I thought that affairs might be an interesting topic to discuss, given the propensity of our public officials to engage in this type of behavior and to somehow involve us in it. Although I often see attachment issues at the base of the problem, each person has an affair for different reasons. There is no one way to look at an affair and say that this is why they occur or what they mean to a particular couple. One person might have an affair because he feels that his marriage has died, but because of children, guilt at leaving the spouse, friendship toward the spouse, etc., he cannot leave the relationship. Another couple might not be able to discuss sexual issues between them and rather than experience conflict, one partner goes outside the marriage. Another person might feel angry at their spouse and want to hurt them by seeing another person. Sexual liaisons might be another person’s mode of being before marriage, and they might just keep on with this behavior in the marriage; or they might not feel that the marriage will accommodate their particular form of sexual gratification; the list can go on.
Some couples come in with the affair still ongoing; while others have already terminated it and are ready to work on their relationship. Of those in ongoing affairs, some want the therapy to help them get out of the marriage, leaving the therapist with the hurt spouse, while others want to maintain both relationships and come into treatment hoping to do that. The reason for the affair impacts on the possibility of resolving these issues. Therefore, it is important to understand what the dynamic is in each particular relationship, and whether the partners want to keep their marriage. Some people feel so betrayed that even though they want to work on and retain the relationship, they have trouble overcoming those feelings. It is important for those people to seek help to deal with their feelings of hurt and betrayal so that the relationship has a chance to continue. Of course, it is also important that the person who had the affair also wants to continue to marriage and is willing to repair the break in the connection as well.
Barbara Feld, LCSW
Got thoughts or opinions on this topic? A helpful anecdote you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment.