. I chose not to respond to her and deal with the matter my own way and she announced every lie, deceitful thing he said, awful things he said to her about me (the ex wife he said)—she knew his family history—everything, because HE TOLD HER THESE THINGS.

    He then told her that he was going to marry her, so she quit her job and put her house up for sale. This was right before she found out he is still married TO ME.

    So should I blame her? I have been informed that having sexual relations and keeping him in the house is condonnation. Legal Forgiveness of his affair. I demanded to know if what she was posting ALL OVER THE INTERNET ( and others) was true?

    My lawyer said that if what she says is the truth, I can’t do anything to her. What do I do now? My reputation is ruined, my daughter’s reputation is ruined, HIS reputation is ruined (he claims that it has even interfered with a job prospect. i don’t believe him, he wants to stay unemployed to not possibly pay child support)—what do I do now??

    • Hi Sunflowers

      This is a horrible situation to be in - I am sorry that you’re going through it.

      I want to quickly summarize my understanding of your situation:
      1. You’re married to a serial cheater
      2. You stayed with him after discovering a previous affair(s)
      3. He’s currently unemployed and you think he might want to keep it that way
      4. He disclosed intimate details about your life to his affair partner
      5. His affair partner has exposed details of the affair all over the place
      6. You’re concerned that he might attempt to dodge child support

      When you look at that list, the issues facing you are clearly more than the other woman splashing his affair all over cyberland.

      The truth is, this is his humiliation, not yours. His shame, not yours. His poor character, not yours and not your daughter’s. That all of this has been posted on various sites speaks volumes about who she is, and who he is. His past behavior and choices speak volumes about who he is at his core, and that’s the real issue you’re facing.

      Life doesn’t have to be ruined because someone vindictively made his affair public. There are a lot of people whose partner’s affairs have been made public who are not ruined by it - you only have to consider the number of celebrities and politicians whose careers haven’t been ruined by an affair in their relationship. It’s uncomfortable, it’s upsetting, but ultimately it’s not ruination, especially not for you or your daughter.

      What struck me from your post though was that it was the affair partner who delivered consequences to your husband, not you. He clearly has no boundaries and no sense of integrity or loyalty towards you, and yet you forgave him (even if only legally) for his previous affair(s) and continued a relationship with him … and he then just carried on doing it all over again. That’s a problem. Now you’re facing the potential of him dodging child support? Does this mean that you’re considering divorce, or that you’ve left the marriage? If leaving him isn’t the plan, that might benefit from a re-think.

      Affairs are a mindset - they don’t happen in isolation from other behavior. If your husband behaves in this way it won’t be contained to just his affairs. You might like to read this: Character Change.

      In terms of the information out there, you could petition each website and ask them to take down the content about you. Even if they have no legal obligation to take the content down, reaching out to them to explain how this is causing you and your daughter distress, and how it invades your privacy - you might find them sympathetic enough to take it down.

      Your energies, however, might be better applied to the consideration of your future, and how you move forward from this awful mess. There is no reasonable indication from your husband that he is going to change - without change you’re tethered to someone who will bring this kind of problem to your door and then be more concerned about how it affects his pocket than he is about protecting his family from the fallout of his poor choices.

      They are both poisonous snakes, Sunflowers … and remember the old adage: Don’t pet the snakes. Don’t give this woman any more centrality to your life than you have already. As for him, disengage, take a harsh look at what the sum total of HIS behaviors tell you about him, and act accordingly.

      I wish you all the best.

  5. I absolutely disagree with this saying the cheater has a right to choose his life. If you want out you become mature enough to leave a marriage before hurting people. A cheater is a coward with a selfish agenda. To expose regardless of saving a marriage or not I believe people need to know not to trust the two people having the affair. They are obvious liars cheat selfish for their own temporary happiness. You can not trust a cheater. If someone stole money from you and that same person was at another friends house would you tell them about the thief?

    • Hi Karen

      “I absolutely disagree with this saying the cheater has a right to choose his life.”
      I’ve heard this view expressed on multiple occasions and find it a curious position for people to take. (NB: a cheater is almost equally likely to be female as male.)

