How Do I Explain Why I Had An Affair When I Was Happy?

By: Katie Lersch: I hear from a lot of people grappling to understand why their spouse cheated on them or had an affair. Contrary to popular belief, your marriage doesn’t have to be struggling in order for an affair to happen. In fact, a good deal of people that I hear from were sure that they were happily married. So, they are not just dealing with the hurt and the betrayal. They are also really struggling with the shock.

And, although the cheating spouse might really want to describe in detail why they cheated when things were going so well, they can have a hard time successfully putting this into words. As a result, the faithful spouse can doubt their sincerity and can feel even worse.

For example, I might hear from a wife who says “I know that this is going to sound crazy. But I was totally in love with my husband, my newborn son, and my life when I had an affair. I know that this makes me sound as if I am insane and not mentally well. I cringe even having to write this, much less having to say it. But it is all true. Honestly, there was nothing wrong with my marriage. I never intended to leave my husband. I was blissfully happy. I got a promotion at my job that I had been working toward for five years. It required regular travel, but my husband was supportive. Frankly, I was on cloud nine. I met the other man while traveling. And although the relationship wasn’t serious, we saw each other when I was in the other town. We never communicated when I was home. We’d simply hook up when I traveled. It really didn’t mean much to me, so I’m not sure why I did it, unless I was just overconfident and it relieved my loneliness when I was on the road. Honestly, my husband would have never found out if I hadn’t told him. We were talking about maybe trying for another child and my husband said that he wanted to move forward because things were going so well for us. That’s when I broke down and it all spilled out. My husband keeps asking me why I did this. He says that he feels like he did something wrong that made me unhappy. It’s not true. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was a wonderful husband. I had it all. A wonderful job. A wonderful family. And I risked the whole thing just to have a good time. I wasn’t thinking and that was so stupid. I want to explain this to my husband but I don’t know how. Because it doesn’t sound believable even to my ears and I’m the one who did it. What can I say to my husband to make him understand this? I truly was happy and maybe this happiness made me careless.”

I hear some variation on this comment quite often. Sometimes it is the husband saying this and sometimes it is the wife. But, it’s almost always someone who is saying that they were happy and that they had a good marriage. However, their faithful spouse doesn’t believe them. And the reasoning is that happy people do not cheat on their spouses. The marriage must be awful or the love must be lost for people to cheat. Or, if that’s not true, then there must be some sort of tragedy that happens in the cheater’s life that makes him cheat.

In truth, things can be different than this. Happy couples deal with infidelity and the stressors that contribute to cheating don’t need to be huge ones. I know that this wife said that everything was wonderful with her. But a couple of things jump out here. She had recently gone through life changes. And, even though they were happy and fortunate life changes, these things can still cause stress. A job change, more travel, a new baby, changing roles because of her job – all of these things could have unknowingly caused the stress which contributed to the wife becoming lonely and vulnerable when she may not otherwise have done so.

I am not making excuses here. I’m just trying to point out that even though the wife was so happy that she thought there were no stressors present, she may have been legitimately happy with the stress of a rapidly changing life. This isn’t justification for cheating, of course. But it may help she and her husband understand why she may have been vulnerable.

Outside of that, I’d suggest that this wife tell her husband everything detailed above. She could even show him this article if it might help. Sometimes, even when you think that what you are saying won’t make sense and won’t hit the mark, it never hurts to attempt to just speak sincerely from your heart. As a spouse who has been cheated on, I can tell you that even when you are beyond furious at your cheating spouse, you can still hear it when there is the sound of truth in what they are saying. You may not find that what you want to say makes sense. And perhaps it doesn’t. But if you are sincere and you try, then this may at least mean something to your spouse.

Finally, know that just helping your spouse understand why this may have happened isn’t enough. He may come to understand that you had stressors. But that really doesn’t make it right. He needs to have the assurance that you have learned to deal with new stressors in a different way so that he doesn’t have to worry that you will cheat every time your job changes. Sometimes, you can do this through hard work and an enormous amount of communication and self observation. This isn’t an easy process. Some couples do better with professional help. And others are able to make it without it, especially if they had a sound marriage to start with.

I’d like to make one final point.  I know that this feels awful.  It’s hard to know that you have hurt the one you love when they did nothing wrong.  It makes you feel helpless.  But the one way that you can take control is to commit to becoming the best spouse that you can with the best marriage possible.  If you are able to do this, then happiness and security can return.  And that is going to help your spouse heal better than any words that you could possibly say.  If it helps, you can read more about my own situation on my blog at

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