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Five Truths Every Married Person Needs to Know about Affairs

Coworkers kissing over desk

“The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.”
– Shirley Glass, author of “Not Just Friends”

AFFAIR  – The word that no married person ever expects or wants to hear. Though 90% of people surveyed say affairs are “wrong,” they are happening every day and in increasing numbers. Here are five facts that are important for married people to know about infidelity.

1. Estimates are that 25%-40% of women and 50%-60% of men will have an affair during the lifetime of their marriage. Affairs happen for many reasons – we commonly hear:

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  • My needs were not being met – emotionally or sexually.
  • I was bored, unloved or unappreciated.
  • I tried to talk with him/her but things didn’t change; the change didn’t last.
  • I felt hopeless and gave up trying.
  • His work was more important than me.
  • The kids were more important than me.
  • He didn’t listen; He wasn’t affectionate; He didn’t make me feel special.
  • She never wanted to have sex; Having sex was an obligation to her; I couldn’t make her happy; Nothing I ever did was good enough.

Then one day he/she starts talking with someone else of the opposite sex, at work, in the neighborhood, at the gym, on-line, in a chat room and shares the discontent in their relationship. The other person listens with empathy and shares dissatisfaction in his/her relationship. A bond, a sharing of intimacies and emotions; boundaries crossed, secrecy. An affair is born.

2. 85% of affairs begin in the workplace.
Think about the amount of time you spend with your spouse vs. the amount of time you spend with co-workers. Day after day, maybe 40+ hours a week, you and your colleagues share the ups and downs of work; you bond over projects, successes and difficulties at work. The close interaction, travel, and unavoidable closeness may lead to strong friendships and emotional attachments outside your marriage. The workplace provides opportunity and proximity to people outside your family. Women’s increasing entry into the workforce has correlated with a rise in the number of affairs women are having. It’s no wonder the workplace is the most common place affairs start.

3. Emotional infidelity can be as or more damaging to a marriage than physical infidelity.
Innocent flirting and office banter turns into lunch together, texting or emailing in off hours. Correspondence enters the personal realm and you begin to share intimate details about your life and relationship with this person. The secret feels exciting as you hide it from your spouse and rationalize that this is not “cheating” since there is no physical contact; but the emotional attachment you develop with this person can be devastating to your spouse. The more intimate the connection with someone outside your marriage, the deeper the head and heart bond with your spouse becomes compromised. A physical affair may not be far behind.

4. The internet, email, cell phones and Facebook have made it easier for people to cheat.
Curiosity about high school sweethearts, old flames from college and lost loves can be dangerous, especially when there is a drifting or emptiness in your marriage. Romantic memories, alluring and powerful, can lead you down a path of unexpected consequences. With the click of a mouse and the least harmful of intentions you search for an old love. Taking the next step by emailing or friending him/her on Facebook seems harmless enough. However this may begin an unanticipated cascade of dreamy feelings and thoughts. Not sharing this with your spouse can lead to an “accidental affair.” And for the record, flirting and sexual interactions through email, text, pictures and video are cheating.

5. After an affair, 65% of marriages end; 35% of couples continue the marriage.
For some people an affair is a deal breaker and the betrayed partner cannot fathom continuing the relationship under any circumstances. For some the affair is their ticket out of the marriage; the result of a string of events that is the final breaking point in a marriage. Then there are the couples who are uncertain or want to save their marriages after an affair; they end up in our office.

There is hope; some couples do survive and thrive after an affair is revealed. We strongly believe that with therapy, time, patience and work couples can journey together toward deepening their relationship and building a stronger, closer bond than they had before.

© Copyright 2011 by Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, therapist in Owings Mills, Maryland. All Rights Reserved.

