Well, most of us wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end. Many of us see it as morally wrong. The ultimate betrayal. Dishonest, selfish, weak – just plainly and simply so painful.
However there is another way to look at this age-old transgression. This moralistic view on adultery cuts out the variety of emotions and needs that go into the reasons behind an affair. For there are a multitude.
An affair can unleash tamed desires, or years of repression. Fulfil needs unfulfilled at home. Satisfy a driving desire to rebel – to be bad for once, for someone who has always felt the pressure to be so damn good.
And that only considers one half of the picture. What is being “good” all the time? Why can’t we “bad” sometimes? Why are we tame at home? Why don’t we seek fulfilment there, in bed with our long term partner? If we put half the effort into sex with our partner as we do into hiding sexual desire outside our relationship… might not everyone be the better for it?
Affairs are as old as marriage. And they come in all shapes and sizes… The common factor is that there is secrecy and dishonesty. And there lies the disrespect and the pain.
Porn, fantasy, sexting… Do you think of these as cheating? Are you being unfaithful to your partner if you indulge your fantasies alone? What if you watch your fantasies play out online? Or dirty-talk them out with a stranger on a sex site? Does it make a difference to you if the fantasy is a static story or a film? Recorded or live? Interactive?
There are so many shades of sexual exploration that strictly-speaking lie outside a relationship. Everyone is entitled to their own secret thoughts and desires – and indeed it’s healthy to have them – but have you ever thought of bringing some of these into your relationship? If not, why not?
The one-night mistake
Something one night triggered your imagination, your desire, and you lose control. Blame the booze, perhaps. “Darling, it meant nothing”.
Did it really mean nothing? A casual empty encounter, or was it more? Did you use them or briefly connect with them? The object of your desire might not be important to you as a person – but what was it that meant you needed this? To feel desired? To feel alive? How can you create this in your relationship?
The repeated sexual transgression
When sex in secret with others becomes a pattern. Stereotyped as the player and the femme fatale. There may be an additional brief connection – an interesting conversation perhaps – but the pattern is you get your sexual needs met repeatedly by someone who’s not your partner. Why be loved by only one person when you can be loved by two, three? Why miss out on multiple gorgeous people by limiting yourself to only one?
Some are open about these non-monogamous ways and enjoy multiple sexual relationships at once creating an open relationship that works for all involved. But we need to be given the choice. Where there’s no choice, power is at play. Where there is honesty is respect.
But then where there is honesty it’s no longer an affair…
The emotional affair
“Nothing happened!” And it probably didn’t. Just some emailing, a few texts, with a little harmless flirting perhaps. But our thoughts and intentions about this other person were, we know deep down, not so pure, and not purely platonic. A friendship forms and we get our need to connect – to be seen, heard, supported, desired – met by someone who is not our partner. There’s longing and angst. But we stop before anything ever happens.
Which begs the question of why it’s not our partner that we connect with in this way? And why we’re texting/calling someone else instead of trying to address this and create this connection with them…
The love affair
This is the voyage of self-discovery. A connection of mind, body and soul – meeting someone “else” who we connect with intellectually, emotionally and sexually. The holy trio. It feels transcendent, ecstatic, like fate, like we can’t possibly conceive of doing anything other than follow this person to the heights of pure love. It causes us to open up parts of ourself we never have before. It shifts our whole worldview.
This type of affair can present a major life challenge. It’s a fork on our path where we have a choice which way to go – backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough. It’s often a trigger for our personal growth.
That’s not to make it into something it’s not – there is probably some dishonesty involved somewhere in the process, some game playing. The context can’t be ignored. Everything is heightened by the secrecy, the gravity of the situation, and the possible consequences that we can envisage ahead. This type of affair is often the trigger, but not always the target.
By exploring all layers of the picture our mistakes can help us learn about ourselves. They serve as a voyage of self-discovery to help us grow as people. And choose paths that enrich rather than destroy, that are full of love for ourselves and others, rather than causing us pain.
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