The Psychology of Affairs. By Theresa Lowry-Lehnen. Lecturer of Psychology
The Psychology of Affairs
The impact on the couple, the children and the other person involved
Marriage Infidelity Statistics
% of marriages where one /both spouses admit to infidelity, physical or emotional 50%
% of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 57%
% of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 54%
% of married men who have strayed at least once during their married lives 22%
% of married women who have strayed at least once during their married lives 14%
% of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker. 45%+
% of men and women who admit to infidelity on business trips 35%
% of men and women who admit to infidelity with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law 17%
Average length of an affair 2 yrs
% of marriages that end after an affair has been admitted to or discovered 32%
% of men who regret cheating on their wives with another woman 78%
% of women who regret cheating on their husbands with another man 82%
Percent of children who are the product of infidelity 3%
% of affairs which end when the affair is discovered 90%
It is often assumed that only certain types of couples are vulnerable to
infidelity such as the misunderstood husband, or the lonely housewife.
It is also assumed that
couples who enjoy each
communicate well, and
have a good sex life are
immune from such
.The reality is, anyone can be
subject to an affair
Recent studies reveal that 45 to
55 % of married women and 50
to 60 % of married men engage
in an extramarital affair at
some time or another during
Sometimes extra marital affairs occur when one or other partner
has a serious illness, alcohol or addiction problem which the
spouse finds difficult to deal with.
A wife may feel
A husband may claim
to be misunderstood,
lonely or that his wife
lost interest in him a
long time ago.
Both may feel that they are no
longer able to communicate
like they once did.
The main reason people find intimacy
(emotional or physical) with someone
outside of marriage is because their
emotional needs are not being met.
When children have grown up and
left the home, this lack of common
ground can also become a chasm
between some couples.
An unrealistic ideation when affairs occur is that the
spouse has met someone who is superior in some way,
who better meets their needs and desires.
In a wife's mind,
the new woman
with whom her
husband is having
an affair is much
than she is.
A husband imagines that the man with
whom his wife is infatuated is much more
successful or powerful than him.
Statistics have proven that this is rarely
the case and research (2013) has shown
that in over 1,000 extra marital affairs
studied and analysed that over (90%) of
wives were deemed more attractive
physically and (78%) of husband more
successful than the person with whom
the spouse is having an affair.
The initial decision to be unfaithful is rarely ever a rational choice;
instead infidelity is usually driven by circumstances and emotions.
Most people are
surprised by their
own behaviour at
the start of an affair.
Emotional infidelity, compared
to just physical infidelity inflicts
as much, if not more, hurt, pain
The internet, mobile
phones, e-mail, and chat
rooms are making it easier
for people to engage in
Over 45% of men and women admit to having an affair
with a co-worker.
To illustrate the impact of
the workplace on infidelity,
a survey conducted by
revealed that 40% of
married women had had an
affair by age forty.
When this number was broken down
by women in the workplace versus
women at home, it became clear that
the workplace provides ample
opportunity for women to conduct
33% percent of
homemakers versus 47%
of working wives had had
an affair by age forty.
While the workplace has
historically been the
arena in which men
conducted affairs, an
interesting trend is the
conscious decision of
young and increasingly
more middle aged single
women to date married
This is due not only to
the prestige, power,
and financial means
of this group of men,
but to a desire on the
part of these women
to focus on their
Involvement with a
married man greatly
reduces the likelihood of
the affair leading to
marriage, and limits the
amount of time and
energy which he is able to
devote to the
thereby freeing her to
concentrate on career
Another advantage to
having a married affair
partner is that that
individual has much to
lose, for example,
spouse, children, home,
and financial assets, so
he or she is likely to
make fewer demands.
Numbers and trends in the workplace tell the story
As a society, we believe
strongly in monogamy.
When we say "forsaking all
others, 'till death do us
part", most couples truly
believe that this is what they
will choose and how they
will behave as a married
couple for the rest of their
Evidence points to other forces
coming into play, forces that
can powerfully counteract
more conscious intentions.
These include factors that
are an inherent part of
many workplaces, as well
as the natural evolution
of marital relationships.
Over the past half century, women have entered the workforce
in increasing numbers.
In today's economy, it is
almost a luxury for a
woman (or a man) to
remain full time in the
home and raise children.
Women and men have
become accustomed to
working closely with
each other, particularly
as the feminist agenda
has continued to push for
full and equal
participation in the
The reality is that many men and women
now spend more time with their co-
workers than they do with their spouses.
They engage in more conversation about
both work and non-work-related matters.
While this is nearly always on a
superficial rather than deep level the
intensity of workplace demands have
contributed to the forging of
Without conscious effort any marriage can stagnate.
Marriage becomes routine.
felt for a partner
tend to wane
over time (as
guaranteed it will
too with the
The sexy young woman the husband fell in love
with becomes preoccupied with childrearing,
running a household, everyday realities and
maintaining her own career.
Couples settle into roles and routines,
which tend to be predictable and at times
The handsome carefree guy the wife fell
in love with is now concerned about being
an adequate provider for his family
Neglect is the number one reason for cheating on a spouse.
Everyone needs to feel loved and appreciated.Without it one
begins to suffer mental and emotional neglect.
Sometimes, when a couple
have been together for a
long time, they begin to
neglect each other.They
don't talk with each other
as often.They may even
neglect to have sex as
often, or at all.This type of
neglect leaves a person
feeling frustrated at best,
and undesirable at worst.
Neglected people are the group
where - affairs find them.They
don't intentionally look for or
Neglected spouses become like a
haemorrhaging wound in
desperate need of a bandage,
often using the advances from a
co-worker, as their “substitute
bandage” because that
somebody provides them with
the attention that their spouse
has neglected to give them.
Office/Work relationships offer the neglected spouse the
opportunity to be seen in a different light.
In the workplace, the
wife becomes not just
the pressurised mother
who's too exhausted for
sex at the end of the
day, but an attractive
Similarly the husband is not just the
forgotten man with a growing “to do
list” – but one who takes charge at
work, makes things happen, and has
the respect of his peers.
So co-worker affairs occur and can
at first afford the opportunity to
occupy a different role from the
mundane realities of everyday life.
Therapists who work
with couples dealing with
infidelity find that affairs
usually have little to do
with the marriage, that
many spouses are still
best friends, love each
other deeply and want
their marriage to
continue and work.
The roles and
structure of family life
responsibilities and a
person's affair is not so
much a rejection of
the spouse as a
rejection of these role
Affairs can occur at any stage of a marriage, but there tends
to be "peak" times when the marriage is vulnerable.
The first year of marriage can be
turbulent. Affairs during this phase tend
to be short-lived and may involve a brief
reconnection with a former love interest.
The arrival of the first child
represents a major turning point
in a couple's relationship.
The notorious "seven year itch" corresponds roughly to years four through seven
when the initial "psychological contract" between partners has been fulfilled.This
refers to the idea that we choose our partners because they meet certain residual
When the children have grown up
(often affecting couples still in their
Many marriages “shattered by affairs do survive and
Affairs while painful to deal with can
help renew a relationship with the
Affairs often spur a couple to
confront what they really need
and want from their spouse
and motivate them to re-
In counselling sessions therapists hear over and over again "I never wanted this to
happen, I only ever really loved my wife/ husband and want my spouse, lover and
best friend to be that same person“.
By acknowledging that an affair means
“living a lie” in some form, there is a
greater chance to deal with the
emotional and practical consequences
of the affair in a healthier way.
1. Stop the affair immediately. Agree to
sever all contact.
2. Answer all questions honestly.
3. Show your spouse empathy
4. Keep talking and listening, no matter how
long it takes.
6. Don’t expect quick or easy forgiveness.
1. Ask lots of questions.
2. Balance your rage with your
need for information.
3. Set a time limit on affair
talk. Don’t let the affair take over
your lives. Do ask questions as
they arise instead of building up
resentment and long lists of
4. Expect curveballs.The spouse
who had the affair may become
angry or even accuse you of
betraying him or her. Keep the
focus on the affair itself.
5.Talk about how the affair has
6. Don’t forgive too quickly or
easily. You must deal with your
pain and anger first and rebuild
7. Find support.
8. Spend time together without
talking about the affair. Connect
as friends and romantic partners by
doing the things you’ve always
9. Forgive only when you’re
ready.You’ll never forget an affair,
but the painful memories will fade
with time. Forgiveness allows you
to move past the pain and rage and
to reconcile with your partner.Take
this important step only when you
feel ready to let go of your negative
feelings, when your partner has
been completely honest and has
taken steps to rebuild your trust.
There are going to be situations where the spouse just can't get out of working
with the other man/woman. Finding a new job or transferring within a company
takes time and may not always be possible
It's important that he/she make
very clear to the other person
that the relationship is going to
be a very limited working one
only, and that the contact is
going to be purely on a
professional basis. It's best to be
very brief with this message,
simply stating what needs to be
said and removing him/ herself
from the situation. He/ she must
be very convincing about this,
avoiding eye or physical contact.
This meeting should be very
brief and matter of fact.
