Written by: Cally Worden
Exhilarating, romantic and potentially damaging and destructive – an affair can be appealing if you are unhappy in your relationship, but it’s almost inevitable that someone will get hurt as a result of your dalliances in the long-run. Whether this potential fallout is worth it is something only you can decide – plenty of happy and stable new relationships form from affairs, but the majority do not enjoy this happy ending. Yet many people still elect to go down the road to illicit romance …
Can it ever just be harmless fun?
Most affairs begin with illicit liaisons that generally involve a degree of emotional engagement and the excitement of passionate sex. The couple may convince themselves they are just having a little fun and that no-one will get hurt. In a few cases that may be true, but more often one of the partners starts to crave something more permanent. And that’s when the complication factor multiplies.
Can it turn into a long-term deal?
Many affairs have transformed over time into very happy second marriages or long-term partnerships. But often, one of the couple is happier maintaining the status quo and has no desire or intention of leaving their home to start a new life with their lover. A few experts speculate that anyone having an affair who doesn’t make plans to leave their existing relationship within the first 3 months, probably never will.
Whether or not this is true is immaterial – for anyone who finds themselves in an affair where their partner is reluctant to leave their existing relationship the outlook can be bleak. Important events such as Christmas and holidays may be spent alone and a life that involves patience and a lot of waiting around may evolve. This can be painful and lonely and damaging to the self-esteem.
What to do if you are hanging around
If you find yourself constantly waiting for a call or commitment from your lover and know, deep down, that he or she is unlikely ever to be 100% available to you, then ask yourself this:
Do you want to be in the relationship more than you want to be out of it?
Whatever your answer, in asking this question you are actively accepting responsibility for your part in the relationship, this is crucial in taking control of the situation. The relationship feels more like a choice, it puts you in a stronger place mentally to either live with the reality of it, or to contemplate a different life for yourself.
Can I make a happy life with my lover?
Yes, it’s perfectly possible to embark on a new life with your lover and for that relationship to be a long and happy one. However … an affair is an artificial relationship in many respects. The illicit nature of your meetings and the inability to experience normal everyday life with your lover make it unreal and in part that’s why it’s exciting. If you are desperately unhappy in your marriage or long-term relationship then the idea of spending all your time with your lover can feel very appealing. The truth is that the mundanity of ‘real’ life with your lover may not live up to your expectations. And you need to consider this very carefully before you make the leap.
Were you tempted into an affair because you have fallen out of love with your existing partner, or your existing life? It may be that you are not seeking a new partner, but a new way of living. Divorce or separation from any long-term relationship takes time and is costly in terms of money and emotion, especially if children are involved. You may still wish to extract yourself from that relationship, but do it for the right reasons and not just because you are clinging to the dream life that your affair has offered – it’s not entirely real. Being prepared for that, you are giving your new life with your new lover a far greater chance of success.
How to tell my partner is having an affair
Change is the primary giveaway of any affair. It can be a change in your partner’s routine, their wardrobe, their behaviour, their looks. Anything that’s different. Such changes don’t automatically indicate an affair of course, but if your partner starts behaving differently look carefully at why this may be. Since 2013 there has been a surge in infidelity, fuelled largely by the ease of slipping into an illicit relationship via the internet. But cyber affairs can be just as damaging, the fallout just as real.
Many relationships do survive an affair, with both partners resolving to change the relationship and to address the issues that led to the betrayal in the first place. This is never an easy subject, the hurt for the partner on the receiving end is as real as the passion and love experienced by the one having the affair. An affair is an extreme symptom of an unhappy relationship. You may not agree with them, or your may think that in some cases they are justified – fact is, they are more common than you may think. And almost anyone is susceptible. It’s what you do with that knowledge that counts.