When people spend lots of time together, they have the chance to really get to know each other. For example, work affairs often start off slowly. Working together in stressful situations can mean bonding over shared goals or through collaborating on projects. What can start off as a platonic friendship or normal working relationship can, if there’s a spark of attraction, slowly develop into an affair over time.
It’s often hard to pinpoint the moment where things begin to head in this direction. You might prefer to avoid thinking about it, or pretend it’s not happening. Some people find themselves ‘sleepwalking’ towards an affair – by not accepting that it’s a possibility at all.
And then it’s often the case that events like after-work drinks or a leaving party spark underlying attractions and are acted on in an impulsive moment.Why do people have affairs?
An affair – or the prospect of an affair – often feels extremely exciting at the time. One of the most common things that people report is the feeling of being ‘alive’. If you’ve been feeling dissatisfied in your life for a while, an affair can feel like an opportunity to be excited about things and take control of your life again.
But affairs rarely fix problems, such as feelings of loneliness or being disempowered in a relationship. Initial feelings of excitement frequently subside into guilt and unhappiness.
If you’re having an affair you may feel caught between two poles – wanting to hang onto this new sense of excitement, but feeling incredibly guilty about the betrayal of your partner, with whom you may have had a relationship for many years.
How to avoid an affair
If you’re thinking about starting an affair, and you want to avoid it, think about how you got here. Are there things going on in your relationship that have left you feeling unhappy or frustrated? Has something changed recently that’s caused a rift between you and your partner? Do you feel like you’ve lost something – either recently or over a long period of time? And then think it through: would having an affair solve any of this, or would it simply cause more pain and upset?
The best route to solving relationship issues is not by acting impulsively or simply doing whatever you want, but by acknowledging and talking about any issues as a couple. Of course, it can be really difficult to do this, especially if you haven’t been getting on for a while. But serious problems don’t tend to fix themselves, and often get worse if simply left to fester. It requires bravery and a willingness to take on board your partner’s view, but even the trickiest issues can be worked through if both you and your partner are willing to try.
The best place to start is by having an honest conversation about what’s going on in your relationship. If you haven’t been talking in a while or find that, when you do, things spiral into argument quickly, try going about this process carefully.
This isn’t the kind of thing that you’ll want to bring up in the middle of an argument, or when you’re just about to go to bed – it will require time and space. Plan to talk in advance. You might want to approach your partner and say you think you need to chat, and agree on a time and place when you can do this uninterrupted. Perhaps go out somewhere. Being somewhere different can help you think differently, and it can mean tempers are less likely to flare.
When you talk, there are ways of making a productive and positive conversation more likely. First, take regular timeouts. It’s no use talking if it’s simply going to turn into a shouting match, so being ready to take a quick break if things do get heated can make a big difference.
Beyond this, it’s important to take responsibility for your own feelings. Don’t phrase comments as attacks: ‘you always’, ‘you never’ and so on. It’s much better to use ‘I’ phrases: ‘When you do […], I feel as if…’. That way, your partner is less likely to feel defensive – and you’ll both have a chance to explain your own perspective on things. It’s also important to listen to what each other has to say, and not just focus on getting your own point across (see our new video on the home page here).
It’s also important to distance yourself from any developing situations at work, or wherever the potential for an affair exists. If it’s possible, you may want to spend less time with the other person you’re attracted to – or it may be appropriate to acknowledge feelings and be direct about the fact that you don’t want anything to happen.
If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about it why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.