Most Americans think adultery is wrong. Almost 90 percent of men and 94 percent of women think it\’s always wrong or almost always wrong. But many of those people have extra-marital affairs anyway. One of the most reliable sources for statistics is the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago whose 1992 study found that a quarter of married men and one-sixth of married women in the United States have had at least one extra-marital affair. Many experts now estimate a higher percentage.
Why do so many people do it? Especially when they think it\’s wrong?
There are all sorts of reasons or excuses. A wave of lust steamrolls over two people and they are helpless in its grip. Or one partner is piqued at the other partner and has an affair just to show the other they are desirable. There\’s even the affair where no sex actually takes place, but the participants are unfaithful to their married partners by spending their time and emotional capital with another person of the opposite sex.
Then there\’s the affair where a single woman is convinced her married lover will certainly leave his wife. The woman may invest years in this relationship. (She doesn\’t think of it as an illicit affair—after all, she\’s not married, and her lover loves her!) But in the end, he seldom leaves his wife and the relationship was really an affair after all.
It\’s helpful in the midst of heightened emotion to be able to recognize the type of affair you may be involved in:
Intimacy Avoidance. Some people are afraid of getting too close to anyone—including their spouse. People with intimacy issues often believe they don\’t deserve love. They may have suffered past traumas such as sexual abuse or rape. Ironically, they seek out affairs with people other than their spouse as a barrier to intimacy. They\’re afraid of getting too close so they push their spouse away with an extra-marital affair.
Sexual Addiction. The causes are complex and not well understood. Some say biochemical abnormalities are the problem. Whatever the cause, like any addiction, the sufferer needs more and more sex to satisfy his craving. Often a sexual addict uses sex to numb his pain and ease his emptiness. Fidelity to one partner will not satisfy him.
Conflict Avoidance. When a problem in a relationship comes up, those partners who avoid standing up to one another and having a conversation will never resolve their differences. Many fear that a confrontation will cost them control in their relationship, or perhaps they fear abandonment by their partner. So they say nothing. As they drift farther apart their marriage erodes and so does their sexual intimacy. Eventually they seek extra-marital affairs.
Sacrificial Self. When one spouse has sacrificed his own needs, sexual or otherwise, and deprived himself over time, he may believe he deserves a dalliance or more. In fact, he chooses to have an affair instead of exploring the reasons for his deprivation and mending the situation with his spouse. To take this one step further, one spouse has an affair because he feels the end of the marriage is a foregone conclusion. The affair provides justification for the end and lets both parties off the hook from examining what went wrong in the first place.
Then there\’s love. Sometimes it happens that someone other than your spouse enters your life and you feel a complete emotional, sexual, spiritual and intellectual connection with that person. You might even use the words â€˜soul mate.\’ When this happens and an affair ensues, it is often most detrimental to the existing marriage. I\’ll talk more on this topic next week.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.Â If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.Â You can reach her here:Â http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.