Some would dare posit that cheating may be good for a relationship. However, the avalanche of evidence from everyday life declares plainly that cheating is much more than an innocent activity that some people engage in. A closer examination of the effects of cheating on marriages, children and family relationships will help us to appreciate the harmful nature of this practice.
Effects on the victim
Trust is the foundational element on which all relationships stand. Cheating rocks that foundation, resulting in cracks that resonate throughout the relationship. A spouse, who has cheated even once, may never be trusted again by the other partner. The emotional fallout from finding out that your spouse has cheated can be overwhelming. It produces anger at the spouse for cheating, anger at the other person involved, anger at oneself for not finding out earlier or for being so trusting. It produces the feeling that one is losing the person in whom one has invested much time, effort, love and intimacy. It raises fears of losing the mother or father of one’s children. It leaves the victim with shattered dreams and wondering what the seemingly dim future holds. Being totally occupied with the unexpected news drastically disrupts the victim’s daily routine. The victim may find it difficult to eat, sleep or work. Life for her may oscillate between crying and irrational outbursts of accusations. Feelings of depression and other health issues may surface during this time of difficulty.
Effects on the Cheater
The cheater has to deal with the fact that his partner no longer trusts him. He must live with feelings of guilt until the situation is finally resolved or perhaps for the rest of his life. When he comes home, he must feel uneasy with a woman who says very little for he cannot be sure what she is thinking or planning for him. On the other hand, he may have to endure constant nagging and quarrelling. He may suddenly have to look after himself without the help of his wife. He may be thrown out of the matrimonial bed or worse, out of the family house. Some of his adult children may no longer associate with him. He may fear that family friends and associates on hearing of the cheating will distance themselves from him. The resulting stress puts him at risk to perform poorly on the job and makes him susceptible to ill health. Then he has to consider the possibility of him losing his family, his possessions and having to start all over again.
Effects on family and friends
The harmful effects of a dysfunctional family on children are well documented. A broken relationship is a broken home. The parties may be living in the same house, but the children know better than anyone else that all is not well between mom and dad. When a home is disrupted by a cheating partner, the children are affected adversely. Children who have been doing well in their studies suddenly begin to bring home failing grades. Some children experience problems sleeping. This lack of sleep reduces their concentration level in the classroom, hence the poor grades. Well behaved children start to exhibit undesirable behaviors like lying, bullying, rebellion, promiscuity and more. Some young children are used by one or both parents as a go between to convey messages from one parent to the other. This thrusts adult responsibility on a child too early and robs that child of the opportunity and the right to enjoy his childhood. The children are often required to be loyal to one parent and not to the other. Sometimes the children are fed a lot of negative information about their mother or father. Children in such situations feel confused, bereaved of a parent and their self-esteem takes a heavy battering.
Family members who are close to the couple are the ones who may allow the situation to cause them to react negatively toward the cheater. Family members on each side may align themselves with one or the other spouse, thus fuelling disagreements between the two families. Some friends may feel bewildered as to why their friend would cheat on his wife. Some of her friends may form a supportive network to condemn, vilify and alienate him from his wife. Family and friends may be the ones to influence the victim into initiating a separation or a divorce.
Cheating in marriage or in any relationship is never right. The consequences of cheating take an enormous toll on the perpetrator as well as the innocent spouse and children. Choose to be faithful to your spouse and avoid these distasteful consequences.