Affairs often happen because a long term relationship becomes boring, especially sexually. When in a blooming relationship in the throws of lust and passion the fantasy of who the other person is remains under the surface and this is very exciting. It takes between 6 month to 2 years before the rose coloured glasses come off and “what we see is what we get, warts and all”. It is difficult to keep romance alive in monogamous relationships, years ago I interviewed many male sex experts around the world who said even if they believed in monogamy it did not come easy and they had to work at it. While the female sex experts believed that monogamy was easy once they were in a committed relationship. Perhaps a central part of this behavior is our hormones and brain wiring. Men with high testosterone are visually on the look out for the next mate to procreate with while women’s estrogen is helps them focus on nesting and settling. Interesting research was done showing that when women who were not on the pill were ovulating they were attracted to men with high testosterone, to procreate with. While women who were not ovulating were attracted to men with higher estrogen which is essential in nurturing a family.
I often wonder when a woman has been on the pill and starts a relationship and then goes off it and starts to feels different about her mate whether she would have been attracted to him if they had started dating when she wasn’t on the pill, is it the hormones or lack of them that have fueled the attraction or lack of it ?
Perhaps when a woman chooses a mate she will be conscious or unconscious influence either to be attracted to someone she can have a wild sex life (who is hard wired to have affairs) or who can nurture and raise a family. However this doesn’t take into account why women have affairs.
A workshop I attended run by Dr Marty Klein a sex and relationship specialist from the US, he believes that there are often dynamics at play regarding the desire for intimacy verses the desire for autonomy and power, as well as the desire to sexually experiment which is often difficult in long term relationships. Other factors can also come into play in this scenario are based on the fact that the focus on each other has changed whether it is because of work, family life, or commitments this has meant that the couple have grown apart. Even simple things like nurturing the attraction between them has disappeared. I often sit with clients who discuss how they no longer feel attractive and their partner does not seem to be sexually aware of them.
When infidelity occurs this is a time for the couple to renegotiate their relationship this can take a long time because it is looking at why the affair has occurred and how the couple want to work together to create something different. Emotions of hurt, anger and shame are often there on both sides.
The clients who want to heal and stay together focus on what is needed for them to re-bond and recover. Areas that are not helpful are discussing the details of the affair and punishing the spouse that has had the affair. For the emotionally injured party I suggest focusing on what the couple do have together by developing and expanding this. Also realising that the partner has come back to the relationship because of what they have together. This takes time and the willingness for both people to discuss and accept each others feelings as well as the pain that occurs on both sides.
If either party display behavior of being a victim this can undermine the healing process as it exacerbates resentment and the willingness to move beyond what has happened.