8 Things You Didn’t Know About Men And Affairs

Neil StraussNeil

Today’s guest blogger, Jayson Gaddis, is a former psychotherapist, a teacher,  a speaker, a writer, and a relationship specialist. Today, he takes a fascinating look at root causes and effects of having an affair. More of his work can be found at www.jaysongaddis.com

Most men justify their affairs. Many feel ashamed and are still living in secret. But what is really going on with guys having affairs? This post is less about why men have affairs and more about what is going on and what can be done after an affair. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of an affair, read on. This might be good news you haven’t heard.

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’d share them.

First, a few personal details from my own experience…

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

For example, I had an emotional affair once. I met a sexy woman on a weekend meditation retreat and became infatuated by our chemistry and connection. I knew her for a period of 12 hours before I started to question my current relationship and wonder if instead, I should be with this new woman. And, true to form for me, I was infatuated and projecting all kinds of stuff onto her, who I later realized I’d be miserable with.

But why was I vulnerable to this “grass is greener” dynamic with this new woman? Essentially I was pissed at my current partner for not valuing what I value—doing meditation retreats with me. I wanted her to be there with me. I was judging her way, her path, and felt alone in mine. 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” with this new woman 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. I always kept the door open for another “better” woman to come along. When I finally investigated intelligently I discovered a few things to change this pattern.

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.  A wild paradox that left me with a lot of “push/pull” behavior with the girlfriends I dated (come close, go away). All of these are discoveries I made with skillful guidance and a lot of honest self-inquiry.

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.

But, What’s The Good News?

Conventional wisdom comes up short when we really look under the hood of affairs. So, here are seven things you may not know about affairs that hopefully engage you to look a bit deeper. Some of them might even be good news to a hurt heart.

1. The blame game. Many men want to blame their affair on their current partner. Not so fast. 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, which is what most men do—they blame the woman. But if I want to move past this type of behavior, which is out of integrity for me, then I need to look within.

The opposite of course is a smaller percentage of men who blame themselves. Blaming yourself is still more blame and shame and goes no where to get to the deeper issues. Try it on that it is no one’s “fault.” Fault keeps us in the realm of right and wrong. We gotta dig deeper here.

2. Affairs are a product of… FEAR. That’s right. Fear and more fear. If you’ve dabbled in an affair or two, try it on that you are scared. Scared of what? Loads of stuff. That’s why you kept it secret or hid it for a while. You are scared. You’re probably also exhibit strong co-dependent behavior and are very developmentally young when it comes to being yourself in your marriage. Ouch and probably true.

3. An affair equals underdeveloped sexual maturity. Affairs happen when men are not in the driver seat of their sexuality. Are you owning the wild beast inside of you, or letting it run wild, thus run you? Most men are not even close when it comes to fully owning their sexual range and expression. Most men are like teenage boys sexually. Thus they attract teenage girls who are at the same level in their sexual development. A good match, but there’s way more folks.

4. An affair is always helpful. WTF? Yup. Affairs are often a helpful wake up call that cracks an already leaky foundation in a marriage. An affair snaps both parties out of a sleepy trance and into truth. However, few heed the call of truth and many slip back into fear and being comfortable withholding who they really are from their partner. For the committed couple, an affair can, and often does, take the couple to a deeper place.

5. Affairs take two—always. That’s right. 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).  The important point is that you learn to take full responsibility for your part, whatever side of the affair you are on. And “full responsibility” has nothing to do with blame or “fault.” This is particualarly challenging news for folks on the receiving end of an affair who’d rather go to their grave feeling self-righteous and indignant.

6. Affairs are a symptom. Affairs are a symptom trying to help each party get to a deeper wound that needs healing. Affairs are the canary in the coal mine. Once the shit hits the fan, it’s a huge opportunity to deal and heal some unconscious baggage. Go there!

7. Affairs are handed down. Perhaps the most interesting fun fact here is that 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. Or, you can pass it down to your kids. Your call.

8. After an affair, you can move beyond shame and guilt. And, no, I’m not talking about taking this one to your grave and hiding even more. If you have big balls, you can be free of shame or guilt after an affair. Believe it or not, we don’t need to stay ashamed, hurt, angry, or feeling betrayed for years on end. It can be different. And yes, we can even learn to be genuinely grateful for the affair. But that takes a special kind of warrior with badass tools to move through it. The choice is yours.