Anatomy of an Affair: Fifteen Steps to Infidelity


This list of Fifteen Steps to Infidelity was compiled through interviews, counseling and correspondence with members of churches that had found themselves in the grips of an affair. They are not theories or things that could happen but were identified as the tiny steps, taken one at a time, which resulted in having an affair.

While the list is based on the responses of church attendees, I think the same steps can occur in any group of people whether at work, PTA meetings, children’s sporting events or just the grocery store on Saturday afternoon. Seldom does a person wake up one morning and say to him or herself, “Today, I am going to begin having an affair.” Even those affairs that might be called “Exit Affairs” seldom start as a determined will to cheat on the spouse. Nearly all affairs happen incrementally and not suddenly as the result of a clear choice to cheat.

The Fifteen Steps to Infidelity

Infidelity Step 1: Sharing Common Interests

“We just had so much in common, it was uncanny.”

“She and I both enjoyed music, and we were attracted to each other.”

“He was so spiritually-minded… I’d been looking for someone to share my spiritual struggles with.”

“We both loved horses, and started riding together.”

“We both shared a burden for the church and especially children’s work.”

“She was the first woman I’d ever met who liked the outdoors, even hunting and fishing — I was fascinated!”

Infidelity Step 2: Mentally Comparing with My Mate

“My husband wasn’t interested much in spiritual things, but this man knew so much about the Bible.”

“She was slim, attractive, and dressed sharp — quite a difference from my wife who didn’t take care of herself much at that time.”

“She was so understanding and would listen to me and my hurts — my wife was always so busy and rushed that we didn’t have the time to talk.

“My husband just would never communicate — he’d come home from work and just sit there watching TV. I finally gave up on him. Then this man came along who was worlds apart from my husband — he was gentle, loved to talk, and would just share little things about his life with me.”

Infidelity Step 3: Meeting Emotional Needs

“He understood how I was feeling and offered me the empathy I was hungering for.”

“She was there when I needed her.”

“My ego was so starved for affirmation that I would have taken it from anyone — I guess that’s what started the whole thing.”

“No one had ever really believed in me until he came along. He encouraged me, inspired me, and believed so deeply in what I could become.”

“My wife was busy with the kids and not at all involved with my work. This girl admired me and treated me like I was really somebody. It felt so good.”

Infidelity Step 4: Looking Forward to Being Together

“I used to dread going to work, but after we started our friendship, I would wake up thinking of how I would see him later that day… it seemed to make getting up easier.”

“I would think of being with her the whole time I was driving to work.”

“I found myself thinking of him as I got dressed each morning, wondering how he would like a certain outfit or perfume.”

“I looked forward to choir practice every week because I knew he would be there.”

“Every time I drove by her house I would think of her and how we’d see each other that Sunday.”

Infidelity Step 5: Dishonesty with My Mate

“When my wife would ask if she was with the group I’d pretend I couldn’t remember… right there I started building a wall between us.”

“I would act like I was going to practice with our ensemble, but actually I was practicing a duet with him.”

“Once my wife asked about her, but I denied everything, after all, we hadn’t done anything wrong yet. Now I see that this was one of those exit points where I could have come clean and got off the road I was speeding down.”

“Whenever we got together as couples I would act like I didn’t care about him, and afterward I would even criticize him to my husband. I guess I was trying to hide my real feelings from my husband.”

Infidelity Step 6: Flirting and Teasing

“I could tell from the way she looked at me. She would gaze directly into my eyes; then, furtively glance down my body then back into my eyes again — I knew then that she was interested in more than my friendship. But, I was so flattered by her interest that I couldn’t escape.”

“Then we started teasing each other, often with double-meaning kind of things. Sometimes we’d tease each other even when we were together as two couples. It seemed innocent enough at first, but more and more we knew it really did mean something to us.”

“We would laugh and talk about how it seemed like we were “made for each other” so much. Then we’d tease each other about what kind of husband or wife the other one would have been if we’d married each other.”

“He had those killer eyes. When he’d look at me in that “special way” I would just melt. It was hopeless fighting my urges — he had me.”