This should be the last time that they really
need to talk this over. In the future, he/ she
should communicate with the other person
via email, fax or brief communication about
professional matters only. Written
communication also protects your spouse from
any allegations. Face to face contact between
it's very important that you know that your spouse is
making a continuous effort to limit and end his/her
contact. Many companies have very strict policies about
fraternizing among co workers, not to mention sexual
harassment issues and policies. So, it's important (for so
many reasons) that your husband wife distance him /
herself from this situation as soon as possible.
A parent's affair presents special problems for teenagers and
adult children. Small children while of course affected are often
not aware or sheltered from the affair.
They may hold idealistic
standards that have been
shattered.They may hold
parents to a higher standard -
so may be even more
affected due to the disparity
between who they "thought"
the parent was and who they
now see them to be.
They often feel fiercely
protective of the hurt parent.
They may do a "role reversal,"
becoming intensely protective of
the hurt parent - just as the
parent was protective of them
when they were children.
They may be especially harsh in their
judgement of the affair parent.They may
feel betrayed and have great difficulty with
trust/forgiveness, feeling they can no
longer count on that parent.
They can take it very personally,
feeling somehow that this was
done to them - not understanding
that the parent did
it for themselves, not to the spouse
or the children.
It may feel awkward to
have the "tables turned"
(in that the children may
be chastising the parent
in a way that parents
often chastise their
children) - but their
especially in light of the
potential impact on their
There are unpleasant consequences
(for everybody) in dealing with this issue, so
everybody must do their best to do everything
possible to recover and rebuild the relationships
that have been damaged.
Both parents must respond to their
children’s comments and feelings in a non-
defensive way.They need to work through
their issues , be honest with and support
their children.The adult children’s feelings
about the situation may be affected more
by what the hurt parent does than what
they say - it's important for the hurt parent
to be able to show that they are not
defeated, but will grow stronger and more
independent as a result of dealing with this
problem.This means the hurt parent first
needs to take care of themselves. They need
to set an example that the children can
follow in effectively working to understand
and heal from the pain of this situation.
Almost every wife who has ever struggled after an affair knows that thinking about the
other woman can become an obsession; wanting to know who she is, what she looks like,
what makes her tick, and why, of all people on earth, she chose your husband.While the affair
is going on (and after it has ended) thoughts of her invade every day life.
What happens when the affair is over?
How does the other woman feel about the
end of the relationship? And how do these
feelings dictate her actions? Does she just
ride off into the sunset? Does she find
another married man to prey on? Does
she vow to change her ways and
eventually find a single guy to settle down
with? Does she pine over your husband
and try to scheme up ways that she can
get back into your life?
Men whose wives have cheated
usually have the same thoughts and
concerns, but are less inclined or find it
more difficult to talk about.
A lot depends upon the
Their personalities, feelings, and life
Some will say that if the wife/
husband had kept his/her own
happy, his/her presence would
not have been needed.
Many say their intention was never to hurt
However, these women/ men
have feelings too and they have
their own emotional baggage to
deal with after the affair
Many are quite hurt when the
Many feel guilt .
Some feel depressed when the realization
sets in that they themselves may be
middle aged, single and childless and may
never find that special person.
Some have been "the other
woman or man" on occasion.
Some say that all of the people that
they've had relationships with over
the past several years have been
Others state this is their first
relationship with a married man/
Many insist that had they known the pain the
affair was going to cause every one involved, they
never would have become involved in the first
What happens to the other person
after the affair will often depend
upon the depth of his/her feelings
for the husband/ wife
Some are quite hurt when the
Some say that the husband/ wife promised
that he was going to leave his partner and be
with him/ her, and, when this doesn't happen
(in 92% of cases), it can leave the other woman/
man feeling very vulnerable, disappointed, lied
to and taken advantage of.
Sometimes, the other person will go to the other extreme and say they have concerns about the
spouse. Stating that while they truly wants him/ her to be happy they doubt that this can happen with
the current spouse. Usually the result of denial or as an attempt to make themselves feel better.
Sometimes "the other woman/ man"
wants to apologize to the wife/
husband.They may feel a great deal of
remorse and wants to reach out and try
to make things better.
Most will just do the best that they can and move on
becoming more careful to ensure any future person
that they become interested in is 100% single because
they don't want to repeat the same mistakes. The other
woman/ man has some serious choices to make and
realities to face.
They too must decide if they are
going to take the affair and use it
as a means to learn about and
improve upon themselves and
reflect on their motives for getting
involved with a married man or
woman in the first place.
While many move on, learn from and never
repeat the experience, statistics show that
some remain bitter ,angry and alone for the
rest of their lives never finding that “special
Some continue to have affairs or become the
victim of an affair themselves (17%).