The Washington Post

Ready for an extramarital fling


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Can you give me your opinion on why I should or should not have an affair?

I’m in a very blah marriage and have stuck it out because we have kids. I’ve determined after a lot of counseling that our personalities are just not great together and have led to a roommate situation instead of a partnership. After years of no sex, no deep conversations, etc., I’ve just about given up.

I’ve been asking for a separation for about a year now but my spouse “isn’t ready” and I haven’t acted because of the kids. Recently I met someone who’s easy to talk with, has similar interests, and there is a romantic spark (nothing’s happened). It would never be a long-term thing, but I’m so starved for affection I’m just aching for some attention.

I have always felt that cheating is wrong, but I find myself in a position where I keep thinking, “Why not?” I could imagine it being difficult to explain to my kids, if it ever came to that, but otherwise would it really be so bad to mess up my lousy marriage more? Other than being an ethical hypocrite, why would it be wrong?

Pondering an affair

Other than the wrong-wrong, which you already know about, it would be wrong because, if your kids find out, that could be the end of your good relationship with them — the very reason you’re still with your spouse despite your profound unhappiness. What a waste it would be to undermine your main goal just because you’ve run out of patience.

Your patience was the right choice, but it might be time to say, “Time’s up.” Talk to an attorney first — you don’t want any surprises — then explain to your spouse that you have waited a year out of respect, and you’re not willing to wait any longer. Find out how s/he’d like to handle it.

Re: Why not to have an affair:

Don’t do it. Get out, cleanly, and then go about your business. Learning about my parents’ affairs — and your children will find out, through the divorce proceedings, even if they aren’t called to testify — was the hardest thing I ever had to go through.

This is not to say I’m not over it, but my opinion of them as people is forever changed. Also, my mom lost a LOT of leverage in her case because of her infidelity and she’s lived a nearly impoverished life since the divorce. I’ll be responsible for supporting her later in life, and I can’t help but be angry at her for it even though she went through years of isolation as my father’s wife. I wished they’d divorced much, much earlier than they did (they waited until I was a freshman in college).

Child of a marriage ended by affair

Gosh, this should be framed. I’m sorry, and I hope your experience serves as a cold shower for others.

You say you can’t help but be angry at your mom, even knowing the isolation she suffered. I urge you to consider that the isolation was the hardest thing she ever had to go through, and she broke under its weight. Her mistake sounds more sad than selfish.

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