Coping with Infidelity: Beginning (Part 1) - How Do Affairs Begin?... (2023)

How Do Affairs Begin?

Introduction:The most commonly asked question I receive is about infidelity. That's because affairs are so common in marriage. You or your spouse are more likely to have an affair than you are to divorce. And your chances of divorce are already 50-50.

An affair is devastating to almost everyone involved. It's one of the most painful experiences that the jilted spouse will ever be forced to endure, and it is also very painful for the children. Friends and members of the extended family are usually hurt as well. But what most people don't realize is that the unfaithful spouse and the lover are also hurt by the experience. It almost always causes them to suffer acute depression, often with thoughts of suicide. With all this sadness, why do so many people do it?

I have already posted several columns on infidelity, but I continue to receive letters from those wanting even more information and help. So I have decided to write a 4 column series on how to cope with this monster. Each column will focus attention on one aspect of affairs — from how they begin to how marriage can recover after they end.

Affairs usually begin with an attraction to someone you know fairly well, someone you spend time with each week — your friends and co-workers. To illustrate how affairs develop, I am posting letters from two women, one who is tempted to have an affair with her husband's best friend, and another whose best friend had an affair with her husband. I have received dozens of letters like them, and dozens more from those who have had affairs with co-workers, the other type of person likely to draw you into an affair.

One of my previous columns, "Escaping the Jaws of Infidelity: How to Avoid an Affair," contains many of the same ideas that I present in this column. But it would still be a good idea for you to read that column as well as this one, so that you can more fully understand how vulnerable you are, and how dangerous they are to you and the family you love.

The other three parts of this series are "How Should Affairs End," "Restoring the Marital Relationship," and "Overcoming Resentment." I encourage you to read all four parts. And, if you have not already done so, be sure to read at least my Summary of Basic Concepts so you can understand the vocabulary I use and my approach to creating and sustaining a very fulfilling marriage.

Dear Dr. Harley,

I am female, 34 years old, and have been married 8 years. Lately, I have felt very ignored and restless in our relationship. I don't think my husband is aware of these feelings because I try to hide them, but they are in my heart. He buys me beautiful gifts and tries to give me his love and support. He has always been a very kind man, but he would rather watch TV and talk to our dog than talk with me. That's just the way he is.

Recently a man has come into my life that has rekindled feelings in me that have been dormant for a long time. I find myself thinking about him often and wish I could be with him. I feel so guilty and ashamed of these feelings, but nevertheless, they are there. I try not to think about him, but I do. I don't know if he feels the same way about me, but sometimes he looks at me in a way that gives me a signal that he might. Nothing has been said or done between us. I don't want to tell my husband about this because this man is my husband's best friend. There are things I can do to get closer to the "other man" if I will allow it to happen, but I'm afraid of the consequences. I feel I'm at a crossroads. I'm sure you've heard this type of story before. I would value your opinion. I cannot talk to anyone about this.


Dear Dr. Harley,

My husband had an affair with my "former" best friend of 21 years. At first, he showed very little interest in her, but over a period of months I could tell that there was something going on. It all came to a head when I walked in on them in her bed.

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We have been married 7 years, and have two children, ages 6 and 1. The affair began when our baby was born, and by the time he was 9 months old, my husband left us to live with her. It has been so blatant and painful. I have always been very, very much in love with him and I never believed he was the kind of man who would be unfaithful to me. I always trusted him and felt so comfortable with our trust. . . But with a friend I had known since we were children!!! My best friend!!

I want to reconcile, but I know I will have a hard time dealing with the betrayal from both of them. I am now beginning to realize I will have pictures in my mind of them having sex... She will never be a friend of mine again. Is there a realistic chance that I will ever be able to forgive him for his blatant and cruel affair and the hateful way he has treated me? Thank you so much for your help.


How do Affairs Begin?

