Affairs have been my most requested topic this year, so in this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I explore the real reasons why people have affairs. What a lot of us do is fall into the trap of assuming that a partner or spouse wasn’t ‘enough’ or that there was something ‘wrong’ with the relationship. I talk about why affairs are the result of problem-solving issues and why affairs highlight, not just unmet needs but also unrealistic attitudes towards the meeting of needs.

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5 key topics in this episode

  • The person who cheats is looking for external solutions to an internal issue. “Internal” meaning something going on within themselves, the relationship, or their life (e.g. work issues, bereavement, family illness). When they encounter uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and situations and they want to avoid these; or when they feel, think or experience certain things that build as a trigger for avoiding intimacy, acting out, or feeling trapped an affair is used to numb or provide an upper. 
  • Before an affair occurs, there is a thought process in the preceding days, weeks or months that makes the person open to the possibility. It will be triggered by an event. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything big per se, but it sows a seed.
  • Some people have an affair and it’s an anomaly. Others have an affair as a way out of their relationship. Some people cheat and it’s the beginning of an affair or possibly a series of them. There are some people who have a pattern of affairs but they’ve managed to disguise this aspect of their relationship history. And there are some people who have affairs because, well, they never stopped dating.
  • Some of the unrealistic attitudes behind affairs include:
    • Seeing a partner as their sole source of happiness or believing that their partner is responsible for their happiness. If they then don’t feel happy within themselves, they blame their partner and relationship.
    • Thinking they’re responsible for meeting their partner’s needs to the exclusion of themselves. And they inevitably wind up feeling overwhelmed, neglected and resentful.
    • Regarding intimacy and normality as signs of boredom.
    • Feeling neglected when a partner meets their own needs.
    • Expecting a partner to always be happy or to always have it together. And when they’re not, it becomes They’ve failed to be the person I expect and need them to be.
  • Affairs are ultimately a form of passive aggression. They are ways of expressing underlying and often unknown feelings of frustration and resentment through obstructive and resistant behaviour.

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