An affair could happen to anyone, from the local politician who gets caught with his pants down to the next-door neighbor who sleeps with her kid's karate teacher. When people find out about infidelity, they often make all kinds of assumptions about why people are having affairs. Even if someone cheated in your life, you may have thought you understood what affairs are all about.
We live in a hush-hush culture when it comes to infidelity and it's not so easy to sort fact from fiction, and many of the common beliefs about affairs are wrong. Here are the 10 most common myths and the truth behind the scenes:
1. Most people who cheat are looking for an affair when it happens. In fact, the majority of time, an affair happens to people who aren’t looking for it. This is particularly true in cases in which a partner had only cheated with one person. Affairs often begin as friendships, which are followed by intimacy, which can then shift into a full-blown tryst.
2. Most people drift from their spouses for someone younger or more attractive. Think of the Arnold Schwarzenegger affair with his housekeeper. While in some cases, the chronically philandering corporate CEO might seek out younger sex mates, typically paramours are no younger, richer or more attractive than spouses.
3. Affairs almost always spell the end of marriage. More than 50 percent of marriages can survive infidelity. Although the relationship may break up from other issues in the future, many couples are surprised when they find that they can stay together after an affair.
4. Once a cheater, always a cheater. While it is true that some individuals have repeated affairs, many affairs are a once and done thing. What happens after the affair can set a marriage on a course for stability or blow it out of the water. After ending the affair, the person who cheated must be completely honest for healing to take place.
5. Affairs happen because something is wrong with the marriage. Here's the truth: There's something wrong with every marriage. Affairs may reflect that couples don't know how to work together to improve the problems in their marriages. Just because you are having marital issues doesn't justify infidelity.
6. Affairs are all about sex. In reality, many affairs rise from one partner seeking an emotional connection to another person. Sometimes, that's as far as the affair ever goes. Although the sense of emotional closeness often leads to physical intimacy, sex wasn't the original intent when the connection began.
7. If there's no sex, there's no affair. Many affairs happen without any sex at all. Is it cheating to stay up half the night, secretly texting an old classmate about your most intimate thoughts? The person doing it may not see it as cheating, but you can be sure that his/her partner sees it this way! When you give an emotional part of yourself to someone who is a potential affair mate, it's a form of infidelity.
8. Cheating really is never about just sex; it’s about other marital issues. Just as it is a myth that all affairs are just about sex, it's also a myth that all affairs are just about unmet emotional needs. For some people — not the majority — an affair is just about going out and "getting laid."
9. Most people who have affairs are unhappy in their marriage. In surveys that asked adulterers whether they wanted to leave their marriages, most said no. Among people having affairs, 56 percent of men and 34 percent of woman rank their marriages as happy or very happy. (For marriage in general, more women than men say they are unhappy.)
10. Once an affair is out in the open, even if a couple stay together, they can never be happy together again. People don't talk about affairs to their friends and neighbors — that's why you rarely hear success stories. But many couples can learn to successfully rebuild their marriages; some even say their marriages are stronger after infidelity.
Distinguishing infidelity fact from fiction can help you and your mate gain a keener understanding of how affairs happen, and what you can do to prevent them. For those who have had an affair, knowing the truth is a powerful tool toward helping you recover. You can learn more about affairs, and the steps to recovery in my newest book, "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity." There is hope!