Types And Meaning Of Affairs

Types of affairs.

Affairs happen for a variety of reasons, but can be characterized by different types.  While all affairs share some common themes, such as; the deeper needs of one or both partners are unmet, dealing with the issue openly is avoided and the affair is seen as a solution of some sort. Certainly affairs involve deep hurt, broken trust and broken dreams, as well as betrayal and secrecy.  Sometimes there is an intention, conscious or not, to hurt the other person.  Sometimes not.  All affairs are messages, coded cries for help, that need to be decoded and responded to appropriately.  Understanding the message and it’s meaning are vitally important.  Below some typical types of affairs are listed, with a possible meaning suggested.  This list is not meant to cover every type of affair and is most useful in suggesting patters of affairs ensconced in patterns of relating and their associated meanings.  The meaning of any behavior is unique to each person, each couple and each situation. 

1. Avoidance
a. In this pattern the couple avoids conflict by not engaging and ignoring issues that might lead to conflict.  This is also a strategy to avoid intimacy. This couple presents as “The Ideal Couple.”  If you meet them they seem wonderful, but upon getting to know them further they are shallow.  Usually both of the partners are lonely, but put up a good front.  Underneath they are often angry.  The affair happens when someone else is present for and hears the silent cry of the heart.  When the affair comes to light the, the usual explanation given is the other person “met my needs.”  The more angry version of this is stated as “now will you pay attention to me?”
b. Possible meaning:  Pay attention to me! Or I’ll get my needs met somewhere else.

2. Addiction based.
a. In this pattern one or both of the partners can never get enough.  Enough attention, enough affection, enough love.  They are constantly on the hunt for something to fill them up.  There may be lots of passion and excitement in this relationship, but they are unable to work through any areas of conflict.  The affairs in this pattern tend to be multiple one night stands.
b. Possible meaning: I can’t ever get filled up. I hate what I’m doing but I can’t stop.
3. Empty Nest
a. Time has passed this couple by.  They were completely involved with their children, their work or whatever.  The children have moved out and they have retired.  They look across the table and see the each other as a  stranger.  Maybe they long to get connected, maybe not, maybe the desire has been buried under a lifetime of busyness and distraction.  Whatever the case, they can’t manage to do what is necessary to rekindle the relationship with the person they live with.
b. Possible meaning: I’m lost and lonely.  I feel hopeless and powerless.
4. Out the door.
a. This marriage is over, but neither wants to make the move to end it.  Each is waiting for the other to make the move.  So one of the partners has an affair and that person can be blamed for ending the relationship that they both secretly wanted to end but lacked the courage to do so.
b. Possible meaning: I don’t want to be responsible for my actions.  Won’t you take action so I can blame you?

A list similar to this, which inspired this list, was first published by Emily M. Brown in “Patterns of Infidelity and Their Treatment.”