Obviously, an affair is destructive because it is sex with someone other than your spouse, right! Well, hold on there for a moment. Yes, sex with another person is devastating, but you didn’t get there immediately, there are more insidious issues beneath the surface.
Researchers and clinicians have long studied what makes marriages work, and this is the better place to start when thinking about the destruction of an affair! Whether or not there is a sexual addiction and recovery is needed, intimacy issues will abound in a couple where secret affairs are present.
Support will be necessary to heal. Let’s look at some keys to a healthy marriage that have been discovered by these researchers and clinicians, and how secret affairs tear them down (1) (2).
We all think about other people in our minds; it is in our design. However, we don’t stop to think how formative this is. As we mull over how attractive, attentive, or inspirational we find our spouse we are subtly forming how we will behave towards them.
When secret affairs are occurring, it is inevitable that comparison is occurring between spouse and affair partner. The affair partner gets all the positive thoughts without question—often because this person can be held in fantasy.
Private thoughts towards the spouse then become extremely deriding and one-sided. Behaviors soon follow with disregard, avoidance and much more.
Truth telling is the glue that binds people. As you know and explore another’s world, they become more alive and exciting to you.
Further, as your world is accepted by another, they feel like a safe haven for you. Affair partners often share secrets and knowledge that feels binding and like membership to a ‘secret club.’
On the flip side more manipulation, lying and deceit occurs towards the faithful spouse.
Deception is needed to keep the affair secret and special and serves to build a wall and distance between spouses.
It is common for less and less intimate knowledge to be shared between the spouses so that they feel the growing distance. They may still share daily information but not themselves.
Two Views of the Marriage
A healthy marriage requires partners that recognize that they are truly different people and have different views of the same things. The differences are normal in relationships because we are different people.
Disagreement isn’t a bad thing by itself. Marriages that can accept differences and work with them to grow strong and intimate and allow the spouses to feel truly accepted as people.
Affairs can thrive when a spouse feels rejected, ignored or hurt by the other spouses’ insistence of their view. A betraying spouse is withholding their view in some areas and inhibiting the view of their spouse in other areas. Problems remain problems.
Couples will always fight or disagree to varying degrees. This is normal. The important thing to do is ‘fight well’!
Learning to complain kindly, bring up concerns and respectfully hear those of your spouse is vital. Secret affairs are echo chambers where real issues and complaints are only heard from your own view or avoided altogether because the noise is so deafening.
The betraying spouse has neglected to ‘fight well’ and is instead choosing self-medication with another sexual partner. This unfaithfulness stagnates any chance of learning to disagree for the benefit of the marriage.
Soothing Your Spouse
A loving act is to care for and attend your spouse, to help them in distress. Clearly, a secret affair is choosing to attend to another person, and inflict increasing damage to a spouse.
Critically, when fights in a marriage occur, or one partner is simply hurting from life, soothing is a critical act of intimacy and trust building.
A spouse involved in an affair creates intimacy issues as they neglect to offer this vital support. These intimacy issues can be dealt with in recovery with support and coaching.
Adoring Your Spouse
Those we choose to adore, enjoy, and delight in becoming more delightful to us. We are hardwired to connect to specific people or objects that are wonderful in our eyes.
We treat these things or people with a prized position and offer them our time and services. Sadly, affair partners rob a spouse from these benefits within the marriage.
The betraying spouse no longer clamors to delight in their spouse but in the affair partner, which leaves a decaying negative experience in the marriage.
All of these issues contribute to the devastating destruction of marriage when there is a secret affair. They can be solved with recovery and support.
If there is an underlying sexual addiction, this must be resolved first, and intimacy issues can be worked on with the aid of trained counselors. The first things to do to save a marriage from this destruction are, end the affair—no matter what—and commit to building the marriage at all cost.
About the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.
: Mellody, P., & Freundlich, L. S. (2004). The intimacy factor: the ground rules for overcoming the obstacles to truth, respect, and lasting love. New York: HarperOne.
: Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail and how you can make yours last. New York: Fireside.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on September 20, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 20, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com