Ever since Clinton’s famous, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” statement I have noticed numerous articles and books debating on what actually constitutes an affair. Is it only classified as an affair if a spouse has intercourse with a person outside of the marriage? Does oral sex “count”? How about fondling? Or kissing? Holding hands? What about emotional affairs? Do one-night stands count as affairs or is it only an affair when the heart is involved?
Simply put, infidelity is defined as unfaithfulness, betrayal, or lack of loyalty to a spouse or partner. Unfortunately, many people believe that, as long as a relationship is not physically consummated, it can’t be considered infidelity. This belief, however, is totally false. The slippery slope of infidelity happens long before clear violations are broken. As I’ve always said, “Infidelity doesn’t start in the bedroom, it ends in the bedroom.”
As an Infidelity Recovery Specialist, I have worked with couples who have presented a multitude of scenarios that appear to be different. But, when you strip them all down to their core, there are four basic classifications of affairs that must be properly examined. 1) The One-Night Stand, 2) Emotional Entanglement, 3) Sexual Compulsion and 4) Add-On Affair.
Each affair type is quite different and they have a unique set of circumstances that surround them. With that said, it is very important to understand that a couple’s affair type may consist of a combination of the four classifications. Additionally, I have worked with couples who have experienced all four affair types at different points in the marriage.
One-Night Stands. This affair type is considered to be an opportunistic experience that fulfills a lustful urge or desire. Typically, there is no real relationship between the two consenting parties. They are either strangers to one another or casual acquaintances. Business trips, vacations, and social outings are breeding grounds for one-night stands to occur. However, the more familiar and the more access two individuals have with one another, the more frequent their interactions may be. This is otherwise known as serial one-night stands.
Emotional Entanglement. Arguably, emotional affairs are more devastating than short-lived sexual affairs. These types of inappropriate interactions involved intense emotions and matters of the heart. These are real relationships that exist parallel to marriage. While some last for several months, others match or exceed the length of a marriage. In most cases, not all, emotional affairs involve sex. The combination of emotional and sexual intimacy creates an almost indelible bond that is very difficult to break on one’s own. The process of ending this type of affair requires long-term counseling because the potential for relapses can occur.
Sexual Compulsion. Marriages have been destroyed due to an inability to control an untamed sexual appetite. They have allowed their flesh to steer them into a life of compulsive masturbation with or without pornography, multiple online and extramarital affairs, constant use of pornography, unsafe sex, multiple or anonymous sex partners, phone sex, cybersex, sexting, anonymous sex, multiple one-night stands, sexual massage, and prostitution. Unfortunately, these sexual activities have sabotaged marriages, careers, self-esteem, and life itself. Individual therapy is needed in addition to couples counseling.
Add-On Affair. This affair type is the most common affair that exists in marriage and is closely associated with emotional entanglement. This often happens when couples begin to drift apart into their own separate worlds. They no longer spend quality time together. There are no shared interests, activities, or goals. They have moved from being soulmates to role mates to roommates. The lack of shared interests and activities creates a marital void which is then fulfilled by someone outside of the marriage. A deep friendship is developed based upon a shared activity. Though this relationship does not include dating, dinners out, phone calls, or other activities outside the shared interest –spontaneous sexual activity sometimes results.
If you believe that society has gotten worse and we’ve lost the values we use to have, think again. Infidelity goes all the way back to biblical days which is proof that human nature hasn’t changed much. We have a tendency to think that society gets worse with each new generation. But, the same sexual scandals that exist today began thousands of years ago. Remember, there is nothing new under the sun.