You probably never meant for it to happen. It’s not as if you went looking for a lover.
However, once you fell in love with another person than your spouse, things got rather intense. You’re already in what some refer to as an emotional affair. Perhaps you’ve gone further and the relationship has turned physical.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
It may be difficult for you to know exactly how you got into this situation. Some are honest enough with themselves that they know step-by-step how everything came to be as it is now. Others have more difficulty, their mind confused because what they are doing is so contrary to what they believe and value. Some feel that God sent them their soul mate. Others blame it on the way their spouse’s actions or lack of actions.
Underlying vulnerabilities very likely made the new relationship possible. Highly revered marriage researcher John Gottman writes in his book The Marriage Clinic:
"…many clinicians…have been quick to point out that ‘affairs involve sex, but sex is usually not the purpose of the affair’…In fact, most clinicians who have written in this area report that affairs are usually about seeking friendship, support, understanding, and validation…they are about getting the acceptance that is missing in the marriage."
My work with thousands of couples in crisis indicates that this is exactly the case. Relationship affairs - as opposed to the one-night-stand type affairs that are wholly about sex and not at all about relationship - usually find root in a person’s feeling unloved, unaccepted, disliked, or disrespected. That doesn’t mean that the person necessarily went looking for affirmation and validation from someone else. However, when it came, it captured their heart.
Maybe you describe this new relationship similar to the way others I’ve worked with:
- I’ve never been loved like this.
- No one understands me as well as he/she does.
- This is the person I was meant to be with.
- I can’t explain how this feels because I don’t think anyone else can understand it. It’s intense. Amazing. Wonderful.
Most likely your desire is not to hurt the person you’re married to, but rather to live in this new level of love that you never knew existed. You don’t mean to harm family, friends, coworkers, church buddies, or anyone else. Your desire is to have, not to hurt. (There may be an exception to that if you feel that your spouse has been unkind or hurtful. If so, that degree of negativity toward your spouse probably increased its intensity after your affair began.)
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
You have four potential paths before you. Either you stay in your marriage while continuing a relationship with your lover, leave your marriage for your lover, end the affair yourself, or your lover ends it.