Infidelity Step 7: Talking about Personal Matters

“We would talk about things — not big things, just little things which he cared about, or I was worried about.”

“We’d meet together for coffee before church and just talk together.”

“I was having problems with my son and she seemed to understand the whole situation so much better than anyone else I talked with. I’d tell her about the most recent blow-up and she would understand so well. We just became really deep friends — almost soul-mates. That’s what’s so weird about all this — we never intended for it to go this far.”

“I had lost my Dad just before we got to know each other and he had lost his mother a few years earlier. He seemed to understand exactly what I was going through and we would talk for hours about how each of us felt.”

“I was so lonely since my husband died and hungry for someone to share life with. Then he began to call just because he cared. I loved hearing his caring voice at the other end of the line, even though I knew he was married.”

“We spent so much time together at work that I swear she knew more about me than my wife ever did — or even cared to know.”

Infidelity Step 8: Minor Yet Arousing Touches, Squeezes or Hugs

“He never touched me for months. Then one night after working late, we were walking toward the door when he said ‘You’re so special, thanks for all you do…” then he turned and hugged me tenderly, just for a second. I loved how I felt for that moment so much that I began to replay it over and over again in my mind like a videotape. Now I know that I should have stopped it all right then. I never intended to ruin my family like this.”

“She was always hanging around our house and was my wife’s best friend. Often she would stay late to watch TV, even after my wife went to bed. She would sit beside me on the couch and I was drawn to her like the song says… like a moth to the flame.”

“He would often pat me on the shoulder — you know, in appreciation for a good job I’d done. But I knew it meant more than that.”

“The first time she touched me was when we were doing registration together. We were sitting beside each other. I’d say something cute or funny and she would giggle: then, under the table she’d squeeze the top of my leg with her hand. That was really exciting to me.”

“Every time she shook hands with me at the door she seemed to linger, sort of holding my hand more than shaking it. No one else would notice, but I knew there was more to her touch than appeared to the eyes. She knew too.”

Infidelity Step 9: Special Notes or Gifts

“He would write these little encouraging notes and leave them in my desk, pocketbook, or taped to my computer. They didn’t say anything, which could be traced. If anyone found them they wouldn’t suspect anything. But, we both knew what was going on; we just didn’t want to stop yet.”

“I would sometimes call him and leave a short message on his answering machine. He would leave little notes in my Bible.”

“He would buy me a little gift — not that expensive, but it always showed he had taken extra thought to get exactly what I liked. Of course everyone else thought he was just being a good boss.”

“She started leaving unsigned notes to me in my desk sharing her feelings for me. It scared me at first, because I thought someone would find one. But after a while I found myself looking forward to the next one, even though I knew the risk.”

Infidelity Step 10: Inventing Excuses to Call or Meet

“I started figuring out ways I could drop off something at her house when her husband was gone. He and I knew each other and I would always return borrowed tools in the afternoon when I knew she’d be there alone.”

“I would wait until the end of the workday then I’d call him just before closing time about something I’d made up as a ‘business question’ and we’d talk.”

“The more entangled we got, the more I planned times where he and I could practice together. We started meeting more often.”

“She started arranging her schedule so that her husband dropped her off at committee meetings. I would hang around and offer to take her home, acting with as much nonchalance as I could muster up.”

Infidelity Step 11: Arranging Secret Meetings

“By now we both were so far gone that we started meeting secretly at the mall parking lot. I know now how foolish this was, but I was driven by something other than good sense at that time.”

“We started arranging to work evenings on the same nights; then, we would leave early and meet each other in the dark parking lot.”

“I started making sure he knew my travel schedule so we could attend the same conferences. We still weren’t involved physically at that time, but there was such excitement and romance to it all… even the secrecy seemed to make it more exciting.”

“She would sometimes call me just before lunch and we’d sneak through a drive-up together, and then spend the rest of my lunch hour talking quietly to each other.”

Infidelity Step 12: Deceit and Cover-ups

“Once we were meeting secretly I had to invent all kinds of stories about where I’d been to satisfy my wife. By now I had built a towering wall of dishonesty between us.”

