Perhaps you've heard this idea before: "Why shouldn't I get involved with a married man/woman? I'm not cheating on anyone."
Strictly speaking, this is true - you're not committing adultery, unless you're married as well. If you aren't married, then isn't adultery really only an issue for the partner that is? You, the accomplice, so to speak, aren't breaking any vows or promises or hearts...so what's the big deal?
I'll tell you. The big deal is that as much as adultery destroys marriages and causes heartache to the spouse who was betrayed, the main reason you should never become romantically or sexually involved with a married person is because of the heartache and trouble it will cause you. There are some very real considerations you should keep in mind if you've ever been tempted to become involved with someone else's spouse, not because of how it will affect their marriage, but because of what it will mean to you.
Here are some examples:
It means denying yourself the ultimate pleasure
Aside from the obvious truth that having sex with someone else's spouse isn't an honorable thing to do, the main reason you should never do it is the same reason why you oughtn't pick up strangers in bars, have promiscuous and multiple partners, or become a porn star; if you do, you'll be robbing yourself of one of life's greatest pleasures: love making.
You can only make love, that is to say have really incredibly satisfying sex, when you are in mutual love with your partner, when your emotional connection to each other is tied to your values and when primacy and privacy are in tact. Sex under any other circumstances is not ultimately satisfying, as anyone who has led a sexually nomadic life will tell you. Even at it's best, in those heady first few days of the affair, it still isn't nearly as good as it could be if the two of you were honestly in love with each other and together because you saw each other as a potential lifetime companion.
But what about those who do see their partner as a potential life companion? What about those people who have affairs not for cheap sex but for more emotional considerations? Well...
Adulterous affairs are almost never "true love" or even love at all.
Some people who begin affairs with a married person tend to harbor the secret hope that this is The One, some special, fragile and clandestine relationship that was Meant to Be, but that tragically this great love was interrupted or forestalled by the inconvenience of the other spouse. "If only we could be together"...they sigh, in love with the melodrama of it all..."If only he/she would agree to the divorce, then we could be together forever...."
This is simply not realistic. Most people who begin affairs are either bored, unhappy (but not unhappy enough to get a divorce) or intrigued by how much they can get away with, they are not looking to leave their comfortable lives, their comfortable spouses, their kids, their houses, their standing in the community...they just want a roll in the hay. They view this new sexual tryst as a kind of game, something that excites them for the first time in a long time, something that perks up their boring routine and makes them feel young again...they are not so overcome with love for you that they have to risk it all to win your heart. To think that the married co worker of yours who tells you how exciting you are is willing to trade in everything he's worked for all these years to start all over again with you - and with alimony and child support and a potential court battle as well - is extremely unrealistic. If you choose to believe this and become involved with him anyway, don't be surprised when he ends it soon after it begins. Because...
Affairs are notoriously short.
If you ever needed proof that affairs are not about love, just observe the average length of the average affair. A couple of months, usually, maybe a year at the outside. And that's only because it's often quite hard to disentangle yourself quickly once you've begun, and it takes a few months to really end things. If you compare that to real love - which can and does last a lifetime if it's based on shared values, there can be no doubt that the only thing binding an adulterous couple together is the momentary thrill of sex (as unthrilling as momentary sex can be).
Affairs are usually just an outburst of pent up frustration or emotion, they are temporary, short-lived sexual releases that some people resort to without bothering to talk out their problems with their spouse. They are about excitement or relief, about easing boredom or reclaiming self-esteem - and once they've served their purpose, there's no longer any use for them, or for the partner in them. Adulterers rarely leave their spouses over an affair, unless the betrayed spouse forces them to. Most adulterers, if they had their way, wouldn't alter their lives or marriages in any way, except to add discrete affairs from time to time that no one ever knew about.
If you become sexually involved with a married person, don't be surprised if the "passion" fizzles quite quickly and your company is not as desirable as it once was. The husband or wife that "didn't understand" your lover soon becomes the only person they want to go home to at night - not you.
