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How can you love your spouse and be thinking about having an affair? Is that even possible? The whole thing is super confusing. 

Well, believe it or not, there may be a logical explanation.

Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, says couples need both closeness and distance to sustain a level of sexual intimacy or gratification. 

Many couples have been together 24/7 with very little time apart since the pandemic began. Time apart helps create sexual energy while you think about being with your spouse later in the day. 

COVID has taken away a lot of the opportunity for anticipation. With the lowered level of sexual energy, many couples are bored. And they may not feel much attraction toward each other at all. 

Since our brains crave novelty and excitement, the lackluster sexual energy at home may open the door to looking elsewhere for that excitement you used to experience with your spouse.

If you love your spouse, but you’re thinking about having an affair, consider these things…

“When you are feeling some emotional impulse, as in entertaining the idea of an affair, you have an opportunity to examine the impulse rationally, says Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity

“Stop. Consider the consequences. The very same muscle you exercise when you consider the consequences of running a red light—smashing another car, getting a ticket, dying, can be exercised in this instance,” Haltzman says. “Thankfully, we don’t just live on instinct. We can think through the risks of our potential actions.”

Haltzman suggests considering all the things that could happen, such as contracting a disease and giving it to your spouse. 

Plus, think about the hurt your spouse will feel when they find out.

“In my experience, most affairs are discovered,” Haltzman says. “Maybe not immediately, but at some point. You need to consider the impact on the person you have an affair with and the impact on your own body because you are keeping a secret from your spouse.”

There’s also the moral and practical issue, according to Haltzman. You made a promise to your spouse and to yourself to be faithful as one of the pillars of your marital relationship. And you promised that when nobody else was vying for your attention. 

You have to guard against rationalizing your thought process. 

Haltzman believes it’s possible to bring the sexual energy back into your marriage, even if you’re thinking about having an affair.

He also suggests taking the energy you were putting toward considering cheating and putting that energy back into your marriage. 

Here’s how!

  1. Do new things together. When people are exposed to novel situations, exciting things, or new challenges together, it draws them together. New experiences with your spouse will increase your sense of attraction to each other.
  2. Create space and anticipation. Agree that you’ll spend the day apart—even if it’s on opposite ends of the house. Consider only communicating during the day by cellphone, so you can look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day.
  3. Play dress up. Staying at home all the time may lead to staying in pajamas or sweats and not caring for ourselves. Do something different. Consider what would be sexy to your spouse. 
  4. Use your imagination for your marriage. Use your imagination to focus on and create sexual energy with your spouse instead of someone else.
  5. Get back to the basics. Do the things you did when you were apart and looking forward to being back together. Tease each other with text messages. Create adventure through the element of surprise. Laugh together. Write love notes and leave them in unexpected places. 😉
  6. Be willing to be playful. Go outside and stamp a message in the snow, go camping, or create art together. Make a funny video, create a themed date in your bathroom or somewhere else that’s fun.

While the idea of an affair may seem exhilarating, it’s a pretty risky business with potentially lasting and damaging consequences. Find out why you might be entertaining these thoughts. Then turn toward your spouse and be intentional about creating something different. These things could be the key to changing the sexual climate in your marriage.

Here are some other blogs you might find helpful:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

Why People Really Have Affairs (It’s Not Always Just About Sex)

Protect (and maybe even save) your marriage by being open with your spouse and talking about these ideas.

Marital affairs are kind of like rust. On the surface, it’s apparent that a single, ugly event has happened. But underneath is a complex process of chemical reactions and driving forces that have built up over time. Affairs are complicated like that. And finding out why people really have affairs can be even more complicated.

Therapist Esther Perel describes an affair as having three essential elements: 

  • A secretive relationship
  • An emotional connection
  • A sexual chemistry

The word chemistry is used here because actual sexual activity doesn’t have to be involved to be a marital betrayal. To paraphrase Perel, the mere thought of a single kiss can be as powerful as hours of lovemaking. 

It’s essential to understand emotional affairs-—when one is getting their emotional needs met by someone other than their spouse—are just as damaging to a marriage as sexual affairs. Not to mention the fact that emotional affairs often quickly escalate to sexual ones. 

But what causes a spouse to stray? It’s tempting to want to peg the blame on a single factor. He just wasn’t getting enough from his wife, so we went hunting in the bars. She didn’t feel loved at home, and another man showed her attention. 

Rarely do affairs boil down to one single reason. What leads up to the one-night-stand or the seductive conversations over text is usually a mix of ingredients that have been simmering for a while. To understand this, it might be more helpful to think of affairs as having contributing factors rather than reasons.  

Let’s look at five of these contributing factors to help explain why people have marital affairs: 

1. They let their guard down. 

Good marriages do not prevent affairs. Just when you think, “I could never do that,” or “Our marriage is much too healthy for infidelity,” is when you are the most vulnerable. Anne Bercht, director of Beyond Affairs Network, writes that the keys to affair prevention are realizing your marriage is not immune because it’s good, and being informed. She says there is no such thing as affair-proofing your marriage. But “developing open, honest, respectful communication in your relationship, including the ability and commitment to give and receive constructive criticism” is a strong foundation to keep your guard up. 

