What constitutes an affair?
Infidelity Advice #1: Everyone has a different definition of "affair," depending on how convenient this definition is to their situation.
An overly jealous man might find that a lively conversation between his wife and another man is an affair. On the other hand, a married woman once explained to me that she was not having sex with her male friend but when I asked her what they were actually doing together, she replied: "Everything but penetration!"
However, affairs – including "emotional affairs" – usually involve a betrayal, a breach of trust, even when they are done under "mutual consent" since the consent is rarely mutual.
Infidelity Advice #2: Almost all people who have affairs lie. What makes the affair hurtful to the committed relationship is its secrecy, the need to hide it from the other partner.
It is the deception (be it sexual or emotional) that creates the most damage to the trust and the future of the relationship. When the affair is discovered, most partners recover faster from the idea that their partner had an emotional or sexual liaison with someone else, than from the fact that they were deceived.
Infidelity Advice #3: Affairs do hurt, whether they are discovered or not. When the affair is never discovered, it still creates an invisible wall – often based on guilt – between the two partners. This wall can slowly lead to a breakup.
Beware of the emotional affair!
An emotional affair is an affair that doesn’t involve any sexual touching. It doesn’t mean there is no affair, or no sexual relationship. Quite the opposite. Many emotional affairs start at work and often involve one or several of those interactions: emails (often involving sexy jokes or intense sharing), long talks on the phone or over meals or drinks, meaningful and deep conversations about serious topics, joking about sex and heavy flirting. One or both people are generally involved with someone else, but their partner doesn’t know the details of the interactions. Because there is no actual touching, it is easy to think there is nothing wrong and this is not an affair.
Infidelity Advice #4: If you recognize yourself in three or more of the following statements, you may be having an emotional affair:
1. I often touch my "friend" in "acceptable" ways, like picking hair off his/her clothes.
2. I tell my "friend" more details of my day than I tell my partner.
3. I talk with my "friend" more about my relationship than I do with my partner.
4. My partner has no idea how much time I spend with my "friend", or what we do together.
5. I always make sure I look my best before I see my "friend".
6. When I am touched by a song, a movie, etc., I instantly think of sharing it with my "friend", not with my partner, and I am sharing things with him/her that I wouldn’t share with my partner.
7. At least one of us has said: "I am attracted to you but I would never act on it because I am (you are) attached"
8. I would feel uncomfortable showing my partner a videotape of the time I spend with my "friend" or the content of the emails I exchange with my "friend".
9. I am saying and doing things with my "friend" I wouldn't do if my partner was present.
10. I am making a special effort to arrange to spend time with my "friend".
In what situations do people have affairs?
There are many situations that make affairs easy to happen.
Infidelity Advice #5: Avoid these situations as much as you can! Some of them are explained below:
- Office affairs – Many affairs happen when men and women work side by side.
- Family trend - According to psychologist Shirley Glass, "Unfaithful parents tend to produce sons who betray their wives and daughters who either accept affairs as normal or are unfaithful themselves".
- Brain chemicals – Affairs tend to create a high that becomes as addictive as chocolate or cigarettes.
- Internet - Increasing numbers of cyber-affairs are breaking up stable marriages. Being anonymous and convenient, the Internet provides escape from stress.
- Premarital sex – Studies show that the more premarital sexual activity, the greater the chance of an extramarital affair. Married women seem to lose their fear of "crossing the line".
- Children – Sometimes both parents are too centered on the children and forget to make time for each other. Husbands often find someone at work who will share other interests than children.
- Negligence – Not exerting caution and relying on the fact that "we have a good relationship" may sometimes lead to affairs.
One of the best resources on the Internet is Peggy Vaughan’s website
The best book I have ever read on this topic - and I have read a lot - is "I will never leave you" by Hugh and Gayle Prather.
Whatever your situation is, remember separation is only a temporary solution and, if you are willing to work at it, recovery is possible. Good luck!