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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.

Darkesteyes Tue 12-Feb-13 00:12:57

Refuge say the upcoming rules on the new Universal Credit will end up with them having to close 297 refuges.
But hey cin dont let that get in the way of the fact that you enjoy having people you can feel superior to.

cincodemayo Tue 12-Feb-13 00:14:54

yes darkest it's a much more difficult climate now but it hasn't always been like that and it's still not impossible to leave a relationship if you want to enough. Do you want to be this unhappy and bitter forever? Do you want to spend the next 20 years like this? I'm genuinely not unsympathetic but do something! You've only got one life and it sounds like so far it's been screwed up by your parents who've made eachother and you miserable (which is what i've been saying here all day!) and then your husband. You really do have choices.

cincodemayo Tue 12-Feb-13 00:15:42

Stay a victim then. Stay unhappy. It's your life.

whenIwasRosie Tue 12-Feb-13 00:17:49

brilliant post backonline
I 'like' it too

cincodemayo Tue 12-Feb-13 00:34:19

and while i'm at it, I wanted to come back to something someone said when I said that children feel abuse:

"Cinc, no they don't. And nor does anybody else. When I tried to broach the subject of H not being so kind to me, DS20 expressed astonishment and said that 3 - count that, 3 - of DS mates have told him he is so lucky to live in a loving family! confused. That is because we are attentive parents who in this area work as a team.

Cinc, please try to receive information. If more than four people are telling you the same thing, either 4 people are deluded, or you are not understanding nuances."

It's totally wrong to get children to comment on unkind treatment by their mum or dad.

if the 4 or 5 people who are saying that children aren't damaged are adults who are still living in unhappy relationships, no way does that persuade me. What does persuade me is what kids tell me themselves, or adults who grew up in homes like that. It's also persuasive when someone who actually leaves tells their story. They never say the kids were better off beforehand. Never. Neither do their kids.

SnowBusiness Tue 12-Feb-13 09:03:30

cinco for someone with such a smug moral compass you are severely lacking in compassion.

Sioda Tue 12-Feb-13 10:53:15

Cinco Well we have a different definition of affair then. And I was only talking about the posters in abusive relationships. I don't agree with distinctions between a person's actions (which are inextricably linked to their beliefs) and them as a person but that's veering into philosophy. And I wasn't talking about cases where people leave to be with the OM -yes the OM is often also abusive. But I do know of cases where the affair ended for whatever reason and the woman then left the relationship on her own. The affair had given her the ego boost to do that. Victims flaws aren't an elephant in the room - we all have flaws and of course they contribute to the circumstances we find ourselves in. But all of this is beside the point completely.

The bottom line is that whatever the truth of what you're saying, you're not helping. At all. Do you really think any of the abused women on this thread are more likely to manage to leave their relationship now thanks to your comments? How is pointing out their flaws and insulting them going to help with that? You know perfectly well that it doesn't and it won't. But you're not really trying to help. You just want to be right. All you've managed to achieve is to confirm in several poster's minds that the rest of the world doesn't understand their problems, has no compassion for them, blames them for their situation and will offer no support to them. That makes them more not less likely to remain stuck where they are. For someone with so much concern for the kids involved in this you're not showing much sense of responsibility.

Abitwobblynow Tue 12-Feb-13 13:56:49

'Neither do I think that being in an abusive marriage explains away getting involved in some other woman's abuse, by having an affair with her husband.'

I am with Cinc on this. WHY go and turn another woman demeaned and faceless? Why? Why do it to someone else?

And an affair is DEFINITELY emotional abuse. To have an affair and lie and gaslight and treat your partner with complete contempt because 1. you have to justify what you are doing and 2. comparing her to spangletwat, is complete abuse.

In these two things I think Cinc is right.

Abitwobblynow Tue 12-Feb-13 13:59:55

But Cinco there is a flaw in your argument that assumes breaking up the family is a GOOD thing and the children automatically sigh with relief.

