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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.

frustratedworkingmum Sun 03-Feb-13 10:07:51

My dad had an affair, more than one - the only thing i wish is that he stayed with the OW and was happy, rather than returning home "for me" (the child) and having a miserable life with my mother who treated him like dirt. He should have been stronger and left for good but my mum wouldn't let him see me (or me him) so he came back

E320 Sun 03-Feb-13 11:25:00

Because they can. Because there is little or no stigma attached. Because infidelity is tolerated. Because social engineering has devalued marriage & made it "just another lifestyle model". Because modern technology & communications present a sweet-shop full of tantalising choices. 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?

SnowBusiness Sun 03-Feb-13 11:38:10

Sorry, Sioda I had misread your post. Yes, people do sort it out and I have known of many marriages that have survived infidelity.

E320, you make some interesting points. I have one friend whose husband is going through a MLC and it has been interesting to see the men's response in our social circle. There are some very damning statements about how he is being weak, not facing his responsibilities and that he needs to man up. It's this judgement that is prolonging him leaving, I think. I'm 70/30 that he'll leave my lovely friend but he has definitely been surprised by his previous friend's reaction.

navada Sun 03-Feb-13 12:01:51

*abitwobblynow - your post sent shivers down my spine.

A perfect assessment.

navada Sun 03-Feb-13 12:04:58

E320 - yes, I agree with you.

DadOnIce Sun 03-Feb-13 12:12:48

I often wonder more about the HOW than the Why. If DW started "staying late at work" a lot, or going out for drinks with a mysterious new friend allegedly called "Sarah" who I'd not met, or hiding her phone all the time, I think I'd probably notice. We are both knackered from work, kids and house stuff anyway. I think if one of us were to start knocking someone else off on the side, it would probably finish us off (with physical exhaustion, I mean).

navada Sun 03-Feb-13 12:44:39

Haha dadonIce.

A lot of affairs these days are emotional on-line affairs. Just as destructive but very easy to conduct.

Bobbybird40 Sun 03-Feb-13 13:04:10

I would say that for men opportunity is the key factor by a long chalk. How many married men, if offered some absolute first rate totty on a plate - with no chance of being found out - would say no? Surely less than 10 per cent.
Back in the day I used to travel abroad with work a lot and I was gobsmacked at the amount of shenanigans that various colleagues - of all ages, backgrounds etc - got up to.

Sioda Sun 03-Feb-13 13:47:33

E320, very good points. Human nature never operates in a vacuum. Ideas about restraint, limits and self discipline are completely devalued in our society.

MadAboutHotChoc Sun 03-Feb-13 15:03:42

DadOnIce - many affairs are conducted during work hours - lunchtimes, fake conferences/seminars, on business trips etc. My DH used to take half days to meet OW and then come home at the usual time...

debtherat Tue 05-Feb-13 04:35:17

Because they can, because of the thrill of the chase, because your OH is dull, overweight, more interested in the kids, complains about having to do all the housework as well as working full time, tired of a husband who puts his needs first, is above doing basic DIY or organising it, does nothing with children, wants sex when he's at a loose end (after you've spent your weekend on boring housework, ironing, declutter)... so easy to appreciate the damsel in distress who is so grateful for your support at work, gives you that emotional and spiritual engagement, is inspirational. Pathetic - and then after OW is revealed but backs away, moons around, plays happy families, pursues OW on internet.

Abitwobblynow Tue 05-Feb-13 06:42:18

I think people who have long term affairs do so to get something they are not getting in their marriage. - Maleview, and that is the fault of the spouse?

How do you fit that in to the research that usually it is the person GIVING LESS to the relationship, that has the affair? I know you were married to a disturbed person, but I am also married to a disturbed person, and I did not have an affair, he did! (funny, I am so awful he won't f-ing go. If she can get him out of my house she can have him. But he doesn't seem to want her...).

MV YOU chose to resolve your awful dilemma in this fashion. Even though it has worked out for you, and even though your wife sounded awful, it was YOUR CHOICE. She didn't make you.

These myths, that blame the person being hurt and absolves the person making the choice to step outside, are getting tiresome.

NO MARRIAGE IS PERFECT. If imperfect marriages 'caused' affairs, then 100% of marriages would have betrayal wound in! What happened to logic?

