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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.

Seenenoughtoknow Wed 06-Feb-13 07:28:10

Yes fairypants you're right - I was so busy trying to point out the large difference in the amount of unfaithful men compared to unfaithful women that I didn't reason enough!

I think sadly, apart from a totally self centred, selfish and entitled behaviour, opportunity is also a reason that infidelity happens. Where I live (a close-knit small community) it is rarely heard of (through the jungle drums) of women having affairs, but it is very well known that the twenty-something year old married men who all go off on overnight stays to football/rugby matches are ALL at it behind their unsuspecting wives/partner's backs...whilst the wives/partners are generally at home caring for their kids. They brag about it in the pubs as if they'll never get caught out...and it seems to be so commonplace locally it's almost unbelievable.

Slippersox Wed 06-Feb-13 08:06:35

An earlier post by MadaboutChoc sums up why my DH was unfaithful.The ego strokes of OW during a low point in his life.And he would concur with that.That doesn't make him less blameless than her.That made him weak and vulnerable and supremely selfish at the time.We had a good marriage with plenty of sex and affection and he agrees at any point he could have talked about how frustrated - with business and finances and thwarted ambitions- he was instead of encouraging an insidious 'friendship' that crossed boundaries and almost wrecked our marriage.
Oh and modern technology.A blessing in many ways.Great to have a mobile phone for so many reasons but using it to flirt excessively and sext behind your OHs back one of its more evil manifestations.All too easy and addictive in certain circumstances.

MadAboutHotChoc Wed 06-Feb-13 08:37:21

Oh yes, my DH's iphone was the main instrument in his affair - but still it was his choice and I do not blame technology (esp since I found out about the affair by using it!).

Bobbybird40 Wed 06-Feb-13 09:00:50

A major factor must surely be the potential repercussions. If men knew, for instance, that it was a case of one strike and your out, I'm sure less would take the risk. But I think many are aware, sub consciously at least, that even if they get found out the wife will probably take them back - as long as they agree to go to counselling blah blah. So it's a risk worth taking. In some ways, soft touch other halves are to blame.

MadAboutHotChoc Wed 06-Feb-13 09:12:53

Bobby
Not necessarily - I have always told my DH that if he ever had an affair that would be it. I am sure many other betrayed parties have said similar things and like many cheaters, DH was arrogant enough to think he wouldn't be discovered hmm

fluffyraggies Wed 06-Feb-13 09:32:14

"Because the benefits' system means that nobody is ever really destitute & has removed the responsibility for providing for and nurturing a family, which can include sacrificing one's own desires for the common good. Because the person you might marry at 20 is not the person you would marry at 30, 40 or 50?"

1st sentence - i would agree with as far as being correct in that people are no longer stuck in relationships due to poverty if they leave. Absolutely do not agree that this is a bad thing. Common good? Where's the common good in being miserable till you peg out?

2nd sentence - this was my reason for leaving my marriage. I left as soon as i met someone else. Should i have stayed in an unhappy marriage in case it meant claiming benefits?

Teahouse Wed 06-Feb-13 09:41:01

I had an affair.
My marriage wasn't great (emotional and some physical abuse) and one day my then husband announced he had been having an affair with a friend of ours. It had started when I was 3 months pregnant with DC1, and at this stage we had been married for nearly 10 years and the affair had been gong on for a least 6 of them!

I probably should have just cried but didn't. I sought solise with a single male who I knew liked me; we had a brief affair. I was far too ashamed to tell my family or close friends what had happened - i genuinely thought I must be the most unattractive and horrid person in the world to have this happen to me. But having discovered I was worthy of respect (through the affair) I left my husband and have remained happily single (well, am finally happily single anyway -been a long hard road). He married his OW and appears very happy.

My affair made me realise how destructive and soul destroying my marriage was, and how manipulative my husband was. I could not bring up my children with such a man.

Sometimes affairs are not the worst thing in the world, nor are they all carried out by total bastards; I am a nice person and although regret I had one, I know it was an intensive reaction to my domestic situation and finding that someone could love me and respect me, gave me the confidence to move on and leave the bastard.

SnowBusiness Wed 06-Feb-13 10:54:28

Bobby Many people don't believe that infidelity is an immediate divorce issue (sorry if that doesn't suit you). And the person whom I know to have to longest standing affair is a woman.

