There are many types of affairs, and couples should consider this information before making a decision to dissolve a marriage or other committed relationship.
Some affairs lack any emotional commitment, while others involve a deeper level of intimacy and connection than is found within the primary relationship. While a marriage or relationship may survive the former, as long as the underlying issues are brought out into the open and worked through, the latter type is not as hopeful. The couple would have to put in a great deal of work to save this relationship.
The serial affair, for example, involves many one-night stands or a series of affairs. This type of affair lacks emotional commitment and intimacy, and the motive is often sexual excitement. These affairs usually occur out of town or away from areas where friends might find out about them. A sex addiction might be present in serial affairs. Although a person who engages in serial affairs is not interested in establishing an emotional investment with his or her partners, there is also a lack of attention paid to the vow of fidelity within the primary relationship – and this is a serious issue that must be addressed if the relationship is to continue.
The more formidable threat to a primary relationship is the romantic long-term affair. In this case, there is an emotional commitment to an outside partner, and some of these affairs can last for several years. If the primary relationship is to have any chance of surviving, the affair should come to an end. If the affair were to continue, the straying partner would likely not have the emotional energy or motivation to repair the damage done to the main relationship. Some partners, however, allow the affair to go on and pretend not to know about it because they don’t want to end their primary relationship – but the price they pay is a high one.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT