So why do so many people have an affair?
Authors Harley and Chalmers of ‘Surviving An Affair’ suggest that ‘infidelity doesn’t necessarily develop out of a bankrupt system of moral values. Instead, personal values change to accommodate the affair.’1 I couldn’t agree more. Affairs never start with a kiss. They start the minute you allow your heart to cross ‘the line’.
Affairs exist in a dangerous but breathtaking landscape combined with secrecy (which has the power to heighten any experience), emotions (which can’t be trusted on the best of days) and delusional thinking (it could never happen to me), so walking close to ‘the line’ is like playing Frisbee on a cliff. It’s not long before a wrong decision and a wayward step takes you over the edge.
In the past 10 years, I have successfully helped numerous couples recover from the devastating consequences of an extra marital affair. It doesn’t seem to matter if the affair was a one-night-stand, an affair-of-the-heart or a long term emotional-sexual relationship, time and again, the unfaithful spouse has been able to identify the exact moment ‘the line’ was crossed.
My clients also recognized that believing several widely accepted societal misunderstandings about affairs provided them with a false sense of security in their precarious playground. For example;
I Was Carried Away By My Emotions – While it’s true that emotions produce behaviours, it’s equally true that thoughts produce emotions. You cannot be swept away by your emotions unless you’ve let your thoughts run off, fantasizing about affair-based activities.
Affairs Just Happen – No they don’t. Affairs happen as a result of numerous small intentional choices that eventually lead to an affair.
My Values Will Protect Me – Oh really? Under the right conditions, when faced with the temptation of an affair, even those with strong spiritual convictions can find infidelity irresistible.
We Can Still Be Friends – No you can’t. Once ‘the line’ has been crossed in any way, complete separation is necessary to prevent the constant stirring of inappropriate feelings.
It’s Okay For Married People to Have Close Friendships With Members of the Opposite Sex – At the risk of sounding prudish, I say ‘no’. Most betrayed spouses are blindsided by their partners’ affair with their best friend. Availability, compatibility and proximity are three essential ingredients that fuel affairs.
I Need Time Away To Think Things Through – I usually interpret this as ‘I need some convenient excuse to get together with my lover’. Working through the devastation of an affair together, as a married couple, is the surest way to marital recovery.
It’s Better Not to Share My Feelings for Someone Else With My Spouse – Not true. Once an affair is exposed (no matter the stage it is at), the secrecy bubble breaks which often deflates passion. Without passion, the affair is usually seen for what it is – stupid.
If you’re currently playing too close to the edge, get help. Your life and marriage are worth it!
Watch for future blogs:
Withdrawal From The Illusion – After An Affair – Part 2
Hope For Recovery – After An Affair – Part 3