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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Allure of the Extramarital Affair

For many people who are unhappy or having problems in their marriage, the possibility of an extramarital affair is very tempting.  In many cases, it's a way of distracting themselves and finding a new and exciting sex partner to take their minds off their marital problems.  

An extramarital affair can be alluring.  But, ultimately, extramarital affairs often lead to even more problems and heartbreak.  Rather than trying to escape the problems in the relationship, it would be better to either try to work out the marital problems or, if the problems are irreconcilable, to end the marriage in a way that respects both you and your spouse and the love you once felt for each other.

Unfortunately, lots of people, who are unhappy in their marriage, find the possibility of an affair to be too irresistible and find out after it's too late just what a mistake it was to get involved with someone else.

The Allure of the Extramarital Affair


The following fictionalized scenario is an example of how the allure of an extramarital affair created even worse problems:

Ted:
Ted and his wife, Mary, were married for 20 years when he met Betty at a conference.  Ted never had an extramarital affair in all  the years that he and Mary were married.  But, at the point when he met Betty, he and Mary had been having problems in their marriage for several years.

They were arguing about money and what they should do after they retired.  Mary tended to be a saver, and Ted was more of a spender.  Mary wanted to move out of state after she and Ted retired to be closer to her elderly mother, and Ted wanted to remain in NY.

Ted hated any kind of confrontation, so that whenever Mary tried to discuss these issues with Ted, he would get annoyed.  As their arguments got worse, Ted began spending more and more time at work so that by the time he got home, Mary was asleep.  He also went to the office on weekends to avoid the arguments.  So, they spent little time together, which only annoyed Mary more.

The tension between Ted and Mary had also taken a toll on their sex life.  Even when they were together at home, neither of them was in the mood to have sex.  There was too much anger and resentment between them.

Prior to their problems, Ted preferred not to go to conferences, but when his boss told him that there was a conference in L.A. and he offered to send Ted, Ted jumped at the opportunity.  On the last evening of the conference, Ted had too much to drink during the hotel happy hour. Normally, Ted wasn't a big drinker, so he didn't have a high tolerance of alcohol. That's when he met Betty.

Ted wasn't so drunk that he didn't know what he was doing.  He realized that Betty, who worked at his company in another department, was flirting with him.  He told himself that it was harmless to flirt back with her, and he told himself it wouldn't go any further.

When she invited him to her room, he told himself that he would only stay for a few minutes and then he would go back to his own room.  And so he continued to in this way, bargaining with himself that he would only kiss her and he wouldn't go any further.  But the temptation was just too great when she got undressed.  So, this is how the affair began.

When he returned to NY, he told himself that he would meet Betty for a drink and tell her that what happened in L.A. couldn't continue.  He felt guilty about cheating on his wife, but he blamed the alcohol.

Six months into the affair, Ted was still bargaining with himself--he would only see Betty one more time and then he would break it off.  But he continued to see her.  Seeing her made him feel special and the sex was the most passionate it had ever been.  Betty knew he was married and, from what Ted could see, she didn't seem to mind.

One night he came home late, and found Mary waiting up for him.  When she asked him to sit down, he was surprised to see that she looked like she had been crying.  He feared that her mother or one of her elderly relatives had died.  But after he sat down, Mary got straight to the point, "I got a call from a woman named Betty.  Is it true?"

Ted felt the blood drain from his face and he felt a mixture of shock, sadness and anger towards Betty.  Ted and Mary had a long talk about their marriage and the affair.  Ted realized, for the first time in a long time, that he still really loved his wife a lot and he didn't want to lose her.  He begged her to forgive him and promised that he would end it with Betty and never cheat on Mary again.

Mary was very upset, but she told Ted that she didn't want to throw away their 20 year marriage.  She said she wanted them to try to salvage their marriage, and she suggested they attend marriage counseling.

Ted ended his affair with Betty and asked his boss for a transfer to a different site.  His boss told him that people in the department had been gossiping about Ted's affair with Betty, and he also thought it was best for Ted to move to another department.  Ted didn't realize that people at work knew about the affair, and he felt especially ashamed that his boss knew.

Betty was angry that Ted was ending the affair.  She had hoped by calling Mary, Mary would leave Ted and then Betty could have him to herself.  She didn't realize that Ted still loved his wife and wanted to salvage their marriage.  Betty made threats to call Mary again, but she didn't.  Eventually, she stopped calling and texting him.

Mary and Ted had a lot to work on in marriage counseling, including Mary regaining trust in Ted.  Ted also had to learn to develop the ability to deal with their problems instead of running away from them.  It was hard work, and there were times when each of them wanted to stop marriage counseling.  But they both knew that if there was any chance of working out their problems, they needed to stick with it, so they did.

Getting Help
If you and your spouse are having problems that you're unable to work out on your own, you could benefit from couples counseling.  Even if you have already decided that you want to end the relationship, a skilled couples counselor can help you to do it amicably.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email: josephineolivia@aol.com

photo credit: Toni Blay via photopin cc

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