Infidelity figures are huge. If you know 10 couples up to 10 of the individuals could be having an affair. (60%men, 40%) women. Fidelity over a lifetime is hard and some marriages weigh up what could be lost by ending the marriage and decide it's not worth losing.

Sioda Wed 06-Feb-13 12:36:07

Teahouse I don't think you have anything to regret. If your spouse is abusive and having an affair themselves then morally I really don't see a problem with it. It's not even a case of two wrongs making a right - it's that the abuser has already lost the right to your fidelity, respect or honesty. And secondly they're usually the ones responsible for destroying your self-esteem and courage in the first place through abuse which is what caused you to seek the affair. Abuse just negates any moral blame to having an affair. I hope you don't feel judged when people talk about what causes affairs and the responsibility of the cheater. Although most people might not think to add a caveat every time, I'd imagine there are few people who would lump you in with every other cheater. Well done on getting out!!

Bobbybird40 Wed 06-Feb-13 15:06:25

That's fair enough snow business. So if many people don't believe infidelity is a divorce issue, then people will keep having affairs yeh? As they know that they can, indeed, have their cake and eat it. Would be interested to know the stats for those who have been forgiven an affair and then gone on to have another - 80-90 per cent would be my guess. And who could blame them?

Charbon Wed 06-Feb-13 15:13:02

There has been some predictive validity research about that Bobby and for those who went to counselling, either as a couple or as an individual, the percentage was under 5% in what I recall was a very big anonymised sample. I don't think that's too surprising. Good therapy is challenging and requires quite an investment of time, money and emotional labour.

SnowBusiness Wed 06-Feb-13 18:04:42

Bobby, I didn't say it's not a divorce issue but that it isn't always and I don't think it should be. Charbon, that's really interesting re the predictive validity research.

Bobbybird40 Wed 06-Feb-13 21:04:59

Charbon I was thinking more about those who have affairs and get forgiven - it just seems to me to be a complete green light to do it again. In terms of those having therapy, well, they have made a commitment to make it work so would expect figure to be high especially as if men agree to go they know it probably gets them off the hook for shagging somebody else

Charbon Wed 06-Feb-13 21:36:47

Yes but the research specifically related to people who'd remained in the original relationship Bobby.

I understand your cynicism, but recovering from infidelity only ever works if the individuals and couple concerned are committed to sustainable change. That means addressing all the flaws that led to the affair, whether that's in the relationship or in the person who's been involved elsewhere; sometimes both. That's not an easy task admittedly, but if the commitment is there to examine what factors allowed the infidelity (and it's often a lifetime of character and personality traits that need challenging) then it's actually much harder to go down that path again because the new ways of thinking and behaving simply wouldn't allow it.

If on the other hand it gets swept under the carpet, there is either no counselling or the therapist is useless and unchallenging, if there is no reading and especially no analysis of why it happened, then I agree there's more risk of a re-occurrence - and not necessarily just on the part of the original 'offender'. The spectre of infidelity is an ever-present threat to a couple who have learnt nothing from the experience, about themselves, or their relationship.

This is why it's so much more complex than 'if people aren't getting their needs met by a partner, they'll go elsewhere' because individuals have far more motivations in life than just their couple-relationships.

Charbon Wed 06-Feb-13 21:45:09

Also Bobby this doesn't just relate to men who are unfaithful and who are forgiven. There is a considerable upturn in women having affairs and men forgiving, but the same advice applies. It is as important to challenge women's perceived reasons for having affairs as it is men's, but with both sexes you have to unravel a whole generation's worth of socialisation about sexuality and this is recognisably different depending on whether you've grown up in society as a man or a woman.

Writehand Wed 06-Feb-13 21:53:28

My DH (who worked in rock n roll for 20 years and saw a lot of wild sex & cheating) said that it's very little to do with the original marriage. Some people cheat and some don't. The sort who cheat will cheat on anyone, the sort who don't need a hell of a lot of provocation to even think about it.

He said some men were just wankers and got off on cheating. Some women too. Blaming yourself when a cheat screws you over is a waste of tears. They'll do it to the next woman too.

Me, I've got a feeling of sisterhood + a strong streak of self-interest, so I've never had the remotest interest in the sort of man who wants a bit on the side. It ain't gonna be my bit.