Instead of posting my response to these two letters, I have decided to use their contents to illustrate how affairs begin. R. J. described the essential conditions for an affair quite well. First, there is usually a dissatisfaction with marriage that stems from the failure to meet an important emotional need. For R.J., her need is conversation, which is usually missing in marriage when women have affairs. She has a deep and pervasive need to talk to her husband, a need that all the gifts in the world cannot meet.

R.J.'s husband has demonstrated his care for her in many different ways. But he doesn't care for her in the way that would deposit the most love units. Because he has not met her need for conversation, she is vulnerable to an affair.

The best friend of R.J.'s husband (we'll call him Bob) didn't intend to meet her emotional needs whenever he talked to her. He was just being friendly, and carried on conversations the way he would with almost anyone. But whether he intended to or not, whenever he talked with her, he deposited scores of love units. After a while, he might have noticed how his conversations were effecting her, but I'm not sure he would have made much of it.

I'm also sure that R.J. did not intend to fall in love with Bob. Those feelings that he rekindled in her came as a surprise, and she is at a loss to know what to do about it. She knows that they are a risk to her marriage, and yet she feels compelled to draw ever closer to the object of her new love.

There are some who feel that those feelings of love are a signal from God to abandon past relationships and rush into this new relationship. But it's no signal from God. Instead, it's the way our emotions mindlessly encourage us to spend more time with those who meet our emotional needs. If we submitted to our emotions, and chased after anyone who at the moment deposited the most love units in our Love Banks, our lives would become chaotic in no time. And the lives of family and friends, to say nothing about our own lives, would be trashed.

The more sane way to approach unsuspected feelings of love toward those outside of marriage is to confront the problem honestly and intelligently. But R.J. did not want to appear to be an ungrateful complainer, so she violated the Policy of Radical Honesty. She did not reveal her true feelings to her husband so that they could resolve the crisis together.

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It's true that in some marriages a spouse will complain about an unmet need, and find their complaint met with anger and recriminations. When there seems to be no hope for satisfaction, these people find themselves particularly vulnerable to an affair. After all, the spouse had a chance to meet the need, but refused. So why not have an affair?

But in R.J.'s case, and in many like her's, the spouse is given no opportunity to learn to meet the unmet need, because it is not clearly revealed.

So far, R.J. is not actually having an affair. She is simply drawn to Bob. He is attractive to her because he is so easy to talk to. Whenever they are together, he makes a special effort to converse with her, and he shows a genuine interest her favorite topics. The friends of good conversation prevail, and the enemies of good conversation are nowhere to be found (see the Q&A column, "What to Do When Your Conversation Becomes Boring and Unpleasant"). The pleasure of her conversation with him deposited so many love units that she fell in love with him, and so it's natural to assume that she will want to talk to him even more. She is finding it difficult to wait for the next opportunity to see him. If she wants to talk to him more often, she will need to create new ways to spend more time with him.

R.J. is now at a crossroads. She can take the next step in developing her relationship with her husband's friend, or she can explain her problem to her husband and try to resolve the issue with him. The advice I gave her was to tell her husband about the entire situation. He should be the one she enjoys talking to the most, and her feelings for his best friend was a good wake-up call. If her husband were to learn to meet her need for conversation, the temptation to have an affair with Bob would be much easier to handle.

Steven W. Harley, M.S. has over 25 years of marriage coaching experience and has personally worked with over 4,000 couples helping them overcomeinfidelity related issues.
He can help you!

But if she were to do what most people instinctively do, her next step would be to tell the man how she felt about him, and ask him to get together with her more often, privately. She would tell him precisely what she wrote in her letter to me, saying that he has "rekindled feelings in me that have been dormant for a long time. I find myself thinking about you often and wish I could be with you. I feel so guilty and ashamed of these feelings, but nevertheless, they are there. I try not to think about you, but I do."

Once this honest expression of feelings is out of the bag, an affair is off and running. Even if her husband's friend had never given her a single romantic thought, the seed is planted, and starts to grow. Such an admission would lead to his thinking long and hard about his own marriage, and he would start seeing R.J. in an entirely new way. If one of his important emotional needs was not being met in his marriage, he would express his frustration to R.J., and she would willingly agree to meet that need. The rest would be history.

