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The start of an Affair


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I'm a male and I've never had an affair. I'm also a pretty "rational" person in that I'm a logical thinker and don't usually let my emotions lead me around by the nose. So, I'm struggling a bit to understand how an affair starts and how/why it progresses when one or both of the individuals involved in the affair have made a commitment to their spouse to love, honor, and cherish them "til death do us part".


To some extent I can understand the pull of sex given the potential for intense pleasureable release. I can understand the thrill that someone else might find you attractive and I can even understand to some extent the excitement of what is or would be a secret. What I don't understand is how a person makes a decision to begin physical contact which clearly is a violation of marital vows made and how the individuals get so wrapped up in the fantasy world that they can't stop themselves from "falling in love". Can someone help me understand this phenomenon?


Do all affairs include a mutual sharing of feelings of "i love you" or "I am very attracted to you" or "I missed you so much"??? Or are some simply physical and no sharing of feelings?


Oh, and let me clarify one thing. I'm not referring to serial cheaters or philanderers who obviously have no respect for their spouse. I'm thinking about the one-time affair where the person realizes after all is said and done that they love their spouse and made a terrible decision to have the affair.

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I think that besides all of the reasons you and dw have mentioned, some affairs start because the "other woman" or "other man" really does connect with you, in a way you enjoy and feel is important, and in a way that your wife/husband doesn't. For example, a common sense of humor or a willingness to be adventurous, or an appreciation and passion for a particular subject, or a philosophical nature.


Being with one person for many years, you both will change and grow, perhaps in different directions. Your spouse will not be able to fulfill all your needs and that may leave you with a longing. The danger is that you will expect her/him to be everything, which is impossible.


Marriage takes sacrifice and commitment. I don't know why someone would violate his/her vows, but I suspect it is a temptation that cannot always be easily dismissed.


BTW, I've never physically cheated but have felt drawn to other people. So make of my perspective what you will.

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I suppose if someone is unhappy in their relationship, then having an affar is an escape from that. They can be a different person when they are with the other man / woman.


There are different kinds of affairs, emotional ones, physical ones, from one night stands to ones that last months or even years.


I guess the physical ones stem from not getting enough sex from the relationship they are in, so they look elsewhere.


I can't imagine why someone would resort to cheating, instead of just ending things.

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Welcome to ENA.

I think the spouse that betrays their husband/wife never sees it as it really is. They convince themselves that it is just a friendship at first but they don't tell their spouse about it because they wouldn't understand. Then the FANTASY begins where logic goes out the window.

There is nothing real about an affair except the betrayal and destruction of a marriage, family and trust.


It basically comes down to selfish behavior with no regard for the people you are supposed to love and cherish.


This is my take after being betrayed after 20 years together. They all may have different players but in the end it is selfishness that is the common thread.



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Although I've never cheated on anyone, I've come very close to helping a friend have an affair with her boyfriend of three years. The only reason it didn't happen is because I managed to put an end to it before it progressed too far. It probably also helped that I'm good friend with both the girl and the guy, and so I just wasn't able to do that to a friend of mine.


It all started when we were drinking one night. Her boyfriend had left early because he had to work the next morning, and the other people in our group were off walking someone to their car, so it was just her and I alone.


She started talking to me about her boyfriend, about certain things that she found annoying about him. She was basically just venting, and I was just listening to her.


One thing led to another, and we started getting a bit touchy with eachother, you know, as I was comforting her all. Before you know it, there was heavy flirting between us two, and she was leaning on me, etc...


I just left it at that, because I would feel terrible to have taken it further, but I was really close to actually doing it. Alcohol and a sex drive will do that to you.


In the end, the main reason that she's willing to cheat on him at this point (I think that she's pretty much looking for an excuse, and "it just happened" is good enough) is because she feels like she doesn't have as strong an emotional connection to her boyfriend anymore.


She doesn't want to break up with him because she does still love him. She still has some sort of connection, it just isn't as strong as it used to be. But this is generally a sign that her relationship with him is going to slowly dwindle until either they rekindle it, or they eventually break up.


The main reason that people cheat though is because through evolution, long term monogamy wasn't the best route. We aren't designed to choose partners for life, and so it's a struggle to force ourselves to do it. It takes a lot of work to be able to keep a relationship going and interesting, and not everyone's able to pull it off.

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The main reason that people cheat though is because through evolution, long term monogamy wasn't the best route. We aren't designed to choose partners for life, and so it's a struggle to force ourselves to do it. It takes a lot of work to be able to keep a relationship going and interesting, and not everyone's able to pull it off.


Dolphins mate for life. Also I'd have thought our brains have evolved enough by now that we can't site primitive urges linked with the need to keep the species alive.. as the reason for our choice to be unfaithful!


