Please, someone give me a dollar for every time I’ve heard a client or friend describe their Affair Guy this way:
“He’s so interesting. We like all the same things. He wants to dig deep into everything. And did I mention the sex is crazy-good? And, when he does something wrong, he actually apologizes!”
They’re excited, of course, because — attendant guilt aside — affairs are exciting. Getting to feel “those feelings” again is exciting. And people get swept up in them and they want more. They want to feel this way all the time. Even when mature, intelligent people know it’s not possible to feel this way in any relationship all the time, they convince themselves that this — this! — is different.
But there’s always more to the story:
“His ex-wife has a restraining order on him,” or “His kids don’t speak to him,” or “He has trouble making ends meet,” or “He’s tried to end his marriage for years, but his wife isn’t having it.”
And sometimes, “I’m not sure if I can see myself with him in the real world.”
Do some affairs end up as long, happy marriages? Of course. But they’re a rare breed. Why? Because an affair means both parties have agreed to do something they know they probably shouldn’t. And both parties have shown they’re capable of lies and deceit. Any relationship built on half-truths and betrayals doesn’t usually have a good prognosis. That, of course, and the lurking insecurity in knowing the other person is open to cheating.
But the red flags don’t stop us. We humans sprint towards what makes us feel good. Against your better judgment, you keep running towards the Affair Guy because he makes you feel so damn good. But is your Affair Guy really someone you can imagine a life with? An affair is a living, breathing fantasy. You see in your lover everything lacking in your current partner, and/or as the perfect partner for you despite the wife and kids waiting for him at home.
An affair is an attempt to address lack. You take a lover you hope will fill in your gaps and provide the intimacy you can’t access in your marriage or elsewhere in your life. But when you’re soul-desperate to color in the blank spaces, it follows that you’ll fill them in the most cartoon-y and reckless of ways. In other words, if you’re going to blow up your life, why bother with caution?
When it’s sex you’re pining for, you’ll naturally be drawn to someone who wears his sex appeal like an overpowering cologne. You’re a homing pigeon for his carnality because that’s what you need and that’s what he’s selling. It’s kind of like cheating on your diet. Does anyone cheat with a cup of cottage cheese? Um, no. But a hot fudge sundae will do the trick. And your Affair Guy is the whipped cream on top.
Affairs fill you with promise of a better everything. But can they go the distance? Listen, when you’re choosing a spouse, you examine the whole picture of that person: Does he love me? Will he be a good father? Will he help provide for our future family? Do we share the same values?
But when you choose a lover, your criteria is far more relaxed because you’re only looking for those couple of puzzle pieces that somehow got lost. A married person who begins an affair doesn’t approach his or her new lover as a potential spouse, right? They’re simply looking for the feel-good stuff: warmth, excitement, friendship, hot sex.
Even in this era of hookups and booty calls, it’s traditionally tough for women to hold our lovers at arm’s length. We’re communicative beings. We connect. So, it makes sense that the wheels start turning when we fall in love or lust. It’s hard not to fantasize about the great life we could have with this one-in-a-million guy who “gets” us.
But who is your Affair Guy, really? The starving artist? The bad boy? The guy who can’t leave his marriage just yet? The one who can’t seem to get his life on track? Yes, the emotions run high and you feel — maybe for the first time in a long time — alive. And alive feels so good. But is it really the best idea to disrupt your whole life (or put it on hold) for someone who’s better suited as a lover than a lifetime partner?
If you want to leave your marriage, leave. If you want an available partner, go find one. But do yourself a solid and don’t look to your Affair Guy as a reliable back up plan. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to give you what you will eventually require — his whole, cohesive self. Because that’s not what he signed on to do.
Your affair is a symptom of your unhappy marriage. Your affair with an unavailable someone is a signal that something in you needs tweaking. Put your affair on hold and take care of those fronts first. If your Affair Guy is Mr. Right, he’ll be waiting right where you left off.