      Since you are specifically singling out cheaters for this loss of rights to choose their own lives, what is it that exempts them from that basic human right? Being married? Breaking promises? Lying? Selfishness? Hurting another? Lack of ethics? Wanting to leave a marriage? Having an emotional connection with more than one person? These things are not the sole domain of a cheater and most of the world’s population is probably ‘guilty’ of similar things at certain points in their lives - should they all be similarly stripped of their right to choose their own lives?

      If a cheater doesn’t have a right to choose their own life, then who does have the right to choose it for them? You? Isn’t the act of imposing your choices and wishes on your cheater -from whom you have stripped their right to choose- how one might reasonably define slavery/bondage/servitude/exploitation?

      The notion that a cheater’s right to make choices in their own lives is suspended/revoked if they ‘transgress’ sufficiently against their spouse is the same thinking that is employed by abusers. Marriage doesn’t remove anyone’s basic right to choose their own life - if it did then anyone in an abusive marriage would have no right to leave it and would be consigned to enduring their treatment at the hands of another.

      “Those in heinously abusive situations are often similarly isolated, manipulated and controlled under the threat or use of physical violence, and can even experience the systematic denial or withholding of their basic human rights/needs.”
      IHG: My Cheater is a Victim of Brainwashing

      What I see often in faithful spouses is outrage that the cheater had the temerity to leave the marriage. It’s perhaps worth noting that unilateral choices to file for divorce even where infidelity isn’t part of the equation can still cause considerable pain to an unwilling respondent in a divorce petition. Someone’s choice to leave the marriage ethically doesn’t magically immunize their partner from pain, upset, outrage, and a sense of being wronged.

      However, the outrage at infidelity and specifically exit affairs is often coupled with a faithful spouse’s claims that the cheater is somehow a danger/menace to society. As I said in a previous response here, “If the cheater is genuinely so heinous that others need to be warned about them, it seems logical that the faithful spouse would be celebrating the exit-by-affair, having immediately put a lawyer and restraining order in place, thanking their lucky starts that they escaped such a hideous person. And yet that’s rarely (if ever) the case.”

      What is apparent though, is:
      a) if the cheater remains obediently in the marriage, most faithful spouses don’t consider it necessary to ‘warn society’ about how dangerous and untrustworthy the cheater is
      b) faithful spouses don’t similarly systematically ‘expose’ or seek to remove rights from other people in their lives who may also have been selfish, or lied, or broken their promises, or left a marriage etc

      I understand how hurt can fuel outrage, and the sense of injustice that faithful spouses feel is perfectly natural. However, attempting to contain someone’s rights to make their own life choices within proprietary boundaries of your choosing is unethical, entitled, and clear control freakery; it’s a slippery slope.

      To be clear though: this article is not saying that the faithful spouse should protect the cheater or the cheater’s reputation. It is saying that there are ethical issues with the popular strategy of affair exposure that is intended to return the cheater to the marriage. If, for reasons of spite, vengeance, and anger etc, someone wishes to explode the cheater’s life, that’s their call (because we all have the right to behave improperly if we choose, right?) - but dressing it up as some noble protection of society or family is disingenuous.

      “It might be honorable, ethical and honest to exit one relationship before entering another, but we are privileged to have the freedom to behave improperly if we so choose.
      We are fortunate to have free choice that is supported by our societal structures, and our religious teachings about free will … “Thou mayest”. Our liberty comes at a price, and that price is that others are free to choose things that we disagree with and that impact us, without our consent.”

      IHG: Accepting Their Right to Cheat

      • What about crimes? We lock people away for comitting them. We post their mug shot publicly. Adultery is a crime. Does the adulterer lose their right to privacy? BTW, I love reading your posts. Excellent writing and great logical argument. Are you an attorney? 😉

        • Hi again Fred.

          Thank you for the kind words about the articles here - I am glad that you enjoy them!

          Regarding crime, technically we don’t lock people away for all crimes and adultery isn’t a crime in all jurisdictions. In many places where it is still considered ‘a crime’, prosecution is generally not pursued and tends instead to be treated as a civil matter. In other places, it can result in lashes or being stoned to death - the response to adultery is not universal.

          We all have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy and our definition of ‘reasonable’ may well shift depending on the circumstances. It might be reasonable therefore for a faithful spouse to snoop and check a cheater’s phone etc. as a matter of self-protection and their right to salient information about their lives, but that doesn’t mean it is similarly reasonable that a cheater lose all rights to their privacy outside the marriage as a punitive measure.

          Take care.

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