Affairs: the 7 reasons why they happen

Affairs: the 7 reasons why they happen

Most people entering a marriage or long term relationship are doing so hoping and trusting that it will be a monogamous relationship; so the discovery of an affair is a huge betrayal of that bond and trust with devastating effects on the partner and the relationship.

An affair certainly signals that there is a problem in the relationship, but most affairs are symptoms rather than the cause of the problems.

A key question to ask is “What problem in your relationship did the affair solve?”


Julia Cole in her recently revised book “After the Affair” has noted that there are 7 types of affairs each with their own associated reasons. They are:

1. The Door opener Affair:

This usually happens when a partner feels they have had enough of their relationship and is looking to set up another one because they are no longer emotionally connected or committed to their current partner. It provides someone to hold their hand as they exit their relationship.


2. The 3 legged stool Affair:

This is usually a long term affair that the partner knows about. When pressures get too much to handle in a relationship, one partner has an affair which gives him/her an emotional safety valve and relieves this pressure, and then the couple can spend their time wrangling about his/her unfaithfulness, rather than the original issues.


3 The Revenge Affair:

This is usually a short affair, but comes about because one partner has been hurt or betrayed, often by their partner being unfaithful. It can be experienced as a way to re-establish a sense of self esteem, or of a way to express their deep hurt for 8164886_mwhat their partner has done.


Stay tuned for the next 4 reasons affairs happen in my next blog next week.

If you have had an affair, or your partner has, you can be helped to work through this by seeing a relationship counsellor.



Why do Affairs Happen?

Last week I mentioned that there are 7 basic reasons why affairs happen.

The first three were the Door opening affair, which helps a partner leave and gives a level of safety straight into the next relationship; then the 3 legged stool, which can distract the focus from the real issues in the relationship, and then also the Revenge affair which is used to “get back” at a partner who has already had an affair, or has hurt you.

The 4th reason for an affair is the “Notice Me  Affair”. This usually happens as a result of trying to communicate unhappiness in the relationship to your partner but feeling that you haven’t been heard.This can be either a sexual one night stand, or even an emotional affair, and is an attempt to communicate to your partner that things aren’t right for you when talking hasn’t worked. The partner is not looking to leave the relationship, but to wake up the partner.

The 5th kind of affair is the Avoidance affair. This occurs as a way to avoid intimacy and commitment in your relationship. Usually one affair follows another as a continuing way of avoiding being close and vulnerable with your partner. Or it can occur when you feel that you can’t deliver what your partner is asking for. For some, this can feel like a kind of addiction, as you know you shouldn’t be having affairs, but can’t seem to stop.why affairs happen

The 6th type of affair is the Experimental affair. This is usually just about sex. Often if a couple has not had any or many sexual partners before the relationship, and/or the sex has become very limited and routine, a partner will feel tempted to discover what sex would be like with another person. The person having the affair can feel like it it meaningless sex, but this is not usually how the partner will view it.

The 7th and last reason for an affair to happen is the Opportunistic one. Usually this is a sexual encounter that happens usually after drinking too much, where you find yourself together and often away from home, or given in to a seduction from a friend or acquaintance; or it could be an on-line contact where things have started seemingly harmlessly but have moved into something more erotic. This kind of affair can feed the ego, allowing you to feel good about yourself and attractive and sexy, but is usually the most quickly regretted.

No matter how and why they occur, affairs always have emotionally devastating effects on a couple’s relationship. With help from an experienced relationship counsellor, couples can learn about the reasons behind the affair and gradually repair their relationship, and with a commitment from each partner, can in time use this experience as a catalyst to create an even better relationship than they had before.

This takes time and commitment, but overwhelmingly, couples who have taken this path are extremely satisfied with their relationship at the end of the period, and have found it is in fact, work worth doing.

More next week

Warm regards

Julie Hart