The Anatomy Of An Illicit Extramarital Affair

Photo: Lipik Stock Media / Shutterstock
man and woman having an affair

Let me first start off by saying I am not in any way, shape, manner, or form promoting, approving, or condoning having an affair. 

The purpose of this article is to explore the anatomy of an affair, the trap that makes it seem so enticing, and how to create the emotional experience people seek in an affair with their spouse or partner. If people understood the anatomy of an affair, they can work toward affair-proofing their relationships and marriages.

RELATED: 13 Simple Things That Can Trigger An Affair

Inside An Affair

Some things you may not know:

Sex is not the only kind of affair. That's right. There is more than one way to cheat on a person and sexuality is only one way. Many people engage in emotional affairs which is usually what really causes the most pain to the person being cheated on. An emotional affair is the most common type of affair because most people think they're engaging in innocent behavior.

This is why having an isolated friendship with someone of the opposite sex is a huge NO NO. Many affairs begin with an "innocent" friendship. How? Because as soon as needs aren't being met in your marriage, you start seeking it from your friend without even recognizing it. Many times it just starts out as approval, attention, or someone to talk to who you feel listens without bias or judgment.

When you find yourself running to this other person and not your spouse, you've just begun an emotional affair. When you find yourself telling your friend things you do not share with your spouse, you've just begun an emotional affair.

You see, most people who end up having a sexual affair, begin with an emotional affair. The logical progression when you've emotionally connected with someone of the opposite sex in today's society is sex. Many people don't even intend on having sex outside of their marriage, but somehow find themselves not being able to put the breaks on when it happens. What they don't realize is that an affair is just a band-aid over the issues they're not addressing in their relationship and usually affairs cause worse damage than the original issues.

So what is it your spouse is truly seeking by having an affair?

Usually, it's emotional. Usually, it's a connection. As I said above, maybe it's being able to talk with someone about life in general, about your dreams or interests without judgment, condemnation, or unsolicited advice, with an encouraging ear. Sometimes people direly feel the need to be heard, understood and validated.

Sometimes it's attention. Maybe your spouse doesn't call you beautiful anymore. Maybe he never notices when you buy a new outfit or change your hairstyle. But you're sitting here reading thinking, can it really be that simple? Noticing my wife's new hair or her wardrobe? Yes. Why? Because it's not that simple; it's not noticing the dress or the hair, it's noticing her.

It's noticeable that she's beautiful and alive. It's noticing that your husband has a pulse and is sexy and gentlemen. Do you know how deep that feeling runs? Deep enough that people have affairs to get it. What happens is someone comes along who does notice these things. They don't say "you look nice"; they say "Wow, you look stunning."

They use adjectives! And what does this accomplish? It makes them feel noticed, valued, and wanted.

Sometimes, it really is sex. I do find that sex is usually just a byproduct of the emotional connection people are seeking in an affair. But there are those who have a high demand for sex, or just can not get it from their spouse for whatever reason.

Their spouse has shut them down and won't open for business and a partner feels like they have no other choice. This is not an excuse to have an affair. I'm just saying, this is why some people go outside of their marriages.

RELATED: 5 Surprisingly Complicated Reasons Why People Cheat

So why don't people just get out instead of cheating?

The Trap. Many people think having an affair is an easy way to get what they want without having to experience the pain of going through a divorce. Yet when you ask most people, they would say cheating is wrong and that you should divorce or break up before cheating on your mate.

While in theory, this is true, it is much more complicated than that. This is the trap many people fall into. Usually, their marriage has been in a rut for some time, they are complacent, and maybe they've tried to voice their unhappiness to no avail. For whatever reason, they feel their spouse is unresponsive to their needs.

In some cases, people don't even know their needs aren't being met until someone new comes along and flaunts a new flavor that upsets the apple cart. I still believe that in 99% of these cases, there still has been some attempt or the feeling of having attempted to voice feelings of unhappiness. Ending one's marriage is an extremely complicated endeavor.

Even if you know that divorce is ultimately the right decision, it's still incredibly painful and difficult. Many people just aren't sure they're willing to go that far and break apart their life from someone, because that's ultimately what it is: it's breaking apart a life from someone that you've been running the same path with for years, maybe even decades.

People think maybe if they find a way to bide their time now, happier times are just around the corner. But the problem is they use an affair to bide the time instead of something like marriage counseling. So it seems easier to just dabble in a little something on the side, what they think is on the down low and will never be discovered than to actually face the pain and end their dying relationship. 

Let me make this clear: Affairs are never simple, they are rarely undiscovered, and cause way more pain and destruction than just ending the relationship.

If heartache and pain are what you're avoiding, do not think that having an affair will avoid that. Being discovered causes a lot of pain for both the people having the affair and even more so for their families or spouses that are now being broken apart because of it. In some cases, it can even lead to legal ramifications.

