We don’t often openly and honestly talk about affairs. Oh, we may joke about them or state an occasional opinion about why couples have affairs, but we seldom look at this issue carefully and thoughtfully. This is understandable. Affairs bring tremendous emotional pain. Most of us don’t want to think or talk about painful realities. Unfortunately, our silence reinforces several myths concerning affairs. In his excellent book, Private Lies, Frank Pittman shares several myths concerning affairs.
Myth No. 1: Everybody has affairs. Although very difficult to obtain accurate measures, research reveals that about half of married couples do and half don’t. Eighty percent of those who do, have only one affair – usually during the last year of a dying marriage. For the great majority, once is more than enough to experience firsthand the horrible pain involved with betrayal so that going there again is unthinkable.
Myth No. 2: Affairs can help a marriage. To have an affair to revive a dull marriage or trigger a crisis is like setting your home on fire because you are tired of the carpet. Affairs send marriages to the brink of disaster and only the most stable and committed couples survive with their marriage intact.
Myth No. 3: Affairs prove that love has gone from the marriage. There are many, many reasons for having an affair, most of which have more to do with the mental state of the person having the affair than the person against whom the infidelity is being committed. Some who commit affairs aren’t truly committed to their marriage and abandon their vows when tempted by an attraction while others use affairs to avoid dealing with conflicting emotional issues.
Myth No. 4: Affairs involve attraction to someone sexier than the spouse. Marriage partners are not often chosen because they are winners of a sex contest. Rather, they are chosen for all manner of strange and usually nonsexual reasons. Usually, the choice of an affair partner appears to be based on the other person’s differences from the spouse rather than superiority to the spouse. Because no one person can have everything an individual wants (except for my wife), eventually those who have affairs realize that what they have may be every bit as good or better than what they seek.
Myth No. 5: The affair is the fault of the spouse. There are conditions that contribute to an affair by both partners, but unequivocally it must be stated that no one, absolutely no one, can make you have an affair. To believe that someone else made you cheat is a totally irresponsible belief. Blaming your behavior on anyone but yourself sets the stage to repeat the same behavior.
Myth No. 6: If my spouse doesn’t know, it won’t hurt her/him. Secrets block intimacy. Since affairs thrive on secrecy, what your spouses doesn’t know will hurt the intimacy between the two of you and thus hurt your marriage.
Myth No. 7: Divorce is an inevitable outcome of an affair. Affairs may spell the end to most marriages, but they can serve as a corrective to a troubled relationship. If the couple is willing to face difficult issues about themselves and their relationship, an affair can serve as a catalyst for growth. Marriages can become stronger and healthier after an affair.