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Why We Stay Stuck After an Affair: Words vs. Actions

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

Why do we stay stuck in an affair, when all you want is to be with the person fully, or to be free? Why do we get paralyzed as the hurt spouse after affair discovery, unsure of whether to stay or go?

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One of the simplest answers is: that we get confused because of the words of the other person. When the person speaks promising words, loving words, words that give us hope, that demonstrate intention, we attach to those words.

When the person's behaviors and actions don't match their words, that creates what we call "cognitive dissonance." Dissonance is the experienced mismatch between two seemingly related things.

For example, the affair partner who says "I love you; I'm leaving my wife, it's happening, and soon." And you wait. While he attends the his kid's next birthday party, has the next holiday with his family... things don't change.

It's the spouse who's affair was discovered. You demand to know who they're choosing -- is it their affair partner, or is it you? Their faithful and loving spouse with whom they share a life and a family?! They swear to end things with the affair partner. They say they did, they tell you they will work on it in counseling. They show up to the court, but they don't play ball with you. Their efforts seem lackluster, their attention diffuse.

You're stuck hanging on. There's a lack of commitment behaviorally from your spouse (even if they show up to therapy, and make some other gestures or efforts, they're still gone in that familiar way you recognize from the affair). You're giving it your all, and getting crumbs from your spouse.

This is the place most clients are when they reach out to me. They are stuck. Trapped in a cycle. This is where despair sets in. You can't change another person; you can't make them different, you can't make them follow through. So you attach to their words. Believing their words is the hope you hold on to. It's enough.... until it isn't. And then you admit to yourself it never was enough.

Know that you are not alone. Dissonance between the actions and words of another person is crazy-making. You feel crazy because you're being led by crazy. The person driving the bus is more directionless than you even know. But they're promising you they have a map, even a destination.

Is this familiar? If it is, counseling can help. Going through this cycle is destructive to your sense of self-worth, your self trust, and your reality.

Getting unstuck can be scary: it may mean we have to explore letting go of the crumbling walls we are clinging to. But you don't have to do it alone. Reach out today for the guidance, insight, and expertise to understand your dynamic for what it is and get the support required to help yourself move forward.

Lauren provides boots-on-the-ground lived experience combined with invaluable professional expertise working with infidelity. She is committed to helping individuals and couples deal with and heal from marital affairs in a highly effective, yet warm and judgment-free style.

Lauren's articles help share much-needed information, and reduce the stigma and shame around the common experience of infidelity. Contact Lauren at to learn more about working together.

Lauren, Affair Specialist

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