Affairs:  Why Do People Have Affairs?

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT

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Why Do People Have Affairs?

The reasons why people have affairs are complicated and can happen in good marriages as well as struggling ones. 

Often affairs develop in marriages where couples have drifted apart because they have avoided conflict and resolving problems, are fearful of intimacy or have just not tended to the necessary feeding that a marital relationship requires. 

Affairs can also occur when one person is depressed, unhappy in the marriage or within a social group where affairs are condonedAffairs may happen at transition times in marriages, sometimes called “mid-life crises,” which are often opportunities for individuals to take stock of their life and evaluate what is “missing” and then look to others to fill that space.

In healthy marriages, it can take someone by surprise when feelings for another person develop, generally with a co-worker, neighbor or a friend that someone sees regularly and with whom a friendship develops into more as stories, experiences and life events are shared.  Cheating was not planned or desired, it just developed until the new relationship and feelings for the other person became overwhelming.

More Than One Affair

Multiple affairs generally indicate some personal problems with the person having affairs.  Some are addicted to love, sex or self-affirmation.  Often there is a family history of affairs often by the same sex parent and it is a “tradition“ accepted within the family.  With some, there is a feeling of entitlement with little regard for the spouse’s feelings.


Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs may not involve a sexual relationship (intercourse); however they do involve secrecy from the spouse and sharing of intimate details in each other’s lives and can be as destructive, often even more so, than sexual affairs.  Women are more likely to have emotional affairs, men are more likely to have sexual affairs.

Internet Affairs

Internet affairs are becoming more and more common.  With today’s technology and easy access to others with similar interests or problems … as well as the opportunity to see “what is out there” in the single world, people can become emotionally open to another in ways that distance them from their spouse and the marriage.