Why do men and women have affairs? | Couples Counseling San Mateo

Divorce Coaching | Edna Avraham, MFTIt turns out that 4 in 10 marriages are challenged by affairs; and it also turns out that more than half of American marriages survive the affair.

Dr Shirley Glass interviewed thousands of people at airports and other places and found that good people in good marriages are having affairs.  In her book “Not Just Friends”, she states that the workplace and the Internet have become fertile breeding grounds for “friendships” that can slowly and insidiously turn into love affairs.

Her research surprises us in two ways:

First: affairs are not always part of a bad marriage. Happily married partners still have affairs. This bursts the myth that if a spouse has an affair it must be due to unhappiness in their marriage. Certainly there are many unhappily married people who do not have affairs.

Second: men don’t have the monopoly on infidelity – it appears women have almost an equal share.

Cultural expectations and one’s environment influence people considering an affair.

Why is having an affair exciting to some people?

  • Initiating a new romantic relationship changes the chemistry of love in our brain. Higher dopamine levels are released and create a temporary high.
  • The affair relationship is secretive, which makes it feel more intense.
  • The meetings are time limited so you often get to experience only the good.
  • You can feel “better understood and loved” in the affair.
  • You can play out fantasies you don’t feel safe revealing to your spouse.

What do affairs do to your marriage?

Affairs can devastate your marriage. Infidelity undermines trust, which is the basis for a secure and solid marital relationship. The world is no longer a secure place. There is an immense sense of betrayal, self doubt, shame and confusion. The betrayed spouse can’t lean on their mate during this crisis since the spouse is the cause of this stressful situation.

How do we recover from an affair?

While half the couples decide to remain married after an affair, there usually is a fair amount of damage that needs restoring and healing. Mistrust, disappointment and sadness permeate the couple’s interactions.  However, many couples use the infidelity as a catalyst to examine their marriage and to address the underlying issues that led to the affair.  Those couples that seek marriage counseling for infidelity issues can experience better communication, more intimacy and increased passion after the affair.  But, without doing marriage counseling for infidelity to address these specific issues, doubt and fear of another affair can derail their confidence.  Trust can only be restored if the affected spouse feels that the underlying causes of the affair have been addressed, that regret and remorse have been expressed, and that there is a shift in the couple’s ability to understand and care for each other. These are the necessary steps that I can help you with through couple’s counseling.

If you engaged in an affair, here are some things you can do to help restore your relationship

Be in tune with your spouse.  Try to stay closer to her/him.  Keep frequent contact. Recognize what might stress him/her.

Be transparent in what you do.  Allow open access to all your communication media, phone, email etc.

Be patient and understanding when asked repeated questions. It will help reduce anxiety.

Be honest.  Lying by omission can still trigger mistrust.

Be collaborative and include your spouse in decisions. 

Be affirming: Let your spouse know that she is number one person in the world to you. Express what you love about him/her daily. Nurture your relationship.

Be committed to work on rebuilding your relationship no matter what it takes.


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