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09 June 2011

Why do people have affairs?

This week news of Arnold Schwartzenegger's love-child hit the headlines. Health24's Cybershrink looks at why people decide to have affairs and what puts a relationship at risk.

Ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, separated earlier this month after he revealed that he fathered a now 13-year-old son with the family housekeeper - something that had remained a secret until this year.  The couple have been married for 25 years.  CyberShrink talks about what makes some people risk everything for a fling.

Here are some of the most common reasons people suggest:

  • dissatisfaction with the marriage or relationship. Not necessarily unhappiness, so much as a lack of happiness, of a sense of fulfilment within the relationship
  • a wish to experience sexual variety
  • anger felt towards the partner, with a need, whether recognised or not, to hurt the partner
  • some say their intention was to make their partner jealous, though it is seldom clear how this would be expected to have any desirable outcome for either of them
  • an unwillingness to resist any new opportunity for emotional or sexual involvement. This is sometimes given the profitable but bogus diagnosis of "Sex Addiction", though it is not at all an addictive process or responsive to normal treatments for addictions. "Sex addiction" is an excuse for not choosing to exercise self-restraint. Throughout life we are faced with tempting opportunities for brief enjoyment at a total cost that makes it foolish to indulge in them.
  • some explain an affair by saying that they no longer feel "in love" with their partner, or that they have "fallen out of love", or "grown apart". While maintaining a loving relationship may require effort and work, if there ever was real love, it can be regained and extended, so long as the task isn't merely abandoned.
  • some speak of sexual incompatibility, though if a couple were ever sexually compatible, this would only change due to illness, physical or psychological in one or both of them.
  • some feel that if their partner has been unfaithful, they themselves are somehow entitled to have an affair, too. Yet generally, one does not feel that stealing from a thief is a noble or justifiable response.
  • more understandable, some situations arise in which there is drastic change within the partner, due to alcohol or drug addiction, or severe mental illness, which makes the person feel unable to obtain sexual or emotional fulfilment from that partner, while feeling reluctant to abandon them altogether while they may still need help and support.

 
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