“Pretty soon my whole life was full of lies. I’d lie about where I was going, where I’d been, and who I’d been with. The more suspicious my husband got, the better liar I became. But he knew something was going on. It’s hard to lie without people suspecting it.”

“I joined several groups so that I would have an excuse to be away in the evenings.”

“She would ask when I’d gotten off work. I’d simply lie about it, and she never knew what hit her. How can I ever regain her trust now?”

“We agreed that if anyone saw us driving around we would both tell the same story: that my car wouldn’t start, he stopped to help, and we were going together to get a new fuse to replace the broken one he’d discovered.”

“By now my whole life was a lie, so I began telling them regularly to cover up our little meetings.”

Infidelity Step 13: Kissing and Embracing

“The whole thing seemed so exciting by now. I was such a fool. We were meeting secretly and both of us were fearful of being caught. But that only seemed to increase our common ground. When we’d meet, we would embrace as if we’d not been together for years — like in the movies when someone comes home from the war.”

“Once we started meeting secretly the end came fast. We kissed and hugged like two teenagers going parking for their first time.”

“It just felt so good to be hugged and loved by somebody who really cared about me.”

Infidelity Step 14: Petting and High Indiscretion

“At this point my glands took over. I forgot reason altogether and was willing to risk everything for more.”

“It was like I was a teenager again — going too far, then repenting and promising to do better; then just as quick I was hungrily seeking more sin.”

“When my husband and I were dating we struggled with ‘how far to go.’ Well, here I was again struggling over the same issue. Friendship with this guy didn’t seem so wrong. But now we’re going further than I ever intended. But, I felt curiously justified going exactly as far as I had with my husband when had been dating. In a way, I think some of my resentment against my husband’s constant pressure on me started coming out. I’m not saying that it wasn’t wrong, just that I kind of felt justified.”

“At about this time I began fooling myself into thinking I was heroic for not going ‘all the way.’ That’s what I wanted to do. But by doing ‘everything but,’ I fooled myself into thinking I was successfully resisting temptation. What I didn’t realize was that, not only was what I was doing wrong, but that eventually I would take the next step. It’s just not possible to freeze a relationship — you have to go ahead with it, or break it off totally.”

Infidelity Step 15: Sexual Intercourse

“Soon I quit resisting and was swept into outright adultery.”

“One thing led to another and finally we ended up in bed with each other.”

“Though we never intended it to go that far, we eventually went all the way and had sex.”

“One night we couldn’t seem to stop ourselves (at least we didn’t want to) so I completed my journey of unfaithfulness to my husband — I had sex with this man.”

Infidelity Happens Incrementally

The decision to have an affair takes place in small steps or stages and begins when a person allows themselves to build an intimacy with a person of the opposite sex (or in some cases the same sex) that is justified by some trick of words or logic in order to make it something that is good. It happens slowly in some cases or quite quickly in others, but it still happens one step at a time. It happens when our boundaries are moved or adjusted instead of being enforced or reinforced, and once the road has been chosen, only extraordinary will power can prevent it from leading us to the destination it was headed from the very beginning.

An affair happens when we change wrong into not really wrong and then into not as wrong followed by not wrong for me and eventually by must be right and finally into right. It happens when we redefine cheating in terms of a single act rather than a series of events and allow ourselves to consider anything short of that arbitrary line we have established as having gone too far. An affair isn’t just an act, it is an attitude. It isn’t merely a line that gets crossed but really a path that we find ourselves on when we don’t take steps to avoid it.

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2 Responses to Anatomy of an Affair: Fifteen Steps to Infidelity

  1. Pingback: My Wife and her job/boss. - Page 11

  2. Been there! says:

    I went through this twice with my husband with close family friends. It all started out somewhat innocent and turned into infacuation and then affairs. The first time it did not get to the intercourse is what I was told but it was close. The second time it resulted in our marriage ending. I was told once again there was no sex involved..I had to pretend to believe that but once the motel receipt showed up in the mail several months after our separation, I had my proof they were sleeping together months before my separation. I think having a family friend do this to you buries a seed of insecurity where you are afraid to get close with other couples and have that bonding friendship in fear it will happen again.

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