Why We Have Affairs?

Well yesterday I wondered why on earth people in relationships cheated on each other and today I stumbled upon an interview TIME did on Mira Kirshenbaum, author of the book, When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships (St. Martin’s) and this is what she had to say:

TIME: Is there a pattern in the way that affairs begin?


Mira Kirshenbaum: People say, “I never meant for this to happen.” They’re being honest when they say that. Typically, they’re in a committed relationship, but they aren’t perfectly happy. No one who was perfectly happy in their primary relationship gets into a second one. They’re a lot unhappy, or maybe just a little. Maybe they have no plans to cheat. And then the other person somehow floats onto their radar screen. The image that I have is like someone who has been wandering around with a couple of empty wine glasses who suddenly meets someone with a bottle of wine. And so they want a little taste. It starts very innocently. Very slowly they get to know each other. It’s often an emotional affair to begin with. Maybe they have long conversations, whatever. However it happens, eventually they realize that they’ve crossed some sort of line. But they realize it after they’ve crossed it. And it feels wonderful because it was a line they were hungry to cross. But it also feels terrible because they know it’s cheating, and they know they never wanted to be a cheater. But it keeps going. Think about it. If you don’t want to divorce, and there are many reasons people don’t – for the children, for financial reasons, they don’t want the stigma of a divorce – this is a way people cope. They have the illusion that no one will know. If I get a divorce, it’s a public act and everyone will know that my marriage failed, that I’m a failure. But if I have an affair, I’m able to pretend that everything’s O.K. and no one will get hurt. So they find themselves involved in the two relationships and it looks as though it could work. And the guilt seems manageable. And they’re not really thinking about the future. They feel like they’ve got this wonderful, wonderful present, and it seems to solve all their problems.


TIME: Can that last?

It never lasts. It can’t. Being in two relationships is inherently unsustainable. It’s like a house of cards. And the longer it keeps going, the more likely it is to come crashing down. And then the pressure mounts and the central structure is that three-way tug of war. The person who is cheating is just trying to keep everything stable, the same, not changing anything. The two other people, the lover and the spouse, are putting pressure on, if the spouse knows about it. If the spouse doesn’t, she still is wanting more time, more fun. She puts pressure on anyway.

TIME: Do most people get caught?

Yes. Inevitably there are slipups. In the stories I hear, they find a gift in a pocket of a coat and they think it’s for them and they’re so excited, and then they never get the gift. I mean, it’s just heartbreaking. So it all blows up eventually.

(Read the rest of the interview here)

So now I know don’t I? Amazing really.

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7 Comments to “Why We Have Affairs?”

  1. i must confess that sharon is a great writer.keep d flag flying

  2. I don’t agree about not telling your spouse about your cheating ways. It based on what “you don’t know won’t hurt you”. The truth has a way of coming out even after many years. What happens if the other man or woman reveals tells someone else and the spouse eventually hears? Will it feel any better? So what does the cheating spouse do if confronted about an affair? Deny it all? If you’ve made a mistake, attempting to cover it up will only bring more heartache. You’ll live in constant fear of your spouse finding out and that alone can tear most people apart. The Bible says and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. I say tell your spouse and you’ll feeel better eventually. Better to feel the pain immediately rather than postpone the evil day.

  3. Well, I think that if you are asked don’t lie. But you don’t need to just come out and tell your spouse just becuase,especially if you cut the affair off and are trying to work on your current relationship, it will do some permanent damage. Most people think they have recovered from hearing about an affair becuase they’ll stay with that person but its a waste of time because that trust is never built back to the same level and the one who was cheated on will always feel insecure. I think that if someone does cheat in a relationships especially if they are not married the person she leave the reltionship no matter if it was confessed or they found outon their own.

  4. Ahh, thanks Dr. Egbe Ufoma…I just try to share what’s in my heart.

    I think I agree with you Kehinde…truth always does come out and I hate the thought of someone having something to blackmail me about.

    Then again, I do see where Themisses1 is coming from. My boyfriend of 4 years broke up with me because I came clean (and I didn’t even sleep with the other guy). It hurt then. Alot. But I have come to the conclusion that it was a narrow escape; that fellow would have no qualms walking out on me even if we had a dozen children if he had discovered much later.

    Truth is though that even if he had not broken up with me, I probably would have cos he would not have let me forget it. Ever.

  5. What do you do when you have a spouse who may not cheat in typical fashion but having the ability to stir up the same reactions??? Confusing as it may sound…my wife has a way of avoiding the guilt of cheating with sex but instead she surrounds herself with friends who agree with whatever she feeds them and all the while avoids important time with me especially when we need to work through problems…I feel as though I have been left holding bags of dirty laundry that need to be sorted through and cleaned but with an absolute zero of input from my wife other than her signature insults followed by a stint of cold shoulder time. I have even wondered if she is a closet lesbian because of the amount of time she is actually with her friends…maybe an affair on her part would at least be some sort of logic in my mind. Any advice?

  6. Appreciate the info guys, thanks

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