8 Reasons Why Your Partner Is Having or Had An Affair
Understanding the gut-wrenching affair
Posted January 9, 2017
Finding out that your partner had or is having an affair is perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching of all of life's major crises. For the purpose of this article, I am referring to affairs of the heart which involve deep emotional intimacy but are not sexual, sexual affairs and any other combination or sequence of the above. Look, you put your trust into your partner and believe that you are their only intimate partner and then somehow you find out that your reality has been sadly and tragically wrong. I have been in my consultation room for many, many years listening to individuals in relationships that were intended to be monogamous "fall off the wagon" and secretly invest their emotional and sexual lives in individuals outside of their partnership or marriage. I have observed their deep despair and anxiety about how they have embarked on a path that they never expected or intended to. On the other hand, I have listened, too many times, to the sobbing of the betrayed, that is, the partners who learn usually accidentally that their partner has fallen into the heart and/or body of another man or woman. In a heartbeat, a life can feel like it has been turned upside down. The combination of abrupt surprise and betrayal is almost too much to bear for quite some time. And, yes, some people never recover from this betrayal. The ability to trust is sometimes impossible to recover. While I do not believe that the person who had the affair intended to strip their partner of the ability to trust this may nonetheless be one possible outcome. I must also add that both the partner having the affair and the one who finds out about it are usually both suffering but in very different ways. I think that it is about time that we have some explanations for why people get involved in affairs. As always this is not an exhaustive list but it is a start and everyone does better when ambiguity is replaced with understanding. So let's begin:
1. Sometimes a person gets sucked in or seduced by a third party who delights in this kind of relationship thrill or simply finds your partner attractive. Who doesn't like to be desired and seduced? I am certainly not advocating falling into these secretive relationships. Instead, I am explaining that a vulnerable person who is particularly responsive to flattery and praise may be at high-risk for getting sucked into the vortex of an affair. Fortunately, many of us have the ability to resist this sort of seduction because we do not wish to embark on a life-altering and surreptitious path. Others are more vulnerable. There is a tremendous amount of anxiety as well as duplicitousness associated with engaging in secretive affairs.This is not a clinical psychologist being judgmental. Instead, it is a clinical psychologist telling it like it is and has been for many years.
2. As we all get older we look back and wonder what we may have missed out on in our lives. Some of us pick up new hobbies, get into new exercise routines or try to reinvent ourselves in other ways. There is, however, a subgroup of individuals who feel that they missed out on sexual or relationship experimentation and then try to make up for lost time. Sometimes this happens after the death of a parent. It is then that many reevaluate their lives and feel that they now need to make up for lost time since there may be a limited amount of life left.
3. Some individuals are just plain narcissistic and feel that the normal rules don't apply to them. Yes, they may have agreed to be monogamous but hey that was a while ago and now they feel entitled to change the rules. What their partner doesn't know, they feel, won't necessarily hurt them. Besides, it is their own well-being and satisfaction that is their main concern. This is so sad and potentially destructive but is not an infrequent occurrence. Consider the partner who becomes highly successful over the years and now feels that she or he is deserving of all things attainable due to this new status.
4. A marriage or partnership may be in trouble. Sometimes unconsciously and even unwittingly one member of the couple has an affair to create a crisis in the marriage. The marriage then has to be examined, altered, repaired or even ended. There are certainly much more effective ways to get your partner into marital therapy but as humans with flaws we do just that-behave in a flawed manner.
5. I have seen this many times. An affair serves as an antidote to depression just like a drug. The depressed individual feels better when involved in an exciting affair full of drama and clandestine activity and an affair might be a lot more fun than therapy, right? It may not, however, be less expensive and or time-consuming.
6. Some of us are just bottomless pits and crave endless amounts of attention. These sorts of personalities may lack self-esteem and may live lives characterized by one affair after another. This type of personality is not so dissimilar from the narcissistic personality in that lots of self-validation and praise is desired.
7. Sometimes people want to be caught having an affair because they don't know how to end a relationship their spouse. Words and discussion elude them. Let's face it—if heartfelt and honest discussion was easier we would all have a much easier time in relationships;right?
8. As humans we get angry at our partners and affairs certainly can be a form of revenge. This a cruel form of expressing anger but yep it certainly does happen. I've heard this repeatedly: "He never listens to anything I have to say. I think I'll spend his money or find someone else who appreciates me" or "She pays much more attention to the kids than to me."
It is my hope that this list is somewhat enlightening for everyone. Yes, as humans we are subject to the human condition which includes giving into temptation and wanting to be desired. Nonetheless, affairs sting and may burn a hole through the heart of all of those involved. The fall-out can vary on a very wide spectrum. The very best outcome is that everyone finds a new path to happiness. The very worst outcome is deep depression and a family left in a state of chaos. It is my hope and invitation that that who are struggling with relationships find their way into therapy to learn to live a much less cluttered and confusing life. My heart is with everyone.
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