It’s Not an Affair Because …

The Rancid Goop of Cheater-Think

Affair RationalizationIn general, cheaters don’t like to admit their affairs. It’s understandable - it opens them up to censure, judgment, and loss on multiple levels. They want to avoid the consequences to their choices and one strategy they employ is to deflect, gaslight, and deny.

“You’re crazy: it’s not an affair because … !”

It’s not news that cheaters employ justifications, excuses and rationalizations to defend their infidelity - that’s Cheater 101 after all. However, my years of counseling cheaters who use denial-by-justification have still been a bit of an eye-opener. The outlandish nature of cheaters’ claims isn’t the cause of my boggled eyes - it’s my recurrent astonishment that they genuinely believe that others will suspend all reason and accept their bullshit.

It Wasn’t an Affair Because …

The lack of a completely loophole-free definition of infidelity gives cheaters room to get creative with their denials. Consequently, no denial now surprises me. I might not have actually heard it all when it comes to cheater excuses, but it has to be pretty close.

One might reasonably consider that any intelligent and rational person wouldn’t offer some of the following ‘excuses’ - and this is why cheaters are often called insane lunatics suffering from some temporary mental incapacity. Except they’re not: they’re completely sane and rational - they just think you’re stupid/gullible/desperate enough to believe them.

The following aren’t notional examples of cheater-think - I’ve heard each and every one of these from cheaters directly:

1. It Wasn’t Planned

I am never quite sure what cheaters mean when they say this: “It wasn’t planned.”

Do they mean that they didn’t wake up one morning and, while brushing their teeth, say to themselves, “You know what? YOU deserve an affair. Time to formulate and deploy Operation Infidelity! Your code name will be Renegade. You’ll need blueprints, surveillance equipment, and some other exciting spy stuff to get the mission plan together and make it happen”  ?

Is that what is necessary for it to be ‘planned’? Does the absence of that particular narrative mean that it wasn’t planned?

No. It doesn’t. Because mirror-talk about exciting spy stuff aside, cheaters manage to:

  • make arrangements for their hook-ups around their spouse’s schedule
  • pay for hotels without it appearing on a credit card
  • buy gifts for the affair partner without raising suspicion
  • wax, shave, buy condoms, avoid menstruation dates, and avoid hooking up while wearing their grayish, saggy underwear with the dodgy elastic
  • successfully hide their workplace affair from their colleagues to avoid being reported for breaking non-fraternization policies
  • conceal their affair from friends and family
  • fit in school runs, football practice, and other family activities, and their job, all while finding the time to cheat

Those things don’t ‘just happen’ magically. It wasn’t planned? Except it was. At every stage.

Even if it wasn’t planned (a drunken one night stand, perhaps?) are you really asserting that makes it not an affair? So an unplanned pregnancy isn’t a pregnancy and an unplanned car breakdown isn’t a breakdown? See how this stuff works?

So yes, Renegade, even your mythical ‘unplanned’ affair is an affair.

2. We Weren’t Married

Oh dumpling, this is a defense for why the affair wasn’t adultery, not for why it wasn’t infidelity.

3. I Don’t Love Them

The term ‘love affair’ might not be wholly accurate in every case of infidelity, I agree. But the words ‘affair’ and ‘infidelity’ still stand. Cheating is not primarily driven by either love or sex - the absence of either doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been an affair.

4. It’s Real Love

Having love in a romantic or sexual relationship outside the marriage doesn’t magically make cheating NOT infidelity. What would make it not infidelity is if you divorced/formally separated before you entertained pursuing a relationship with someone else.

Something that comes up at IHG quite often is the question about love and ethics. Pop-culture will have us believe that love transcends everything, and that pursuing the zenith of ‘real’ or ‘pure’ love is wholly justifiable. This is notably reinforced by the entertainment industry (and supported by the marital recovery industry) to the point that the message has morphed into a sense that we are even duty bound to embrace love if we encounter it, regardless of our commitments to other relationships.

Love -and the pursuit of it- is NOT synonymous with abandoning ethics, basic human decency, and honoring your commitments to others - but having an affair is.

5. They’re the Other Half of Me - I Can’t Have an Affair With Myself

Yes, a cheater once told me this, in all seriousness. I know. I know!

I did ask, “Since the relationship was with yourself, why was anyone else necessary? And can I safely presume that the relationship could have been sexually satisfied by the sole employment of your left hand?” They were not amused. Predictably.

