Affairs Are Like Cancer

According to the Associated Press and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 22% of men admit to cheating on their significant other, while 14% of women admit to infidelity. And according to a 2013 study referenced in the Huffington Post, women had more affairs in the past two decades than in previous years. Clearly, cheating on our partners is increasing and it’s becoming easier to do through work, through connecting with past flames online and even dating web sites dedicated to cheating spouses, namely Ashley Madison.

But the problem in our marriages isn’t actually the affair. Or, at least, the problems in our marriages aren’t limited to ONLY the affair. But when an affair occurs, it becomes the singular most important thing that our partners want to talk about and focus upon. 

The one thing everyone wants to fix and heal…

The one thing we want to dissect and gather evidence about…

The one thing they want to wrestle to the ground and understand. 

Where there is an affair, there is also great hurt and mistrust that gets created. Plus, it’s something specific and tangible that we can all point to that is now the cause for our sadness or anger or confusion in our marriages. 

But when we place the focus only on the affair, we miss the deeper opportunity to understand and heal what was broken in the relationship that created fertile ground for the affair to occur in the first place. The affair is a symptom of the problems that existed in your marriage before the infidelity ever occurred.

Affairs do not happen in emotionally healthy and connected committed relationships. Period. So the relationship was broken before the affair was ever an issue and that’s the piece that needs to be healed in the relationship if the marriage is to survive.

Did you and your spouse grow more distant over time as you each became more and more distracted with life, with kids, and with work?

Have you not felt seen or heard or understood by the one person on the planet that is supposed to see and hear and understand you? Or did you not feel wanted, loved and appreciated by that one person that promised to want, love and appreciate you? 

Have there been days, months or even years that go by without a touch, a kiss, or even a kind word to one another?

I think of affairs the same way that I think about cancer.

BD Phillips says, “Cancer is that awful word we all fear when we go to the doctor, but in that brief dark moment we hear it, the world we live in and the people we share it with begin to illuminate things we did not even pay attention to.”

Everyone wants to talk about the cancer and fix the cancer with chemo, radiation, and any medicine we can throw at it. No one wants to talk about what caused the healthy cells within the body to turn cancerous, to understand and heal the root cause. And when you don’t treat the cancer (the root cause of the problems in your marriage), it spreads and becomes a bigger problem (an affair). 

This presents us with an opportunity. An opportunity to understand what’s been broken in your marriage that needs fixing or tending to. What old wounds need healed? What old ways of being in a relationship with one another are not working and how can we be in a relationship with one another in a new way, a different way?

Of course, trust needs to be re-established and eventually forgiveness would need to occur. Of course, apologies need to be given and felt as often as necessary to heal the hurt of an affair. And of course, there needs to be a mutual commitment to stop all future occurrences of infidelity. 

But the deeper opportunity is to gain clarity about what caused the cancer in the relationship in the first place and tend to the healing of that sickness within the relationship.

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10/2/2020 7:00:00 AM
Sharon Pope
Written by Sharon Pope
Sharon is a certified Master Life Coach and a Six-Time #1 International Best-Selling author, specializing in troubled love and relationships. For more information visit her website at
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In my opinion the way people raise kids is one huge problem. They make the kids the most important part of their marriage ignoring the fact that one day the kids will grow up and leave. By that time your relationship has been ignored for at least 18 years. People used to be very religious back in the old days and that was an excellent guide for their relationship. Today it is too easy to run and get a divorce so instead of trying to work out problems together we just want a quick fix to get it over with. Problem is what caused the first divorce was never addressed so the second carries the same problems into it. The government has made it easy to dump each other with their safety net of government programs that weren't available years ago and today's couples never seem satisfied with what they have, always want more. Kids look at what their parents have that took them 30 years to achieve and think they should have it NOW. So between the so called importance of kids and wants there isn't much room left for a lasting relationship.
Posted by Glenn Shannon
Just one more reason to have a F.B.
Posted by Who Cares
I guess you are talking about people who have actual affairs with one specific person, not serial cheating. My husband has been a serial cheater all his life. We married late in life (over 40). My 3rd, his 2nd. Unknown to me, his oldest two children are one month apart by 2 different mothers. When someone our age is 'available', you have to wonder WHY they are available. What was I thinking? Also, 22%? That's just the ones who admit it. My husband never admits anything, so he never apologizes either. He just wants to know how I know. Never tell them.
Posted by Gayle
Sometimes what happens, regardless of the gender is the existing relationship goes bad and people try to make it work or feel stuck in it and then without looking someone great comes along and they find a connection. It is easy to say finish the current relationship first, but sometimes it is just not that easy. Real life is messy and the effect of a change might hit many others so before making that change people investigate the other option. No one should claim that it is right, but it does happen outside of people being straight up bad.

I agree with the commenter who pointed out that some people are just wired for affairs regardless of whether the current relationship is good... but I think for the majority of people the only way an affair could even have a chance at happening is if their current relationship is bad OR they are young and very taken by some new person (and havent learned that you should not throw away something good for something new that looks even better, because the new thing is unproven).

What surprises me most with modern day cheating is, personally, I think it is easier than ever to get caught. That is why I think most people who are not just wired to be addicted to the concept, would only take the risk if their current relationship is so bad that if cheating ends up being the final thing that brings an end to it, they are ok with that. With social media and all, cheating is generally going to be caught. Someone sees something, someone says something. Even if it starts with two people being complicit in doing it, one or the other might change their mind or look back on the situation differently and contact the significant others involved easily via social media. Or they simply tell someone close to them who has a conscience and tries to warn other parties about it. OR... people simply do not cover tracks well enough and something is seen that showcases what is going on. In the modern day, seeing behaviors like that is easier with phones and computers and the way people act.

In the end... if you love the person you are with... there is just no reason to cheat and hurt them and destroy a good thing. If someone feels they need more, maybe they can be honest about having an open relationship, though I also cannot imagine how that really works well for people. I think it would be really hard. But, if two agree on that... that is their deal.

Of course, if your current relationship is bad and you have been thinking of leaving but just hadn't yet, ideally you should end that relationship before beginning anything else. But, I do understand why and when that does not happen so cleanly. I definitely feel no one should be actively looking for a new partner while in even a bad relationship. In that case, if you want to look for something new, end the current one. But sometimes a new potential partner shows up and becomes the spark for getting out of that relationship. Sometimes they look greater than they really are... but other times they are legimately a great match for someone, hence why they stand out as so different. That really is a different sort of scenario, and I personally would not be harsh on those that make that move. I have seen that sort of thing happen countless times... and the real key to the cause was that their prior relationship was REALLY bad. How can you blame a person for taking a chance on happiness when they have been stuck in a bad relationship?
Posted by LotsToPonder
Comitting adultry is very wrong. Get a divorce before doing this.
The one cheated on will never understand such a selfish act.
It hurts for many years if you stay together. Thats why the bible approves of divorce on this subject.
Posted by
Affairs hurt everyone involved. I do agree there is usually problems in a marriage that may contribute to adultery however we all have choice to make and if you would take time to weigh the consequences you could restrains from an affair. It is a selfish person who can go with another woman when his faithful wife is at home raising his and her children. I blame him. He doesn’t totally love his family if he does that. I am apeaufrom experience
Posted by Deb
I totally disagree that affairs only happen in broken relationships! Many people Need to have affairs. It's a sickness for some. It's a learned behavior for others. Affairs take all the energy & goodness out of relationships & create real possibility that they will fail. If you want to screw around, DON'T get married! Don't mess up someone else's life just because YOU are messed up!!!
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