I think you might be wrong there. Are all studies on the impact of divorce on children, dismissable?

When the conflict was out in the open (I found out about the affair, and of course children know), my children begged me not to get divorced.

Believe me, that juggle (whose needs are more important?) go round in my head the whole time.

Charbon Tue 12-Feb-13 14:27:28


While catching up with this thread, I was reminded of Transactional Analysis and the Games People Play, in particular the "Why Don't You?, Yes But" game that if you scroll down, is explained here

It vividly comes to life on screen in support forums, where a poster appears to be looking for help, but counters every suggestion with "yes, but....." and then drip feeds more information which is either relevant or not, but which will evoke a reaction in posters.

The point being that the objective of the poster is not to get help or practical suggestions which might change her life, it's to get strokes and attention of some sort. It is firmly based in the child ego state.

The relevance of this is that there are always options in these situations, but psychologically if someone doesn't want to change their position or circumstances, they will either insist that there aren't or that their chosen option has more benefits than disadvantages and that the options rejected are worse than they are in actuality.

It's also a very normal defence mechanism to minimise the negative ramifications of the chosen option e.g. the children aren't unhappy, they don't know how bad things are, an abusive spouse is a good parent, what people don't know can't harm them. But often those insistences get contradicted if another option is suggested. So for example, a woman who is insistent that her emotional abuser is a good parent might contradict this when it no longer supports her choice to stay. So when someone takes the 'good parent' proposition on good faith and suggests that if that's true, her husband can parent effectively after separation, at that point she says "Yes, but I can't trust him not to damage the children when he has them. He's an emotional abuser don't forget!!"

Rarely do choices lack self-interest and it's more honest to acknowledge what those interests are, if only to oneself. But then it becomes much more difficult to defend them if the chosen option potentially causes harm to others e.g. the children, a partner, the OM's wife and family.

So the safest position is to negate the self-interest and present the choice as one that benefits those 'others' - or at least, won't cause them harm. This positions the person as being entirely selfless and suffering for the cause and this earns 'strokes' from incurious others.

I will add that in my personal and professional opinion, unhappy or abusive relationships damage children and it's just the degree of damage caused that differs.

backonline Tue 12-Feb-13 14:50:55

"Why Don't You?, Yes But" game I think that you are missing the point of this discussion. This isn't a thread where someone has said "I am unable to do...because... " and a "why don't you...yes but..." discussion develops. It is a thread where someone has asked about the motives behind having affairs and where some of us have been trying to explain some of these motives. It could be an interesting and frank discussion about how affairs sometimes arise, but it is turning into a series of value judgements about whether or not people "ought" to do this, that or the other. Yes you are right, people do always have choices, but this thread appeared to ask why people make certain choices and it will always be about people trying to balance certain competing feelings, motives, moralities etc inside their own heads. Discussing what these competing things are may help some of us to understand human nature in general better, may help us to see things from someone else's point of view maybe, but I do no think that this will happen if we focus on the value judgements.

No body (from what I have seen) has posted here to ask for any help to do anything. They have just been trying to describe how they feel, what went through their heads when they made a certain decision etc. Giving information as requested by the original post. Saying "I had an affair because...". I do not think that telling them that their original behaviour was wrong helpful. (I'm not replying specifically to Charbon here, except where I have used specific quotes, just generally commenting about some of the posts on the thread.)

Charbon Tue 12-Feb-13 15:44:15

On the face of it, no-one has asked for help on this thread but seeking strokes doesn't always manifest itself in an overt request for help. Often it's presented as a need to get validation for certain choices, or understanding and approval for the reasons put forward for those choices. In other words 'strokes'.

The game I referenced is IMO definitely being played out on this thread, as it is on others where OPs overtly ask for help and suggestions, but the true objective is to get strokes and not to effect change.

Indeed, what sometimes happens is that the positive strokes received don't hit the spot either and so it's necessary to invent strawmen as Sioda has observed very accurately. For example, the allegations of people having affairs being described as evil, or emotional abusers being positioned as victims, or women's sexual needs being seen as inferior to men's - when no-one made any suggestions of that sort on the thread itself.

