What Causes Them
To be clear, an Affair can be defined as a sexual relationship taking place outside of a marriage or a monogamous relationship.
This can be differentiated from an Infidelity which can be defined as a disloyal or unfaithful act that may or may not include sex; such as an emotional involvement with someone outside of the relationship.
In either case the end result is a breach of trust. How partners deal with that breach and heal from it will be the subject of futures Newsletters.
However, when there is a breach couples would do well to enter therapy. The meaning of the affair needs to be understood not only so that the relationship has a chance to heal but also for the relationship to ultimately grow stronger.
- Accidental Affairs: This type of encounter can happen when opportunity and poor judgment are working together. It is often the result of drinking, partying too much and curiosity. Poor judgment can lead the curious partner to stray and enter the realm of the one night stand.
- Avoiding Intimacy: A partner who has never been able to truly connect with his spouse in a deeper and meaningful way might enter an affair to maintain that distance. He/she may be unaware of the real issue.
- Long Term Affair: This type of affair can be ongoing for many years. It may in fact parallel the life of the marriage itself. A partner may even have offspring from such an affair. For example, a former television journalist, Charles Kuralt, was discovered to have raised an entire second family. He led this parallel life for many years and was only discovered after his death.
- Vengeful Affairs: In this type of affair the motivation is revenge. The partner who steps out of the relationship wants to get back at the other for some perceived wrongdoing. He/she may be holding a grudge about something that happened a long time ago but was never resolved. Perhaps the unfaithful partner has been feeling unappreciated, unloved or even humiliated by the behavior of the spouse and uses this to rationalize the affair
- Escape Affairs: Here the unfaithful partner has already decided to leave the marriage and uses the affair to make their exit. The thinking is that the marriage could not work so why not use the affair as a transition to divorce.
- Unhappy Marriage: An affair that emerges from an unhappy or unsatisfying relationship is often one where the complaint may be poor communication, emotional disconnection, and bad sex or even separate lives. Couples frequently dismiss their dissatisfaction as a part of life, argue unproductively over it or just simply learn to live with it. Those strategies typically are not helpful.
- Fight Phobic or Conflict Avoidant: Some partners are so fearful of causing conflict by either questioning their spouse or requesting better treatment, that they seek someone outside the relationship for relief.
- Internet Affairs: With the advancement of technology the Internet has been the go to place for almost all things. It is easy to use, can be anonymous and has a seductive quality that can become addictive. Partners engaging in Internet Affairs can find themselves caught up with the reintroduction of a former friend through Facebook or other platforms. They can also become distracted with meeting a complete stranger online whom they might never have sex with but with whom they can carry on a secret emotional connection.
- Narcissism or Insecurity: There are some who need to feel adored or are so insecure that they need to have sexual conquests time after time to feel good about themselves. This type of person is often impulsive and is at higher risk to have an affair.(See Newsletter on Narcissism).
- Sex Addiction: The term addiction as it relates to sex is really meant to describe a compulsive behavior (see Newsletter on Sex Addiction). Sex is used to cope with feelings of extreme anxiety, emptiness or a deep emotional wound. Sexually compulsive individuals have very poor impulse control and are at high risk for having affairs.
An Affair does not have to end a relationship. It needs to be evaluated in the context of both partner’s lives together. Seeking help when an Affair is discovered can make the difference between catastrophe and reconciliation.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with this very sensitive issue you can call or email me for a confidential consultation.
Dr. Stan Hyman has been helping individuals, couples and business partners create solutions and find new ways to develop great relationships. He has been a practicing therapist and relationship coach for over 20 years. He has written numerous articles including, Rebuilding Trust, Recovering from Affairs, What Every Couple Should Learn and many more see website and Newsletters
He is available via Skype, webcam, telephone and in person and coaches individuals and couples both in the U.S. and internationally.