6. It Was a Hooker and a Blow Job - That Doesn’t Make it an Affair!

Yep, you got me there, Tiger - you’re not taking the hooker for dinner and a movie, innocently hoping you’re going to get laid later.  😯

Fair enough. Let’s again just switch the term ‘affair’ out for the term ‘infidelity’. Oh look - it’s still cheating.

7. I Admitted It - It’s Not an Affair if it’s Not a Secret

Ah, so declaring, “I am going to fuck around on my spouse” makes it somehow NOT fucking around on your spouse? How does that work? I ask because I see all kinds of interesting applications for such wizardry.  😀

Your magical powers aside, even if you take the view that a declared affair is no longer an affair but ‘My New Relationship’, the following still applies: it started life as an affair and that made it … an affair!

And if you’re telling yourself that this new relationship isn’t a real affair but ‘just’ the impetus for your marital exit, a) it’s still a damn affair and b) why haven’t you filed yet?

8. I Never Intended to Leave the Marriage

So that extra marital sex/and or emotional cooing was what, therapy? A trial run to see if it was worth leaving your marriage for? An in vivo compare and contrast tool to confirm that staying in the marriage was the right choice this time, with this affair partner?

By the way, whoever gave you that Special Pass of Dispensation to exempt your ‘research’ from being defined as infidelity? They will also sell you some snake oil to cure your syphilis.

9. We Didn’t Have Sex

Sorry pumpkin, but this is where the term ’emotional affair’ applies.

10. It Was Just Sex/It Didn’t Mean Anything

Just SexInfidelity without romantic entanglement still means something. It particularly means something quite significant to your spouse, even if it was just business as usual for you.

Physical affairs do have a sexual component, yes, but sex is not the primary driver in affairs. Affairs raise issues of ethical conduct, value, power and personal agency but what is not generally discussed in affairs is the underlying sense of resentment towards the faithful spouse.

Rather than it being ‘just meaningless sex’, an affair delivers a very clear, highly effective, thoroughly harmful, and completely deliberate, “Fuck you”.

Yes, it means something, not least that it means it was an affair.

11. I Just Sent a Few Pictures …

Of what? Flowers and sunsets? Meerkat Manor? A flash mob in the local mall? Cute kittens? You and your spouse enjoying your wedding anniversary meal? The entire content of your food category on Instagram?

I’m guessing not. Especially the wedding anniversary ones - yep, definitely not.

I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and suggest that those ‘few pictures’ were artful (ahem) pictures of your genitals and/or breasts, intended to titillate and be provocative. They were?! Who knew?! 

Just as Anthony Weiner isn’t the sole culprit of the texted dick-pic, he is also not the alone in denying it or in denying that it was part of a pursuit of a bit on the side. And he isn’t alone in being wrong that it was’just some pictures’ - it’s infidelity.

12. It’s an Addiction, Dammit!

Sexual compulsion has little to do with pleasure, sex, love, or infidelity - it is not a pursuit of sexual pleasure and is not characterized by emotional connections. Hook-ups primarily intended to pursue romantic involvement or give sexual pleasure are infidelity not addiction; the quantity of those hook-ups doesn’t make you a sex addict - it makes you a serial cheater.

It is ridiculously easy to test positively as a sex addict: Three IHG staff took the test independently and in good faith, and all scored positively as sex addicts. The scores were definitive, far exceeding a questionable ‘borderline’ score. None of those who took the test have any sexual pathology whatsoever.

Sex addiction is not a recognized disorder or diagnosis. It’s an all too convenient excuse, relieving the cheater from the question of ethics, choice, and personal control by spuriously attributing poor behavior to an uncontrollable addiction.

IHG: Affair Fog Theory: Excuse Smog

13. I Wanted an Open or Polyamorous Relationship

The problem isn’t that you wanted it - the problem is that you decided unilaterally to have it without respecting that you don’t get to choose that for your spouse: it requires their consent.

If the relationship style you’re in is no longer the one you want to be in, you have the option to either leave it, or openly and honestly renegotiate the terms with your spouse. Those things are both ethical and valid. But let’s be honest here:

  • you probably only decided that you want this new relationship style after you got involved with someone else
  • you probably want your spouse to be comfortable that you’re not faithful to them, while they remain faithful to you

I know, that sounded ugly didn’t it?

It isn’t valid to claim that going outside your monogamous marriage is not an affair just because you don’t want it to be. How does that work? Do you squeeze your eyes together really tightly and click the heels of your ruby slippers? It’s NOT an affair, it’s NOT an affair, it’s NOT an affair  … ?

