Why do affairs happen? Is there a way to save a marriage after an affair? Many people we see who have affairs feel their needs are not being met by their marriage. They may like what they are getting out of the marriage, but they also enjoy what they get from an affair.
Many affairs aren’t only about sex, though some are. Some are more about intimacy or self-esteem. Human beings need to feel excited, valued, appreciated, and acknowledged. Idealized love, the first phase of a relationship, is often what people seek outside the marriage after the marital relationship has lost it. Straying spouses report this.
The spouse who feels neglected, lonely, unappreciated, or bored is vulnerable and often ripe for an affair. This person may confide in a co-worker or friend about unhappiness in the marriage. They may seek recognition from another in hopes of finding the connection no longer felt at home. The intimacy that develops may be strictly emotional although the attraction can become sexual. A sympathetic ear becomes a regular drink after work, becomes a hug, becomes a kiss, and suddenly, boundaries come tumbling down.
Elements that seem constant in an affair are secrecy, emotional intimacy, and sexual chemistry. Even if the chemistry is not acted upon, the sexual tension and lure of the forbidden is a critical element in the relationship.
Most of the people we see are not philanderers who enjoy the adventure, sex addicts who use sex like a drug, or even people who feel entitled to extra-marital sex. Instead, most clients have engaged in an isolated lapse or long term entanglement, which leads to the affair. Couples who seek our counseling after an affair want to heal their confusion, confront the struggle of having been left for another, and come to terms with the betrayal they feel.
In our next blog, we’ll discuss how couples successfully recover from an affair.