People cheat for a large variety of reasons. In many of those cases, the cheater wants the affair partner(s) and they still want the marriage, a sort of one-sided renegotiation of the wedding vows.
Yet in other cases, what the cheater really wants is out of the marriage and the affair is simply a way of forcing that outcome.
So, why do people use an affair as an exit strategy for a marriage?
They Want You to Be the One to End It
Maybe they promised themselves that they would never get divorced. Or, they would feel guilty about breaking up the family while the kids are still young. Sometimes they’re worried about the judgment they’ll face from others if their marriage fails. But if you’re the one to initiate the divorce, then they can find comfort in their little fiction that this was all on you.
Of course, all of this completely ignores the fact that it was their behavior that led to divorce in the first place. That if it wasn’t for the affair, you never would have filed the papers. But those that cheat are quite skilled at compartmentalization; they can convince themselves that the both the affair and the divorce happened to them instead of because of them.
They Lack the Courage to Be Honest With You
These are the people that will drop the bombshell, “I haven’t been happy for a long time” once their hand is forced, yet will never come to you with, “I’ve been feeling disconnected from you recently and I’d like for us to work together on this.” In a perverse way, they are not upfront with you because they don’t want to see you hurt and they don’t want to bear witness to your disappointment.
So instead, they pull away and they turn elsewhere, towards someone that they don’t have to worry about feeling obligated towards. They are running away, from the marriage and also from their discomfort. They believe that if they just stuff their unhappiness deep enough, they can build on top of it.
They Are Afraid of Being Alone
They want out. They know they want out. And yet the thought of being alone and unmoored after divorce scares the hell out of them. So, they make sure that they have a safe place – or person – to land on. The affair is a way of avoiding that terrifying leap into the unknown of being single, instead replacing the cliff’s edge with a gentle ramp out of marriage.
They Are Not Self-Aware
This is so often the case with those who use cheating to force the end of a marriage. Many times, they are not even consciously aware that they want out, much less cognizant about how the choices they make fit into the bigger picture.
In all of these cases, the affair may have been the final straw (or your first indication that something was amiss), but there were problems beneath the surface long before they stepped out. If you’re entering into a new relationship after divorce, make sure to look for someone who has the courage to be honest with you – and themselves – about when they are unhappy. It’s not a guarantee that they will never cheat on you, but it certainly provides some insurance.