Sorry Dorothy, it’s an affair.

14. I Don’t Believe in Affairs

Oh cupcake, it’s not a belief system, it’s just how language works.

Confused? Let me explain: a word has a meaning and if that meaning fits your behavior, then that’s what you’re doing. If you had a romantic or sexual relationship outside of your primary, monogamous relationship, that’s an affair. If you choose to deny it, that’s not an issue of ‘belief’, that’s an issue of lying.

15. It Was Payback for Their Affair

I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through the infidelity experience, and I understand the wish to lash out and hurt them just as you have been hurt. I am sympathetic to your outrage and fury and the temptation to respond in kind.

If, though, you agreed to remain in the marriage after their affair with a continuing mutual expectation of monogamy, then going outside it is still cheating. No matter the provocation, and even if it was just one-time-only revenge sex, if you agreed to continue in a monogamous marriage your hook-up was infidelity. The ‘crime’ is the same.  😥

16. I Was Done - That Made Us Separated and Me Not a Cheat

So your situation is that you told your spouse that the marriage was over, that you planned to divorce, and that they had no further marital obligation to  you (legalities aside), all BEFORE you got involved with someone else, so it’s not an affair but an ethical and formal separation? A legal one, even? Is that what you’re saying?

Or … was it actually something else? Do any of these scenarios fit with the reality of your ‘it’s not an affair’ situation?

  1. Getting involved with someone else and hiding it from your spouse for a bit, while still enjoying the benefits of being married to them (financial security, household support etc).
  2. Firming up a new relationship before ending the marriage or formally separating.
  3. Making the decision that you were done but not communicating that to your spouse clearly and in a timely fashion, maybe even pretending that everything was fine (to protect their feelings, of course) when you found someone else.
  4. With another relationship ongoing, leaving the marital home without clear and proper explanation that the marriage was over, that you wouldn’t be back, and that you would be filing for divorce.

It’s quite simple: If your ‘it’s not an affair’ situation included any of 1-4, or variations of 1-4, it was an affair.

17. I Was Only on AshMad to Check it Out

Joining AshMad, writing your profile, maybe paying a fee … that isn’t idle perusal without intent. AshMad is a very specific kind of site - it is specifically for those who are married and who are seeking an affair.

You might not have managed to convert your membership to an actual hook up, but you meant to.

Even if you weren’t edgy enough, or attractive enough, or charming enough to actually bag one of those other un-picky cheaters openly looking for any viable someone to fuck around with, you were planning to.

Even if you weren’t quite enough to find anyone willing to follow through with you, you had already crossed the lines in a monogamous, faithful marriage, and that is infidelity.

18. Marriage is an Artificial Social Construct

I respect your right to view the traditional, conservative marital model as an outdated, religiously driven method of controlling the masses and keeping societal order if you so choose. I also support your right to hold whatever unconventional views on marriage you wish and further agree it’s your right to believe that monogamy is unnatural, unsustainable, and doomed from the outset. If you don’t want to be held to the traditional marital model, you have the right to either leave it or renegotiate it, and can even go outside it if you so choose.

However, if you entered into a mutually agreed monogamous relationship and then engaged in a romantic or sexual relationship outside it, that is an affair. It’s infidelity. It’s cheating. Your views on the nature of marriage don’t change that.

Rationalization: it’s not an affair because …

We’ve probably all done it: when faced with an unpleasant reality or unpalatable truth about something we’ve done, we ‘reason’ our way to a better answer. We defend ourselves from our own judgment -and the judgment of others- by creating a ‘logical’ argument to justify it.

In reality, the rationale we conjure up is simply a distortion of the selected facts. We cherry pick only certain aspects of the argument, we rely on logical fallacies to defend our reasoning, and we use narrow parameters to contain and obscure the argument.

We don’t perceive this as lying, necessarily, but we are consciously trying to force a fit between our actions and a morally acceptable view of ourselves. It’s deliberate, it’s intended to manage our self-image in light of certain behaviors and choices, and it seeks to explain our behavior as ‘proper’.

It doesn’t take much to unearth the reality of an affair because these kind of rationalizations aren’t robust in the face of even the most cursory inquiry.

Rationalizations as to why your affair is not an affair might serve to keep your self-view relatively intact. I understand why you want to believe them and the benefits of getting others to believe them, but it doesn’t make them valid.

If you hold a genuine expectation that other people will accept your dubious excuses as reality, yep - you’re on a different planet.


“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

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