The thought of having an affair, or at least a flirtation, is something that flits through the minds of many people, especially if they’re in long-term relationships. If you’ve never been tempted by someone else, that may be down to luck as much as anything else. It’s easy to be judgmental about someone (maybe even your own partner) who hasn’t been able to resist such temptation, but people are human and, as such, make mistakes that often have devastating consequences.
From my experience as a relationship counsellor, I realised that there are different sorts of affairs:
- The “It’s Not Really An Affair, More A Relationship” – this is where one person is available/single but the other one isn’t so the one who’s available really believes that if they are patient, the other person will leave their current partner. The available person will say “This is much more than an affair; it’s a relationship and we want to be together”. A lot of the time, that doesn’t actually happen, even if both parties thought at the beginning that it would. Often, the final decision to leave a partner, perhaps children, a home that you’ve built up together and the security that that brings, proves too much and that person can’t leave after all.
- Then there’s the “It’s Only Sex Affair” – this feels very intense and there’s no doubt that some people have a huge physical attraction which they find almost impossible to resist. They feel that it’s almost ‘inevitable’ that they’ll end up having sex and as some people feel sexually alive, only when there’s secrecy and the accompanying nervous excitement, the lust can be overpowering. However, this affair is usually the most short-lived – it’s great at the time, but once the couple realise that on a different level they have very little in common, and in fact irritate one another, that excitement can change almost overnight.
- The “I’ll Get Back At You Affair” usually results from someone feeling very resentful and angry towards their usual partner. If you feel ignored or criticised by your partner, or they make you very angry and upset, this sort of affair can seem empowering at the time. However, at some point, most people have to try to deal with their more permanent relationship rather than getting back at their partner in this way.
- The “We Haven’t Had Sex Affair” is one that I came across a lot – usually when I saw each one of the couple separately. One partner would tell me that they weren’t really having an affair because sex hadn’t actually taken place. However, texting, meeting for coffee or lunch and not telling your partner about it does mean that you’re in an intimate relationship with someone else, especially if you confide in that person rather than your partner. If you can tell your regular partner what’s going on and not keep any of it secret, fair enough, but if it makes you squirm to think that they might find out, then even if you haven’t had sex, you’ve been unfaithful……maybe you don’t agree, and it’s up for discussion, but it seems that this ‘affair’ is just as damaging as any other, in its own way.
- Then there’s the “Keep It In The Family Affair” which happens more frequently than you might think. There’s the closeness of family get-togethers, mutual teasing and a knowledge of your partner’s sister, brother, cousin or parents that can eventually prove intoxicating. In some ways, this sort of affair can be easier to keep secret because there are often opportunities within the family to turn up at the same barbeques, Christmas get-togethers and holidays but the fall-out can be even more devastating than the other affairs because the whole family will be involved in some way. People will inevitably takes sides and the family get-togethers can become a nightmare for all involved.
- Lastly, the “Total Mind And Body Affair” which is the most threatening of all, partly because both people feel it’s what they’ve always been looking for in a relationship and will often say that they’ve never felt this way before. This affair is the most likely to threaten an existing partnership and although the couple engaged in this affair are more likely to stay happily together, the consequences are often devastating for the other people in their lives, particularly if there are children involved.
Many different sorts of affairs and there have been many books written about how help your relationship recover if you’ve decided to stay together and work on it.
However, if you’re the one on the brink of an affair, try to stand back for a minute and ask yourself these questions:
- Are you feeling unappreciated by your partner and that’s making you angry? If so, even if you’ve tried talking about it together before and nothing’s changed, try talking to a relationship counsellor, even if you have to go on your own. A counsellor won’t try to talk you out of having an affair, but it will give you a chance to air your anger in a confidential setting to someone apart from your partner.
- Even if you feel that you’re not the one doing anything wrong in your current relationship, could you try once more to resolve some of the issues? You can’t do it alone, that’s for sure, but ultimately, do you want to give it your best shot or do you want to continue as you are?
- Can you remember how you once enjoyed your partner’s company before you got to this stage? Do you remember the fun you once had? See if you can recapture some of that even though there may now be bills, children and/or work stresses.
- Ask yourself honestly if you were with the new person you’re thinking of, would it be much different if you had the same stresses in your life that you have now? It’s easy to think that things would be very different when you’re feeling such longing but the realities of work, children, lack of money, elderly parents or lack of self-esteem won’t go away even if you’re with a different person.
- Does the new person make you feel better about yourself? This is a difficult one because if they’re shoring up your self-esteem, you probably need to work on yourself and feeling better generally before making a big change in your life.
- Lastly, ask yourself what an affair would provide for you. If it’s affection, better sex, more fun or companionship, try to think of ways that you might rediscover that with your existing partner.
Hopefully, some of the above points will help you look at the issues with more objectivity (if that’s possible!) and you’ll be able to make a decision that’s right for you in the long-term, whichever way it goes.