Of course, it's possible that Bob, all along, was feeling the same way toward R.J. as she felt for him, and after her declaration of love for him, he would immediately reciprocate, fall into each other's arms, and run off to a motel together.

But it's more likely that they would simply talk to each other more often, depositing even more love units. Sex is actually not the driving force in most affairs — it is conversation and affection. In fact, most people who have affairs regard the sex as a minor player. What they appreciate the most about the relationship is the love and acceptance that is communicated in their conversation. But sex is usually the inevitable outcome, and since sex works best with great conversation and affection, the sex is also great. Once sex is added to the mix, so many love units get deposited that the couple cannot imagine losing each other. They are both addicted to the relationship.

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The unsuspecting jilted spouse usually senses a problem when an affair begins. For one thing, an affair usually takes up quite a bit of time, and all sorts of excuses are given to be away from home — having to work late, impulsive trips to the store and unexplained absences from work — they all become more and more difficult to believe. Telephone records and credit card receipts are carefully hidden, for if they are found, they will often reveal the scope of the affair.

When the spouses are together, an emotional distance usually prevails. Sex is almost always a problem for women who are having an affair, and many men having an affair find they cannot make love to their wives, either. In many cases, intimacy in marriage becomes so bad that a separation is requested to "sort things out." An affair is often suspected by the jilted spouse, but almost always vigorously denied by the offending spouse. It usually takes solid evidence, like B.D.'s finding her husband in bed with her best friend, to get an unfaithful spouse to admit the truth.

I've seen so many spouses lie about affairs, that when one spouse wants a separation, my best guess is that he or she is having an affair. I'm right almost every time.

Why would anyone need to be alone to sort things out? It makes much more sense to think that being separated makes it easier to be with their lover. Granted, there are many good reasons for a separation, such as physical or extreme mental abuse. But of all those I've seen separate, most have had lovers in the wings.

Since an affair usually creates emotional distance between spouses, lovers describe their increasing dissatisfaction with their marriages. They talk about how incompatible they are in marriage and how compatible they are with each other. The addiction they have for each other turns the relationship into a passion that makes an eternal relationship with each other an absolute necessity. Many would rather commit suicide together than to return to their horrible spouses.

That's not to say that they do not show compassion for their spouses. In fact, they usually express their guilt to each other for the pain they cause their families. But if either of them would talk about how much they loved their spouses, and how happy they were in their marriage, the conversation would tend not to deposit very many love units. Instead, they compare each other with their spouses in a most favorable light, saying that they wish they had known each other before they were married, and that they are perfect for each other. Such expressions of admiration deposit carloads of love units.

At the crossroads R.J. faces, she should avoid telling Bob how she feels about him at all costs. And she should certainly not let him know that she is dissatisfied with her husband. As soon as Bob would know about her feelings for him and her marital dissatisfaction, the risk of an affair would be so great that she must end her friendship with him for life. From the moment he knows she loves him, their friendship should end.

R.J. should be able to talk to someone about her marital problems. I'm glad she had the courage to write me. We should all be able to tell someone how we feel deep inside. But R.J. should not complain about her spouse to anyone unless she has made the same complaint to her spouse. Furthermore, the person she confides in should be either a same-sex friend or a professional counselor (like me). To tell an opposite-sex friend about your terrible marriage is to invite disaster.

R.J.'s greatest failure was dishonesty. If she had been honest with her husband about her need for conversation, and they had resolved the problem, Bob's conversations with her would not have been so enchanting.

It's almost impossible to stumble into an affair if you follow the Policy of Radical Honesty. Her husband loves her dearly, and if she were to have told him about her frustration with their conversation, he probably would have taken steps to improve. In the beginning of her relationship with him, he may have spent hours talking to her just as his best friend did. In the beginning of their relationship, she may have fallen in love with him because of their conversation. But, as so many spouses do, he began talking to her less and less, little knowing that he was draining her Love Bank.

