I’m having an affair.

 In marriage counselling, Uncategorized

You’re having a what? An affair!

Mutual respect, trust, a healthy amount of openness, and good boundary limitations are essential in staving off an affair.

But she’s someone who understands me, I find it easy to talk with her, there’s nothing physical going on.

Seven different types of affairs.

Emotional affair

Is that an affair? Does an affair have to be physical to be considered inappropriate? If deeper feelings, and issues relating to dis-satisfaction in your relationship  are shared with a third party (usually the opposite sex) then it can be deemed – inappropriate. We use the term emotional affair. Sharing what should stay in the relationship.

Frequently, the above is a symptom, and not the cause of the affair.  The affair, is generally due to a lack of feeling connected or attached, the cause is related to what’s underneath.

The grass is greener?

While affairs are usually very erotic, fantasy and chemical driven, they overshadow the deeper issues which lie beneath: unresolved conflict, anger, fear, despair and loneliness. Will the affair resolve these issues? Very rarely. Maybe the new relationship feels right, something you’ve been searching for, for a long time. Unfortunately, unless the real issues are addressed, sooner or later you’ll find yourself back in the same situation.  If you decide to enter into a new relationship, because we’re creatures of habit, chances are you’ve picked a partner with exactly the same character traits. And so the dance continues.

infidelity; affairInvolvement in the affair can be sexual or emotional or both. Females are more likely to be emotionally involved, males have more sexual motives. Some generalisations in marital dissatisfaction : women tend to see sex flowing from intimacy, while men to see intimacy flowing from sex. Therefore, women tend to see more issues related to emotional connection while men tend to see the main problem as a lack of sex.

Conflict avoidance affairs.

This type of affair normally happens in the early stages of a relationship, it is a cry out for attention. Issues or problems are avoided as conflict is frowned upon. “But they seemed so happy, I thought we had the perfect marriage, we never argued,” there in lies the problem. Differences of opinion, different viewpoints were left unexpressed, mainly for fear of rocking the perfect relationship boat – conflict avoiders. The affair partner usually feels a sense of relief when found out. It was a cry for attention. 

Communication is a must at this stage to discuss what needs went unmet or unheard. If the affair happens in the early stages of a relationship, there is a chance of repair. But, only if there is a commitment to work on it. If it’s  routine and familiarity that you miss with one another, and the issues remain the same, there’s a very high likelihood that it’ll happen again.

Intimacy avoidance affairs.

All affairs disclose problems with intimacy. This type of affair says, I struggle at being open or vulnerable with you, and don’t feel I can be intimate. Whether you don’t want to disappoint or be disappointed, intimacy (or the lack of) is at the centre of this model. 

Intimacy avoiders are generally good at fighting, preferred methods usually include sarcasm, criticism, being judgemental and lack of respect. The shared hostility towards each other provides an easy excuse to find connection outside of the relationship.

In this environment it’s not uncommon for both partners to have an affair.

Hidden problems, which can stem from early childhood, relate to issues with closeness and avoidance. 

The issues with intimacy and closeness can be addressed but will take time, learning how to express needs and feelings in a more productive way.

Sexual addiction affairs.

“I don’t want to get too close to anyone, I might not be liked”

It’s all about conquests. The player or womaniser is all about notches on the bed post, how many women can I sleep with. Yes, of course there are female versions but in all honesty I’ve only ever worked with men.

Recently working with a client whose husband had been married 4 times and cheated every time, now the same situation was playing out for the 5th time. “I didn’t see it coming, our marriage was different from all the others,” the marriage lasted 5 years.  There was a cultural aspect to this relationship but the patterns were exactly the same. He liked to be the centre of attention, attracted and lauded it. The partner this time however, was having none of it, she realised he wouldn’t change unless he received  professional help. This type of behaviour is often addictive and compulsive. 

Partners in this type of relationship tend to accept an empty shell of a marriage, I’m prepared to tolerate this behaviour as the thought of being on my own is too terrifying. When the partner becomes fearful of losing the spouse, you have to ask the question – “have I become co-dependent?”

Co-dependency isn’t healthy. In the above scenario, co-dependents make 3 mistakes: mistake intensity for intimacy, obsession for care, and control for security.

Empty nest affairs.

“But I never really loved him, I stayed with him because of the kids,”  even though the couple may had been together for 15+ years.  It’s an attempt in their mind at justifying  their decision to leave. This is probably the most common type of affair I come across. One partner has decided to put their career, social life (to some extent) on hold for the sake of raising the children and keeping the house.

affairThe typical scenario above: Wife stays home to raise the children and look after the running of the house, husband goes out to work, as a rule isn’t a problem. Where it breaks down is when the partner who elects to stay at home loses their ‘self,’ their sense of identity. Once the kids are off their hands, the partner feels almost redundant. What have I achieved in the past 15 years, what’s in front of me for the next 15 years? This type of affair can also be attributed with a ‘mid-life crisis.’ 

Out-the-door affairs.

I haven’t the courage to tell you it’s over, I’m not comfortable with taking responsibility for ending it. Can I make it on my own? Am I still appealing to the opposite sex? I want you to find me out. The affair is a signal that the marriage is over.

I’ve found someone who understands me, someone who get’s me. I can talk to him about anything, he doesn’t judge me or criticise me like you do.

This type of affair reflects years of dissatisfaction. The partner who had the affair sometimes justifies their position by committing (moving-in, or quick to make a commitment in some way) in order to convince themselves they did the right thing. Unless the affair partner deals with their deeper issues there’s a high likelihood the same scenario will be repeated.

Homosexual or Lesbian affairs.

This happens with both genders. An apparent turn around in sexual orientation, even though children may be involved, is not uncommon. For whatever reason,  latent desires, pressures from within the family, the partner felt they were living a lie.  Now, feeling more confident and more able to cope with the challenges of ‘coming-out’. 

Initially, every effort may have been made to try and make it work. When the person feels they’re just living a lie, it’s time to step out and go public.

The other partner is obviously devastated, because not only do they have to deal,  with the loss of their partner but the loss to someone of the same sex. This is often a double blow. One couple I worked with where the wife had a same sex affair, her husband felt inadequate and emasculated.

“Am I that inadequate, I must be a lousy lover, if I can’t   please my wife sexually”?

Affairs are challenging, therefore, work to keep your relationship healthy. Affairs can also be a turn around point to make it the best it’s ever been, what if you could work on forgivness and trust (in time) and view it as an opportunity?

I’ve turned this around many times. Ask me how.

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love”
BRENE BROWN