Six Critical Things to Know About Affairs

I’ve never slept with another person while in a committed partnership. However, I have had lame boundaries and an emotional affair.

Years ago, when I “acted out” with whomever I was with, it was always because of something going on on my side. It was never her fault or because of her. Did she have a part? Sure, but blaming her got me nowhere. If I want to move past this type of behavior, which is out of integrity for me, then I need to look within.

For example, I had an emotional affair once, and it happened because a core wound of mine was being triggered—I was feeling unseen/unmet and was very hurt and angry about it. Of course, I was completely unconscious to this at the time. So, my affair was me unconsciously saying “fuck you” to my partner at that time.

Same with my “leaky” energy back then. I had porous boundaries with women for years. On the surface, I blamed my commitment issues. But under “commitment issues” was a deeper fear.  But again, I had no connection to this at the time. I was very asleep. My “nice, gentleman” mask hid my shadow of fear, repressed sexual energy, hurt, and anger all directed toward the feminine (mom issues), underneath. I was both afraid to be engulfed by women and I was simultaneously afraid to be left by women.  We all have our own version of this that is just a re-enactment of our childhood wound that then plays out in our adult relationships. And, in long term partnerships, when we don’t learn how to fight properly, we stuff things, we hide them, we posture, and we are not willing to be ourselves.

So, affairs are yet another symptom of not learning how to do conflict.

In my career as a relationship specialist, I’ve worked with a lot of affairs and I’m coming to understand a few things about affairs and infidelity. I figured I share them.

Here’s what I’m learning in a nutshell. 

First, affairs are a product of fear.

Second, affairs happen when folks are not in the driver seat of their sexuality.

Third, affairs are often a helpful wake up call that cracks an already leaky foundation.

Fourth, it always takes two for an affair to happen. I’m not taking about the third party. I’m talking about in the primary relationship; both people contribute equally to an affair happening (hard pill to swallow for some).

Fifth, affairs are a symptom trying to help each party get to a deeper wound that needs healing.

Sixth, and perhaps the most interesting—when affairs happen, there is always (100% of the time in my experience) a lineage component. Meaning, people who have affairs, at least one party, and often both, come from a family where one or more of their parents had some kind of an affair or breach in their marriage boundary. Fascinating and true. Just goes to show how critical lineage work is if we want to get to the bottom of patterns. Many of our relational patterns are handed down generation after generation. And, until one person “wakes up” and gets that pattern to zero, it will keep being passed down, largely unconsciously. And, getting the affair, and all of our hurt feelings about it, to zero is a fairly straightforward protocol.

Believe it or not, we don’t need to stay hurt, angry, and feeling betrayed for years on end. It can be different. And yes, we can even learn to be genuinely grateful for the betrayal. But that takes a special kind of warrior with a radical view such as Relationship as a Path.


  • Peg

    Reply Reply February 14, 2014

    I agree. I think this description applies to all three of the parties in the affair. Something about the hurt spouse was attracted to the supposedly selfish, narcissistic person. I was the third party in an emotional affair. Very painful. Really, none of us were at our best and my hope is that we all learned and were able to heal from it. Spent time in therapy learning about that lineage component and the deeper fears and feelings that broke my heart – and really all of ours. Learned a lot. Still learning about my own attraction to someone who was unfaithful to their spouse. It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. I was curious about the second item. What do you mean we are not in the drivers seat of our sexuality? Thanks!

  • Peg

    Reply Reply February 15, 2014

    fixed my email. oops.

  • Caroline

    Reply Reply July 11, 2017

    If I may, I think it’s important to address situations when a partners affair is a wake up call to the betrayed partner to NOT forgive, but end the primary relationship.

    My 22 year marriage ended primarily due to an affair my husband was having. I certainly have my faults, and likely contributed to his seeking another woman. However, when I started to see signs that he was hiding an affair, he refused to acknowledge it, told me I was insecure and paranoid, and refused marriage counseling. The affair continued, although he insisted it did not, (because he claimed it wasn’t happening in the first place). I had to trust my instincts, invest energy into investigating, and I was right. He became verbally abusive and played mind games with me to discredit my findings. After much consideration, I divorced him.

    Now, one year later, he has claimed that I was the one having multiple affairs (not even close to true), that I was a drug addict, (again, horrifically untrue and nothing to even base that on). And now, one year later, is with the affair partner, with plans to marry her, but telling our children ‘don’t tell mom’

    If a relationship is a healthy one, I fully agree with what you said above. But it is a slippery slope if only one person is trying to fix the marriage and the other is avoiding and blameshifting. This is a real situation that many people find themselves in, and it must be made aware of.

    Love your blog, thank you.

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