We’re all familiar with this term, right? It’s what they call it when your spouse leaves you for someone else. I guess it differs from the “just want to fuck ‘em” affair somehow.
I’ve never liked the term but I couldn’t put my finger on why until recently.
…minimize the cheating and wrong doing, instead focus on the shortcomings of the relationship.
As in: Yeah, I cheated. But I haven’t been happy for a long time/we haven’t been happy for a long time/we’re not right together/our relationship would have ended anyway/we’ll be much happier apart/it’s for the best, etc. etc.
I think this is another form of manipulation. You’re not allowed to react, get angry or upset about them cheating on you, because instead they’ve switched the focus to ending the relationship as if the affair never happened- they’ve sidestepped and minimized the affair and gaslighted you into thinking your relationship was ending anyway.
Yes! That is exactly it. I was always left wondering if perhaps I deserved it. Maybe we weren’t right together. Maybe he would be happier with her. It wasn’t just an affair. It was an exit affair, which means I was to blame because I was lacking, our relationship was lacking. And everyone knows that if you have a shitty relationship the way to end it is to fuck your cousin. Or the person of your choice. Doesn’t have to be a relative.
He wasn’t just a run of the mill cheater, out having sex with new people because he liked a bit of strange on the side. No! He was still an upstanding man with great integrity. He was practically forced to cheat on me because our relationship was so awful.
An exit affair is all about the relationship; the cheater’s character can never be called into question. Because if the relationship had been better he or she would have never cheated. No, sir!
Someone else on Chump Lady chimed in with this:
You’re so right that the “exit affair” narrative is another form of manipulation, defined by a massive amount of side stepping and down playing.
That is precisely what it is. It downplays the shitty character of the cheater. It sidesteps the total destruction of lives caused by the cheating. And it manipulates people into believing that somehow this is an okay thing because who can argue against happiness and true love?
I’ve written about this before. People like to say they didn’t leave for the affair partner; their marriage was already dead, over. In other words, the affair was simply the catalyst that made them realize the marriage was over. I’ve long argued that, no, if you were still with your spouse up until the moment you began fucking your affair partner, you left for that person. You didn’t leave until you had a replacement lined up. Ergo, you left for that person.
You were too much of a chickenshit to leave honestly and ethically. You were content to sleep with your spouse and take advantage of whatever they brought to the marriage (you know, the long dead one), whether that was a paycheck, child care, laundry services, cooking, yard work, etc. You didn’t get out of this horrible, horrible situation until someone else came along and volunteered to do all of those things for you.
Or as another commenter on Chump Lady puts it:
Ah yes, the exit affair. I hate this term because whenever I read about what it means, it seems like the ultimate blameshift. The relationship was so bad that the fuckwit had to leave under the protection of an affair partner.
It focuses all of the blame on the person who’s being fucked over. It’s all about the crappy relationship. Nothing about the cheater’s crappy character. It’s not their fault, y’all! The relationship was bad! Their soul was dying from the weight of this cancerous relationship. Then this new person came along and suddenly they feel alive again! They can hear the birds sing. They can see the sun shining and marvel at how blue the sky really is. You can’t argue against that, right? So let’s dress it up in a pretty package and spin this sob story into something that has the cheater seen as the victim and the betrayed as the perpetrator.
I didn’t have an affair. This was an exit affair. Exit affairs are all about escaping bad relationships and finding well-deserved happiness. They’re not about sex and entitlement and people who lack a moral compass.
My advice? Don’t take the bait. It doesn’t matter how the affair is labeled. Even if the cheater leaves for the other person it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean their “love” is special. It doesn’t mean they’ve found someone with whom they are more compatible. It doesn’t mean it was your fault. It doesn’t mean that your relationship was lacking. It means they have an entitlement issue and shitty character. They are the same person regardless of who they’re with. Personality transplants don’t exist.