An affair can poison a relationship to the point of no return. Although many couples move on from affairs, many do not. It can cause undeniable feelings of guilt, regret, mistrust, and low self-esteem. Although there may be real reasons one spouse was pushed towards having an affair, nothing legitimately validates the actions.
Emotional VS. Physical Affair
Most people immediately assume sexual activity when they hear about two people having an affair. However, an affair can exist even if the two people involved have never met face to face. This is known as an emotional affair and, quite often, can cause more damage to a marriage than a physical affair. The major difference between emotional and physical affairs is the face that, in an emotional affair, the two people involved never meet in person. That is commonly the excuse someone will use if they are having an emotional affair; they believe that, because they have never met the person face to face, the relationship is okay.
Essentially, an emotional affair occurs when one person who is committed to a marriage begins providing emotional support to another person, and/or receives emotional support from that person. Either way, the married person having the affair has now divided his or her emotional commitment between the spouse and that other person. Although a physical affair is destructive to a marriage, an emotional affair or one that leads into a physical affair can be much more damaging in the long run.
The concept of the emotional affair rose along with the technology in our society. With the rapid growth of communication technology such as cell phones, computers, and the internet, the possibilities and overall access to emotional affairs has risen. A person can live a completely different life as a completely different person through their cell phone and their computer, and it does not take much effort. Again, even though it might seem more harmless than a physical affair, an emotional affair can lead to much more debilitating problems. If your spouse becomes too involved with that new person, they may lose sight of how they truly feel about your marriage and make decisions based on their immediate emotions rather than long-term feelings, observations and communication with you.
Causes of an Affair
It is not common to narrow someone's reasons for an affair down to just one. In reality, even if the cheater is not aware of it, many different aspects of life can push someone to feel the need for an affair. While it does not validate or justify their behavior in ANY WAY, it can be possible that the actions of the faithful spouse have actually pushed the cheating spouse into the affair. However, it is mostly common for the problem to rest in the cheating spouse, not the faithful one.
Attention is one of the most common reasons men and women choose to have affairs, whether they know it or not. When humans are involved in long-term relationships, their interactions and basic dynamics change as time passes. Less flirting occurs, politeness fades away, and sexual intimacy can come to a complete halt. No matter the reasons, whether they have to do with work or your personal life, these changes can have negative effects on your relationship. If one spouse feels neglected by the other, it can lead to an affair. When a spouse feels that the other is not providing enough attention to them, they may begin looking for that attention from someone else around them. The same goes for intimacy, communication, emotional support, etc. By focusing on the health of your own relationship, you will be taking steps toward avoiding infidelity in your marriage.
As mentioned above, it is possible for one spouse to drive the other to cheat. For example, one spouse might ignore their own personal hygiene. When one spouse is working long and hard hours, they may tend to ignore things like showering, shaving, brushing their teeth, etc. Although this is an innocent omission of a common task, the repetition of this unappealing act can lead the other spouse to be turned off or even disgusted. This can also occur when one spouse does not make an effort to stay physically fit. When one spouse does not feel attracted to the other, they might feel more inclined to find someone else they are attracted to.
An overall lack of sexual satisfaction is also a reason that many people choose to have affairs. Just because you and your spouse are having sex does not mean you are both necessarily enjoying it as much as the other person. Being open and communicative about sexuality is key to a healthy relationship. If a couple never talks about sex, one of them may be unsatisfied with their sex life and find what they want elsewhere.
Effects of an Affair
Obviously an affair will only cause problems in the long run. The results and consequences of an affair might not be fully known for years, but basic effects can be seen right away. The faithful spouse, once they are aware of their spouse's affair, will usually have to deal with most of the effects, unfortunately.
When a spouse finds out their partner has been cheating on them, their self-esteem takes a major blow. From the moment the faithful spouse finds out about the affair, their self-esteem has been hurt. Any person would feel the pain of rejection when they find out about their spouse's affair. The thoughts of the faithful spouse immediately revolve around themselves not being good enough for the cheating spouse. It is an interesting situation that occurs because, although the cheating spouse deserves punishment, the faithful spouse instead punishes himself or herself. They look at themselves as inadequate for their spouse and, through this reasoning, convince themselves it was their fault that the affair occurred. This thought process, although common, is completely misguided. Self-esteem is damaged and the already difficult situation becomes even harder.
Marriage exists so that two people can combine their lives and can work through anything life presents to them, together. Although you might have reasons to blame yourself for your spouse's affair, DON"T DO IT! Your spouse had ample opportunity, from before the affair to the moment he/she admitted it, to discuss the personal problems that led to the affair. If your spouse chooses to avoid discussing their problem with you and simply starts an affair, you have absolutely no responsibility for it. Even when your spouse has requested something that you are not providing, it still does not validate infidelity. If your spouse concluded that an affair was the solution, they should have ended their relationship with you before starting the new one.
When an affair is revealed in a marriage, many new and unfortunate feelings will arise within both spouses involved. A lack of trust will exist between the two spouses almost immediately. This lack of trust lies mostly in the faithful spouse who just had their trust for the cheating spouse shattered by the affair. A lack of trust can cause many other problems within a relationship. The faithful spouse will be going through rapidly changing emotions including anger, sadness, confusion, etc. They will also experience feelings of instability in both their relationship (obviously) and within their own life. Unfortunately, the effects of an affair can spread out into other parts of the couples' lives. Feelings and perspectives can change about work, friends, hobbies, and other basic elements of life. Finding out your spouse has cheated on you can disrupt your entire life.
While finding out about an affair is not something anyone would choose to experience, finding out is better than never knowing. Once an affair is out in the open, the real work begins. An affair causes a lot of pain and damage within the relationship, but that does not mean it can't be saved. If there is a strong commitment to the relationship within both spouses, as well as a common feeling of love for one another, two people can definitely move forward from an affair and be happy again.