Four Misconceptions About Affairs

Excerpted from

In her book, Dr. Holly Hein explores infidelity and teaches how to cope with its aftermath. By understanding the motivations behind the affair, betrayed spouses can learn to heal and rebuild their relationships.

1.In every affair there is a saint and a sinner; the victim is a saint and the betrayer a sinner. It is not as simple as that. An affair is not something that happens to people. It happens between people, even though one may have been betrayed.

Notwithstanding cruelty and abuse, both marital partners have a piece of the pie of responsibility when one partner chooses a sexual detour. We may or may not have acknowledged our role consciously, but there are no victims, only volunteers. Sadly, affairs turn love into alienation more often than enduring friendship, and moral judgments have no constructive force. They do not heal wounds or shattered families.

2.The marriage is over. Clearly, that is not the case. An affair is not something that ends marriages. Period. I’ll say it again: An affair is the cover story. The real drama lies in the underlying factors within ourselves and how they manifest in a relationship. It takes two people to form a marital relationship. Or fail at forming one.

An affair, if understood at its deepest level, can help a marriage. A marriage where one or both of the partners have unexpressed and unmet needs is not a marriage where intimacy exists. What we learn about ourselves on a sexual detour and are able to integrate into our lives may enrich and strengthen our marriage. When an affair ends, a real marriage may actually begin.

Many marriages begin with intimacy but lose it somewhere along the way. In an attempt to find it again, we may look for intimacy in an affair. Intimacy, however, is not baggage we transfer from one place to another or one relationship to another. It is built step by step. In forgoing an attempt to rebuild intimacy within a marriage by looking for it in an affair, we forgo the potential intimacy that marriage may have to offer.

3.Sex in the marriage has failed and is over.

Sex does not fail, communication does.
Sex in affairs can exist without love.
Sex is not intimacy.
Sex cannot resolve and heal the past.
Sex is not a substitute for low self-esteem.
Sex can be restored.

We are sexual; beings capable of having multiple sexual partners. Intimacy is another story. We rarely have several intimate relationships. Intimate relationships are not easily substituted. A marriage that has undergone the challenge of surviving a sexual detour can be successful in every way. Intimacy can be established. Sex can become an expression of the intimacy the relationship did not have before.

4.An affair means we no longer love our spouse. An affair does not reflect on love as much as it does on our ability to understand ourselves or communicate with another. Affairs mean different things to different people.

From the book Sexual Detours. Copyright 2000 by Holly Hein. Reprinted by arrangement with St. Martin’s Press, LLC, New York, NY Available wherever books are sold.

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