One more trap people fall into is that they think they will end up with the person they have an affair with. Some people leave their spouses for the person they cheated with. Most of those relationships don't work out. Why? Because it wasn't built on honesty: it was built with deception and lies. And honestly, if they will cheat with you, they will cheat on you.

RELATED: 7 Tough-But-Honest Reasons Why People Cheat — Emotionally And Physically

So how do you affair-proof your marriage/relationship?

1. Be willing to break the comfortable pattern.

What does that mean? It means when you've been married for years and your life starts to take on a pattern and sex because more of a formality and a routine rather than spontaneous and exciting. Even if you have children, there's no excuse. Be willing to have sex in places other than your bed, and be willing to shake things up a bit with new positions and even new outfits.

2. Continue to seduce your spouse/partner.

This is very important. This is part of breaking the comfortable routine. After years, sex goes to "are we going to have sex tonight?" Or you may speak to your partner about their body like an 8th-grade health class teacher rather than a person in love trying to seduce your partner. When you were dating your spouse, did you ask them "Are we going to have sex tonight?"

I'm guessing not. So how did you get sex and get it so often without having to talk like that? Seduction. It was the way you looked into their eyes. A woman never forgets the way a man looks at her when he wants her. It is an impression that will stay with her, even for years. It's the way you touch your partner, softly, and sensually without just jumping right into some sort of digital stimulation. Like a sexy, soft tease.

Remember back to how you communicated your desire for sex when you first started being intimate, and replicate that experience. When you replicate that experience, usually you can replicate and elicit those feelings. Seduction is important because it communicates to your spouse/partner that they are wanted, are desired. That is an incredibly deep and fundamental feeling. Having sex the usual way just says "You're horny and want it and I'm just here to fulfill it." 

Sure we know that's the benefit of being married or in a relationship, but that kind of feeling certainly doesn't make it fun or make us look forward to it. By the way, it's extremely unfair to make a spouse commit to fidelity in your vows and then shut down the sugar shop. That is breaking your part of the vows. If you're both committing to loving each other and no other, sexually, that means you actually need to give each other sex, not withhold it.

3. Continue to notice your partner — and be descriptive.

I know you're busy with your career and the children need baths, but your spouse needs to know you notice them. The easiest way is when they ask you! "Do you like this top?" "How do I look in these jeans?" "Like my new earrings?" "Do you like my new hair?"

This is the easiest way if you have a hard time noticing on your own and need help. Usually, your spouse or partner gives you constant opportunities to notice and appreciate them with these cue questions. And your response back should not be, "you look nice." WRONG ANSWER! Use positive descriptive words! Adjectives! "Wow, honey! Those earrings are stunning on you" "That dress makes you look ravishing" and "That hairstyle is beautiful."

And you wrap your arms around them, give them a tight squeeze and a nice kiss. It seems so simple but it goes a VERY long way.

4. Make time for each other.

I'm sure you've heard this over and over, so why aren't you doing it? Everyone has a job and children and boy scout meetings and soccer practice. Join the club! It's called getting your priorities straight.

Your spouse and marriage should be at the top of your list. So what if you need to send the kids to practice with one of the other teammates so you can steal away for a random dinner out? So what if you have to pay the neighbor kid $15 an hour to watch your children for a few hours? Isn't your marriage worth the expense?

I guarantee it's a lot cheaper than a divorce! If you're not already setting apart a date night with your spouse, I want you to go to your calendar right now, pick a date and schedule it with your mate.

Maybe pick a night once a month where you can spend the night in a hotel and have a chance to have some undisturbed intimacy with your spouse. Date nights are vital to keeping your marriage alive. You will be happier, and healthier and life will be easier. A miserable spouse will make your life hell.

5. Be open to marriage/relationship counseling. 

If your spouse or partner has communicated to you that they are not happy and that things aren't changing, go to counseling. Even if they haven't communicated any of these, it's a good idea to go for a relationship tune-up. Your spouse will probably be elated that you offered or agreed to go which will help relieve some of the pressure.

But a professional can oftentimes offer a perspective or practical tips that you haven't considered. Most people are willing to see a medical doctor for their sicknesses, but why not relationship counseling for their relationships? What are you afraid of?

Put your marriage first and be willing and open to do the work, even if that means going to counseling and facing bad habits or parts of yourself you haven't wanted to deal with.

And lastly, if you are considering having an affair, I urge you to reconsider. It is poisonous to you, and to your relationship, and it will not end well for anyone involved.

Consider the consequences and if you're willing to go through that if you're found out, and if you're willing to put your mate through that. Also consider, if you really love your spouse/mate, is this what they really deserve? To be cheated on? Do you want to be cheated on? Seek the help of a qualified professional in your area to help you deal with your temptations and recommit yourself to your marriage/relationship.

RELATED: Why Do People Cheat On People They Love?

Anabelle Bugatti is an experienced marriage and family therapist offering help to couples and individuals. 

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!