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  • Claire F July 22nd, 2011 at 6:18 AM #1

    It is easy to say that an affair would be a deal breaker. But I have been there, and even though I always thought that I would leave after something like this happened, it was a different story when it actually happened to me.
    I loved my husband and even though it broke my heart for this to have happened to our marriage we decided to work through it. I was not meeting his needs and honestly he was not meeting mine either, he just chose to express it in a different way.
    This was not an easy journey for us but it happened and we navigated through it. It is possible to make it after this. It does not feel like it but it is.

  • Joe R. July 22nd, 2011 at 6:52 AM #2

    Affairs have become so damn common now.And I agree with the emotional infidelity thing.I’ve had my ex-girlfriend be involved with another guy but only emotionally.They never had any physical thing going but she had started to talk to him more than me,wanted to see him more than me and never once spoke to me about him.Then when I got to know of him through a common friend,I asked her to cut off from him completely.

    She didn’t listen to me but eventually she found out about his evil intentions and cut off from him.We did go on with our relationship but it was never the same again.

    Eventually we broke up this last week :|
    Emotional infidelity is as damaging,if not more than,physical infidelity. Don’t do this to your partner folks, it feels terrible.

  • claudia July 22nd, 2011 at 1:06 PM #3

    work-place affairs are becoming so common nowadays but one positive of this work-place romance is that single people are now finding their match at work place and are also able to spend time with their sweethearts at the work place.happened to me,happy happy :)

  • phyllisking July 22nd, 2011 at 5:29 PM #4

    Having an affair because your sexual needs weren’t met isn’t a reason, it’s a cop-out. It’s not fair to expect that your partner has sex with you on demand. That’s your spouse, not a concubine.

    You should get some professional help, not jump on the closest girl that bats her eyelids at you. Find out why your wife lost interest and if she needs medical help. Depression for example is a libido killer for sure.

    Take a look in the mirror while you’re at it and ask yourself when was the last time you did or said anything that made your wife feel attractive, secure and loved? Griping isn’t sexy.

  • Regan Adans July 22nd, 2011 at 6:21 PM #5

    If your relationship gets to where you’re on the brink of having an affair, you need to stop before you start. Do the honorable thing if you think it’s beyond saving and get divorced before taking up with a new partner.

    Even though the marriage is meaningless to you now, you should at least honor the spirit of it and not have an affair. You owe your partner that much.

    Of course it’s better to attempt to salvage the relationship first-if you both want to.

  • s.b. July 22nd, 2011 at 7:32 PM #6

    I worked at conferences sometimes as part of my old job and was shocked at how much casual cheating went on between staff members and/or conference attendees when they were away from the office at the other end of the country. Their mantra was “what goes on tour, stays on tour.” I never mentioned it when I got back for fear of losing the job but it disturbed me a lot that they could do that and not give it a second thought.

    Workplace affairs are very, very common and I think it’s often just because the opportunity was there to misbehave more than any big romantic love affair.

  • Justtalking July 22nd, 2011 at 8:30 PM #7

    Workplace affairs are so risky in my opinion on several different fronts. First there is the evident issue of your significant other getting harmed. Then there is the risk of losing ones job.

    An old friend and coworker once told me that you never get your paycheck and your nookie at the same place. It was simply bad business and worse for your career. If your a supervisor then it is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. If your a coworker in another department how long before your amour is transferred into your department.

    Just a bad idea in my opinion. Then you do have the whole issue of ruining a relationship that at some point in your life actually meant something. Such a wild and cray idea this is…

  • Carleigh July 23rd, 2011 at 5:43 AM #8

    My husband and I met at work while he was still married to someone else. We tried not to let it happen but it really felt at that point like it was beyond our control. We were both asked to resign as a result so we have felt a lot of hurt from this from a lot of different angles.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:06 PM #9

    Thank you so much for your post. My husband and I see so many couples in practice where there has been an affair and when they first come in for counseling they feel very hopeless. Your comment will give hope to many couples.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:09 PM #10

    I appreciate your response and am so sorry to hear about your break up. As you know it is the lying and hiding the behavior that is really damaging to the relationship. There is nothing more important than being honest and genuine.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:11 PM #11

