Feeling ranty today. I am only going to speak to my own situation so as to avoid making any type of "generalization", though my story might be common.
I am under the impression that my EXWW began her slow slide towards cheating being impacted by a few factors. She was in her forties and her looks were quickly fading, not that this should have been an issue, but she defined herself exclusively by her beauty and was very vain. Her aging created an existential crisis for her, that she did not have the emotional maturity to deal with. Add to this home renos, a recent terminal diagnosis for her father, the pressure of raising kids (not maternal at all), a recently divorced friend who is now living her "best life ever" and constantly talking about it, and the feelings of being discontent or missing out, start to percolate. Of course, this is also the time that she started reading a sexy romance series geared to female audiences, and the deal was done. When she turned her head and saw an exhausted husband who had just finished a 14 hour day building a home for the family and in-laws,she realized that I was just not enough compared to the ruggedly handsome and exciting fictional hero on the pages she was reading. So when a drifter cowboy offered to alleviate her boredom and save her from a life of tedious responsibility, she agreed. It was oh-so-exciting and romantic!
Well, turns out the juice was not worth the squeeze. Now, 6+ years later, her new life is shit. She suffers from chronic depression and is on the verge of losing her home. She is in a toxic situationship with a man she dislikes and once called creepy, only keeping him around to do things for her (like walk the dog and clean her house). Turns out her BFF was not in fact living her best life ever, but lying to herself and everyone around her. Funny how social media works.
And the drifter cowboy... it turns out, he was a consumate player who used her and was cheating on her with multiple women while she was cheating on me. This incensed her (cognitive dissonance anyone?).
So looking back, she has most certainly realized that her previous life, by every realistic metric, was pretty damn good, and had she invested into the M instead of a dive into fantasy land, it could have been great. So why give up a good life for an A? Because it was easier to scratch an itch than do the work. It was a faster route to feeling good than digging deep into her psyche and finding the source of her personal issues. It is the same reason people join gyms but never go. She saw it as my job to make her happy and since she was not happy, I must be failing at my responsibility. So she replaced me (of course without telling me) with someone who gave her that dopamine hit.
As the betrayed in this script, we tend to look at the complete devestation caused by infidelity and look for an explanation that is equal to the damage caused. Surely there must be some cosmic reason to have sacrificed all of these lives.
Here is the kicker. I recently had a conversation with my EXWW. I asked her about the cowboy. You know, THE intoxicatingly exciting guy who destroyed everyone's lives. Yeah, turns out she doesn't really think of him ever. In fact, she can't remember much anymore...