Did you know that most affairs are not actually about sex? Surprised? You may also find it interesting that most people who have had an affair believed it would never happen to them. It doesn’t matter if you are religious, a good person, or a smart person. Affairs have very little, if at all, to do with the type of person you are.
So you may be asking, “what are affairs about anyways, if it's not just sexual addiction, and what types of people have them?” We will tell you. Affairs are about many different things. Reasons can vary based on circumstances and what is going on inside the heart and mind of the person who has the affair. Let’s look at a few different ways a person falls into the affair trap:
A conflict avoider is afraid of, well, conflict. They don’t want to ruffle any feathers and start a fight or worse risk abandonment by their spouse. So what do they do? They stuff the feelings and fears down down deep and they don’t talk about the real pain or feelings they have. They may slip into an affair with someone at work or online who “gets” them. They may feel more real with that person because they are a great escape from reality.
They probably start out sharing feelings with someone in the form of a complaint about their spouse or their day. They share more with the other person than their spouse and the other person begins to drive a wedge into their marriage until they feel they don’t have anything in common with their spouse. When you ask how they are doing, these people will likely say “oh I’m fine” and give you a big fake smile.
They don’t know how to approach conflict. Learning to be assertive and in an environment that encourages honesty will truly help this person speak up and share their feelings freely. This person wants love and validation of their feelings. They often seek permission to express their feelings.
This person is afraid of getting close to their spouse emotionally.
Like the Conflict Avoider, this person stuffs their feelings, doesn’t share their emotional reality, and is afraid. They are afraid of getting close and so they have more arguments whereas the Conflict Avoider is afraid of not being loved and so there are fewer arguments.
This person needs reassurance that it is okay to be themselves. They need to feel that they are safe with their spouse to share who they are, their shortcomings and all, with unconditional love and support.
These are the people who sacrifice their feelings, desires, and needs for the good of the marriage, the job, the family, and the spouse. They have tried to do marriage right by giving of themselves until they have no more. They may feel they are not important and if they put themselves before others they will appear selfish and they will loose what they once held so dear.
They also stuff their feelings like a Conflict Avoider but there may be other outside reasons that cause them to hold back. Maybe their spouse has had a long term illness or they have a sick child. The type of affair they find themselves in is likely to be a more serious, passionate, and long-term relationship.
They spend a lot of time in an ambiguous and guilty state wondering if they should stay or go. What they may not realize is that a relationship like this is dangerous no matter the excuse because ANY relationship built on lies and deception is no relationship at all. Even if they did stay with the affair partner they will eventually ask the question, “how do I know you wouldn’t abandon me in my hour of need?”
Ask yourself, did I have this affair because I wanted an excuse to leave or am I using my spouse’s affair to ignore underlying issues? Deciding to dig to the roots is important because you will carry the same issues into the next relationship if you choose to leave. This is reason enough to stick with marriage counseling.
Many times people pin all affairs to Sexual Addiction but the majority of affairs are not the result of an addiction at all. There are some common trends such as looking to fill a void. Sexual addiction is more like an alcoholic or drug user who are addicted to the chemical high. It has a numbing effect for them and provides an escape. There is often no emotional tie to the people they encounter and there are multiple encounters.
Remember that these are only a few different ways a person falls into an the affair trap. You may or may not see yourself in these descriptions and you may see different parts of each one in your situation. There is not a mold that fits everyone, but our aim is really to help shed some light on the way many people find themselves in trouble. There are other ways this can happen. Stay tuned for more! Give us a call with any questions (918) 281-6060.
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“Brad Robinson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an expert in infidelity recovery in Tulsa, OK. Together with his wife Morgan Robinson they teach people about how to understand and overcome infidelity and how to make their marriage thrive even after betrayal. You can learn more about their work by visiting www.familyandlifesolutions.com”