    Claudia, I am happy for you that you found your “single” guy at work.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:22 PM #12

    Thanks for your comments. And yes sex on demand is not how marriages should work. Though it can be difficult, it is really vital for couples to talk about their sexual needs and emotional needs and how they can work out their differences.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:27 PM #13

    Regan, When I was younger I used to wonder exactly what you are saying: Why couldn’t people end their marriages if they wanted to be with someone else and respect their partner? In my 23 years of seeing couples I have found that it so much more complicated than that. I wish it was the way you describe but more often than not it isn’t. Thanks for your comment.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:31 PM #14

    s.b. – I really appreciate your comment. You are correct – it happens a lot more than people imagine. And it’s also still true that 50% or marriages end in divorce.
    Hopefully the work my husband and I do will increase the odds of people staying together and having honest and faithful marriages for a lifetime. It is wonderful when you work at it.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:34 PM #15

    Yes, yes, yes! So many very smart people including many of our actors, politicians, public figures…forget about these risks when they have affairs in the workplace. We have had clients who find out their husband/wife had an affair when they get an STD. Talk about risky behavior and disregard for your partner…We will write about that! Thanks for the comments.

  • Lori Hollander July 23rd, 2011 at 12:38 PM #16

    Carleigh, I empathize with the hurt you have experienced. As someone said above, the risk for companies is the possibility of a sexual harrassment lawsuit. So affairs at work are dangerous for the employer. Hopefully the two of you have found other jobs and can move on from that pain.

  • Cristen Newman July 24th, 2011 at 1:26 PM #17

    Some of those so-called “reasons” to have an affair are childish. If your partner’s job is more important to them than you feel you are, then obviously it’s a tough one they need to spend a lot of time and energy on. That job is what is putting a roof over your head, food on the table, and a shirt on your back.

    You’re reaping the benefits with a nice lifestyle no doubt, so quit complaining. There’s only so much one person can prioritize at any one time. Grow up! Go out and get a job yourself so they can cut back their hours and spend more time with you if you’re that needy. An affair isn’t the answer.

  • Lori Hollander July 25th, 2011 at 1:21 PM #18

    Thanks for your sharing your thoughts.

  • Cliff Neeson July 26th, 2011 at 11:49 AM #19

    If the kids are getting more attention than you, you’re the same as the rest of us. It’s called “Being a parent”. Most of us accept that as natural. Kids need more care and attention.

    If the kids were being neglected and their needs not met, would you be happy? Of course you wouldn’t. Join in and do more family oriented activities if you’re feeling left out but don’t whine like a toddler because you’re not the focus of your partner’s world, geesh.

  • kris g. cohen July 26th, 2011 at 2:44 PM #20

    Cheaters aren’t much different from those gold diggers who marry a guy for his money. They are among the worst kinds of bloodsuckers and those who try and justify an affair aren’t far behind them.

    The truth is, cheaters stay in relationships for the same reasons -they want to have their cake and eat it, not give up all the home comforts nor go through a financially and emotionally costly divorce.

  • cecilia jacobs July 26th, 2011 at 8:56 PM #21

    If your spouse doesn’t listen, isn’t affectionate, and doesn’t make you feel special, why on earth did you all ever marry him or her in the first place? It’s sad. No one seems to be spending any length of time dating their potential spouse before deciding to marry them these days. You should know them inside out and if you don’t, how can you know you can trust them?

    Marry in haste, repent at leisure. It’s time old fashioned courting made a comeback.

  • Kevin Andresen July 28th, 2011 at 2:46 PM #22

    Great article; relationships are such a delicate art. I highly recommend watching/reading material by Dr. Pat Love. She provides excellent guidance towards maintaining intimate relationships and really knows what she is talking about. She narrows it down to four basic actions one must take to maintain a couple’s relationship.

