How do affairs typically start?
Love has the power knock us to our knees with joy, but it can also plunge us into a magnificent void of misery and despair. One of the things that has the highest risk of bringing you to that darker side of love is an affair. But if we all know that affairs can be so risky and painful, why do people start them?
People may leave a long-term romantic partner's arms and enter the arms of another for a variety of reasons. If a relationship has already been internally broken for some time, one partner may seek out an affair to try to meet some of their needs that the current relationship is leaving unfulfilled. Alternatively, sometimes an affair may start based on factors that have less to do with the relationship, and more to do with the unfaithful spouse's own emotional and mental health. In this blog, we will be discussing some of the most common factors that can lead to the start of an affair.
Lack of emotional fulfillment in the current relationship
For any relationship to feel fulfilling, you will want to feel a strong sense of emotional connection to your partner. At the beginning of a relationship, an emotional connection is often easy to build, as the desire to connect intimately is driven by the spark of attraction that brings you together. As time goes on, that connection can be kept up regularly sharing your intimate thoughts and feelings with one another, including your hopes, dreams, secrets, and daily struggles. But sometimes, the emotional connection in a relationship can fade. This can happen due to conflict and building of resentment, or partners can just slowly drift apart as they're absorbed by the daily routine of life, becoming more like housemates than lovers.
When a person doesn't feel emotionally fulfilled in their relationship, this may lead them to seek out connection with others. That emotional connection may start as an innocent friendship, but over time, if your partner comes to depend on this other person to fulfill their emotional needs, that connection may deepen into an emotional affair.
Low self-esteem or insecurity
Another thing that may drive someone to seek out an affair is low self-esteem. If your partner holds a lot of insecurities, such as having a hard time feeling physically attractive, smart, or successful, they may turn to others outside of the relationship for a feeling of validation. Successfully flirting with another woman, and receiving attention from her in return, may help a husband feel a temporary sense of self-confidence and attractiveness. Using infidelity to sooth insecurity isn't likely to boost one's self esteem in the long term, but it can be tempting as a temporary balm.
Alternatively, low self-esteem can also lead to affairs in cases where someone feels that they are not good enough for their partner and are destined to disappoint them. In such cases, the cheating partner may feel almost subconsciously driven to play out this self-fulfilling prophecy by betraying their partner through an affair, because they simply believe that they are destined to be a bad person and can’t have a lasting, healthy relationship.
Unresolved past traumas or issues
Past trauma may have a big effect on how people engage in relationships -- particularly if the trauma happened at an early age, or in the context of past important relationships like with family members or past romantic partners. Trauma might get in the way of a person's ability to form trusting connections with others or feel capable of a long-term committed relationship. Research has also shown that people who experienced sexual trauma or abuse at young age are more likely to engage in infidelity as an adult, because those experiences might've impacted how they're able to engage with sex and romance.
If you or your partner have experienced trauma in the past, it's likely to affect your relationship now. Seeking counseling from a professional therapist can help you heal from trauma and form a healthy relationship going into the future.
A desire for excitement or novelty
Perhaps you or your spouse feel bored or unfulfilled in parts of your life, whether that's in your relationship or marriage, your job, or other things that feel burdensome in your daily life. And maybe it feels like the initial romantic spark that started your current relationship is gone, the feeling between you is now tiresome. A flirtation with a new person can be a way to seek out excitement. Maybe it starts as just a few texts or a one-off fling. But once it's happening, the danger of secrecy and feeling of forbidden love can also add to the drama and excitement, compelling someone to continue into a full-blown affair.
A need for validation or attention
Everyone wants to feel loved, appreciated, and understood -- especially by your partner. You want to feel that your mate is excited to see you, is interested in hearing your thoughts and feelings at the end of the day, and still feels that spark of attraction when you walk into the room. It's hard to feel un-cared for or ignored, and when someone is feeling that way in their relationship, they may turn to someone else for validation and attention.
There are a variety of situational factors that can contribute to how affairs start:
Proximity to potential affair partners is one significant factor that can make someone more likely to start an affair. This proximity may happen through work or social environments that foster connections, where people have the opportunity to interact with others frequently and build close relationships. When individuals spend a lot of time with someone who is attractive and shares similar interests, it can be easy to develop feelings for that person. This is one reason why workplace affairs can be a common type of affair.
Opportunities for secrecy and privacy are another factor that can contribute to an affair. When individuals have the ability to keep their actions hidden, they may be more likely to engage in behavior that goes against their values or commitments.
Life transitions or major stressors can also be a catalyst for starting an affair. During these times, people may be feeling particularly vulnerable or in need of emotional support. The attention and validation that comes from an affair partner can be particularly alluring in these situations, providing a temporary escape from the challenges of life.
The Role of Technology
Technology is no exception to the rule that too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Nowadays, our constant connection to phones and social media makes it easier to secretly to start a relationship online with someone other than your spouse or partner. It could start as a casual conversation over Facebook or Instagram, and lead into something more. Technology can also be addictive, and that too may play a role in someone starting an affair. If someone starts to depend too much on the internet for comfort and enjoyment, that can also lead someone into online infidelity or cyber-cheating.
Since you aren't in physical contact, it may appear harmless enough, but online infidelity is precisely what it sounds like: cheating. And it can be just as serious and damaging as a physical affair.
The Impact of Affairs
One of the most immediate and obvious consequences of an affair is the damage it can do to the primary relationship. The trust that has been built between partners can be broken, leading to a loss of intimacy, increased conflict, and potentially even the dissolution of the relationship altogether. The betrayed partner may experience feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal, while the person who engaged in the affair may feel guilt and shame.
Emotionally, all parties involved can experience significant turmoil. The betrayed partner may struggle with self-doubt and insecurity, while the person who engaged in the affair may experience a range of conflicting emotions. In addition, the affair partner may also be dealing with their own feelings of guilt and shame, as well as the possibility of being caught and exposed.
The potential long-term consequences of an affair can also be significant. Even if the primary relationship is salvaged, the damage done can take years to repair, and the memory of the affair can continue to haunt the relationship for a long time. Children, if present, can also be impacted in various ways, such as feeling confused or abandoned by the situation. The ripple effects of an affair can extend beyond the individuals involved, impacting families, friends, and even the broader community.
Everybody deserves to be appreciated by the person they love. Getting over an affair is challenging, and painful for both spouses. Reconciliation, however, may bolster and improve the relationship as partners regain the mutual trust.
Do you need help getting going? Evolve Therapy can provide a secure, nonjudgmental environment to start talking through your worries. Contact us now for more information and we can help you regardless of your problem.