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When is It An Affair?

Today’s guest post is by James E. Walton, Ph.D.

WHEN IS IT AN AFFAIR?

By James E. Walton, Ph.D.

For something to be called a sexual affair, it requires three conditions and all three must be present.

1. There’s more intimacy than in the primary relationship
2. There’s sex involved
3. It’s kept a secret

Men consider it an affair when sex is involved. An affair does not have to be physical for women to consider it cheating. It just has to be emotional.

The Internet has brought on a new issue for people who had no intention of cheating. They innocently cross the line as they divulge more and more of themselves to each other and find themselves involved in an emotional affair.

For an emotional affair, it requires all three conditions to be present:

1. Greater emotional intimacy than in the primary relationship,
2. Secrecy and deception from the spouse
3. Sexual chemistry

Emotional affairs can cause a good deal of marital strife. However, the affair that includes sexual intercourse typically does the most damage to the couple.

Affairs are an indication that there are problems in the dynamics of the marriage. And they bring with them an opportunity to rediscover the intimacy and closeness that was either lost or was never present in the primary relationship if the couple is willing to work through the violation.

How can you avoid all of this? Simply don’t have the affair. If you feel the temptation, get yourselves into couples counseling immediately. Open up to better communication skills and greater intimacy. The earlier you get yourself into counseling the better. Most people wait to enter into counseling until it’s too late. It’s much easier and more effective to deal with issues and have a great outcome when you enter into therapy at the very first sign of trouble.  It’s economical too.  After all, it’s a lot cheaper than a divorce.

Ultimately, affairs don’t cause divorces; poor communication and lack of intimacy within the couple do.

Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with a private practice in Sherman Oaks. Log onto his website at LAtherapist.com or call 818-753-4865.

When a spouse cheats

Tiger and Elin are getting a divorce, Sandra Bullock’s filing for a divorce, and Larry King is thinking about divorce.  Each of these celebrities has something in common that led to their divorces – infidelity.  But do we have to suffer through a divorce if a spouse has been unfaithful?

Dr. Mark Goulston says that when you betray someone’s trust at such a deep level, you trigger four intense reactions in them: Hurt, Hate, Hesitation To Trust and Holding Onto A Grudge (the 4 H’s).

When your spouse finds out you’ve had an affair, feelings of intense and devastating pain are triggered.  Many people feel as if they’ve been made a fool of, they feel ashamed, embarrassed, they feel anger at themselves for failing to see.  They feel as if they’ve been living in a lie, as if they are not respected or loved by their spouse.  They may become physically ill, depressed, angry or volatile.  All of these reactions are reactions to hurt.

Realizing that you’ve been lied to by your spouse, that the very person who promised to love, honor and respect you has gone behind your back and broken the vows of your marriage and then lied about it, may trigger anger so strong it can only be called hate.

The spouse who ignores their gut feelings and convinces themselves they’re being crazy, or who confronts you and believes you when you swear there’s no one else, is going to experience an enormous Hesitation to Trust.  How can they possibly lower their guard and trust again, when surely they will only be re-traumatized?

A spouse who has been cheated on will want to protect themselves against future pain.  Even if your spouse wants to get back together, it is frightening and painful to learn to trust after such a huge betrayal.  It’s much easier to Hold Onto A Grudge.  Holding Onto A Grudge allows a spouse who’s been cheated on to keep their guard up and hold it up with fortified bursts of anger.

What can you do if you or your spouse has cheated?  How can you get past the 4 H’s and heal your marriage?   Check back tomorrow to find out.