January is a month of reflection – and decisions. If your relationship finished in a decidedly messy state at Christmas, the start of a New Year offers just the incentive you need to sort things out.
Stopping that affair, for instance.
Mira Kirshenbaum, one of my favourite US relationship experts, is the author of When Good People Have Affairs.
It’s one of few books written for people who are involved in affairs, and don’t know what to do, that doesn’t beat them about the head with a stick.
Mira identifies 17 different types of affairs in the book – which have inspired some of the reasons below. (Others are my own observations or based on current research.)
If you’re having an affair and need to make some tough decisions this year, this should help clarify your motives and offer practical advice on what to do next.
WHY MOST PEOPLE HAVE AFFAIRS
To revive your sex life:
This affair’s not about being madly besotted with someone else, it’s done as a last bid attempt to wake up your partner sexually and romantically. They find out, they’re upset, devastated… but suddenly they appreciate you, sex is hot again.
If this is you: Most of these affairs die a natural death and some do achieve the desired result: the marriage can actually get better. Course in other cases, the attempt to heat things up, ends up causing a fire that destroys the lot.
To see if there’s better out there:
Comparison affairs are the most common female affair. You’re doing it because certain emotional and sexual needs aren’t being met in your marriage. You compare your new lover to your husband to see if you’re missing out. If this is you: You did this for a reason, now make a decision. If you’re happier with the new person, leave. If you’re not, finish it and put your energy back into your marriage.
To force you to leave:
If you’d secretly be relieved if your partner found out, you’re having an ‘exit affair’.
If this is you: Leave. Don’t pretend to yourself or your lover that you’re leaving for them, you’re not.
To ‘support’ the marriage:
You’re happy with your marriage but bored or sexually unfulfilled: you have no desire to leave but need the excitement an affair provides. Another circumstance: there’s some reason your partner can’t have sex (like illness) or you don’t want to leave the marriage because of children or finances. These are called ‘stabilising’ affairs or ‘three-legged stools’: with just two legs a stool would fall over, with three it’s stable.
If this is you: This actually works for lots of people. But there’s a huge risk involved because the longer an affair lasts, the more likely you are to get found out. Sometimes, particularly if the marriage has become more friendship, the affair is an unspoken agreement between couples.
It could be payback for an affair they had, or they’re not paying you enough attention. If this is you: If it’s your only motive, you’ve achieved your aim. Stop it now – and don’t even think about telling your partner, no matter how sweet that revenge might be.
You’re having a mid life crisis:
Do I need to say more?
If this is you: “Buy the sportscar and skip the affair. It’s a lot cheaper. On so many levels,” says Mira. Couldn’t put it better myself!
To avoid facing the truth:
You know you should either leave or face your problems but instead you have a fling to distract yourself. If this is you: Make a choice – leave or stay and work at it. You’re hurting everyone more by lingering in no-man’s land.
To reward yourself:
You’ve been a great husband/wife, Mum/Dad, you deserve it. Lots of people indulge this one by having a ‘safe’ one night encounter where the chances are getting found out are minimal. Trouble is, it turns into two nights, then three, then…
If this is you: You’ve had your ‘treat’, now stop it. Your partner’s not meeting a certain need: It might be sex you’re lacking or it might be affection, feeling taken for granted.
If this is you: Once you get the need met by a lover, you’ll know just how important it is to you. If it wasn’t that crucial, stop the affair. If it was, leave.
To satisfy an experience your partner can’t:
You’ve never had a threesome/have a fetish or quirk you’d like to act out but know your partner would be horrified. It seems safer to try it outside the marriage.
If this is you: Sometimes doing it once gets it out the way. Other times, it reveals just how important it is. Are you sure your partner can’t provide what you crave? If you intend leaving unless they do, you’ve got nothing to lose by asking.
To boost your ego:
You want to see if you can still pull.
If this is you: If you don’t get found out and it’s a relatively short affair, the confidence boost can actually renew the relationship. That’s Mira’s take on it. I say it’s a bloody risky way to boost your ego. Wouldn’t a new haircut and slinky dress do the job?
You want to trade up: You see it all the time when people become famous: the dutiful partner who helped them get there is rather rudely shoved aside for a sparkly young pert model.
If this is you: They might be ‘better’ in society’s eyes but plenty of people miss the ‘old model’ more than they expect they would.