By Cristin Whiting, PsyD
Are you thinking about having an affair?
Perhaps you are in the early stages of heat and excitement; the stage where you swing between telling yourself that you could “never do something like that” and fantasizing about what it would be like. Perhaps you have already started an affair and are feeling “more alive” than you have in a long, long time. Whatever the case may be, before you have one more daydream, before you and your lover exchange one more text message, before you make up another excuse for where you have been or with whom you were talking to on the phone, consider this…
Affairs are common, especially among couples who have been married and have little kids, or who are about to have a new baby, or who are under financial stress, or have recently lost a family member, or are in a phase in their lives of relative smooth sailing. In other words, affairs are just common and there are as many “reasons” for someone to have an affair as there are people with which to have one.
The challenge with an affair is that the seduction creates a bubble. It creates another world, far away from reality in which to escape. It is a world of excitement, of high emotion, of sexiness and secrets. It is a world in which a person can feel like they get to express a part of themselves that has been long repressed or maybe never expressed before. All of that is incredibly seductive and it is the seduction that causes the people who are having the affair to lose sight of what life will be like when the spell is broken and the affair is over.
Oh, yes it will end. Some of you reading this might insist that what you have is true love and that it is the very answer you both have been praying for. Others of you might be a bit more practical about it and may know that this affair will never last but you insist that you aren’t hurting anyone because you won’t get caught. That is the kind of thinking that is a direct result of the seduction bubble. It is just not grounded in reality.
Whether you get caught or not, whether you feel like you “deserve” this indulgence or not, when we break our word with our commitments we tear down a piece of ourselves. That tear in who we are for ourselves happens because our integrity that gets diminished. When we break our word in one area of our life it gets a lot easier to break our word in other areas. Before you know it, all of life can start to feel a little out of control, all because of one decision. And imagine! You haven’t even gotten caught yet…
Yes, getting caught. Allow me to offer you a cold shower on that seduction spell. What getting caught looks like is moving out of your family home into an apartment that offers a significant drop in the standard of living you currently enjoy. What getting caught looks like is walking through the grocery store or going to church and wondering who knows your marriage broke up because you cheated. What getting caught looks like is your kids finding out you cheated and having to look them in the eye. What getting caught looks like is reality crashing down around you when the life you needed a break from, and that you are about to lose, suddenly seems so precious.
So readers, I offer this dose of reality with all compassion and no judgment. I offer this dose of reality because you are worth it and so are your families. Though the lure of seduction is a strong one, nothing compares to the freedom found in powerfully keeping our word to our commitments—especially when we don’t feel like it.