You will never be primary or private
The lack of primacy and privacy in an adulterous affair accounts for why it will never be as sexually or romantically satisfying as a committed monogamous marriage, but aside from that, never being private or primary with your lover has real applications in the real world. You can never be primary in that his or her spouse will always come before you, in everything - don't be surprised if secret dates are suddenly canceled because "something came up at home", don't expect to ever be able to spend the holidays or important days with your lover. Don't expect to have the simple joy of waking up in love with the person next to you and knowing you can luxuriate in bed with each other all day if you want. Don't ever expect to feel special or valuable; you know that there is someone else that is deemed more special or more valuable to your lover than you are - especially when he or she goes to elaborate lengths not to "hurt" their spouse while hurting you every day.
And although affairs are by their nature secret and clandestine, they are never really "private" - for real privacy in a relationship there must be the feeling that it is just the two of you facing the world together, that you are a team, mutually exclusive and committed to each other. It doesn't matter if you always meet in out-of-the way places and carry on in secret, as long as there's a spouse and possibly children involved in this relationship of yours, it will never be truly private.
And, of course:
This person will, in all likelihood, do the same thing to you with someone else.
You have to know that even if you develop a "successful" relationship with a married person (whatever "success" means to someone having an affair), the very fact that they cheated on their husband or wife with you means they have the kind of character that would let them cheat on you with someone else.
Some people, who subscribe to the "But he really loves me!" theory believe that they are somehow different, that their lover only cheated because their spouse was a cad or a cow, but that things are different now because now they're really in love. These people like to think that their lover will mend their straying ways now that they've chanced upon such a peach, and will turn into faithful, devoted, blissfully happy lover from that point on. Some people honestly don't make the mental connection necessary to see that if he or she did it once, they'll be able to do it again.
Relationships that grow out of affairs can leave you open to future blame.
Sometimes, it happens. A man in his forties or fifties, say, meets a vibrant young woman in her twenties who is attracted to him and entices him with a chance to recapture his youth and feel virile again. They begin an affair, which the man thinks he can pull off without his wife of twenty-five years ever knowing about. But soon after the affair begins, the young woman starts pressuring the man for a commitment - she insists, in short, that he leave his wife and marry her. The man is either smitten with her or feels guilty about having created this mess; or else the young woman forces the situation by confronting the man's wife. Either way, the man goes through a lengthy and costly divorce, upsets his family and the routine of his life, and begins a new, more "respectable" relationship with his lover.
But soon after, since the initial euphoria of an affair has worn off (see Affairs are Notoriously Short), the man discovers that his new wife is nothing like his old wife, the wife with whom he spent twenty five years, with whom he had children, with whom he weathered ups and downs, crises and good times, whom he came to regard not so much as a sexual object, perhaps, but as his most trusted friend and confidante. While the old wife may have been content to care for him and their home, or to raise children as her main career as many women of the previous generation did, the new wife is a career woman who wants prestige, advancement and financial success - she won't stoop to mere domesticity. As the man begins to miss the comfort of his first wife and the easy routine of the life he left behind, he sees less and less to excite him in the person of his new wife. He soon learns that sex isn't everything in life, and that what you do with the other ninety-five per cent of your time has a much greater bearing on your general happiness. Soon he begins to blame the new wife for having caused this mess, he accuses her of making him leave his wife and his old life behind, he sees her as the cause of all his misfortune and thinks to himself "If I had never met you, I would still be with so-and-so, and I'd be much happier." Whether this is true or not, or whether he is merely reflecting on his old life through the haze of nostalgia, the fact is he will come to resent his new wife for being what he regards as the cause of his divorce, the cause of his suffering, and every other bad thing.
If you give someone a way to blame you for their troubles, don't be surprised if they seize that opportunity and run with it. And there is no better scapegoat than "the other woman", who is often regarded as the "homewrecker" even though the philandering husband is the one who wrecked his own home.
Finally, it's worth noting that it is possible to be married to someone you thought was your soul-mate only to meet someone you know is. People do fall out of love with their spouses and in love with someone else, but in my opinion, the only honorable thing to do in this case is to be completely honest. Don't cheat behind their back, don't try to stay married and have a lover on the side - if you really believe this new person is the one for you, then do the right thing and end your marriage before you become sexually involved with someone else. Do it because you know that your marriage is not making you happy, not because you've become infatuated with someone new. Do it because you'd do it even if there weren't anybody else.
And if you find yourself in love with a married person who wants to leave their spouse for you, don't let them. Don't become involved unless and until they end their marriage for their own sake, so that if the two of you do unite, there will never be any residual resentment or feelings of blame. Insist on starting any new relationship with a clean slate and a clear conscience - for your own sake.