Friday, June 01, 2007

Why Good People Suddenly Have an Extramarital Affair

Never in a million years did you expect this! Never in a million years did family, friends, neighbors, social, work and church acquaintances expect this! Never! Everyone is in shock. No can believe s/he is doing this. An affair - not in anyone's wildest imaginations.

S/he was a truly good, caring person. S/he was reliable and responsible. A good parent. A good spouse. A good partner. S/he was liked by most and got along with people. Always accommodating. Always considerate. Willing to go the extra mile. The two were often referred to as the "perfect couple."

White picket fence. Mini-van always on the go. A typical happy family. Seemingly having it all!
And now it's discovered that s/he is having an affair. What in the world is going on???
Actually, this is a fairly common scenario. At least, I, as an infidelity coach, run into this pattern on a frequent basis.

Here are some observations on this extramarital affair pattern:
1. Such infidelity is often with someone of a "lower social class." The OP (other person) is thought of by many as a "loser." The OP may have a history of unstable relationships. Often substance abuse is in the picture. The two of them together certainly, to most, seem to be a gigantic miss-match.

2. The feelings and emotional tug and pull of the affair is for him/her extremely powerful. S/he may say that for the first time s/he is "in love." S/he may say to the spouse, "I love you, but am not 'in love' with you." One is reminded of affair #4 in Break Free From the Affair, "I fell in love...and just love being in love." S/he cannot or chooses not to explain the affair in any other terms other than "I'm in love."

3. S/he seems to live in two worlds. To others s/he does an amazing job of moving from one world to another. S/he continues to parent, work and fulfill responsibilities, although at times it seems as if s/he is not really "there."

4. S/he may express anger, especially at the partner or spouse, although it may be rather indirect. It emerges typically as affair #1: "The Marriage Made me Do it." The spouse may be incredulous as s/he hears him/her saying, "The marriage was lousy. You never paid attention to me. You did this. You did that." Etc. Most of these "issues" were not previously addressed.

5. If there is a degree of awareness on his/her part, s/he may disclose: "I need to find out who I really am. And, I feel like I can be myself with the OP." S/he is, in reality, devoid of an inner core or self. S/he spent most of her/his energy accommodating others, basing his/her actions on what s/he thought others or society expected. Bottom line: s/he gives tremendous power to others, especially those of the opposite sex to define who s/he is, especially as a psycho-sexual being. S/he lacks an internal compass.

6. S/he is on a path of self-destruction. This is obvious to everyone but him/her. Again, if there is a degree of awareness, s/he may admit: "Yes, I know this might not work out, but I can't help it."

7. S/he may express little remorse. This comes as a huge surprise and shock to those who know him/her best. S/he is compelled to continue contact with the OP and a part of her/him is convinced this is something s/he MUST do. Damn the torpedoes. Straight ahead. And, s/he spends insignificant time apologizing.

So, what gives in this kind of affair?

In talking to probably hundreds of people facing this scenario and inquiring about their history and his/her history a persistent theme emerges.

S/he at one point in his/her life experienced some form of abuse. Often it was sexual in nature, such as rape, incest at worst and great confusion regarding sexuality at a minimum.
S/he spent tremendous energy compartmentalizing this experience(s). S/he with great determination tried to "put it away." S/he worked hard trying to be "normal."

S/he watched others and listened closely to what society ideally expects so s/he could become a "good person." (A basic tenet of abuse: the victim comes to believe "there is something wrong with me. I must be defective")

The spouse/partner perhaps knew of the abuse but s/he relayed the story in an off-hand manner. The emotional intensity was camouflaged.

And now the hidden and minimized emotional intensity spews forth and now s/he must cope along with family, friends, spouse.

By Dr. Robert Huizenga, The Infidelity Coach


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