Bobbybird40 Wed 06-Feb-13 22:09:50

Well charbon i like your posts but i dont agree with (some) of them. My cynicism generally re cheating is that people are v v good liars and could say all the right things in counselling, therapy etc and still cheat. Personally, im not sure therapy is appropriate in circumstances where people have cheated. It seems ludicrous to me that there are so many threads on MN along the lines of 'DH cheated, we going to counselling' etc. Seriously, what is the point? It's a kop-out.

Charbon Wed 06-Feb-13 22:25:41

Thanks but I think you're assuming that their loved ones and a challenging therapist who's seen it all before can't tell when a person is just talking a good job or telling lies. Whereas the unfaithful person might have been able to get away with lying while an affair was ongoing because there was trust, post-affair most partners have a disbelief default if anything - and take a great deal of convincing that words will translate into actions. Hence the focus is very much on actions being more important than pretty words or promises.

FWIW, I think that individual therapy is more relevant in the early months post discovery, especially if the relationship wasn't the core problem. Couples therapy after infidelity is not always the wisest choice.

cronullansw Wed 06-Feb-13 23:42:04

Quote from seenenough...... ''a lot of infidelities come under the affair bracket, such as prostitute use etc, which is a predominately male activity...that alone causes a great many divorces. Statistics say at least 60% of men are unfaithful, whilst at the most it's 40% of women, which I assume means the use of prostitutes etc must account for the 20% in between.''

So visiting prostitutes is having an affair? Seriously? smile

Quote from fairypants.....''Or single women, that would explain the gap.''

And single women make up the rest eh? Of course, your average single girl is just dying to have an affair with a married bloke, who can't be there for weekends, birthdays, christmas etc.

Charbon Thu 07-Feb-13 02:13:42

Cronullansw I think the point was that the infidelity statistics don't just encompass affairs, but also serial isolated encounters and paying for sex (which is of course a gendered activity as described.)

Yes there are single women who have affairs with attached men, as well as attached women having affairs with attached and single men.

But not all women having these relationships want to spend weekends, birthdays and holidays with their lovers. They just want uncomplicated sex or time with someone with no demands on either side. It is rather old-fashioned and sexist to assume that all women seek commitment, loyalty and attachment from these relationships. They do not.

SnowBusiness Thu 07-Feb-13 04:23:15

There's a load of sexist nonsense on this thread.

Men and women have affairs. Sometimes the marriage isn't worth losing over it, sometimes it is.

Seenenoughtoknow Thu 07-Feb-13 09:39:54

Cornullansw - what Charbon said is exactly what I meant. You were pointing out that only married men and married women have affairs with each other. You also pointed out that the statistic couldn't possibly be 60/40 as there must be a lot of busy married women having affairs.

What fairypants and I pointed out is that the statistic is about infidelity generally, so yes, that does include one night stands, and affairs with single people (I can't believe you didn't know this happens!) and visits to prostitutes. We were simply working out where the other 20% difference might come from.

And with regard to the partners who stay with their unfaithful partners - they are not to be scorned. Are you forgetting that we are not robots...that people fall in love and stay in love, and that with children in the picture sometimes to stay and try therapy might be the best thing? I applaud the women here who have been dragged through affair hell, but who chose to try to work it out and see if they could move on from the infidelity as much as I applaud the ones for whom it was the last straw and whom have ended their marriages.

We are all different and our relationships are all different. If your life is that black and white, then you are in a very small minority.

confusionoftheillusion Thu 07-Feb-13 13:14:30

From my own experience...
I was lonely in my marriage and too gutless to leave

cronullansw Thu 07-Feb-13 22:36:53

Actually seenenough, I'm one who has had several affairs and have been married for over 20 years. I believe (but don't know for sure) my DP has had affairs during our marriage too. All of my partners were married, and have stayed that way as far as I know.

DP and I have happy and settled kids and we live in a happy household. I have no proof that DP has or hasn't strayed, and it's the same the other way round. there's no proof, and has always been total discretion - this is not to say we have an open marriage and in recent years I happen to have been totally monogamous, but who knows what might happen in the future?

I recognise that people make mistakes, and that stuff happens, either accidentally or deliberately, but I don't think that you need to destroy a family unit, a household, innocent kids, stable, loving, well cared for, with happy lives, just because of a bit of sex.

SnowBusiness Fri 08-Feb-13 05:14:06

Cronullansw, that's an incredible brave admission on here but so very honest. Until people are honest a lot of nonsense and infidelity myths continue to be pedalled as fact.

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