Classification of Infidelity


In a recent piece on The Huffington Post, Dr. Mark Banschick describes four outcomes after a cheater is caught or decides to come clean:1) the cheater can make amends and the marriage continues, 2)the cheater can make amends and the marriage ends, 3)the cheated upon can choose to end the marriage or 4)the cheater can blame the other spouse for their actions and then leave the marriage. It seems like common sense, but reading this was a lightbulb moment for me. Part of my pain was in the fact that my husband was a type four – he blamed me and left. Not only were there no amends, but he didn’t even acknowledge his actions. In a way, I was lucky. I had no choice but to accept the fact that he was a type four. After all, leaving the state, refusing contact and committing bigamy made it pretty unlikely that I would get an apology. I had no choice but to move on.

Others are not so lucky. They have a type four spouse but they are holding out for him or her to turn into a type one or two and accept responsibility for their actions. Their hope and their reality do not match and the disconnect adds another layer of pain and anger.

Dr. Banschick classified the end of an affair – the choices left once the betrayal is uncovered. Affairs are different even before the end, with other factors complicating the situation and the healing process. I think it can be helpful to classify your affair as a way of finding acceptance and understanding of your particular situation and the factors that it contains.

Simple Infidelity

Simple does mean easy. This is a straightforward case of infidelity with no complicating factors.

Compound Infidelity

Compound infidelity is where there are secondary or tertiary betrayals.

Known Affair Partner: If the partner is a friend or confident of yours, you will feel betrayed by your spouse and your friend. Both relationships were violated.

Multiple Partners: These are the serial cheaters. The betrayed has to face the knowledge that their partner has made the choice to cheat multiple times with many people. This may have gone on for years before it is discovered.

Children: If there are children in the marriage, there is a sense that the cheater betrayed the family, not just the spouse. If and when the kids learn of the betrayal, they may internalize it and blame themselves for their parent’s infidelity.

Financial Betrayal: This is where the cheater extends the lying to finances. Marital funds may have been used to fund the affair(s). It is another major breach of trust in the marriage.

Complex Infidelity

Complex infidelity is where there are complicating factors that can interfere with the betrayed’s ability to heal.

Abandonment: In many cases of spousal abandonment, the disappearing spouse has another partner at the ready. The betrayed has to face  the discovery of infidelity while alone and abandoned. Part of the pain in this case is the feeling of having your voice stolen as there is no spouse to talk to or even scream at.

Gaslighting: This is the type 4 cheater before he/she is caught. The unfaithful partner blames the spouse and make him or her feel crazy for noticing inconsistencies or signs of wrongdoing. This pattern slowly wears away at the confidence of the betrayed, causing them to question what is real and what is fabrication.

Illegitimate Child(ren): When the unfaithful partner has a child as a result of infidelity, it negates any chances of a clean break from the affair partner. In the case of n unfaithful wife, a man may discover that he has been raising another man’s child as his own. Regardless of the circumstances, there is now an innocent who is caught in the web of deceit.

Addiction: Addiction and infidelity are not uncommon partners. They both thrive on secrecy and lies. If there is addiction present, it makes it even more difficult to reestablish trust.

Compound-Complex Infidelity

This is the combination of two or more of the situations above.


Regardless of the nature of the infidelity, betrayal is one of the worst pains someone can experience. Unless you have felt its cutting edge, you cannot fathom the devastation of being stabbed by the one you embrace. It is possible to heal from betrayal and that healing has to start with acceptance. Recognize the complicating factors in your situation. Recognize where you have control and where you do not. Recognize when to fight and when to let go.

Learning to trust after betrayal is not easy. Not only is there the struggle with trusting a new partner, but there is also the challenge of learning to trust your own instincts and perceptions, especially if you were unaware of the affair. The body and subconscious mind respond as though there is a threat even when the rational mind knows there is not. It takes patience and time and a willingness to face the discomfort. It’s not easy, but it is also not impossible.



43 thoughts on “Classification of Infidelity

  1. Mine was definitely type 4 as well as I noticed all the signs and when confronted was told it was not happening and then he is just a friend when caught. When she left it was all my fault. But this puts alot into perspective for me as I am just now trying to deal with all of this! Thank you so much!

