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Why do people have affairs?

(244 Posts)
navada Sat 02-Feb-13 10:43:59

Is it always due to a bad marriage/partnership? - or is it pure selfishness?

I haven't had one btw, neither has my dh, I'm just wondering as it seems so common.

hippyJules Sat 02-Feb-13 15:38:03

I think there are many, many reasons why people do it but I do think it's not always about sex, sometimes its an emotional bond.
I haven't been an angel in the past, and neither has my husband...yet we are still together. For us, we are very mis- matched, have different interests and goals..but we have children together so we stay to bring them up. We are parents first and for most. But we do not get from eachother what the other needs.
I think if we had no children, we would 100% not still be together and I do wonder what will happen once they are grown up and move out.
It may be classed as selfish, but you have to take into consideration individual circumstances.

purplewithred Sat 02-Feb-13 15:40:59

People have affairs to get something they are not getting in their marriage. The missing something may be something they should have given up when they married, like the thrill of the chase or the gloriousness of the early stages of Lurve. Or it may be the missing something is something they should be getting in their marriage, like respect or consideration or love.

Either way an affair is still a bad thing.

Uppatreecuppatea Sat 02-Feb-13 21:07:34

Sometimes people have affairs because they genuinely fall in love with someone else.

I did. It was wrong, I know, but it felt so right. We both left our marriages and now live together and have been for 3 years. I know we will grow old together and he is the love of my life. We are engaged to be married and I know that for us, it was the best decision.

I regret the hurt and pain we caused to our ex-spouses and I regret that our relationship started in such a terrible way. I don't regret the outcome though.

I should have left my ex husband before the affair started but I just didn't have the guts to do it.

I regret that I didn't have it in me to have left first.

Darkesteyes Sat 02-Feb-13 21:15:28

I had an affair for 4 and a half years. Before that my h had not touched me for seven years. Not even held my hand. And refused to go to counselling.
We marry expecting to be loved and cherished. When a spouse decides that they dont want to make love with you anymore or show you any affection but then expects you to stay completely faiithful then that is about power and control. They are in effect trying to strap a virtual or metaphorical chastity belt on you.
Also the impression i get is that women are expected to put up with this more than men are!

chocoreturns Sat 02-Feb-13 21:17:16

I think they happen because the person who has the affair feels entitled to.

Entitled to have their cake and eat it, or entitled to 'a little happiness at last' or entitled to follow their one true love etc...

Whichever way you dress it up, an affair only happens because the person having it believes that ultimately, they have the right to put their own desires before the wellbeing of others.

Beliefs are powerful engines of behaviour. Henry Ford summed it up by saying if you believe you can't, or you believe you can, you're probably right.

Some people just believe that they can, and it'll be ok. What 'ok' means differs though - maybe 'ok' means the spouse won't find out, or 'ok' means the spouse won't really be hurt. Or 'ok' means the hurt spouse will be hurt less than we will gain, so on balance it's ok.

Sioda Sat 02-Feb-13 21:18:35

Uppatree, no you didn't have an affair because you fell in love. You had an affair because you didn't have the courage to end your marriage before starting the relationship with the person you fell in love with. No one is saying that people don't fall genuinely in love with the affair partner. But people fall in love with other people while married often enough. Some people leave the marriage at that point and then start the new relationship. Some cheat first.

Uppatreecuppatea Sat 02-Feb-13 22:29:02

Yes, Sioda - I agree with you. It would not have been an affair I I had left my marriage first. However, it would not have changed the fact that I left my marriage for another man.

It would have been preferable for it to have been the latter, but as I said in my post, I did not have the courage to do so. I am eternally ashamed of that but it does not alter the facts.

Sioda Sat 02-Feb-13 22:50:40

Yes but the OP didn't ask why people leave their marriages. She asked why people have affairs. They're two totally different questions.

Hatpin Sat 02-Feb-13 22:59:35

If I had to sum it up in one sentance, I'd say it was because I didn't want to be married anymore, so I pretended to myself that I wasn't.

FlorriesDragons Sat 02-Feb-13 23:03:10

I'd say sex mainly.

Fancying sex with someone else and thinking you'll probably get away with it.

SnowBusiness Sun 03-Feb-13 07:41:39

Opportunity is another one. Exit affairs are one thing but having an affair while wanting to stay married is because it feels great to be fancied by someone else and, if you believe you won't be caught, you think you can get away with it.

Work offsites, or spouses that work in town (London) while the other is down in the commuter belt leaves an awful lot of time for unchaperoned drinks after work. The compartmentalising of life can make it easy for some.