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The solution to R.J.'s problem at the time she wrote her letter is to follow the Rule of Honesty. She should write her husband the same letter she wrote me. He should know about the disaster that is about to take place so he can protect both himself and herself from it.

Then, I'm afraid, they must both distance themselves from Bob. Even though this man may not have any feelings for R.J., her feelings for him make him too dangerous to have as a friend, at least until they are able to improve their conversations with each other. If R.J. stops seeing and talking to Bob, the feelings she has for him will subside, but at first she may go through a period of withdrawal where she misses him terribly. Withdrawal usually only lasts a few weeks, with those feelings popping up once in a while after that. If her feelings for Bob eventually disappear, her husband can remain friends with him. But if R.J. finds that they reappear whenever they are together, they should plan to end their friendship with Bob.

This may seem very harsh and unrealistic, but the alternative to ending such a friendship is to create a huge risk of having an affair. And if Bob were to know how she feels about him, then they most certainly should end their friendship with him.

Affairs are almost always with friends and co-workers. That's because the people you work with and those you spend leisure time with are usually in the best position to meet your most important emotional needs. But in the world of the internet, total strangers can also meet your emotional needs through chat rooms and e-mail because they meet your need for conversation so effectively. Do you and your spouse talk as much and as deeply as you talk to people on the internet? If not, watch out. As you probably know, an affair through the internet is becoming one of the most dangerous risks of owning a computer.

We are all wired for affairs. The only people who are exempt are those who are utterly incapable of meeting someone else's emotional needs. If you can't meet anyone's needs, no one will ever fall in love with you. But if your spouse has anything to offer others, and you are not meeting an important emotional need, commitment to "forsake all others" can become words without meaning.

B.D. trusted her spouse with her friend of 21 years. That was a big mistake, as she later discovered. There is no emotion more powerful than romantic love, and people have abandoned their careers, their children, their religion, their security and their health because of it. Try talking to a man who is in love with his secretary about the suffering he is causing his wife and children. Try explaining to him how he will lose his job, his money, his self-respect. You find yourself talking to a man with half a brain, a man who seems possessed. What's going on that causes him to lose all of his perspective on life? It's nothing more than a feeling of love. But that feeling is one of the most important feelings we have, and we will do almost anything to get it and keep it.

Last week I got a letter from a man whose wife has a close friendship with his best friend (male). His friend and his wife do almost everything together recreationally. He wrote to say that I was dead wrong about his particular spouse, and that my advice that friends outside of marriage should be same-sex friends was paranoid. He trusted his wife, and she could spend as much time with this friend as she wanted to. My response was for him to write me again in three years and let me know if he felt the same way after he discovered that his wife and best friend were having an affair (be sure to read my Q&A columns on recreational companionship, Part 1 and Part 2).

B.D. learned an important lesson about human nature. Both her friend and her husband are wired to fall in love with whoever they spend the most enjoyable time with, and the fact that her husband fell in love with her friend simply means that she had deposited enough love units to trigger his feeling of romantic love toward her. He was having more fun with her friend than he was having with her. The rest was history.

I would imagine that B.D.'s second child came between she and her husband recreationally, and her friend took her place as his favorite leisure-time companion. To get him back, she must become his best friend again. His relationship with this other woman will probably fall apart eventually, as they almost always do, and he will come back to her. At that point in time, she and her husband should never see her childhood friend again, she should try to welcome him with open arms and then try to re-create the relationship that they once had, when they were both in love with each other.

Granted, at first B.D. will be very resentful about what her husband did and said, but she shouldn't let resentment prevent them from putting their family back together again. Little by little her resentment will fade away, as her relationship with your husband improves (I will write more about this phase of recovery later in this series).

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B.D. was very disillusioned to think that her husband and her best friend could have hurt her so badly, but now she knows what I have known for years, and, quite frankly, she would have done the same thing herself if conditions were right.

