Affairs don’t “just happen”!
The reality is that many of us have affairs. Estimates vary, but probably up to 60% of men and 45% of women women within established couples have sex with someone outside the relationship, maybe just once, maybe more often than that.
A high proportion of these people will say, when asked why they did it, “It just happened, I couldn’t help myself.”
But this is dishonest on many levels. There is always a point at which everyone in a committed relationship decides whether or not they would stay faithful if the opportunity to have sex with another person arose.
That’s a decision you’ve probably already made, even if you don’t know it yet. Ask yourself, if a situation arose that offered you the “right” partner in the “right” circumstances (often meaning you were dismayed and unhappy with the way your relationship was going), would you or wouldn’t you have sex with them?
Yes or No? So now you know – you can actually decide to stay faithful or not. It’s good to make that choice, because when the temptation arises you will know what you’re going to do. Idealistic?
Possibly, but it avoids the dishonesty of pretending that an affair “just happened” on the spur of the moment. They never do, even when a person’s under the influence of drink or drugs. Here’s the truth.
The reason affairs happen is because somebody sees in another person’s some quality or opportunity that they believe they lack in their own long term relationship. It may be emotional intimacy, or it may be sexual experience, or it may even just be the chance to express lustful desire.
But the irony is that all of these qualities can be expressed within a permanent, committed, monogamous relationship if you try hard enough. And there’s the rub!
It isn’t that these things are impossible – it’s just that we don’t know how to do them. We don’t know how to achieve the degree of intimacy that seems attractive with a new partner. We do not know how to maintain the intimacy of the lovers within us, which is ironic since we really want nothing more than intimacy and connection with another person. (This desire is in our nature. It is the essence of the archetypal energy within us which we call the Lover.)
Video – the Lover archetype
We can’t imagine how to try the sexual experimentation that we so long for when sex and communication seems to have died out in our own relationship. So, rather than turning to a new partner, why not try the program for an exciting sexual life that’s described on this website?
If you try it and you still find that your relationship is going nowhere, you have other choices. I have heard of men (and women) who have said that having an affair has kept their relationship together; and I have heard from men (and women) who have said that having an affair has ended their relationship.
It’s worthwhile pointing out that if somebody ends a relationship and moves to live with their new partner from the affair, more often than not they find themselves back at square one in no time at all — except that there is the additional burden of a broken family, damaged children, disrupted lifestyle, financial distress and who knows what else to cope with.
Even the way in which an affair is conducted can say a lot about your original relationship: for example, even having an affair can be an aggressive act for a man who can’t express his anger against his partner. (In archetypal terms this might mean he has a deficient Warrior Archetype.)
A woman who wants romance, excitement and the thrill of passion may turn to the heightened sensations of an affair with a man who seems to provide these qualities. Somebody who’s guilty or scared about having sex with their spouse may end up having impersonal sex outside the house, perhaps with a sex worker, or in an affair. And so on.
One thing’s for sure: there is always a reason why affairs happen. It’s exciting to be obsessed with another person, to be consumed by sexual desire and lust.
To enjoy a passionate, possibly illicit, liaison in a hotel or even in the marital bed can be tremendously exciting. But these affairs tend to mix fantasy and reality in a damaging way; the fantasy is often an idealistic fantasy of how things could be or should be or might be, not how they actually turn out to be.
Bear in mind too that having an affair is a definite step away from your relationship. An affair may not end your relationship, but it certainly will change it in some way. After all, relationships – or most of them – have some implicit commitment to sexual faithfulness over the long term.
This is particularly true if you happen to be a person who believes that sex should always be conducted within a committed relationship. No matter how you justify an affair to yourself, if you end up switching relationships, you may well find that nothing much has changed when you’re in the new relationship.
An affair always raises the question of why you got into a relationship with a particular person to start with: whatever those reasons were, are they no longer important to you?
I don’t want to deny the possibility that circumstances change so much that a new relationship is sometimes appropriate; it just seems to me that it’s more honest to end one relationship before you start the next. And to do that, you really need to have come to the final conclusion that your existing relationship cannot be sustained over the long term, even if you have tried everything that seems reasonable to preserve it.
Many people end up in affairs saying something like: “It just seemed natural to move from a friendship to a sexual relationship.” But you need to ask yourself what is driving the force that led you to think the affair would be so much more rewarding than your existing relationship?
As I said above, fantasy often turns out to be nowhere as good as reality. And if you’re thinking of accommodating an affair outside your relationship while still maintaining that original relationship, keep in mind that this will put a tremendous strain on you: it’s not a natural situation, and few people find it easy to sustain the deception.
If you cast your mind back to the discussion on how we turn ourselves off, which is what we seem to do during sex with our regular, committed monogamous partner, you may see how easy it can be (if you want to do so) to turn yourself off to the fantasy of sex with your affair or potential affair. (This is a way of staying faithful: you think negatively about your affair.)
For example, imagine the distress of your children when you leave them, instead of the happiness of the sex with your affair. Imagine the financial consequences instead of peaceful, serene dinners together followed by romantic sex.
Imagine having five more children under the age of eight while supporting your original family on maintenance with visiting rights once a month. No doubt there are many other ways you could turn yourself off to the thought of an affair, but in the end it’s a matter of choice. (Oh, and possibly, your mental health.)
It’s also clear to me that a lot of people who spend enormous amounts of time and energy working at an affair, hiding it from their partner, sustaining the interest of the new sexual partner, and so on, could expend that energy on their own existing relationship.
Likewise, the thrills and excitement you may feel with your lover can be put into your existing relationship if you really want to; the passionate sex can be a part of your current relationship; the energy and pride you feel can be transmuted into security, trust and love within your existing relationship.
All that energy is available to you. You and your partner can both benefit from the energy that you would otherwise be putting somewhere else. The real issue is finding out why you want to divert the energy you could be putting into your relationship into an affair.