As a therapist, I love emotional affairs like a body shop loves car accidents; it keeps me in business. It’s a sucky way to exist, but I’m happy to give tips to prevent emotional affairs because I know no matter how many people I help not have one, there are plenty of other people who will do it because it’s so easy to do when we allow ourselves to be selfish and not work on our marriage.
Last week I described what an emotional affair looks like and the danger of just the suspicion of one happening. To continue this topic, this is the exercise I’ve used several times before to consider why someone would do something like over drink, but in this case I’ll be looking at why someone would have an emotional affair. This exercise uses the fraction:
Action (or behaviour)
Intention (or reason)
The following are potential intentions and reasons for someone having an emotional affair. As a reminder, there is never just one reason for a behaviour. When we are considering why we or someone had an affair, it’s helpful to try to consider the top 3-5 reasons this person had an affair to better understand the root problems. When considering the top 3-5 reasons, remember people who did the emotional affair will likely want to downplay the harshness of their reasons while the one who was cheated on will likely want to make it seem worse.
Important Point: If you have kids and you have an affair, the kids will likely take it as a betrayal against them in a similar way as your partner. When you have kids, you’re essentially cheating on the family, and not just your partner.
Another Important Point: If you are cheated on, you need to remember it’s not about you; it’s about the other person. It’s their mistake; not yours. It’s common for cheaters to blame their partner, but this is what I like to call “stupid”. Cheating is never excusable. If your partner thinks you’re doing something wrong, he or she should say something. Cheating is not the way to address it: “You never do the dishes so I had sex with the neighbor. You learned your lesson, right?” This sounds stupid because it is. If people want to leave a relationship, they should leave because they think it’s the right thing to do. Leaving a relationship for another person is called weakness and selfishness, and, in my opinion, makes you a whore. Saying you’re leaving because it’s the right thing to do but you’re seeing someone else, makes you weak, selfish, whorish, and stupid, which I say that in the nicest way possible. For the record, I say this more fact based than with judgement; if we meet I will still like you.
Summary of the following points: People who have an affair either feel like they’re superior (i.e. I deserve this) or they feel like the biggest loser and trying to feel better. Neither is a good reason.
Reasons Someone Would Have an Affair
- A way out of the current relationship (aka weakness)
- I am feeling old and unattractive (aka mid life crisis) or just desperately lonely
- It gives me a false sense of value by having someone pursue me
- To feel something for once (i.e. I’ve been numb to life for awhile)
- It distracts me from how much I hate myself or the shame I carry
- A coping tool for being with an unappreciative or domineering person
- A coping tool or distraction for the life I hate
- I suspect the other person is going to end our relationship, so this is backup
- Looking for the bigger-better deal
- For the thrill
- I am addicted to the feeling of “falling” in love, which gives me a high
- Others do it, so what’s the big deal?
- I’ve developed resentment to my partner
- I lie to myself about it being innocent
- I see myself as “better” than other people who can’t just be “friends” with someone else
- I see myself as above the social norms and expectations (aka I don’t respect boundaries)
- I have a double standard because I’d be furious if my partner was doing this
- The other person in the affair is a predator and manipulating me because I am too insecure and/or blind
- I want to manipulate someone like a boss or person in a power position.
- I enjoyed the original connection with this new person and allowed myself to take the tiny steps towards the emotional affair zone when I didn’t mean to originally
- I take my partner and relationship for granted
- I feel overwhelmed with everything and this is something I do for myself to feel better
- Self sabotage
- Culturally or family wise, this behaviour is acceptable
- I am a polygamist at heart
- Fear of commitment
- I lied to myself and/or others when I said I wanted to be in a committed relationship
- To boost my ego
- The other person is just so nice to me and I confuse respect for them with attraction
- I convince myself this new person is my “soul mate”
- I need someone to vent to about my partner and choose an inappropriate person
- Revenge or punishment
- Just a really dumb moment and/or period in my life
- I convince myself that I deserve this
- It was really easy to do it unlike reconnecting with my partner
- I lack integrity and/or self discipline
This week may you take steps to prevent going down this wrong path.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people