General Question

SoapChef's avatar

Why do people have affairs?

Asked by SoapChef (2968points) November 29th, 2008

It is especially interesting when people claim to be happy in their existing relationships. What gives?

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25 Answers

trumi's avatar

If you right click an avatar and then delete the line in the URL that says _Thumb you can see the full picture. I’m not gonna write the rest of the response, as it would be very mean.

PupnTaco's avatar

Dunno, but it sure is tragic.

queenzboulevard's avatar

People want what they can’t have. They want more of everything. They could have the best and still find something else they think is better. It’s just how humans are…

asmonet's avatar

Most people who choose to engage in that behavior have poor moral and ethical standards. They also tend to be insecure, dishonest with themselves and others and are prone to thinking that short term pleasures are more suitable to their lives than long term rewards.

IBERnineD's avatar

It’s never made sense to me, why not be single and play the field? And being happy in the relationship that your cheating on? People can be rude…

lynzeut's avatar

@trumi I see, I see.

SoapChef's avatar

It is too late for editing. I am going to elaborate a bit. I know we are all incensed at the idea, but really what are the motivations? I know some people are just shallow, but is that always the case? Do otherwise good people confronted with temptation become weak and gamble with everything important to them? Is there such a void in their primary relationship that they are trying to fill? Lonely? Ignored? Emotional or sexual needs not being met?

arnbev959's avatar


JoeyDesignsStuff's avatar

It’s not always out of nowhere. People hurt each other all the time – overtly and not – and one place to regain some security and self-worth is with another person; unfortunately, it’s not always outside the context of an active relationship.

suse's avatar

i have had one affair in my life. We were both married (wrong I know), but it was an attraction like i had never known in my life, before or since. After much agonising, we decided not to leave our partners – since they were both good people. The guilt and deception was horrible, but along with that was missing the person I had an affair with was physically painful after we broke up. we did not rekindle it, but even now, seven years later, he texts me occasionally to say he wishes we had both made the decision to leave our marriages. I am very against playing around – but it happened and was such a difficult time. I do believe it is possible to love two people at one time. I am not proud of it by the way.

SoapChef's avatar

Thank you suse for that answer. I can understand that kind of attraction. Can I ask, was there something missing in your marriage? Did this person fulfill something missing?

peziak's avatar

I have 3 probable answers

1. People like sex
2. People find sneaking around and doing what they know is wrong thing, to be fun and exciting
3. People are self centered assholes who don’t care about how their actions may affect others (not even their loved ones)

SoapChef's avatar

Lol, peziak. Must you mince words? :0) I think you have a good point about the sneaking around bit. A bit of risk can be intoxicating and I think some people are addicted to adrenalin.

AstroChuck's avatar

I won’t ever cheat on my wife because I love my house.

augustlan's avatar

I hope to God that if there was someone else I wanted so badly that I was willing to risk my marriage over it, that I’d do the right thing and end my marriage before I became involved with that person. If you’re willing to risk it all anyway, why not do the right thing and give it all up, if you can’t resist?

AstroChuck's avatar

You should ask my first wife. She was having a lot more sex than I was. What was her name again? Oh yeah, the plaintiff.

bythebay's avatar

I don’t think there is ever an easy answer; and sometimes not even an answer at all. In some cases it may be that the person is of low moral values, I think that is the rarity. I think in more cases there is something lacking in the marriage; and perhaps the couple lack communication skills adequate enough to address the issue(s) head-on. In yet other cases I truly believe the ‘cheater’ is suffering from low self esteem. I know it would seem to be the opposite, but in reality those suffering from low self esteem seek out attention. When they receive that attention it becomes all consuming…they need more..they need to feed that monster called ego. I’ve asked people in this situation the simple questions like “Why”, “What did you think the long term ramifications would be”, “Dont you love him/her enough to say no”...I’ve never gotten an easy answer from anyone – male or female. I agree with August, I would hope I have the fortitude to finish what I have started before I moved on to another; but I’ve learned the hard way to never say never.

The most important thing to remember, if someone cheats on you, is this: It was not your mistake. Even if you carry some responsibilty for the demise of your current relationship; you cannot make anyone go out & cheat…that is their choice and their guilt/burden to carry.

laureth's avatar

Here’s a pretty good Newsweek article about it.

Basically, whatever a cheater isn’t getting out of their marriage, they are probably getting out of the affair. If your spouse doesn’t appreciate you, for example, it’s easy to fall under the spell of someone who adores and cherishes you.

Yeah, ideally they would end the marriage first, or have the self-control to “just say no” – but that works for affairs about as well as it did in reducing drug use in the 80’s. People are human beings, imperfect, and sometimes weak. Sometimes the unconscious cost/benefit analysis just doesn’t add up on the spouse’s side. And by the time people are thinking with their hormones rather than their brains, they are oftentimes not thinking at all.

wundayatta's avatar

Psychological distance from your spouse that may have gone on for years. Fear of breaking up a relationship because of the kids and the finances. Low self-esteem, made worse because you believe your spouse doesn’t really love you. Opportunities to meet people who seem to actually be excited by you. That feeling of falling in love again. An opportunity to be physically in that person’s presence for the appropriate period of time. A belief that this will make up for the deficiencies of the marriage and allow you to stay married. A mental illness that impairs your decision-making. Fear that even bringing up a problem will mean the end of the relationship. Principles of evolutionary biology. The biological advantages to both sexes of sneaking around.

It’s life. When I was dealing with infertility, the infertility doctor mentioned that some ten to fifteen percent of children’s genes did not match those of the supposed father’s. People get all moralistic about it, but there is a hell of a lot of it going on. Maybe we don’t understand our own behavior and our own capabilities nearly as well as we think we do? Maybe our moral system needs rethinking?

Yeah. I have the T-shirt.

AstroChuck's avatar

Is it one of those shirts that say My Spouse Went and Had an Affair and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt?

ckinyc's avatar

People have affairs because they couldn’t find quickies.

I am joking! Don’t yell at me please.

I have an open relationship (14 years and counting). No cheating require. We ended up choosing “no” to temptation simply because we know we “can”.

laureth's avatar

Open relationship with no rules (such as “check with me before you sleep with someone else”)? That’s pretty open. Even the poly couples I know seem to agree that cheating is possible in a poly situation if people are doing it all sneakylike, or against established boundaries.

suse's avatar

Soapchef – was something missing in my marriage? .....Yes, I guess it was. My marriage ended two years after my affair, I left my husband because I didnt love him enough. It is very very difficult to leave a person who has done nothing wrong, and whom you do love (but it was similar to the feelings I had for my brothers and parents…...) Anyway my husband married again in due course and is very happy now, which is great. He is with the right woman. I did not tell the man I had an affair with, that my marriage had ended. He knows now, and says he never feels happy at home but will never have another affair. He says he could only have been happy if I had been the mother of his children instead of his wife. Obviously impossible as they were already born when we met…....... there were no answers for us, just very very difficult choices. This one wasnt about casual sex. We no longer live in the same area, and I have remarried – I would not want to meet up with him again, because I still miss things about him – let sleeping dogs lie.

augustlan's avatar

@suse and Daloon (and others I may have missed): Thanks for posting about your experiences. It takes guts to be so honest, and I respect that.

wundayatta's avatar

@augustlan: such honesty is one of the gifts of anonymity. It makes me wish this were possible in real life. Secrets are an enormous burden. They keep you from being known. Which means they keep you from being truly loved. Yet another reason not to have a secret affair.

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