Writer Sara Cornell never intended to have an extramarital affair, but before she knew it, she was deep in the throes of one.
“It wasn’t a specific, conscious, considered act,” she told The Huffington Post. “I didn’t wake up one day and think, ‘Hey, I think I’d like to have an affair.’ It just happened — which is probably very hard to comprehend if you haven’t actually been in the situation.”
Below, Cornell and seven other women explain what led them to cheat on their spouses.
“I married the wrong man and made the ‘easier’ choice in life by being with him. It didn’t become clear to me how wrong he was for me until we had a child. I turned to the right man for comfort for many years and hid it because I wanted my family to remain under the same roof. The biggest reason I strayed was the complete lack of attention I was shown. No birthday or Christmas cards, no gifts. He stopped saying ‘I love you.’ We went from having sex once a week before the baby to every couple months after the baby, to eventually once a year. It’s really easy to fall out of love when you feel like your spouse is a roommate you co-parent with.” -Krista R.
“I cheated on my husband because he cheated on me. That’s the sad and simple truth. After spending six years with a man who couldn’t stop cheating on me I was emotionally exhausted, depleted and lingering at rock bottom. I cheated out of an overwhelming desire to have someone give me back some of the love and attention I’d been giving my husband with nothing in return. I cheated because I was desperate for someone to love me with the same ferocious first-love intensity that I’d given my husband. I cheated with my high school boyfriend because I was angry, hurt and wanted my husband to feel the same pain he’d introduced to me six years ago and had never tried to work on, despite knowing that it was breaking me down. I cheated because I no longer loved myself and hoped that someone, anyone could hand me some self-worth, a little bit of love and help me begin again.” -Lindsay T.
“I truly believe that most people who have affairs, or even zipless sex, are doing so because they are seeking something that is fundamentally lacking in their relationship. As for me, cheating on my spouse wasn’t a specific, conscious, considered act. I didn’t wake up one day and think, ‘Hey, I think I’d like to have an affair.’ It just happened — which is probably very hard to comprehend if you haven’t actually been in the situation. A professional relationship became a friendship, became a flirtation, became an infatuation, became an affair, became a demise. It’s much like drinking a great bottle of wine with dinner. You don’t set out to get drunk but the taste, combined with the other flavors on the plate, the sounds and smells of the room, the soothing, warm feeling of relaxing into the entire sensory environment, allows you to take a sip, then another, then another, then refill your glass, and then at some point you look around and realize that you have a buzz, but your senses are so ripe that you keep sipping, even though you know you should stop because you’re going to get drunk and be hungover the next day.” –Sara Cornell
“I think it’s important for people to realize that an affair can be the last thing on your mind but that it’s easy for harmless friendships to progress into something more when you’re unhappy at home. I was with my husband nearly 11 years. I had been primarily supporting us financially and emotionally for seven years and as the sole breadwinner of four. I met a man in one of my continuing education classes and what followed was eight months of conflicted feelings, marriage counseling, ultimatums and anything else I could think of to save our marriage before I gave into an affair. Three months later, I was so exhausted and torn I left my husband even though he had forgiven me for cheating. About a month later, I started exclusively dating the other man I was involved with and asked my husband for a divorce. I still feel terrible about it. The affair wasn’t the reason I left but I wonder if I would have had the strength to realize how unhappy I was without it happening. I still love my husband but I knew he’d never change so I had to walk away.” -Melissa C.
“Cheating on my ex-husband isn’t something I’m proud of and I would never do it again. The question I get asked a lot is why? Why did I cheat? Back then I would have given you a whole list of reasons: there was a communication breakdown, he had vices, he didn’t take care of himself. But in retrospect, the one reason that stands out is how confused I was about how life and relationships work. I thought once my husband changed, everything would be OK. I couldn’t see that my feelings of frustration over our relationship weren’t about his behavior, it was about me: I created the the negative mood through my negative thoughts. Then I allowed myself to become infatuated with another man. Things would have been very different if I had adjusted my way of thinking.” –Marina Pearson
“I didn’t have an affair like most people do. There was no sneaking around or lying to my husband. Actually, it was all in plain sight right until the very end. I was best friends with a guy for 17 years. He was the person I confided in when I was sad, when something amazing happened, honestly, anytime anything of note happened. The surprising thing is my husband encouraged it. If I came to my spouse with some big problem, he would tell me to go have lunch with my friend and tell him about it. So I did. At first I thought I was doing what was best for my husband because he worked so much and didn’t need my problems. But after a while, I pulled further away from him. On our five year anniversary I told him he had one year to get his act together and become the man our children and I needed him to be. Ten months later, I was in marriage counseling with my soon-to-be ex-husband, begging for a divorce, sleeping with my best friend and watching my whole world fall apart.” -Corrina S.
“After telling my husband I was lonely and unhappy for years, he continued to travel for months at a time until I finally found someone else. Having that fling forced me to admit I wanted a divorce and to tell him in no uncertain terms that I was done.” -Andrea H.
“After eight years, it was a relationship that had lost all romantic love. I wanted to travel, he wanted to stay at home. I wanted children, he did not. I wanted someone who would sleep with me, he seemed disinterested. I wanted to take on opportunities and be challenged, he wanted to be comfortable. I went to work in the West Bank for three months, he stayed at home. While I knew I was not happy in my relationship, I thought that maybe that was just how it was going to be. One night while in the West Bank I went out to a bar with friends and across the room I saw the most beautiful man I have ever laid eyes on. We met, we danced, we talked, we swapped phone numbers. It was the beginning of the most intense and wild romantic relationship I have ever been in. When I returned home, I told my ex-husband I wanted to separate but I never told him about the other man, who I continued to see for a year before we ended things. Today I’m engaged to a man who wants to travel, be challenged, have children and sleep with me. While I will always feel terrible that I was unfaithful, it showed me what I wanted and needed and forced me to get out of a relationship that was not right for me.” -Rose M.
“My marriage lasted over 10 years. I couldn’t make him happy and he couldn’t make me happy. Sex had become like showing up for an army physical. I just did it and told him it was great. Did I make a mistake in not telling him my desires? Of course, but you have to trust your partner to do that. That was one of the core issues with us. He seemed to have a distrust of women in general that seemed almost pathological. If I took too long running errands I got quizzed on my whereabouts. It felt like I was being accused of an affair. I would joke with my girlfriends that I should be allowed a free pass to cheat since I had been accused so many times. Eventually I just wanted more: more positive communication, more kindness, more desire, just more. So I cheated. I actively looked for a man to fit the bill of what I wanted. I found one and the sex was spectacular. It had been years since I had that kind of desire for someone. It was a foreign feeling. I realized I wasn’t dead inside like I was afraid I had become. That’s when I knew I needed to get a divorce. I finally gathered the courage to get one. There are never good reasons for why people cheat but I learned a while back not to throw stones at people for their decisions because ultimately, you’re only responsible for your life, not theirs.” -Susan M.