SnowBusiness Tue 05-Feb-13 08:48:01

From :
It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage (see, Buss and Shackelford for review of this research). And these numbers are probably on the conservative side, when you consider that close to half of all marriages end in divorce (people are more likely to stray as relationships fall apart; also see, who is likely to cheat).

Seenenoughtoknow Tue 05-Feb-13 11:55:13

Abitwobblynow - need a 'like' button. VERY well said - I agree totally.

Cazzymaddy Tue 05-Feb-13 21:39:35

My counsellor would say (and I'm seeing her currently about this issue) is that the partners needs were not being met, so he went elsewhere. She feels that in order to make the marriage work, I need to meet him halfway and he has to be honest and open about it all. My angry side says stuff that- I am in no way to blame, other than being knackered with a newborn but my more sensible side wants to know if this is a sensible view or is this some kind of Relate-speak? What have other Mumsnetters encountered through counselling?

MadAboutHotChoc Tue 05-Feb-13 22:09:19

She has got it wrong - but then many counsellors at Relate are out of date with their training or have not been trained or read books by the main experts in infidelity.

We had a private counsellor and did lots of reading - Shirley Glass's Not Just Friends comes highly recommended.

MadAboutHotChoc Tue 05-Feb-13 22:10:02

Abit - great post grin

Charbon Tue 05-Feb-13 23:26:38

Cazzymaddy that sort of counsellor thinking is very old hat now, but as Mad has said, Relate really isn't the best at infidelity. Not all of their counsellors are qualified therapists and the training in issues such as infidelity is patchy to say the least. Unfortunately the old Marriage Guidance Council legacy sometimes still exists which is that any threat to a relationship must be the fault of the relationship. Other practitioners look at the behaviours of individuals within the relationship, but also the threats outwith it.

Infidelity is a good example of a behaviour that often has no root in the relationship and so taking your counsellor's rather simplistic pronouncement about 'needs not being met' a good counsellor will look to see whether a person's 'needs in life' were being met before they were unfaithful. It is extremely common to find nowadays that the ego boost of an affair was used as a replacement for a damaged professional ego or because of a vanity crisis. These are needs that are impossible to meet by a partner; they can't make a job more successful and they can't reverse the ageing process!

A good therapist will of course be curious about the relationship and especially the 'dance' a couple has created. With infidelity however, it is often noticeable that the faithful partner was giving far more to the relationship and their own needs were not being met. However because they often have better coping mechanisms and as adults realise that there are times when their needs are lower down the pecking order (e.g caring for young children) they do not seek attention and strokes from elsewhere.

A much more pragmatic and helpful way of looking at relationships is to acknowledge that there will often be times when one is not meeting the other's needs, but the mature way of dealing with that lack is to discuss - or especially in the case of competing but temporary pressures - to rationalise that 'this too will pass'.

pennymixup Tue 05-Feb-13 23:30:56

This is a question you shouldn't really ask on MN because there tends to be one viewpoint posted in answer to it, that is... it is nothing to do with the marriage itself or problems in it but it is always because the person having the affair has some problem/weakness etc.
This isn't always to case as there are so many different reasons for affairs.
I see Shirley Glass endlessly recommended on here but I thought her book is pretty out of date now too.

Charbon Tue 05-Feb-13 23:36:50

It's certainly out of date about women's infidelity I agree - but I think it's a very helpful book, as long as it's read by the person who was unfaithful as well as their partner. I agree there are many reasons for affairs. I just take issue with the thinking that it is always the fault of the relationship, or even that this can ever be the only reason why someone strays. People are individuals first and foremost, with all their complexities!

whenIwasRosie Tue 05-Feb-13 23:41:10

Agreed Charbon, it isn't always the fault of the relationship... but it is sometimes

cronullansw Wed 06-Feb-13 00:02:48

In answer to the op question - why? Fun. No one goes into an affair believing that they will get caught.

So who are men having affairs with? There's no gender divide here, women have as many affairs as men do. Either that or there's a few women who are awfully, awfully busy.

ProphetOfDoom Wed 06-Feb-13 00:07:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Seenenoughtoknow Wed 06-Feb-13 00:21:55

Cronullansw - 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.

Fairypants Wed 06-Feb-13 07:05:11

Or single women, that would explain the gap.

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