The only way to protect your marriage from an affair is to be sure that those conditions don't exist. If B.D. and her husband were to have spent most of their leisure time together, especially after the arrival of their baby, this affair would never have happened. Be sure to read my two Q&A columns on recreational companionship carefully, so that what happened to B.D. and her husband will never happen to you.

Steven W. Harley, M.S. has over 25 years of marriage coaching experience and has personally worked with over 4,000 couples helping them overcomeinfidelity related issues. He can help you!


How do affairs begin? ›

Here is the unfortunate part: 90% of affairs start in the workplace. So, if a spouse is to have an affair, there's a 90% chance they will meet their affair partner at work. Sometimes it generally starts as casual conversation. They talk about books, music, hobbies they have in common.

How do extra marital affairs start? ›

Extramarital affairs don't just happen overnight. They often stem from overall marital dissatisfaction and existing marital issues such as a lack of openness or communication. At this point, it is crucial that couples try to be open to sharing and be willing to listen.

What are the stages of healing from infidelity? ›

Working through an affair is tough. It takes tremendous energy and vulnerability on both sides. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have developed the Trust Revival Method, with three defined stages of treatment: Atonement, Attunement, and Attachment.

What are the stages of infidelity? ›

The Progression of Infidelity

Much like the stages of grief, the stages of infidelity are not always linear. For one person, it may be micro-cheating that turns into emotional infidelity, followed by physical infidelity. For another, digital infidelity may turn into physical infidelity.

Do affairs start stop? ›

The same can be true for those who find out about long-term affairs. It is certainly possible that infidelity start and end multiple times. For that reason, it is a good idea to talk to a professional about your situation and seek out advice.

Do affairs start with conversation? ›

They start in conversations. Affairs start when someone feels seen and heard and appreciated and acknowledged in a way they they aren't experiencing in their committed relationship. Affairs start when emotional and mental needs get met by another in a way that they aren't in their committed relationship.

Where do most extramarital affairs start? ›

Learning to Trust After Betrayal,” about the top places and just why many budding affairs start there:
  • In the office. The workplace is traditionally the place where people have the most affairs, Macleod said. ...
  • At the gym. ...
  • On social media. ...
  • Through a social circle. ...
  • At a volunteering gig. ...
  • In church.
May 4, 2017

Where do most affairs come from? ›

The workplace. The workplace is where most affairs begin. It doesn't hurt that we usually dress nicely and are on “good behavior” at work. Plus, having shared passions about projects (or mutual annoyance at a boss or co-worker) provides the perfect breeding ground for an affair.

Why do affairs happen in happy marriages? ›

In some cases, it stems from unmet needs in a relationship. Issues like lack of communication, boredom, and personal insecurities can fester when they're not fully addressed. If one partner feels like they're never listened to or respected in their primary relationship, they may look for that in another person.

What time of day do most affairs happen? ›

The majority of married people will conduct their affairs in the morning, before work. Commonly heard excuses are either they've joined the gym and are going to early morning classes or they're starting work early. * Surprisingly, cheaters will frequently talk about their new partner with their husband or wife.

Does infidelity pain ever go away? ›

It's absolutely possible to heal from infidelity. Although the pain and grief can be intense, it's also possible to work on the relationship so that you and your partner are able to move on.

What are normal feelings after infidelity? ›

Discovering your partner has cheated can open the gates to a flood of overwhelming emotions. Confusion, grief, physical pain, sadness, anger, and even rage are all normal responses to the pain of betrayal.

What should you not do after infidelity? ›

The 7 Deadly Sins: What Not To Do After an Affair
  • Tell Your Entire Family & All Your Friends. ...
  • Blast Your Partner on Social Media. ...
  • Make Life Altering Decisions. ...
  • Place All Blame on The Other Affair Partner. ...
  • Obsess Over the Other Affair Partner. ...
  • Blame Yourself. ...
  • Think You Can Recover On Your Own.

