The Affair Is Just a Symptom of Deeper Issues

“The affair is just a symptom of deeper issues.”

I’ve heard that statement about a thousand times, and I’ve only heard it from the unfaithful spouse, never the betrayed spouse. I’ve heard it so many times that when I’m working with a couple now and I hear the unfaithful say it, I almost laugh out loud at it, as I know what’s coming before they finish the sentence.

The reality is it just may be that: a symptom of deeper issues. The problem is, it’s more times than not, far deeper issues within the unfaithful spouse, not the betrayed spouse or the marriage.

We have affairs because we are unhealthy and do not handle our marital or personal issues the right way, and give ourselves to another person (or one night stands, or porn, or strip clubs, etc.) in an effort to escape or cope, rather than doing what is right, healthy and appropriate. The addiction, or the affair, is a symptom of a deeper dysfunction inside us, the unfaithful, that must be addressed by an expert or it’s only going to get worse.

To say the affair is ‘merely’ a symptom of deeper issues infuriates the betrayed spouse as there is no humility or ownership of the affair, just an excusing away of it and a minimization of its effects upon the betrayed spouse. It’s like what the unfaithful is really saying is “Eh, the marriage has issues, so I did what anyone would do. It’s just an affair. If the marriage wasn’t so difficult, or if you didn’t have so many issues, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s your fault it happened.” Again, the main issue here is blaming the affair on the betrayed spouse’s issues, weaknesses or failures rather than owning up to the fact that we blew it and failed morally. While admitting it doesn’t make it OK, it will give you far more mileage in recovery and in the initial stage of recovery with your spouse. 

When we blame our spouse for our affairs, or addictive behaviors and the like, we are not safe. Any good therapist, who is an expert in treating these sorts of issues, will tell the betrayed spouse to tread carefully and stay far away from the unfaithful as they are not admitting any responsibility within the affair or betrayal.  It will then be very hard to gain any ground and see any substantial transformation to the marriage or darkness inside the unfaithful spouse.

Sure, without question the betrayed spouse may have issues. I’m sure both of you do, as no one is perfect in the marriage. However, to say that you going outside the marriage to engage in some form of erotic behavior (either physical and/or emotional) is merely some symptom of deeper issues which then excuses your behavior and infidelity, will only exacerbate the situation further and communicate blame to the betrayed.

There is a better way my friends.  

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It took me some time to realize that my husband's affair was not about me and it was not about her: it was all about him. He chose a dysfunctional way to deal with his problems. He chose not to talk to me about what was bothering him, I'm not a mind reader. He created a fantasy to save him from a life he had allowed to become boring. He had stopped being grateful for what he had - in fact, he took it all for granted. Yes, there are things I could have done to work at our marriage but what HE did is not my fault.


Well said, Diana. Eighteen months, two emotional affairs, four therapists, and one marriage weekend later, I am still praying that he will finally "get it" and we will be able to truly move forward. I now refuse to take any blame for the lame justifications that he gave for doing what he did. At least I've grown in that respect and no longer believe that it was me that caused it. Thank you for putting it into words so well.


It's been a year since disclosure of a 5 year long affair with a married co-worker, 23 years younger, who worked in his department (he was the supervisor). None of this is my fault, although I do know in his mind he blamed me for his unhappiness and boredom when this started. Not only were his issues deeper, so were hers. She was a manipulator who felt this could be a chance to one-up everyone there, even if it was a secret. She had an advantage she knew no one else had. All of this was just one huge game...him not being able to deal with his stuff- feeling old and bored with his life and not being able to TELL me what was wrong; and her playing this power game with him. I just happen to be living the consequences of the collateral damage. It was ALL about avoidance and denial. We are going forward and things are better, but from time to time, I am still dealing with this anger and utter sadness of it all.

5 year affair

My husband also had an affair that lasted 5 years. Seldom do I hear of an affair that lasts so long. This has been a major stumbling block for me, accepting how long it lasted. I could really use someone to talk to and share stories. If you need that also please write a reply.

it's been a year

diana823, thanks so much for posting. please don't be too hard on yourself. a year is not much time at all. my wife was dealing with immense sadness and anger from time to time as well, and my affair was 2.5 years. 5 years is not the longest i've heard of at all, or even in the top 10%...but it is in fact, a long time. if my wife was still dealing with pain and hurt, but was in fact progressing and doing remarkably well (rick's words) i'm sure for you, a year is not much time at all. it takes a process and it takes time within that process for him to get safe and continue to win back trust over time and to regain momentum. i would say you are still in for a ride of emotion and it will take more time till you're 'on the other side of it all.' for us, it's been 8 years and we can talk about it quite easily without any pain hurt or much emotion at all. just this weekend we were helping a couple and had to have some deep talks within our own marriage on how to help them, but it was effortless and went quite well. the avoidance and denial are gut wrenching i'm sure and i'm sorry for that. have you read ricks 6 part series that deals with those emotions and coping mechanisms? you can read them here:

please let me know if I can help further in any way. you're doing wonderfully if at only a year you are doing well and things are better. i think it's great personally.

Struggling with "stay far away"

Samuel, as always, your blogs speak from the heart and hit to the core of the issue. My husband is still in an emotional affair with his senior pastor ( he's the associate) and after couples counseling, EMS online and sessions with Rick, he still refuses to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with his "friendship". I really struggle with asking him to leave as I have a fear of making a big mistake and don't feel confident that God is asking me to do it. He calls me "the accuser" whenever I bring up an email or text I have discovered (before he deletes them). He said I'm being used by the enemy to tear her down and bring down his ministry by questioning his relationship with her. He is loved by so many (including me) and does so much good - it's just so hard for me to think he doesn't see what is going on. He struggles with shame and guilt in other areas and he said he just won't go there with me about this issue. For me, I trust God but is he asking me to "jump off the cliff" in asking him to move out in order for a possible awakening in my husband?


hi there. thanks so much for your comment. i'm a bit confused on it. is his senior pastor a woman? as later you say being used by the enemy to 'tear her down' so i'm just not sure about that.
whenever guilt and shame are in play, it warps and distorts for sure. until there is true humility and repentance, i don't think you'll see much ground gained at all. it sounds like he is really in deep and not able to see the truth of it all, and quite honestly, perhaps asking him to move out will produce some clarity. has Rick suggested that? if he did, i'd do it in a heartbeat as it's what needs to be done to get him to wake up. 32 years of experience does not make Rick make idle or off the cuff suggestions and if he's suggested it, i'd follow through with it. we typically change due to the threat of loss or the threat of consequences. seldom do we change by 'seeing the light' and just waking up. it happens, but not typically at all and it sounds like he'll need some consequences to get him to wake up and see what his choices are doing to you. does that make sense?

I don't believe He knows what love really is...

D day was May 9th of this year. I am so thankful I read this article because I have been blaming myself for so much that has happened. He had a two year affair & I had no idea! He didn't value our relationship & he most certainly has deeper issues. He's trying but I'm devastated. We are going to a therapist & doing the EMS online each week. I really believe that he could never really love me & do this to me. He let his affair partner believe he would marry her. She bought a dress & a ring for him. He bought a " promise ring" for her. She may have brought the idea up, but he never told her it would never happen. I just don't understand how this man that I've been married to for 22 years let this happen. He's morally bankrupted & I am heartbroken! I am overwhelmed with the amount of betrayal & feel hopeless.

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-D, Texas