Affairs of the Heart

If you are thinking about becoming involved with someone emotionally or intimately outside of your primary relationship with a partner or spouse….think seriously about what you are embarking on before you do it.

Whatever is contributing to this move on your part will only compound your existing personal and relationship problems.

The first thing to consider is what is leading you down this path. Are you angry with your partner or spouse? Are they angry with you? Are you lonely? Do you feel neglected? Does your partner seem more distant? Has your partner pulled back from physical intimacy? Have there been increased stressors in your life like financial or job problems? A new baby? Medical problems? Death of a loved one? Are you so unhappy in your relationship you want to leave and find someone new? What else is contributing to it?

If you have become more disconnected from your partner or spouse as a result of any of the above you are probably feeling you are not getting your emotional and physical needs met. This makes you more vulnerable to stepping out of the relationship unless you can begin to confide in your partner or talk to someone about it.

If you have begun looking on line for possible rendezvous, looking at pornography, stopping at the happy hour bars or beginning to take a stronger interest in talking to someone you work with… you may be even more vulnerable to having an affair.

An affair or extra significant relationship is any relationship you start that involves flirting or communicating with a known or unknown person in which you start exploring the possibility of establishing a new exclusive relationship.

This may start out simply as wanting someone to talk to and share aspects of your life. It could be with a colleague or friend at work, a neighbor, or another person in which you share some common interests or activities with.

It might involve flirting or sexy talk on-line or a sexual rendezvous with another person. Many people consider their spouse looking at provocative pictures of other women or men or going to pick up clubs/bars as being a kind of betrayal much like having an affair.

Whether it is a one night stand or an ongoing emotional or sexual relationship with another person outside of a marriage or primary relationship; it will be considered as an affair by your partner.

As mentioned, usually there are contributing factors or problematic patterns in your life and your relationship with your partner that contribute to people setting the stage for an extra relationship involvement.

It may begin with stressors or conflicts that are not being addressed that involve both partners escalating and polarizing which makes it difficult to problem solve and repair the relationship.

As a result, partners begin to stop sharing aspects of their life and may withdraw or distance themselves further. As a result each feels the other doesn’t care as much and that they can’t get their needs met.

As this occurs; their relationship boundaries seem to blur. They begin shutting down themselves to their primary partner or spouse while opening themselves up to talk or share what is going on with someone else. This someone else may be someone they know or a new person that has just happened to come along. The stage is set for more sharing and closeness with the likelihood of a deeper involvement.

People who are feeling unfulfilled or neglected in their primary relationships and then step out are really outsourcing aspects of their primary relationships where they feel they are not able to get their needs met.

Sometimes they have tried to express their concerns and feelings to their spouse or partner but have been unable to get a meaningful response. After some time they may begin to feel hopeless or give up.

Their new involvements seem to provide more hope of being understood and having their needs met in ways that are not happening with their primary relationship. The new relationships which are starting up typically will be more exciting, fun, or potentially what they are looking for partly because they are new like any beginning dating relationship.

Unfortunately, the person who has stepped out on their primary relationship begins living a double life to protect their primary partner and the new person they are involved with. This means the person stepping out has to compromise their values and integrity to sustain their double life. Lying, withholding information, making excuses and deceiving becomes a way of life. Always having to look over your shoulder or anticipate answers to questions that might be brought up by their spouse or partner. The exception to this is if the person stepping out has made a decision to leave their partner or if their partner discovers the affair.

If the affair comes to light, the betrayed partner or spouse is usually devastated…hurt, angry, upset, blaming, unforgiving….They can no longer trust their partner who seems to be someone different than they thought they knew and became involved with. Often their had been an explicit agreement that they were to have a monogamous relationship and tell each other if they were unhappy, wanting to leave or considering becoming involved with someone else before they acted on it.

While one-night stands, emotional involvements and ongoing affairs seem like the solution or alternatives to what’s wrong in their primary relationship it usually only makes everything more problematic.

The irony is that most of the couples I have encountered where one or both partners have become involved with other people really don’t want to leave their relationship.

While some relationships end, many people work to try to reconcile and repair the damage done to their relationship. Depending on the people involved and circumstances; this is one of the most challenging problems for a couple to deal with.

The good news is many couples I see who are committed to being together and addressing the issues and concerns related to their relationship and the affair have a good chance of recovering and having a more meaningful and connected relationship.

M. Douglas Evans LMSW

Copyright 2012, Affairs of The Heart by M. Douglas Evans, All Rights Reserved.

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