  • Corey Dickinson July 29th, 2011 at 8:22 PM #23

    How many of those asked actually brought the problems in the marriage up with their spouse? None of them I bet, thinking they will have to pick up a few hints every now and then when they get dropped. Newsflash, ladies: we men do not pick up hints, nor do we care if you drop them. If you have something to say then say it.

  • Johnny Hall July 30th, 2011 at 1:53 AM #24

    Some folks are just completely incompatible with marriage, let alone a spouse. Would you want to live with your best friend every day of the year? You wouldn’t. You would get tired of them very quickly and the same thing can happen in a marriage. Familiarity breeds contempt.

  • margie d. August 7th, 2011 at 12:11 PM #25

    It really annoys the Hell out of me when someone tries to justify an affair, or worse, blames it on their partner. Here’s a newsflash of my own for all you adulterers: you’re a grown adult and you are responsible for your own actions. Including who you have sex with. The blame is on you and you alone.

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:06 PM #26

    Thanks for your comments! Nice to hear your devotion to your family.

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:13 PM #27

    I know it’s easy to generalize that “all cheaters are totally self-centered” but that is not what we see in practice. We have worked with many people who have had affairs,and the reasons can be very different. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is less hurtful to their partners. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:25 PM #28

    I agree there should be a much deeper level of “getting to know each other” when courting. In the beginning of relationships couples are affectionate, and make each other feel special. However over the lifetime of a marriage sometimes love fades, especially if couples don’t actively work to keep the love alive or couples drift apart and the affectionate and connection fades. Appreciate your comments. Lori

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:28 PM #29

    Thanks for your kind words and your recommendation about Dr. Pat Love. I know her work and think highly of her. Lori

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:34 PM #30

    Yes, communication is vital to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. And you are correct, women often drop hints and think their guy will pick up on them. I counsel women often to speak up and speak assertively. I also counsel men to listen carefully.
    I appreciate your comment. Lori

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:46 PM #31

    Some people are not able to commit for a lifetime. And some people are. My husband and I have been working together with couples for 23 years and we are best friends. Every marriage has it’s ups and downs; and couples who work at it can keep the love alive. After years together, having a family and sharing all the joys and sorrows life brings there is a depth and a richness that is amazing. Lori

  • Lori Hollander August 14th, 2011 at 6:51 PM #32

    Margie, People are responsible for their choices. And must own that choice when they have had an affair. Some couples do work it through, though it takes a long time and is painful. We have seen some couples come out with a closer relationship. Thanks for your comment. Lori

  • Hurt to the core September 22nd, 2012 at 6:25 PM #33

    I need to have him continue to be vulnerable, but he is so walled up, always has been, he can’t maintain that vulnerability.
    I am desperate for exercises, activities to do together to see if we can reconnect…

  • Non-Trusting Male November 1st, 2012 at 2:24 PM #34

    @Hurt to the core

    I read “Intimacy and Desire” and it gave me a new way to approach the relationship in that I could start from a place of self-worth, self-validation, and learning about who I was. Thereby, not taking things too personally and talking things through that I found tough.

    There are exercises in the book too in order to bring couple closer w/o losing their individual identity. Actually, it’s about establishing your own identity in a relationship which is paramount I think.

    It takes work, and in the book they define “meaningful endurance” as being “you want to work things out”.

    Hope this give you a path to follow.

  • Lori Hollander November 1st, 2012 at 6:08 PM #35

    Thank you for your recommendation!
    Best wishes,

  • Margo March 29th, 2013 at 8:13 AM #36

    The number one reason I see couples in my practice is for emotional infidelity. I agree with the authors here about the dangerous path from innocent FB and on-line chatting to a full-fledged affair.

    In many ways on-line forums and texting and emailing strips the “reality” of the situation, making it a highly addictive fantasy.

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Natalie December 18th, 2013 at 10:39 AM #37

    Is enjoying flirting and being admired at work a form of ‘cheating’? Even if you tell your spouse all about it?

