Understanding Why Affairs Happen in Relationships

June 2020 | 5 mins read

Affairs can feel like the ultimate betrayal, having a detrimental impact on the couple relationship. It can be challenging to understand why your partner would do this to you. Over an extended period, it is common to become overly comfortable and familiar in the relationship, and you both may not put in the same effort with each other. You can often feel unloved and not appreciated by the other, which affects how you view and interact with one another.

The cause and effects an affair can have on your couple relationship, both emotionally and mentally.

Why do affairs happen in relationships?

There are many other reasons why affairs can happen, such as you or your partner may be experiencing health issues, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, addiction, a miscarriage, a lack of physical intimacy or financial difficulties. All this can take its toll on your emotional and mental well-being which has an impact on the couple relationship.

Another critical impact on the relationship is when children come along. It is common when you both become parents, and you become so preoccupied with everyday life that you both start to lose your sense of identity. Often this can create an emotional distance, breakdown in communication and disconnect from one another without even realising it.

When you both are not giving each other dedicated time and attention the relationship needs, either of you may withdraw, or start having arguments. This does not happen overnight and often can build over many months and in some cases years. It may make the relationship vulnerable and can create underlying resentment towards one another. Once the relationship is in a vulnerable place, a third party can quickly become involved to fill a void you or your partner may be feeling. It can be a struggle to understand why your partner could do this, and you can feel betrayed. In most cases, both of you have felt the same disconnect and breakdown in communication but have not been able to address this successfully.

I have heard on many occasions in a session, you can feel that you didn’t choose to have an affair, so why did they. For some of you, you may feel confused or in shock by the affair, and it is hard for you to get your ‘ head around’. It can create ‘fear and distrust’ in the relationship. Couples counselling can be beneficial to support you through this journey to help you deconstruct all these feelings and emotions you have towards one another.

What is seen as an affair in a relationship?

There is more than one type of affair that may occur in your relationship such as, emotional, physical and on-line affairs. It is often felt by a partner if there has been no physical contact, then this is not classed as having an affair. Emotional and on-line affairs can create a real dilemma in your relationship.

The majority of woman, especially, (men feel this way too) thinks that an emotional affair is much more personal than having physical contact, even if a partner has not met the third party. Often this is mainly due to the partner sharing personal information and spending time building and forming a relationship with a third party. Of course, this does not exclude a physical affair, as this is an intimate act with another person outside of the relationship, creating a break down of trust in the relationship. The partner that is affected by the third party involvement needs to understand ‘why’ this has happened to allow them to begin the healing process.

What impact can an affair can have on a relationship?

The impact of an affair can highlight issues whereby neither of you has felt valued, loved, heard or supported by the other for a long time. 

You can experience a sense of ‘loss and grief’ within the relationship. Both of you can have been experiencing on-going ‘loss and grief’ for some time, due to being emotionally disconnected. Usually, this is on an unconscious level and can be normalised without realising it.

When the ‘loss cycle’ has been triggered and brought to a conscious level, you may experience shock, denial, anger, insecurity, humiliation and deep sadness. Your relationship can feel like you are both on a ‘roller coaster ride’, as emotions and thoughts are intensified. It is typical for each of you not to know how to manage the feelings of the other. You both can go into ‘fix it’ mode out of fear of losing each other, or completely shut down and want to end the relationship. What is needed is time, patience and understanding, also just being able to listen to one others side of the story.

How can TLC Counselling help us rebuild the relationship?

I have worked with clients for many years specialising in supporting individuals and couples with various kinds of infidelity in their relationship.

Sometimes it may be easier for you to talk to a couple’s counsellor than opening up to family and friends, as they may take sides.

Commonly, there will be intense feelings of fear, anger and worry for you both, which can lead to a constant overthinking and talking about the affair. I often hear from the partner who has been on the receiving end of the matter, wanting a lot of details about what happened with the third party. It, of course, is only natural, however, certain areas are not useful to know, as this can cause much more difficulties in the relationship.

‘I will be there every step of the way with you both to offer support and guidance in rebuilding your relationship. I can provide you both with a safe, confidential space so that you will feel comfortable to open up to me. I will be non-judgemental, empathetic and listen to how each of you is feeling and not tell you what to do. It is important to me that you can express yourself freely and have a trusting therapeutic relationship with me to explore your story’.

What is the structure of the therapy sessions, and how can this benefit our relationship?

  • Firstly, we will create a ‘couples contract’ agreeing areas of support that you both need from one another, to allow you both to start working on the relationship safely.
  • I will help you both to open up to each other, supporting you both to start to deconstruct and understand the reasons why the affair has happened. 
  • We will explore each of your thoughts and feelings as a result of the affair.
  • We will identify the couple behaviours and habits that have formed in the relationship, and start to break these down together.
  • We will work on improving how you both communicate and build your listening skills with one another.
  • I will set tasks between sessions so you both can start to reconnect with each other and rebuild trust in the relationship.
  • I will support you both by using key models, interventions, and techniques within the sessions to support growth and development

What do we need to know about the counselling process?

  • ‍We will arrange an initial consultation/assessment, to allow you both the opportunity to meet with me, to ensure that I am the right person for you. 
  • I will advise you both of the confidentiality, data protection, and give you my counselling agreement to sign if you decide to go ahead.
  • I will gather some personal information, and we will identify the difficulties you are both facing. 
  • We will explore what your desired goals are from the couple’s counselling sessions.
  • Sessions last 50 minutes, and are weekly to begin with, they can move to fortnightly once you feel you need less support in the relationship.

How do I make an appointment for couples counselling?

Once you have made contact with me, I will respond to you within 24 hours, and I will ensure that you can access an initial appointment with me within two weeks of contacting me.

What if I have any more questions or queries about couples counselling and relationship therapy?

If you would like any further information, or you are unsure about how I could support you, please feel free to give me a call. If you would prefer to e-mail me with any questions or queries that you may have, please do not hesitate, and I will get back to you within 24 hours.