I think it's helpful to consider the many different viewpoints about a subject like this, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be challenge or exploration of why people hold the views that they do and why they are making certain choices.

Darkesteyes Tue 12-Feb-13 15:51:01

Charbon it wasnt suggested on this thread. You are correct about that.
Womens needs ARE seen as inferior to mens in society.

If that isnt true then please answer me this.
Whenever the debate about whether Catholic priests should remain celibate or not rears its head (as it does every now and again) why does NO ONE ever ask the same question or have the same debate about the nuns????!!!!!

Charbon Tue 12-Feb-13 16:07:01

Darkest politically, I completely agree that men and women are socialised to think that the libidinous impulse is stronger in men than it is in women and I regularly post (and campaign) about how this socialisation disadvantages men and women. I think it disadvantages your husband, I think it disadvantages you and it leads to enormous unhappiness in human relationships. I think this socialisation has a significant impact on infidelity and why people make the choices that they do. It leads to the sexual stereotyping and selective listening that I referenced before.

I think it is more complex than women's sexual needs being regarded by society as inferior to men's, although that is undoubtedly true. Men often feel as ashamed for not having a libido as women feel shame for having one.

Sioda Tue 12-Feb-13 17:00:16

That's really interestnig Charbon. I've seen that dynamic a lot online and I know I do the 'yes but' a lot myself whenever I'm getting depressed or overwhelmed. Thankfully I recognise it these days and have ways of getting out of it. But what should other people do when they come across that? What's the most helpful way to respond to someone who's doing it?

Charbon Tue 12-Feb-13 17:27:12

In RL, if I suspect I'm being asked to play a role in this game, I'll ask the person to look at the game and see whether it resonates. If it does, then it's worth exploring why a person is game-playing and not dealing with the situation. Often there are links in childhood which is significant because this game comes from the child ego state.

It's much more difficult online. I feel a degree of frustration when I see innocent posters spending hours offering suggestions or support, getting embroiled in the game. They think their role is to offer help, suggestions, advice and sympathy, when actually it is to feed the OP's need for attention and strokes. Nothing changes and a while later, the OP will start another thread and a whole generation of different posters gets reeled in, especially on sites where name-changing is allowed or it's a breach of netiquette to search previous threads and comment about them.

Logically, if someone is happy about their choices and feels no need of strokes or attention, they don't post about it.

So online, I tend to post the link to the game and add a bit of narrative to what I think might be happening. On some forums, the poster responds positively and agrees it resonates. On others, not so much. But at least it sews the seed and alerts other posters to protect themselves in terms of what they share and the time they are investing.

SnowBusiness Tue 12-Feb-13 20:02:50

Charbon, do you have a particular poster in mind? Because I do.

snowyskies Tue 12-Feb-13 20:10:14

Actually I didn't come on here for validation or strokes. I was answering the OP's question.

I have had counselling for many months and most of my close friends know and accept what I'm doing. I've made my peace with my decisions. Yes maybe I only believe what I want to believe but that's true of many people.

I have no doubt that one day I will have to face up to what I have done. I know it's wrong, but I will do so in full acceptance of the role I played in it. I wasn't coerced into it, seduced, lured, tricked. I chose to do this. I hate it when women say they couldn't help themselves or it just happened. There is always a time to stop it, the first coffee, first dinner date, first kiss. Every step along the way is a decision to make and weigh up. That might sound calculated but it isn't, it's merely accepting responsibility for the decisions I made on my own.

Abitwobblynow Wed 13-Feb-13 02:51:58

I will add that in my personal and professional opinion, unhappy or abusive relationships damage children and it's just the degree of damage caused that differs.

Thank you for that Charbon - stuff to think about.

What I have discovered in a situation like this, ALL the options are shit. Because the one thing I would like (to be met half way) is not an option. I never did think that life would be quite this difficult!

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