  • Lori Hollander December 18th, 2013 at 4:27 PM #38

    Natalie, Thanks for your question. Flirting and being admired are about desiring attention. It may indicate that the person is not getting the attention they need at home; or that she is bored or depressed and flirting perks her up; or it may just be something she enjoys and thinks of as harmless. The problem is it’s a slippery slope and without intending to hurt her marriage it could develop into cheating or crossing a boundary that shouldn’t have been crossed.

    Telling her partner about the flirting, is great since the harm really occurs when there is a secret. However, is it really OK with her husband. I would also ask if her husband was flirting and being admired by a woman on his job, and he told her, how would she feel?

    My definition of cheating is when you do anything with another man that wouldn’t be OK with her husband if he standing there watching. Hope that is helpful. Lori

  • Naomi September 3rd, 2014 at 11:19 PM #39

    I absolutely agree. I feel that husbands dont put effort into making their wives feel special anymore because they simply see us as the “mommy.” They forget they fell in love with that “fun girl” because guess what! That “fun girl” is now caring for his babies, taking care of the home, and cooking his dinner every night. So then he sees other girls or women, anywhere, but especially at work (because its convenient) giving him attention without the complication. Then it turns into an easy affair of late business meetings, dinners, lunches or drinks. That turns into bad situations. They need to work on making the wife feel loved again instead of cultivating a new relationship.

  • Naomi September 3rd, 2014 at 11:27 PM #40

    I agree 100%

  • Stephanie September 26th, 2014 at 9:56 AM #41

    My husband spends most of his time “working” with an attractive newly divorced woman. Not only during the day but late into the night and on weekends. They make numerous sales calls together as well as spending entire afternoons, especially on Saturdays, together. One Saturday, he was with her until 11 pm working in the office.

    I’m sick and tired of it! Some people in his work place are talking. It’s almost as if they are a couple dating, using work as the excuse. Honestly, I think they are having an affair. He says she has a boyfriend, but how could she if she’s spending all her time with my husband.

    What should I do??

  • Lori Hollander September 27th, 2014 at 7:58 AM #42

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Lori Hollander September 27th, 2014 at 8:08 AM #43

    There are a lot of signs in your situation that would lead any wife to think her husband is having an affair. In that situation, it is common for husbands to rationalize it away (i.e. she has a boyfriend) or invalidate the wife’s concerns and make the wife think her gut feelings are wrong. Though I can’t specifically give you advice (not knowing more about you and your husband) I would generally say it’s unlikely in that situation that anything will change unless the husband is confronted and not allowed to explain away or invalidate the wife’s concerns. This is a very difficult and emotional situation and I suggest you contact a therapist for support and guidance. Lori

  • tate March 2nd, 2015 at 2:06 PM #44

    Guys I really wish people knew what African wives go through it really is tough being unheard.i truely admire you all becoz u can speak out.im hurting coz I can’t change where i come from and this culture wich ignores women.we are just taught that we women will continue suffering becoz that’s how nature is,but deep down in my heart I know its wrong I JUST DONT KNOW HOW TO CHANGE IT.thanks for reading.

  • Lori H. March 3rd, 2015 at 8:17 AM #45

    I hear your pain and frustration. My thought is to find other women who think like you do and to gain support from them. Cultural change is slow, but I believe it can happen slowly over time. Lori

  • Tim March 5th, 2015 at 6:03 AM #46

    Amen. I have found that my ex wife who has been engaged in a workplace affair..her psychologist she went and saw was merely a yapper on whatever it takes to make YOU happy type, collecting a paycheck and not helping at all. Fact is psychology stops being affective where it justifies self absorption and things like adultery all in the name of happiness.Nobody deserves to be cheated on and the pain it causes. Her so called “treatment” with this chronie that I initially supported only made her more depressed and worse.

  • Lori H. March 5th, 2015 at 9:54 AM #47

    Sorry to hear that. It pains me to hear about people’s negative experiences with therapy. No one deserves the pain that an affair creates. If people sat in my office for a week they would see that. I wish you the best.

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