The Damaging Affair

Adultery is always damaging to the couple relationship.  The extent of the damage depends on the nature of the dishonesty, the level and duration of the deceit; and how distressed and betrayed the partner experiences the infidelity.  Everyone reacts differently in these situations so there is no precise recipe, sequence or outcome to follow.

The effect of a 'third' in the relationship creates at the very least - loss of trust and feelings of betrayal.

Each couple is different.  An affair would mean the end of the relationship to some - the betrayal being too great to recover from.  Others, whilst feeling hurt and betrayed might decide that in the context of having been together for many years, the affair is not going to mean the end of the relationship.  There are those who turn a 'blind eye' to indiscretions imagining that if they are not 'seen' they cannot hurt. Kate Spicer in the Sunday Times writes an article entitled 'Adultery: it's the grown-up way to love'.  She quotes Catherine Hakim who advocates harmless 'playfairs' as beneficial holidays from a marriage. In her book The New Rules, she recommends dating sites for affairs on the side, saying this is the way for a marriage to last. 

How can lying, holding secrets and being intimate with extra-marital playmates possibly strengthen the couple bond or make the marriage closer? When secrets are held from each other; when there is a lack of honesty; a failure to communicate openly, the relationship is in a disconnected and dangerous place.  

When a relationship is lacking in honesty it is only a matter of time before the opportunity arises to have an affair.  Peggy Vaughan writes in The Monogamy Myth 'Attractions between people do, in fact, go on all our lives.  Marriage and even the deepest love, commitment and devotion do not stop these attractions.  How we respond to attraction and temptation has more to do with personal history and psychodynamics than with morality'.

Relationships vary hugely.  From the strictly monogamous on both sides to open marriages where either partner can sexually do exactly as they please whilst remaining married and committed to each other.  I have seen examples of both these extremes and much between - couples who have affairs in secret; couples who tell each other about their sexual indiscretions to anger or arouse them; couples who 'play' together with other sexual playmates to spice up their own sexual relationship; couples who have a sexless relationship and are happy.

Being a couple is a unique experience and should be a shared experience. There is no right or wrong way, as long as it works for the two people involved.

However, what seems to be most important is that truth and honesty prevail. With help it is sometimes possible to repair a marriage broken by an affair.  If both partners are willing to explore their emotions and understand the underlying reasons for the affair with honesty and lack of blame, it is sometimes possible to move on to an even stronger and more closely connected relationship beyond.

'The hope for monogamy lies in making a conscious choice that specifically involves a commitment to honesty' - Peggy Vaughan ' The Monogamy Myth'.