Kione Sun 03-Feb-13 08:04:36

Dangerous, naughty excitement. A bit like taking ilegal drugs.
The adrenalin rush its quite addictive, add to this feeling wanted and lusted after... and in a long stable marriage there is not much adrenaline about. Most people are content with this, others find it too attractive an option to say no.

HollyBerryBush Sun 03-Feb-13 08:13:28

Because their needs, either emotional or physical aren't being met at home.

If a woman says "thankyou Mr baby making machine, off to the spare room with you for 2 years whilst I co-sleep" - then the male in the relationship is ripe to look for affection eslsewhere.

Ditto the woman who never sees her husband because hes a workoholic/sportsoholic/out drinking all the spare time.

That is generally when affairs happen. When one party in a relationship neglects the other or takes them foregranted

having an affair while wanting to stay married is because it feels great to be fancied by someone else and, if you believe you won't be caught, you think you can get away with it.

No, it's because the cheater is a selfish wanker who doesn't actually give a shit about their spouse. That is what is right at the core of it, no matter how it is dressed up.

sausagesandwich34 Sun 03-Feb-13 08:26:54

I hate affairs and people that carry them out with a passion can you tell I've been cheated on

With one exception. My BFF had a one night stand with a male friend. This followed years of her being in a nasty abusive relationship. We offered support, help to leave, a place to go but she was so beaten down, made to feel so worthless that she didn't believe us.

Her ex had told her time and time again that she was disgusting and lucky to have him because no one else would want her

The fact that the other man showed interest in her and made her feel special made her question everything her then partner said to her

It took her another year but she eventually found the strength to leave the bastard

They didn't continue the affair, he was single, she felt incredibly guilty -but I honestly believe it was the best decision she made in the last 20 years and I've got my friend back

SnowBusiness Sun 03-Feb-13 08:37:51

NotADragon I disagree. Only because the people I've known to have affairs did care about their spouses, it just wasn't deterrent enough. Their selfishness and lack of imagination (detailed upthread) to see the consequences was part of it.

Sioda Sun 03-Feb-13 08:49:39

More cliches Holly? Then what explains the people who will tell you that they were happy and their needs were being met in their marriage? Other than their need to be with the OW/OM of course (which is a kind of hard need to meet in a marriage). And how do you explain the people whose spouses neglect them and who still don't have affairs? Who instead either divorce or sort it out?

SnowBusiness Sun 03-Feb-13 08:55:32

Very few people with children 'divorce and sort it out' prior to affairs, especially with tiny children. It may be optimum to do so, but human behaviour is muchos flawed.

maleview70 Sun 03-Feb-13 08:59:47

I think people who have long term affairs do so to get something they are not getting in their marriage.

I think men in particular will have flings and one night stands just because the opportunity presented itself.

Sorry Snow but no. If you care about another person you don't cheat on them. In order to cheat on someone you have to care more about yourself and cheap thrills than your partner.

Anything else is just trying to dress it up with excuses to make yourself feel better.

MadAboutHotChoc Sun 03-Feb-13 09:10:47

Holly - I had regular sex with my DH and yet he still had an affair hmm

Its nothing to do with sex - its all about their ego, coping mechanisms and weaknesses.

My DH says he had an affair simply because he was selfish and entitled. He became addicted to the ego strokes of OW during a low point of his life...

SnowBusiness Sun 03-Feb-13 09:18:11

NotaDragon I don't agree with you in your first statement and but do agree a little with your second post. The cheater can care about their partner but not enough to stop them taking the opportunity. That does not mean that 'they don't give a shit' about their partner, they just put their own wants over their marriage and their spouse. People do it to a lesser degree all the time in all aspects of life, it's in human nature to have self interest, some just take it much, much further.

Sioda Sun 03-Feb-13 09:55:13

No Snow, I said divorce or sort it out. People can and do sort out problems in their marriage all the time whatever age their kids are. Not very few people. Lots of people. And regardless of how few people do it, it proves that people who have affairs are not helpless victims of their environment. The difference is in their characters. Not all humans behave the same. Not everyone is equally and similarly flawed.

Maleview - Sure - and what if that's something that can't be got in a marriage? Like the excitement of starting a relationship with someone new? The chance to sleep with someone else? Almost nobody gets those needs met in a marriage. Yet not everyone cheats. What explains the difference?

meditrina Sun 03-Feb-13 10:03:21

If there's something you want in the marriage that you feel you're not getting, then the true solution is to work on the marriage, and if the problems are intractable, end it.

It is a manifestation of a flaw (selfish entitlement) to choose to betray, as that definitely won't mend anything. And is desperately unfair on the betrayed partner, who has not been given a choice about whether the right 'solution' is an open marriage with intimacies given to third parties.

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