What are the first signs of infidelity? ›

  • Altered Schedule. If working late is suddenly a new normal even though your partner's job doesn't really require it, they may not be telling the truth about where they are.
  • Uncomfortable Friends. The friends of the cheating partner usually know about it before you do. ...
  • Inconsistent Expenses. ...
  • False Accusations of Cheating.
Dec 13, 2022

How are most affairs discovered? ›

More than half of women polled (56%) said they had made their own secret checks to uncover a partner's affair compared to 29% of men. 'Phones are by far the most common way for cheats of both sexes to be exposed,' sex and relationship expert Jessica Leoni said.

What is the surprising reason people have affairs? ›

Many people cheat because of anger, lack of love, low commitment, esteem, and neglect. Plus, some cheaters want to be discovered. Women have longer affairs, and affairs were also longer and more emotionally satisfying when participants felt closer to their affair partner.

What causes affairs to end? ›

Yet, most affairs usually end one of two ways: with divorce or a stronger current relationship. How the end plays out is up to you, how you choose to react, and how hard you want to work to stay together. Learning how to overcome grief and pain is going to be difficult, but Couples Academy can help.

Are affairs ever love? ›

Can an affair transform into lasting love? An affair can become long-lasting love when both parties are in love and are ready to do right by each other. This often happens when the person being cheated with seems to outperform the present partner. You might get confused if you are really in love or not.

Do affairs just happen? ›

According to a leading relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, affairs don't just happen overnight. The act of emotionally or physically going outside of the relationship is the result of small, almost imperceptible events over a long period.

Do relationships that started as affairs ever work? ›

The truth is that most marriages that began as affairs will end up in divorce. Whether it's the trust issues, the stress of being shunned by family and friends, the fact that you never really knew the other person, or all of those things, making a relationship that started through cheating work is really hard.

How often do relationship that started out as affairs last? ›

According to WebMD, the “in love” stage of an affair lasts 6 to 18 months, on average. And around 75% of marriages that start as affairs end in divorce. Considering only 5 to 7% of affair relationships lead to marriage, that's a grim statistic for couples hoping their affairs will last forever.

Who do people usually have affairs with? ›

About a third of affairs are with someone who's somewhat well-known, such as a neighbor, co-worker or long-term acquaintance (about 29.4 percent). The rest of affairs occur with casual acquaintances.

Who are more likely to have affairs? ›

According to the General Social Survey, men are more likely to cheat than women, with 20% of men and 13% of women reporting having sex with someone other than their partner while still married. However, the gender gap varies per age.

What percentage of affairs are discovered? ›

Coming to the question of how many affairs are discovered, a survey by (a dating site for extramarital affairs) revealed that 63% of cheaters have been caught at some point.

Can you be happily married and cheat? ›

Even people who are happy in their relationships can cheat.

Why do men have affairs if they are happily married? ›

Not being emotionally satisfied was the main reason 48 percent of men cheated, according to a study by Neuman. But marriage is all about being vulnerable to ONE person -- which is scary. If he can spread out his life's intimate details between two people, he can feel less vulnerable (and dependent) on one person.

What of marriages survive affairs? ›

Close to 25% of marriages stay together after an instance of cheating. And more men than women stay married when they are the cheating partner (61% vs 44%).

What is one thing that all cheaters have in common? ›

Cheaters are impulsive, and can't resist taking that risk despite what it might cost them. Cheaters, like bullies, are fueled by power, and drawn to risk. This kind of behavior, however, is a reflection of something deeply rooted inside of them.

How do I control the urge to cheat? ›

Some strategies that can help you avoid the temptation of infidelity:
  1. Put yourself in your partner's situation. ...
  2. Play out how your partner would react if you cheated and they found out. ...
  3. Ruin the fantasy. ...
  4. Talk to someone you trust about it. ...
  5. Force yourself to refocus on your current relationship.
Jun 4, 2021

What time of year do people cheat the most? ›

According to Daniel Kruger, evolutionary psychologist, there is a surge in cheating during the summer months as warmer weather enables people to socialize more. With more exposure to the sun there is an increased level of serotonin where people feel happier.