As for OP.. to be honest this puzzles me too. I wonder if perhaps with many cases it starts off as something small. An inappropriate level of communication perhaps. And then snow balls - perhaps because the "cheater" already knows deep down that just by that small step.. they have crossed (or are crossing) the line and so they need to keep going in order to justify taking the initial step?


I honestly don't know how integrity and loyalty doesnt just kick in to stop people before anything physical happens. In some cases I get that they have just stopped loving their partner and resent them and simply don't care less about their vows.

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Thanks for all the insight. I do wish someone who had actually strayed would answer for some real life perspective. Again, there are all different types of infidelity - emotional only, a one night stand which is only physical, an emotional affair which turns physical, etc. To some extent I understand the one-night stand - too much alcohol, putting oneself in the wrong place with wrong boundaries and before you know it you reached the point of no return. But, in an affair, one continues to make conscience decisions to cheat - over and over again. In many cases I hear of people who do this and then once they are found out they "realize" how stupid they have been and don't want to lose their spouse/significant other. So, if they don't want to lose their spouse/significant partner after the fact, what lead them down the path to begin with? Was it simply they wanted some fun and didn't think anyone would find out? Is it narcissistic thinking, is it a rationalization that each step along the way isn't that bad as long as they aren't having sex and then before they realize it they have slid down the slippery slope of being so emotionally connected that they do have sex (like the frop placed in a pot of water where the temperature is slowly turned up and before they know it they have been cooked?)? I'm trying to figure out what happens inside the mind of someone who continues to go back for more (and isn't a serial cheater) - and what continues to feed it - the other person telling you how beautiful and wonderful you are - and you're unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality?

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Yes, I do think there's a frog-in-a-pot process that happens when someone doesn't know where to draw the line in order to protect their relationship. Is it wrong to have lunch with a co-worker of the opposite sex one-on-one? For some people it is OK. Other people don't know how to keep it at a "safe" non-emotional level.


Crossing boundaries inevitably involves point-by-point justification, but in the end, the person chooses to continue on because they want what an affair offers. It's that simple.


Those people know where the line is but they cross it because they feel desperate or desirous for whatever it is the other person provides. This goes along with what everyone here has said affairs starting because the longterm relationship is lacking in something.


One thought about the use of the term "fantasy." Well ... I would argue that an affair in some ways is not fantasy. It is what it IS. It is two people having a relationship -- a one-night stand, a one-month fling or even a five-year relationship.


People who have an affair know they are having an affair. If there is fantasy to it, that would be thinking that it won't be discovered, or won't hurt anyone. Or, perhaps, the fantasy is in thinking that they really know the other person well and would enjoy living with them in a committed relationship.


If you've been cheated on, pbl0301, I'm sorry to hear it.

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My dad cheated on my mom and she really never got him to admit fully why he did it or what he was thinking. He had an affair with a woman for 1-2 years, mom really isn't sure how long it went on. He is not available to ask about his reasons because he died in November and they were never able to resolve it. The affair occurred within the last 2 years of his life.


However, she did ask him at one point "What was your plan? Were you going to leave me? Were you ever thinking of ending it with her, etc, etc..." And his response was that he thought he could have both, implying that he had intended to have both relationships indefinitely. He never intended for mom to find out about it. He claimed that he told the other woman he was not married and that he had no children (gee, thanks dad).


A profile of my dad:



-Extremely smart

-Excellent with words (a real charmer)

-Something of a ladies man

-Forceful personality


-Easily bored

-Very little or no respect for stupid, lazy, or timid people

-Well-read and well-traveled

-Excellent father and grandfather

-Explosive temper

-Addictive personality

-Problems with self-discipline/self-control


A profile of my mom:


-Shy and reserved

-Very polite

-Devoted and loving wife, mother and grandmother

-Not very opinionated

-Smart, but not particularly intellectual


-Honest as the day is long


-Lack of self-esteem

-Judged herself as not being dad's equal (wondered why he wanted to be with her, to which his answer was that she was good and she made him want to be a better person...he told her this even after the affair.)


Obviously, they had extremely different personalities. Growing up, my siblings and I always wondered at how different they were and it did cause some problems. Their fighting styles were very different. Where as dad wanted to yell and scream and talk it out, mom would bottle it all up and much of the time wouldn't even admit she was upset or wouldn't (couldn't?) tell you why she was upset. I know that her lack of confidence and not seeing herself on a level playing-field with dad irked him to no end.


Profile of the girl he picked up with (as far as I know):


-In the same business as dad (landscape)

-Young (20 years younger than him)


-Interested in nature (like dad)

-Animal lover



I have no doubt that if she was in dad's esteem, she was probably a very interesting person, probably one that under different circumstances my mom and my siblings and I would like very much.


I don't know if this might be of any help at all, but I thought maybe a breakdown of individual parties involved in an act of unfaithfulness might be somewhat helpful. Of course, I got all of my information from my mom and wish so badly I could get my dad's side of things. I'm not sure he would have told me anyway. He never fully admitted to anything, and only gave details when presented with hard evidence. And even then he tried to tell her lies and downplay what was happening.


