Relationship Advice: Understanding Why Affairs Happen

August 18, 2011 by

When people come to me looking for relationship advice after an affair, one of the first things I help them understand is why it happens. In my years of experience as a Portland marriage counselor, I’ve dealt with numerous client infidelities, and they all occurred for the same basic reason: the person who strayed wasn’t getting the understanding or attention they needed from their mate, and when someone else came along and fulfilled that need, they acted on it.

That explanation is in no way meant to take any of the blame off of the person who strayed. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, and choosing to have an affair is one of the worst things you can do in a committed relationship. Trying to save your marriage afterward is an arduous, time-consuming effort that involves working with a counselor to rebuild trust and rededicate yourselves to your relationship.

So the point of this message has nothing to do with blame. Instead, I want to offer some relationship advice about how infidelities begin so that they can be stopped before they start.

Affairs Begin with a Lack of Communication, Seek Relationship Advice

All of us have a strong need to be understood, and it’s probably what drew us to our mate in the first place. We enjoyed talking to and being around them. They paid attention to us and acted like we mattered, so we felt safe, loved, and happy.

But over time in relationships, we start to take each other for granted. Instead of being this amazing presence in our life, our spouse is just another part of it – one that we love, certainly -- but also one that we just expect to be there. Because of those feelings, it’s not uncommon to put other priorities before our spouse, like children and careers. Unfortunately, over time this can make them feel ignored and neglected, and if someone else shows up and makes them feel wanted and needed, an affair can become a very attractive proposition.

The best piece of relationship advice I can offer you in order to avoid this and save your marriage is to talk to your partner about your feelings and make time to be alone together. The person who feels neglected is just as much at fault – even before they stray – as the person doing the neglecting. Both of you need to make an effort to show each other how important your relationship is and how much you appreciate the love that you have.

A shoulder rub, compliment, hug, or kiss before leaving for work all seem like small things, but they are all ways of showing that you care and can go a surprisingly long way to save your marriage. Setting aside time each day to talk to your spouse is another great way to make sure you stay connected.

In my experience, all affairs start as emotional affairs. If you’ve tried reconnecting with your spouse and it just doesn’t seem to be working, or if you still find yourself drawn to another person, save your marriage by getting relationship advice from a professional before the problem goes any further.