Affair Blackmail: When Should I Be Concerned?

You’re in a basically happy marriage. You have a brief affair but, for you, it doesn’t mean anything. You have no intention of leaving your spouse, and you prepare to end the affair quickly and cleanly.

Unfortunately, your life is now entangled with another person’s, and sometimes the process of breaking things off is not as easy and as clean as you expected. An affair that meant nothing to you may have meant quite a lot to the other person involved. This person also has knowledge about you that you may be desperate to keep from other people, and your erstwhile lover may decide to use that knowledge against you for some kind of personal gain.

Sexual, Work-Related And Emotional Blackmail

The classic blackmail model involves one person with dangerous information bleeding large sums of money out of the person who wants to keep that information secret. The kind of “blackmail” that can result from the end of an affair may not be quite so straightforward.

Some affair partners may use the threat of exposure in an effort to keep the affair going after the other partner is ready to end things. They may have become emotionally involved or they may just enjoy the sex, but either way they are prepared to reveal the affair if their lovers do not agree to keep seeing them.

Many affairs take place in the workplace, and in this environment a former lover may attempt to use his or her knowledge for career advancement or other advantages. While this does not directly drain an individual’s own financial resources, it can still be extremely stressful as well as potentially damaging to the blackmailed party’s own career prospects.

Perhaps the most common form of blackmail to follow the end of an affair is what might be called emotional blackmail. With this form of blackmail, a former lover may not make any particular demands for money, favors or sex. However, he or she may repeatedly threaten to reveal the affair for a variety of reasons, leaving the straying spouse in a permanent state of anxiety and suspense.

A former lover may claim to be plagued by feelings of guilt that continually prompt him to tell about the affair. In some cases these feelings of guilt may be genuine, or they may simply be the excuse offered by people who enjoy the sense of power that their secret knowledge gives them. Some may even threaten exposure out of pure anger over the way an affair ended and a desire for revenge.

Celebrity Blackmail

When an extramarital affair turns into blackmail is common by itself, but even more so when it involves celebrities. Seeing large or repeated demands for money may be relatively uncommon, but it is also not an unheard-of phenomenon. In 2009, late-night host David Letterman became perhaps the most famous apparent victim of infidelity-related blackmail when he revealed that a man had demanded $2 million to keep him from publishing a screenplay and book detailing Letterman’s affairs with female employees.

Various other celebrities of varying levels of fame, such as television evangelist Marcus Lamb, have revealed attempts to blackmail them for infidelity. While the rich and famous may be particularly at risk for this kind of blackmail, having both money and reputations to protect, “regular” folks are certainly not immune.

Beware ‘No-Strings-Attached’ Affairs Via The Internet

There is growing anecdotal evidence that websites such as, which are designed to connect married people looking to have affairs, have their share of petty criminals looking for more than just no-stings-attached sex. These folks are also searching for ways to make money by collecting incriminating evidence about people’s marital indiscretions and using it for blackmail.