Extramarital Affairs

What does it take to move past the affair and become a stronger couple?

What happens when your spouse tells you that he or she is having an affair? Individuals experience anger, hurt, and lack of trust when they realize their marriage was not what they had imagined. The fairytale idea of being married and living happily ever after seems shattered, and they do not know how to believe in their marriage anymore. Then again, those who have children, are financially dependent on their spouse, or who are emotionally invested in the relationship might not be able to envision a life without his or her partner.

Not all marriages can or will be saved because salvaging a marriage after infidelity calls for a strong will, open communication, and commitment from both partners to work through the issues and establish boundaries for healing to occur. The good news is that many couples consider the possibility of saving marriages after an affair, and the even better news is that it is possible! An affair can be a wake-up call for individuals to look at the way that they relate to one another, to re-establish connection, and to address conflict in a more constructive way.

In Bangkok, temptations—mostly targeted toward men—exist around every corner. The obvious lures are the massage centers and dancing clubs. A bit more hidden is a Thai cultural norm, found in some wealthy households, that permits husbands to have affairs outside the marriage so long as the extramarital relationships do not impact the family unit as a whole (Frayser, 1985). This could result from the unequal power dynamics between men and women, where it may be difficult for women to voice their frustrations and tolerate these behaviors out of not having any other choice, which exists in many different cultures and relationships across the world.

You need to talk about the rules in your family and see what works in your situation. There are people who are in multiple relationships, but they are honest about it and have found a way to make it work for them.  Affairs are much different from these situations. In an affair, lying and deception exist to cover things up, piling on more layers of disappointment, hurt, and mistrust.

Of course it’s not just couples in Bangkok or in Thailand dealing with the occurrence and aftermath of affairs. Worldwide, having affairs is easier and more accessible than ever before because of internet dating sites, dating apps, and web-based pornography. The Ashley Madison scandal brought to light how many people who seemed happily married were engaging in marital affairs.

Let’s now take a look at some questions about love, relationships, and affairs.

Is it true that a happily married person should not ever be attracted to anyone other than his/her partner?

Being attracted is a normal experience that can happen to anyone in relationships. When you have feelings for someone outside your marriage, it does not mean that something is intrinsically wrong in your marriage. The trap is that people think that the attraction means he or she is not in the “right” relationship. but it is also about choice. It is healthier to allow oneself to experience these feelings of attraction and let them go. When you start feeling guilty about your attraction, you tend to act these feelings out rather than understand that it is a normal part of any relationship.

When does it become an affair?

All affairs follow a specific pattern. 1. Developing a close emotional bond by talking and / or chatting on the internet. 2. Keeping the relationship a secret. 3. Dating phase, e.g. meeting for lunch, talking on the phone for hours. 4. Intense sexual and emotional connections.

When should feelings for someone else outside the marriage be discussed?

You should be talking about it if you have noticed that you are experiencing yourself fantasizing about someone or sharing deep feelings with someone outside your marriage. When you continue to keep things a secret, you are putting more fuel into the romance and allowing things to get worse.

At which point in a marriage does cheating usually happen? Why does it happen?

Cheating usually occurs in the phase of companionate love, when couples begin to settle down, have kids, and solidify the life they build together. While they are fulfilled in some areas, such as being a provider, other areas may be lacking, such as romance.

Sometimes, partners become dissatisfied in a marriage because it is not exciting the way it used to be when they were dating. The realities of everyday life and financial pressures are real. Making sure children are taken care of and keeping the house organized tend to take precedence over efforts to keep the marriage alive, fun, and interesting.

Initially, when you meet someone you are attracted to and you don’t have to worry about your day-to-day realities, you can get swept away and idealize him or her. However, this is not real intimacy. It is an escape from your reality that is exciting in the short term, but in the long term it will cause heartache, resentment, and anger for your partner.

If you have had an affair, can you work it out?

As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I have some helpful strategies to help you repair your relationship after an affair. If you both make a commitment to follow these strategies with your whole heart, your marriage has a good chance of surviving the affair and emerging stronger on the other side.

  1. Open and Honest Communication

After an affair, it is most critical to repair the trust in the relationship. If you have had an affair and you want to choose to work out your marriage, you need to be able to be as open as possible.  Your spouse will have many questions and rather than telling him or her to forget it/move on, you need to be able to listen to their feelings and respond to their questions.  In one study of 1083 betrayed husbands and wives, those whose spouses where the most honest felt better emotionally and reconciled more completely, reports affairs expert Peggy Vaughan.

  1. Cut the Ties

If you have had an affair, you need to cut ties from the person or the situation that created the affair.  For example, if it was an internet site, then you need to make sure that you are transparent so keeping the computer in an open space so that there are not as many temptations to be dishonest. If you had an affair with a friend, you should discontinue the relationship with the person so that you can repair your marriage. If it is someone from work, limit your communication as much as possible because it may not be possible to eliminate dialogue if he/she is at work.

  1. Keep talking and listening no matter how hard it is.

If you do not have empathy about what has happened and are not open to listening to his/her feelings, he or she will not be able to heal.  It does not have to be all that you talk about, but you should make space and understand what he or she is going through. You have to understand that there will be waves and some days will be good but other days will be really tough.  If you decide that you are going to stay in the marriage, then you have to commit to to being there through the difficult conversations.

  1. Reconnect

If you are going to build trust, make sure you connect with your spouse by having date nights and doing things that you used to enjoy. What was special about you two as a couple? What brought you two together? What made you laugh? What was it about him or her that made you feel loved?  How can you be happier and content with yourself so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations for your partner?

Affairs are destructive, but it does not mean an end to a marriage. Recovery requires that each person becomes willing to accept responsibility for his or her thoughts, feelings, and actions. A relationship can survive if a couple is willing to work through the disappointment, anger, and resentment.  Doing the work means listening even when you are tired because you empathize and want to work on the relationship.

The reality is that relationships take time, dedication, and work.  It is okay to be attracted to people outside your marriage, but you have a choice not to act out your feelings.  Keep talking and keep the lines of communication open if you begin to have feelings or finding yourself drawn to someone else. If you think that you are crossing the line, what is making you do that? The more you can be self-aware, the better it will be for your marriage. This way, you can create and nurture the connection that you truly want inside your marriage, rather than looking for it outside.


Originally published in Wunderlust <>.

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