We are all capable of having an affair. We all feel temptation from time to time, but feeling temptation isn’t the same as actually having an affair. Confident people don’t try to repress those feelings; they acknowledge them as the sign of a healthy sex drive and don’t act on them.
When a person is hooked by the feeling of attraction towards someone (not their spouse), they may risk everything–even their marriage–to give into their feelings. Today affairs are the number one cause of divorce. A recent survey of U.K. matrimonial lawyers showed that affairs came out as the number one cause of divorce, accounting for 27% of divorces. Family strains were the second highest cause at 18%, physical or emotional abuse the third highest at 17%, and mid-life crises were fourth highest at 13%.
Men are three times more likely to be the adulterous partner. However, women cheat on their spouses as well. Another survey by the National Opinion Research Center at Chicago University found that roughly one in five men and one in six women have an affair at some time in their life.
An emotional affair can be even more threatening to a relationship than a physical affair, because the ‘lover’ replaces the spouse as the primary source of emotional well-being and companionship. Women are more likely to have emotional affairs than men.
What Triggers an Affair?
A variety of motives, both internal and social, spur people to have affairs. The most prolific ground for affairs occurs when there is a potential lover who is available and willing, when conditions make the practical side of giving into the temptation easy, and there is little to no expectation of recrimination.
Some of the most common social and marital conditions that pave the way for affairs are:
- Increased social contact with members of the opposite sex, especially in the workplace.
As men and women spend more time with each other away from their partners it means giving into that temptation becomes easier and easier. When a man or a woman spends a lot of time with a member of the opposite sex–whether friend, co-worker, or teammate–they develop a platonic friendship that can cross the line into becoming an affair. Familiarity, emotional intimacy, and common professional or sporting goals create a powerful bond that may feel more compelling than the marital relationship. Unmonitored Email and cell phones make developing an extra-marital relationship and keeping in touch with a lover simple.
If your spouse is defensive or secretive about his or her friendship with a member of the opposite sex that should sound a warning! It’s not normal for your husband’s best friend to be another woman. It’s not okay for your wife’s number one confidant to be another man.
In a strong marriage, both partners look first to one another to get their emotional needs met; their main loyalty is to each other. This brings us to the next point…
- Not meeting one another’s emotional needs.
This is this single greatest cause of affairs. When relationships are struggling, both men and women look elsewhere to get their emotional needs met and may find someone “who appreciates them.”
If you and your partner take each other for granted and treat one another like housemates instead of lovers, the stage is set for one of you to have an affair. Women, feeling unappreciated by their husbands, find solace with someone who does listen to them. Unfortunately, an emotional affair can be just as devastating to a marriage as a physical affair. Men, feeling as if they’re always being criticized and cannot please their wives if they try, enjoy the emotional reinforcement of someone who thinks that they’re wonderful and can do no wrong.
Affairs often occur when one or both partners are under stress. Maybe you’ve just taken a new job; maybe your partner is struggling with the demands of a new child or ailing parent. If one of you cannot meet your partner’s emotional needs for any length of time, your partner’s chances of having an affair skyrocket.
Avoid this situation through open, honest communication. Notice when your partner is feeling down and don’t stop until you’ve understood the source of your partner’s emotions. If you feel that your partner isn’t there for you when you need him or her, talk about it. Open the conversation with a description of the things that your partner does for you that you appreciate, then explain what your emotional needs are and exactly what your partner can do to meet them. If you are ready then ask your partner to share the same with you. Unless you know what your partner’s emotional needs are, you cannot hope to fulfill them by guesswork.
- Where one partner is away for long periods of time.
Cheating is easy when partners spend extensive periods of time away from one another, just think about actors, musicians or even athletes who spend weeks or even months on tour. Even if your partner calls you every night, you have no idea what they’re doing in the time away from you. For the partner still at home their lives can separate into what they do in their time and what they do with you. They may feel as if they live in two separate worlds that are totally separate with no cross over.
If you and your spouse spend a lot of time away from one another you need to develop a plan of action to maintain your bond and sense of intimacy even during those times when you’re away. There has to be a level of trust but tempered with a reality check. The best solution in cases like these may be to minimize the amount of time you’re away from one another, even if it requires changing jobs or relocating.
- Overly busy lives with little time spent together.
When partners don’t have time to relax together, their marriage becomes all work and no play. If both of you have lives crammed full with duties your marriage will likely suffer from lack of attention. Just because you live together and wear a ring doesn’t mean that your marriage is invulnerable. A marriage thrives when there is space for both partners to spend quality, unstructured time together, doing nothing but enjoying one another’s company.
If your partner always spends his or her leisure time with others (at the bar, with a hobby that excludes you, with members of a social or sporting club) rather than you, the stage is set for infidelity. Your partner should have the time and space to do activities that he or she personally enjoys, but a (large) proportion of your partner’s leisure time should be spent with you.
- Increased cultural importance on having a superb sex life.
Modern Western culture places a high premium on an exciting, fulfilling sex life. When everyone else is doing it–in the movies, on the billboards, and in the media–we think we need to be doing it, too. Yet a poll by Self magazine discovered that 58% of women polled were disinterested in sex, of which nearly a fifth were completely dissatisfied, preferring to watch television. Why were these women unhappy with their sex lives? Was it their partner, their attitude, or their expectations?
Men and women often have unrealistically high expectations of marriage–that their partner will be their soul mate, that love will be effortless, that their sex life will be dynamic and exciting. When these expectations are not fulfilled, mean and women often look to someone else for fulfillment rather than examining their own expectations.
Unfortunately, many couples don’t put the effort into their sex life until it’s too late. If you and your partner are distant, kiss infrequently, and seem to have lost any sense of intimacy, one of you may seek physical comfort elsewhere. Decrease the chances of this happening by making an effort to be physically intimate with your spouse on a regular basis. Invest in your appearance and don’t use your marriage as an excuse to let yourself go. Keep yourself fit, not just for your love life but almost every aspect of your life is improved by being fit and healthy. Liven up your sex life by regularly trying new things; the investment you put into physical intimacy will pay off by making the hours you do spend together–sleeping side by side–into ones to cherish.