With the Ashley Madison hacking, and then publication of email addresses of its users, talk has turned to extramarital affairs. The focus is on the website, and discussion of what it promotes, as well as whisperings and sensationalism as to those who have used the service. What is being lost in all of the coverage is the outright emotional hurt that affairs cause. There is no greater betrayal than a spouse who cheats. There is no justification. There is no excuse. Cheating is driven by pure selfishness, and the impact on the family members can and will be devastating. And no one can understand the feelings that the innocent spouse must endure – loss, hurt, self-doubt, abandonment, anger, pain, emptiness, embarrassment, fear. Now, with the public display of the Ashley Madison members’ email addresses, many victims must also deal with so many people being aware of the cheating spouse, adding new layers of anger, embarrassment, betrayal and hurt.
People facing a divorce are already fearful of an unknown future, as well as suffering feelings of loss. When an affair is added into the fact pattern, the life changes are overwhelming. During this time, we need to be supportive, respectful, and patient. The best that we can do is listen and support. This really is not the time to be making crucial life decisions, yet that is often what is sought right at the darkest time. It also is not the time for “business as usual.” I will always remember an opposing party, at an initial settlement meeting where we were coolly trying to be productive, looking me dead in the eyes and saying she could not even think about who would live where, who would pay what bills, and what parenting time would be initially implemented when she was still coming to terms with the reality that her husband had an affair. Shame on me for not being more empathetic, and realistic, of what she was enduring. How callous of all of us to expect anything of her during that time!
Affairs are relevant to a divorce. People shrug it off, knowing most states, Colorado being one of them, are “no fault” states. That does not mean affairs are irrelevant. That demeans the innocent spouse. They are entitled to be heard. They are entitled to their feelings. And they are entitled to time to heal. Most of all, they and all that they are feeling and enduring, are entitled to respect!
Life is short. Affairs cause direct and collateral damage, none of which are considered at the most crucial decision-making time. Life is short…. Don’t have an affair.