Is having an Affair, …fair?

Commit­ted cou­ples sail through life’s high seas, some smooth­ly and some rough­ly. Except for a few eccen­tric eddies in the stream, most peo­ple adhere to the moral code of monogamy with their spouse. The creed of most Amer­i­cans is to have one sex­u­al OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApart­ner at a time. But the fact is, anoth­er sex­u­al part­ner may lurk below deck. More than oth­er mar­tial argu­ments, an affair rocks the boat vio­lent­ly. The mar­riage is strand­ed ashore, ship­wrecked, or goes imme­di­ate­ly into the repair dock. Mar­riage ther­a­pists are the mechan­ics when your rela­tion­ship is strug­gling with mul­ti­ple sex­u­al relationships.

Few fixed sta­tis­tics show how often affairs occur. The nature of affairs pre­vents hon­esty. (What respectable father who talks to his son about the ‘facts of life’ would admit to sleep­ing around?) Is an affair dis­hon­est when nobody knows about it? Social sci­en­tists say gross­ly that about a third of mar­ried men and a fifth of mar­ried women have had an affair, a lover, a para­mour. With­in the US, about 1 in every 2.7 cou­ples is touched by infi­deli­ty. (p. 1 Abrahms Spring, 2012)

There are many ther­a­pists who won’t do cou­ple ther­a­py unless the unfaith­ful part­ner agrees to end the affair. “Just say no.” is easy to say, but the impact of end­ing abrupt­ly is dev­as­tat­ing. Going ‘cold turkey’ doesn’t always work- the affair can go deep­er under­ground or seep emo­tion­al­ly side­ways. Many mar­riages sink into depres­sion. Some­times its hard to let go of an affair which has brought some love and joy into life.

As a ther­a­pist I ask the unfaith­ful part­ner, “Would it do more good, or more harm to con­fess the affair?” and “What’s the mean­ing of the extra-mar­i­tal rela­tion­ship?” Leav­ing a lover involves discernment.

There are four stages of how a rela­tion­ship devel­ops into an affair.

I Emo­tion­al excitementOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
II Keep­ing a Secret
III Sur­rep­ti­tious Dating

IV The Act …Well, you know

For the lover, the third wheel in the tri­an­gle, as the rela­tion­ship con­tin­ues over years, I pre­dict that there will be moments of pure bliss and hours, many hours of sor­row. Affairs need to be assessed with the tape mea­sure called regret. From the per­spec­tive of time, will you regret leav­ing your hus­band, or leav­ing your lover? What doors are open and what are closed in this matrimony?

When a two-some enter ther­a­py, there is hope for the rela­tion­ship to sur­vive the ship­wreck of an affair. Repair­ing the dam­age is crit­i­cal for any chil­dren aboard. There are many ways that the love can be even stronger after the affair.

Hope is my mid­dle name as a cer­ti­fied mar­riage coun­selor. I encour­age you to adopt it also.


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