  2. I had a # 4 + Compound (adult children & financial betrayal) + Complex (Abandonment & maybe some gas-lighting which I did not recognise).
    Interesting post that puts things into perspective.
    It has taken me 16 months to say it. However, like you I now feel “lucky” that he made a clean ‘cut and run’ leaving me with no choice but to pick myself up from the floor and move on. And even though abandonment does steal your voice we can follow your lead in speaking out to others and help them through the pain – and that in turn helps us, and gives us back some control and a degree of closure.
    And I am also finding that for many of those that are in type # 1 or 2 category; it can be “death by a thousand cuts” over many years and I am so glad now that I am not in that place.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. You are so welcome:) I’m glad you are also able to see some of the bright side of the sudden end. I like the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ analogy – it is a good way to contrast with the amputation we experienced.

  3. Let’s see… Compound Infidelity, check. (multiple partners & school-age kids. Complex Infidelity, check (gas lighting). She is /was a real piece of work.

    Ours was a case of #4.

    There is a strong part of me that wants to get into a new relationship but a) I’ve still got loads of bitterness & hatred towards her and it hardly seems fair to introduce that to someone else. B) The only person I want right now is (unhappily) married & I can’t be the guy(s) my ex cheated with.

    Fun frickin’ times.

    1. It sounds like it’s wise for you to wait. I had to work to move past the anger too before I was ready for a new relationship. I agree that not only is it not fair to carry it forward, but it also dooms the new relationship if not addressed.

      1. Blows goats? I love it! That’s a new one for me:)

        But, yes, it does. But it also means that you can stay true to your core beliefs and sense of self. It’s when we do things that don’t mesh with our self concept that we start down a slippery slope.

  4. By these definitions, my wife was a “type 4 – gaslighter”. She cheated: my fault because I’d become passive and that was not sexy and did not cater for her needs as a woman. Why had I become so passive? I got used to her getting her own way and using tantrums and sulking to get it and she had her mother on side. I learnt that my views were insignificant – I was wrong… all the time unless of course I agreed with them.

    She created the mess that led to her affair – yet it was my fault – apparently.

  5. I was actually the cheater in my marriage. We’ve been together 12 years and I have made amends. I was looking for a way to cope with his depression and his actions and I made a mistake. I owned up to it, took responsibility, and dealt with the consequences. He has problems with addiction, we are both depressed. We both have issues that neither one of us can handle. I took it too far and I know it. We’re still working on things.. and it’s not been easy. But we’re trying.
    Even being from the “other” side of things, this was very enlightening. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I’m glad to hear that you’ve taken responsibility and that you two are working on your marriage. You raise a good point about sometimes issues are too big to handle alone.

  6. Your blog is an incredible affirmation to hope and to the belief that through suffering comes wisdom. I was married for 23 years. I caught my ex sexting our vet, a man who is almost as old as her 70 year old father. After a year of marriage counseling and two years of swearing that she still wanted to stay married to me, she took off with my kids and her boyfriend. In these situations, you learn who your friends are and how important family is. The best remedy for what happened is laughter. Thank God I have friends who can help me see absurdity of it all.

  7. Very hard to try and get others to understand. Mine, was and is Compound and Complex, Multiple and Financial with Gaslighting……don’t wish it on anyone. He said at the end…..”this will make you stronger.” As if he had given me a gift.

  8. I’ve got type four waiting for him to change. Maybe it’s just time to get out. Do things really get better when your alone raising the children by yourself?

  9. I have compound-complex. Known affair partner, children involved, financial betrayal, abandonment, and gas lighting. Thanks for this breakdown. Seeing it this way helps me to realize that no one fully comprehends the audacity of it and the complexity of it because there is no way they can realize all the layers and how painful they were to accept and come to terms with.

    With the help of great friends, family, and a very competent therapist, I am happy, healthy, and moving on, but I am a scientist and a problem solver, so there are lingering questions that my problem solving brain keeps wanting to answer. I have been reading your blog over the last few days, along with the many honest and insightful responses. Both have helped me to have a better understanding of it all and to answer some of those questions that have been hanging about the periphery of my mind.

    This is not a club I would choose to be a part of, but in an odd way it has become an honor. It has humbled me and made me considerably more compassionate and empathetic. I give love more freely and easily now. I am happier and healthier emotionally. I have a better understanding of the true purpose of our existence on this earth. I can now live in the present and seek to bring the best both to my day and the day of those around me. It is a gift I can give my young children and the 150+ teenagers in my classroom.

    Thank you for sharing of yourself and for opening up a forum for others to share as well.

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