Before finding out about this incident, I thought my dad was the picture of honesty, integrity, and good character. I've had a really hard time coming to grips with it all. I have no idea if the fact that he was diagnosed with melanoma (an often terminal cancer, and in his case, definitely fatal) right around the time the affair started, has anything to do with his unfaithfulness. Sometimes people react to the news that they are going to die in very strange ways.


My honest opinion is that my dad was probably bored, my parents grew apart somewhat during the hustle and bustle of raising 5 children, dad had a bit of a crisis when the last child, my little sister left the house (I know he had a hard time relinquishing his role of mentor, teacher, protector, etc, that he had when we were all in the house and that our absence hit him much harder than he or mom ever expected it would...she even said she feels he was more torn up by us leaving than she was). I think these may have been contributing factors as well, but they still do not explain what made him think he could/should engage in an affair. Or why he continued to do so, or how he justified it to himself...If only I knew...if only poor mom knew.



I hope this helps. -Erin

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Have you ever fallen in love before? I mean crazy in love, the kind of love that makes you do all sorts of stupid things, like spending half of your monthly paycheck to buy jewelry when you can't even afford to buy food, driving for hours clear accross the state to spend but a few hours together watching a movie with her, getting into a bar fight with someone twice your size because he was impolite to her, getting into shouting matches with family members because they don't understand why you're with her, or quitting your job because she found the opportunity of a lifetime elsewhere and pleaded with you to go with her?


I find it very interesting that you began your original post with a comment about how rational you are. Here's the thing: Since when is love rational? Since when does it make sense to do any of the things I listed above? Some will call that romance, but in the end, it's still illogical behavior.


I think affairs are similar (excluding the scenarios where serial cheaters are involved). If two people who have similar interests, are physically attracted to one another, and spend a considerable amount of time together, feelings can develop even for the most logical of thinkers. Once feelings are involved, logic goes right out the window.


It sounds like you see this "moment" at these people's lives where they wake up and decide whether or not to have an affair. I don't think it works that way. I think it's a gradual process, and in some cases, they may not know they're falling in love until it's too late.


Let me throw this out there. You ask how cheaters find it ok to break their commitment to their spouses. Do you have the same question for people who press to get divorces? It's the same break as the "til death do us part" commitment, but do you feel the same way about it? Does it generate the same level of scorn and criticism?

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Yes of course I have been "in love". But what you describe is not love. What you describe is "infatuation". Infatuation is irrational and yes I've been infatuated with someone before - but not someone other than my spouse while I was married. I was infatuated with my wife before we got married. Since then we do things for each other to show our love - because love is a verb - its doing things for others and putting their interests at least on par with yours.


My point is, while infatuation is a real feeling, infidelity requires a person to make a choice that those infatuation feelings are more important than the commitment you made to your spouse. Choosing to go with the infatuation feelings over your commitment is a very selfish choice because usually affairs don't last and most people who are not serial cheaters will feel extreme guilt and shame once the affair runs it course, and in many cases they have ruined their lives and the lives of their family members because of it.


And no, I don't equate affairs on the same level as divorce. I've been broken up with before and while it is painful, it was no where near as painful as when my ex-wife had an affair (a long time ago). If my wife told me she couldn't live with me anymore and we had grown apart - ie she hadn't already went and found another man, while it would certainly be a painful process, I would at least feel respected enough to not go develop a relationship with someone else first. Having an affair for the other betrayed spouse is about as much pain short of torture or abuse that one person can inflict on another, particularly someone they said they "loved".


So, back to your original thoughts on how they develop. To some extent I understand that infatuation becomes involved and the person falling into the affair isn't mature enough to realize while their feelings are real they are based typically on the excitement of secrecy and not real world living - ie comparing an affair partner you don't have to live with everyday with the person you've lived with, raised children with, etc. What you're helping me understand is that it appears that a lot of people who have affairs aren't emotionally mature and basically selfish. Thanks.

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You make some great points. I guess I have always confused infatuation with being in love.


I'm curious to hear your thoughts on something. Before a couple decides to get married, they haven't lived together in most cases, haven't spent every day together, raised a family, etc... So how does a couple about to get married differentiate between an infatuation versus being in love?


In your last comment, you said, "alot of people who have affairs aren't emotionally mature and basically selfish." Can you talk a little bit about your view on emotional maturity? Is selflessness a requirement for emotional maturity?

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A lot of times, people stray because something is wrong with the relationship they are in.


A better alternative would be to find and fix the problem, or leave.


It's not always about sex and loving someone else, though.[/QUOTE]


i agree, fix or get out, i was to immature to do that when i did my bit.


but that is the best advice.


p.s db_w, still love the avatar!

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