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What We Don’t Often Hear About Extramarital Affair


Extramarital affair was a topic I was most judgemental about during my growing up years. Later, when I started out as a coach and began interacting with people who have lived through it from both sides of the spectrum I began to lose grip on my judgements. Now as I interact on a day to day basis with similar cases, it has become the most interesting and intriguing topic for me. I realise, it is not a black and white topic as it seems from a distance. It’s more than just lust, attraction and selfishness. It has layers to it; layers rooted in love, fear, passion, desire, jealousy, loneliness, pain and all those emotions that are experienced most intensely during a lifetime.

Every client who comes to me has a story to share. And, each of these stories is unique in its own ways. Some trying to rebuild trust after an affair, some choosing to move out of the marriage, some wanting to move out yet puzzled by the impact it will have on the child, some using this difficult situation as a wakeup call to pay attention to those aspects of life and relationship that gradually got pushed behind in the priority list. It is different for each couple.

Why do affairs happen?

The most common and easily understood reason behind an affair is a broken marriage - a marriage where the love between partners has dried and worn-out.

In a committed relationship when the initial enthusiasm of honeymoon phase subsides, it takes conscious efforts to nurture the relationship. In the absence of these efforts, someone may feel abandoned, lonely and miserable inside the home and relationship. And then, if an attractive and interesting person starts demonstrating emotional, intellectual, or sexual interest towards them —this extra attention makes them feel important and significant. It makes them feel wonderful to receive the attention they have been craving for; it may lure them into submitting to the craving.

While this is what happens in most cases, there are many people who seem to have an affair despite having a great partner, relationship and family. In these cases, I have seen the person who went out and had an affair trying hard to comprehend what made them do so. Some even say, “The person with whom I had an affair is nothing like my choice, I don’t understand what made me fall for this person”

This is where I find the words of Esther Perel, a leading thought leader in modern day relationships and romance, insightful. She says, “Sometimes when we seek the gaze of another, it’s not our partner we are turning away from, but the person we have become. We are not looking for another lover so much as another version of ourselves.”

It is not about sex as much as it is about feeling sexy. It is not about finding someone as much as it about finding the lost parts of oneself.

Is affair the dead end of a relationship?

While many affairs result at the end of a relationship, it doesn’t mean a relationship can’t be rebuilt after an affair. It doesn’t mean affairs are by default the dead end of a relationship. The ones who treat the affair as an invitation to look into the aspects that were not being paid attention to, and learn the necessary lessons, the affair could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It could be a wakeup call for the relationship. It could breathe into the relationship an aliveness and enthusiasm that it was lacking. It is amusing to see how the fear of loss sometimes rekindles the desire and passion that was lacking in the relationship.

It’s important for each couple to decide whether they want to give their marriage a second chance. It is important that they trust their intuition in making this call knowing both the choices are equally tough and be willing to own the consequences of their choice.

PS: You may like to check:

A series I wrote on modern relationships here

The TED talk by Esther Perel named 'Rethinking infidelity' here