Is a Person Who is Having an Affair Mentally Impaired at the Moment?

You just found out your spouse has had an affair! You’re struggling to recover, survive, cope, and just live through another day. You wonder what’s wrong with you. You blame yourself. You assume (although wrongly so) there must be something wrong with you. ‘I must not be sexy enough, attractive enough, nice enough and/or smart enough,’ you think to yourself. You begin to think of everything you’ve ever done wrong in the relationship.

Your spouse (whether you are splitting up or trying to rebuild your relationship) is helping you to blame yourself. He/she is accusing you, blaming you, telling you their affair is your fault. They may say something like “I’ve never loved you.” Several members of our Beyond Affairs Network support group have reported that this is what their spouses have said. One after 29 years of marriage. Now think of it. Is this logical? Because if it is they are actually insulting themselves in a major way. If it were true, what they are actually saying is not only were they stupid enough to marry someone they didn’t love in the first place, but they were stupid enough to stay with that person (for 29 years?) No, the reality is that they must say this to justify to themselves their current actions.

In comparing notes, we at the Beyond Affairs Network have discovered that it seems a spouse who is having (or just had) an affair has lost their mind. There are actual scientific studies which support this truth, that when a person is having an affair, there is a chemical released in the brain, which has an effect similar to drugs or alcohol. In effect, their judgment is actually impaired.

My husband for example, told me one day shortly after ending his affair, that the reason he had had an affair was that I was a bad wife. The reason I had never had an affair, he told me, was because he had always been a good husband. Needless to say these words hurt me, but in the state of mental shock I was in at the time, it was difficult to fully recognize their untruth. A couple of months later (and full separation from the other woman), my husband asked me if I remembered him saying those words. I remembered! Well, I was wrong he now told me. The truth is, he said, it was easy for me to be a good husband because you were good at recognizing and communicating your needs to me. You didn’t stand a chance of being the wife I really needed, he told me, because I never communicated my needs to you.

If you still aren’t sure that your spouse who has had an affair may not be thinking totally logically during and shortly after ending the affair, let me share what one woman’s husband shared with her in the process of his leaving her for another woman after nearly 30 years of marriage.

He and the other woman realized that this might be hurtful for his wife. (How intelligent of them!) So between the two of them (husband and other woman) out of the goodness of their hearts, they devised a transition period, which they presented to her ‘to make it easier for her’ they said. The plan was: the husband would continue to live at home for 6 months and during this time he would sleep with his wife. He would however also be dating the other woman. But there would be no ‘hanky-panky’ between him and the other woman during this period. The other woman would however decide where and when the couple could be seen together in public, so that people would gradually get used to seeing the husband with the other woman instead of the wife. (This man was a sane individual prior to engaging in an extramarital affair.) I’m happy to announce that the wife did not consent to such a plan.

While these illogical things are being said to us, where are our minds? Usually in shock. If you’re going through this and you are concerned that you might be crazy, don’t worry. You are not. It is normal to feel like you are losing your mind after discovering a spouse’s extramarital affair. While you are in a state of shock, it is almost impossible to think properly. And it is also not unusual to receive unhelpful advice from well-meaning friends, family and professionals.

For example: Two days after my husband disclosed his affair to me, during my initial counseling with my minister, he told me to be prepared that the other woman might be pregnant. I protested that the affair had only gone on for 2 months and many couples spend quite a while trying to conceive. My minister was quite adamant to remind me that it only takes one time to conceive. I was already devastated. I couldn’t bear the thought of being tied to the other woman through a child, who would now be a half sibling to my own children. I was already traumatized without thinking about this extra information. The minister went on to explain how my family would need to be prepared to contribute financially to the child until the child was of age. I cannot tell you how painful this thought was for me. In the mental state I was in at the time, it took me two months to remember that my husband had had a vasectomy and I myself had not used birth control in over fifteen years! I suffered this extra mental anguish for nothing! It is a clear example of how difficult it is to think when dealing with so much emotional pain. So give yourself a break, and get some outside perspective, especially regarding guilt and blame from your unfaithful spouse. No one causes another person to have an affair. That choice is solely the responsibility of those who choose to engage in them.

There are things wrong in every marriage. That’s right! There are no perfect marriages. However there are monogamous marriages. If it were true that people’s mistakes in a marriage cause the other person to have an affair, then in fact all marriages would have affairs.

If you would like to share a success story, helpful insight or comment on this article we welcome your remarks. Email your questions or comments to Brian and/or Anne