Reasons for Having an Affair. As a Marriage Counselor and Affair Recovery Specialist, I’m often asked why people have affairs. My response is there is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. There are many different reasons why people have affairs.
Relationships can go through many transitions throughout life. These transitions are often accompanied by some level of anxiety. The birth of a child, career demands, middle age, and retirement are typical life transitions that impact each partner and the relationship itself. When we enter into a committed relationship, we bring with us various idealized images of what our lives will be like and how we will relate to our partner. When these images are disrupted by a life transition, we can experience anxiety. Rather than dealing with the apprehension trading old ideals for the new realities, and making healthy adjustments to accommodate the transition, one of the partners may choose to find a different partner in order to maintain the ideal. Unfortunately, the futility of this strategy often becomes apparent after the damage is already done. New loves are no less immune to transition and anxiety than existing relationships.
Our parent’s marriage is the role model for what we hope to find (and avoid) in our own marriages. Our partners, similarly, bring their own set of expectations into the marriage, -and often the two different sets of expectations conflict. This conflict may not be apparent initially, but over time can become a major source of discontent in the relationship. It is at this point that one partner may try to change the behavior of the other partner so that it conforms to his or her expectations. But trying to change another person, is, of course, inappropriate and usually brings more conflict into the relationship. The better option is to examine our expectations and adjust our own behavior. This is very difficult to do so some people opt to go outside the relationship to find someone who meets their particular expectation.
The Cry for Help
While some people have no intention of leaving their relationship, they find themselves burdened by some unbearable aspect of it. They may feel they have exercised every other option to correct the problem, and out of despair finally play their strongest card: an extramarital, affair. They then inform, their partner about the affair, as if to say, “See, I’ve been trying to tell you all along how much I hurt. Now, do you hear me?” Rather than place the relationship in jeopardy by giving into your frustrations and acting out, the better choice is to work with a Marriage Counselor to learn how to communicate and deal with those frustrations in a more productive way.
Breakdown in Communication
During the course of a relationship, there are often times when two partners stop communicating with the depth and intimacy that characterized their earlier years. This can happen when one partner feels that he or she has outgrown the other in terms of social activities, career development, emotional growth or intellectual pursuits. It can happen when one of the partners is geographically removed, ill, or otherwise unavailable. And it can happen when there is sexual dysfunction stemming from, a physical problem or lack of communication. Rather than working together to enhance communication and correct the problem, one of the partners may find it easier to simply look outside the relationship for a new partner.
The Exit Strategy
Some people use an affair as their strategy for making a break. They’ve already decided they want out of the relationship so they engage in an affair to make their partner angry enough to initiate a breakup. Others see an affair as an excuse for entering Marriage Counseling or Couples Therapy so that the therapist can maneuver the dissolution of the relationship for them. Still others have an affair to garner the emotional support they need from their new partner in order to endure the breakup of their existing relationship.
Sometimes people have affairs to remain in their marriage. Whatever the reason, the outcome of discovering a partner’s affair is devastating. As an Affair Recovery Specialist, I help couples examine why the affair occurred and help them make thoughtful decisions about whether they can or even want to remain in the relationship.
For more information about reasons people have affairs please contact me at (858) 735-1139.