Splashes of perfume – one on each wrist and one dash at the base of your neck. A surreptitious smile. Sly glances at your phone. A hotel room booked under a different name. Special jewelry reserved for a special rendezvous.
All of these can be signs of an affair. And if the Ashley Madison hack has taught us anything, it’s that affairs are more common than you think. In fact, over 45 percent of Americans have admitted to having an affair during a current or previous relationship.
People have affairs for a variety of reasons. Some may be unhappy in their marriage. Some may be sex addicts. Others are simply indulging in feelings that they can no longer repress. Whatever the reason may be, affairs can have a major impact on a relationship.
But while most are aware of the extreme risks it poses emotionally, very few consider the financial cost of an affair.
And as it turns out, they can be quite expensive for both parties – especially if it leads to a divorce.
The financial cost of an affair
Having an affair essentially means dating two people at once. You have your commitments at home and your commitments on the side. There’s dinners, gifts, taxi rides, and more. Depending on how far you go to cover your tracks, there could be additional cell phone bills – or even separate living arrangements
The typical expenses
Todd A. Spodek, a New York-based lawyer at Spodek Law Group P.C., has gotten a front-row view of how much it costs his unfaithful clients. “I have seen everything from the nominal expenses of dating in New York (dinners, drinks, taxis, etc.) to clients who live full-on double lives,” he says. “I am referring to a rental apartment, a car or Uber account, spending allowance, etc.”
John, a recovering sex addict, had affairs through the first few years of his marriage, spending a total of $4,000 to $5,000 each year on hotel rooms, dates, gifts, gas, and more. But, he says, the real financial cost was much higher
“There's also the unseen costs, like time away from work, ‘sick’ days, and lost promotions.”
The stress of leading a double life and the strain on your time can affect your professional life and income potential in a number of ways.
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On top of these expenses, Spodek notes that in some cases, affairs can lead to an increase in legal expenses. He has negotiated non-disclosure agreements, cases of false accusation, and settlements, as well as defending or prosecuting in the case of a divorce after an affair. And in the case of a divorce, there can be even further costs – legal fees, alimony, child support, and separation of assets.
“If one spouse bought expensive gifts for a paramour or went on vacation with a lover, the court may determine that marital assets have been diverted from the marital estate,” says Rebecca G. Neale, founder of the Personal Finance Lawyer. “In other words, when dividing up property, the money spent on having an affair might be deducted from that spouse's share of the property. So if you spend $5,000 to be alone with your lover in Bermuda, you may be paying for that later.”
Financial Costs for the Other Party
Affairs don’t just cost the person who is having them. They also affect the other party. One entrepreneur I spoke with spent hours discussing the affair with his wife rather than working on his business. The emotional toll and loss of productivity resulted in lost business opportunities.
“Infidelity is not free, and it is a bill that others have to pay,” he says.
AnneMarie had to deal with the loss of income after a divorce caused by an affair. Not only that, but she had to buy her ex-husband out of the house that they co-owned. While the financial cost of the affair did affect her, she notes that her ex-husband experienced a larger financial impact, paying half of the bills while also supporting his paramour.
Affairs are fairly common, but they can shake up your very existence. The lack of trust, the hurt, and the overall betrayal cause irreparable damage. Even for those who survive the ordeal, it’s a long road ahead to heal and find a new normal.
Some names and sources mentioned in the story have been changed to protect the interviewees' identities.