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Affairs. Why? Early Warning Signs

As with everything you read at the Marriage Toolbox, it is not about coming to a place for an authoritative 'bible-like' answer. We are never saying we know the 'truth' or what is right or wrong for you. We are here for one reason and one reason only: to present new thoughts, cutting edge ideas and good questions so you can examine your belief system, re-look at and retool if necessary your approach to life, etc...etc.... If you approach reading a page like this with that in mind, it changes everything because, you won't be judging what you read as right or wrong (or that we're right or wrong) you will be reading only as a learner, a student. Isn't the mind of a student the most open to learning?


Note: If you go to Affair Prevention: Ten Tools you will read preventative tools that can prevent an affair from happening. The 10 preventatives correspond to everything on this page.


Boredom can be one motive to stray from relationships. After time passes and the newness wears off, the romance may not so exciting. Since humans have a tendency to be romantics at heart, there can be a potent attraction to being desired by someone. And because secrecy itself can be a powerful entity, this alone can keep a mysterious and secret romance alive.


A lack of intimacy can devastate a relationship. True intimacy is not about romance or sex, but rather about a feeling that someone really understands how you feel and cares enough to listen to you and communicate with you. If individuals are not allowed or do not feel comfortable expressing themselves in a relationship this could be a motivation to look elsewhere for this deep and meaningful connection.


Affairs can happen when individuals loose a sense of self or an understanding of who they are. The result of this can be a frantic hunt for identity outside of themselves, called externally referencing. The search will include unconsciously seeking out an individual to help them feel more complete. If this person appears, the individual may desperately latch on to them so that they can feel whole again.


When individuals lack self-confidence they can start to look to others for approval and recognition. Feeling unworthy, lacking purpose, and feeling unfulfilled by their role in life these individuals are prime suspects for affairs. In these cases, the individual will unconsciously seek out someone similar to them in personality who can provide a mirror-like reflection of themselves. Consequently they will receive what feels like approval, not realizing it is a false sense of self and that it will not last.


Laziness can be an impulse for developing a so-called "wandering eye" simply because an individual is not willing to take responsibility for the hard work that relationships demand. A functional relationship demands you to "be" the right partner rather than feel you have to "pick" or get lucky enough to have "found" the right partner. Since relationships require commitment and discipline it sometimes may feel easier to simply give up and look elsewhere.


Since communication is an essential factor in a relationship, ineffective or the lack of
meaningful interaction may cause a person to look for fulfillment elsewhere.


Honesty is another important component to relationships. Honesty has to start with yourself. An affair is an example of total dishonesty, not just about what you are doing but who you are and what your values are. There is evident confusion about one's belief system if you allow yourself to become involved with someone outside your relationship.


Conflict is very normal in relationships. The inability to deal with discord, can cause one to become frustrated. If you do not deal with each friction as it arises, they will start to pile up and your anger at the other person will become resenting, confusing and overwhelming. You will not even know why you do not like your partner any more. Affairs are usually conflict- free because they are not real, but rather more like a fantasy. If an
individual is fearful of or avoidant to conflict, then he/she may seek out a fantasy relationship rather than a real life one.


When someone is unable to meet their own needs and does not know how to ask for what they need from their partner, the normal tendency is to project their unhappiness on either the other person or condemn the relationship. The resulting frustration is due to not taking responsibility for one's emotions or actions, but rather put the blame elsewhere. This provides a reason or excuse to look for one's needs to be met outside the relationship from another person. Generally one will start to look for exits from the relationship such as working long hours, overeating, watching too much TV, not listening when your partner talks, drinking too much, becoming involved in activities that do not involve your partner, etc. Exits are used to avoid one's partner and usually are easy ways to seek a temporary and false sense of gratification. Exits easily becomes bad habits and only makes the frustration worse.


Some individuals may simply be thrill seekers and get turned on or motivated by the secrecy and moral indecency of an affair. Just knowing that what they are doing is socially unacceptable can be a turn on. The underlying problem here is an insecurity and the need for feeling powerful and important.

This page was written by Pam Oren, a counselor and therapist living in Colorado. ©1999 Pam Oren.

DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS? Email your viewpoint.

See also: Affair Prevention: 10 Tools

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