The four stages of an affair

The four stages of an affair

Although each affair feels entirely unique and like it has special circumstances, there are actually four distinct stages that most affairs go through. Marriage experts K. Jason & Kelli Krafsky have written extensively on the danger that Facebook may present to a marriage. Time and again, one spouse logs onto Facebook, "friends" an old flame or ex-love, they begin messaging and chatting, and suddenly they are saying to the other spouse "I love you but I'm not in love with you." The stages that most affairs go through are:

STAGE ONE: VULNERABILITY--either the individual or the marriage is open to subtle temptations to stray. Jason Krafsky mentions that as a young man he read the book "Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It" and realized that he would have to create boundaries around himself and his marriage to protect against the areas where a temptation can slip in and take hold. In this stage, the couple has been engaging in Love Extinguishers so that both spouses are doing things that put out the flame of love. Resentment is building but not being acknowledged or resolved. In addition, both spouses have stopped doing the Love Kindlers--the very actions that re-kindle the fire and fan the flames of love. They may still think "it could never happen to them" and they probably both still love their children and have plans for the future, but their marriage is vulnerable to another person meeting one of the spouses and beginning to meet some of their basic human needs. A marriage in this stage COULD turn away a potential affair, or an emotional affair that has just started, by learning more about how to build a strong marriage, by learning about the common ways that the other person might lure in a vulnerable person, by learning how to avoid Love Extinguishers, and by learning how to restart Love Kindlers and build their own love into an inferno!

STAGE TWO: THE "DIRTY LITTLE SECRET"--the disloyal spouse has met the other person often at work or online. Usually it starts harmlessly and they really may be "just friends" and that is why you'll frequently here a disloyal spouse tell their loyal spouse "You're crazy--we're just friends." First the other person begins to meet some basic human needs and adds just a few Love Kindlers. Soon, one will say to the other "I enjoy your company" and the feeling of being interesting and wanted is met--and to the disloyal spouse it feels GREAT to think that someone finds them wonderful! Love Kindlers are being added by the other person! Contrast that hashly to the loyal spouse who, not knowing that anything is occuring, continues to engage in Love Extinguishers, continues to contribute to resentment, and spitefully withholds Love Kindlers. The other person starts to look and feel better and better, and the disloyal spouse feels the same serotonin pleasure rush as being high on drugs. The other person and disloyal spouse may know that what they are doing is wrong, or it may be against company policy, so they become sneaky. The adrenalin of the forbidden rendevous, the secret cell phone, and the private love journal is intoxicating and the affair takes hold and grows stronger.

STAGE THREE: DISCOVERY/ADDICTION--the loyal spouse discovers the secret. Either through intuition, snooping, or by accident, the loyal spouse uncovers the truth and the affair is no longer a secret. The loyal spouse is devastated and can barely function, and then usually does things that can only be described as contrary to their character. The wife who might normally be the most peace-loving person will slap her husband; the husband who might normally avoid confrontation shows up at the other person's house for a fight. This is part of this stage, and a very normal reaction. At the same time the disloyal spouse is usually defensive, elusive, and upset that the secret is out. During this stage, the disloyal spouse often acts out of their addiction to the serotonin/pleasure of the affair and will make decisions that seem to make "no common sense" or that seem to disregard the amazing amount of life-long damage they're doing. This is the addiction talking. And this stage is the CRITICAL stage in deciding whether the marriage will recover, or if the couple will divorce and possibly years later recover individually.

STAGE FOUR: THE PLAN, OR HOW TO END IT--All affairs end. Some end with the spouses divorcing, fighting like cats and dogs, losing all their possessions, breeding hate and animosity in their families, and attempting to marry their affair-partners. The statistics don't lie: less than ten percent of unfaithful spouses actually marry the affair partner, and most of these marriages (about seventy five percent) end in divorce. So marrying the other person is not only unlikely--it is almost always unsuccessful! According to researcher Holly Hein, 80% of those who divorce during an affair regret the decision. (Sexual Detours: Infidelity and Intimacy at a Crossroads). So if the disloyal spouse chooses to leave the marriage, the affair does end--it usually crashes and burns as the fantasy is brought to light of day and it just can not stand up to reality. When left to itself, most affairs end in about two years. The other way that the affair can end is if the loyal spouse follows the two steps to encourage the disloyal spouse to end all contact and stop the affair. Once the affair is stopped, the disloyal spouse will experience a withdrawal-like feeling missing the positive serotonin/pleasure of the affair. If the couple determines in their heart to work through it, they can get past that and begin to examine the Love Extinguishers and Love Kindlers. As they work with each other, they can learn how to stop being the cause of their spouse's pain and learn how to rebuild and renew the love in their marriage.
©2010 Cindy J. Taylor. You may repost with copyright notice and link back to this original article!

Please feel free to share this article or subscribe to the Portland Infidelity Examiner Channel by clicking on the buttons at the top of this column!

Cindy writes and blogs about infidelity and affair-free marriages on her website You can connect with her via email: | on Twitter | or Facebook |