How long does infidelity trauma last? ›

There is no set time for affair recovery.

However, there can be a period of healing. During this time, you and your spouse will take specific steps towards healing. Even better, this period is not even that long. Most of it can take anywhere between 8-10 weeks.

How long does the shock of infidelity last? ›

Right now, learning that it takes an average of 2 to 5 years to get over the pain of infidelity may seem impossible. How could you ever get over such a betrayal? Yes, recovering from such a blow is going to take a long time, but there are actions, such as therapy, that can facilitate recovery and save your marriage.

When should you walk away after infidelity? ›

These are seven signs that it might be time to walk away from your relationship if infidelity has occurred: Your partner doesn't apologize. Your spouse doesn't want to get counselling. Your partner doesn't show a desire to put in the work.

What is hysterical bonding after infidelity? ›

'" Hysterical bonding is a term which hasn't been studied extensively yet. However, it's a phenomenon that many people can relate to. It describes what happens when someone is cheated on by their partner, or is broken up with, and they want to do anything to win back their ex's affections.

How to be intimate after infidelity? ›

Here are 5 simple steps to help you bring intimacy back into your marriage after an affair:
  1. Listen, and avoid pointing fingers. ...
  2. Don't get stuck. ...
  3. Speak from the heart. ...
  4. Start the conversation off the right way. ...
  5. Don't wait to take the first step.
May 16, 2017

How a woman feels after infidelity? ›

For instance, it's common to feel disappointed or betrayed after infidelity, so take a moment to recognize these feelings are normal. "In general, getting over infidelity follows the usual stages of grief: shock/denial; anger/defiance; bargaining; depression, remorse; and acceptance," explains Weiss.

What are the 2 types of cheating? ›

There are two main categories of infidelity: Physical and Emotional. An affair is generally considered to be a secondary relationship that is a combination of types and possibly fall under both main categories of physical and emotional infidelity.

Should you tell that you cheated? ›

Disclosing your affair might not make your partner feel better. If you want to tell your partner about a one-time act of infidelity to make them feel better, that gesture could be misplaced. According to Nelson, someone who feels guilty for cheating is usually better off keeping the affair under wraps.

How common are affairs in marriage? ›

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included.

Do affairs happen for a reason? ›

An affair is generally a sign things aren't right with someone's relationship. Without the necessary skills to heal the issues, a partner may engage in an affair as an ill-equipped way of attempting to have their needs fulfilled – whether these be for intimacy, to feel valued, to experience more sex, and so on.

What is the reason why affairs happen? ›

A wide variety of factors can bring out some type of affair. A study of 495 people revealed eight key reasons: anger, low self-esteem, lack of love, low commitment, need for variety, neglect, sexual desire, and circumstance.

Why are affairs so exciting? ›

Affairs reveal a deep, inner longing to be noticed and valued. Many individuals who have an affair are not “falling in love” with the other person, but with a new image of themselves receiving validation. An individual can get hooked on the chemicals their brain releases when they're with their affair partner.

Why do affairs not last? ›

Do Affairs Last? Relationships that begin with an affair don't usually last. This is often due to the foundation of the relationship being one of poor faith. Those in the relationship who started from an affair may eventually feel less satisfied, less invested, and less committed to the happiness of the other person.

What is the most common type of infidelity? ›

02/6Sexual intercourse

This is the most prominent type of cheating. There's no grey area. If you have engaged in sexual intercourse with another person other than your partner, without their knowledge or permission, then that's cheating.

Do affairs usually last? ›

An affair will last as long as it suits its purpose, and no longer. Some affairs last only a couple hours, while others can last a lifetime. Most affairs come to light one way or another, which can cut them short or – if the cheated spouse agrees to let the cheater continue for reasons of their own – extend them.

What do people do in affairs? ›

An affair is an act of infidelity within a committed romantic relationship. It's most commonly considered a type of cheating that involves intense, passionate emotional or physical attachment. Rarely is the term "affair" applied to a one-time event.


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