2. They let their marriage go out of focus. 

We often become hyper-focused on work, stress, hefty schedules, or even kids. Especially kids. Life happens. It’s easy to fool ourselves and say we do this for our marriage. The problem is our marriage suffers because it’s not being focused on. It’s in these circumstances the doors to infidelity crack open. You can minimize this factor by ensuring your focus remains on your spouse. 

3. They give a NOD

Infidelity and marriage expert Scott Haltzman explains in his book, The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity, that an unfaithful partner gives a “NOD” toward an affair: Need, Opportunity, Disinhibition. The Need is something they feel is missing in their life, such as love, respect, attention, or emotional support. The Opportunity for the affair might be a business trip, an office party, the gym, or being alone with someone in your circle of friends. And the Disinhibition can be alcohol or drugs, but perhaps more often something such as resentment, depression, or a sense of entitlement. 

What is interesting is the NOD can also be the key to avoiding infidelity. The more two people seek to meet each other’s needs in marriage, it minimizes the opportunities and disinhibition that leads to betrayal. 

4. They were seeking something they feel they didn’t have. 

Esther Perel says that affairs are less about sex and more about desire. “At the heart of an affair you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity…” The problem here is that often the other spouse doesn’t know these things are missing because they are never told. A healthy person communicates needs to their spouse. 

5. They aren’t happy with themselves. 

Many times, the affair is more about the unfaithful person than it is about the marriage or the other spouse. Perel, again, offers lots of wisdom here: “When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner we are tearing away from, but the person we have ourselves become… We aren’t looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.” Experiencing something missing from your marriage and seeing the NOD at work requires a hard inward look at yourself. It begs the question, “Am I happy with who I am? Am I about to let dissatisfaction with myself damage my marriage with this choice? 

The truth of the matter is we are all capable of having an affair. However, every spouse has the ability to say, even though I am capable, I will make the conscious choice not to walk through that door. As Anne Brecht puts it, be informed. Be aware of the contributing factors that can be at work and work to reverse those. Be open with your spouse and talk about these ideas. Together, make the conscious choice to remain steadfast in your marital relationship. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

But we’re only just friends!” or “I have to talk to Karen in Accounting for work!” These can be the typical responses from people having emotional or “virtual” affairs. According to several sources like psychologists Kristina Coop Gordon and Erica A. Mitchell at The University of Tennessee Knoxville, data indicates that emotional or “virtual” affairs are rising. Big time.

So, how do you protect your marriage from an emotional affair?

It’s worth noting that with so many people working strange hours from home and using texts, phone calls, Facetime, and Zoom, the separation of work and home life has become muddled. Emotional affairs crackle across electronic devices as conversations easily slide from a work project to personal problems, usually innocently at first.

Working from home can be contributing to the rise in emotional infidelity in another way. You may be spending a lot more time at home with your spouse. This can quickly lead to conflict, taking each other for granted, or just plain boredom—making you more susceptible to an emotional affair without even knowing it. Some researchers are concerned this surge in virtual emotional affairs could lead to a surge in sexual infidelity when things get back to “normal.”

Many couples are on guard against sexual infidelity but don’t give as much thought to emotional infidelity. This is dangerous for several reasons:

  • Emotional affairs often escalate to sexual affairs.
  • Emotional affairs are often easier to justify because they blur the lines between co-worker/friend/someone you have an inappropriate connection with.
  • Connecting emotionally with someone other than your spouse means disconnecting emotionally from your spouse. That spells all kinds of trouble.
  • Co-workers, exes, and “friends” are just a click away.

Here are five ways to protect your marriage from an emotional affair. Pay attention.

  1. Invest in your spouse and your marriage. Schedule routines that keep you communicating and connected. Get creative—schedule a stay-at-home date night and dress fancy for your favorite dinner. 
  2. Have an honest talk with your spouse about boundaries that will protect your marriage. This isn’t about your “rights” or even trust. It’s about what your spouse needs to feel secure in your love. Include electronic devices in the conversation. Check out these resources for this ongoing convo: Help! My Spouse HATES to Talk About Boundaries! and 4 Steps for Setting Good Boundaries.
  3. If you have come close to or crossed the line, have friends for your marriage who ask you the hard questions and keep you accountable if necessary.
  4. If you can’t avoid someone altogether, keep everything professional, to a minimum, and your spouse in the loop.
  5. Seek professional marriage help if necessary.

Stay connected to your spouse. Do your marital work with them. Don’t let conflicts or disagreements turn into bitterness or resentment. Handle that stuff quickly

Where you invest is where you’ll get your returns.

If you’re both working from home, don’t take this opportunity for granted. Flirt with that hottie at your home office! Schedule times to have coffee breaks together, “working” lunches, and maybe even some activities in the afternoon that would make HR blush. 

You got this!

5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage

Am I Having an Emotional Affair?

Warning Signs of an Emotional Affair

Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

How to Move Past an Emotional Affair

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***