An affair doesn’t just happen…
Have you ever wondered how an affair starts? In my opinion, there’s such a misconception as to how affairs begin. Most people I’ve talked to believe its when two people meet, flirt, and then bam they’re having sex. However, by the time an affair is usually discovered, the couple has been involved for quite a while.
In reality, an affair starts long before the affair partners ever meet—the affair actually starts taking hold in the husband or wife’s thoughts as soon as emptiness and hopelessness set in, and the vulnerable spouse begins to believe their marriage will not change. In case you are wondering how I know how an affair starts, well the truth is…I’ve had an affair.
I was young when I married my first husband, my high school sweetheart. Our relationship was definitely not the fairy-tale I had imagined. We were married seven years, and during those years my husband had multiple one-night stands and became emotionally abusive. Ultimately, I became very angry and vindictive towards him.
Even so, I never thought I could be the one to have an affair…
My first husband and I had a particular couple we often socialized with, and the husband happened to be my husband’s best friend. One day, my husband’s friend expressed an interest in me and we began “discreetly and innocently” flirting back and forth over a number of years.
Regrettably, as my marriage began to deteriorate, I started confiding in my husband’s friend about what was going wrong in my marriage. One day, when we were alone, things crossed the line. Two years later, we divorced our spouses and married each other.
It’s not something I’m proud of, but at the time I was angry and hurt by my first husband’s unfaithfulness. I thought he deserved what he got for how he treated me all of those years. I didn’t realize at the time—no one deserves to be cheated on—even if they’re unfaithful themselves and not treating their spouse with respect. It was my response to my husband’s behavior that caused me to have an affair. I know now, I had a choice!
In the beginning, my new marriage was fun and exciting. We spent lots of time together, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. But as the years went by, and we added a couple of kids to the mix, and the stresses of everyday life intervened—our marriage began to take a back seat.
Then, about eight years ago, when my second husband and I had been married for nearly 10 years, we hit a rough patch in our relationship. I was busy raising kids and my husband worked hard to provide for us, but in the process, he became a workaholic and filled his free-time with hobbies on his own.
Over time, I felt lonely and became angry with my husband for distancing himself from me. The closeness and friendship we once shared appeared over as we began living like roommates. By the time my affair partner entered my life, I was a shell of the person I was when we married, and desperate for attention.
Infidelity is not something you go looking for…its something you allow your thoughts to lead, and your actions to follow.
My affair partner was in the medical profession and had been caring for my children for several years before the affair started. It wasn’t until I began seeing him for my own dental needs that things between us became flirtatious. Never once did I think we would end up having an affair. I was just having fun, and it felt good to be noticed. He was also going through a similar situation, so as our discussions became more intimate, we bonded over our failed marriages.
The Lie: “We‘re just friends…”
Our friendship flourished, and it didn’t take long for us to seek a relationship beyond the phone. The more time we spent together, the closer we became. The affair became like a drug. I needed to feel wanted, and he needed to feel appreciated.
Both our needs were being met for the first time in a long time.
My affair partner spent a lot of time talking to me and listening to my heart—he was very interested in ‘who I was.’ He made me feel very honored and accepted. I needed this quality time and validation from my husband, and he wasn’t aware I even needed this to feel fulfilled.
In contrast, I grew farther away from my husband and gave up on ever being able to have with my husband again, what I had with my affair partner. I convinced myself that I never really loved my husband, and we shouldn’t have married.
I would tell myself it was “fine”; our marriage was dead, and we didn’t have anything in common anymore. I reduced our love to a feeling, and since I no longer ‘felt in love’ with my husband, it validated my belief that “it was time to move on.”
Affairs start in your head—long before you end up in bed…
I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt my affair started in my thoughts long before my affair partner showed up. I felt neglected by my husband, and I began withdrawing from him about a year before the affair started. Looking back now, I see how hard my heart had become toward him.
Did I mention my husband and I are Christians? Well, we are, and when the affair started, we had just finished hosting a bible study in our home. To say the guilt and shame were beyond measure would be an understatement. I was so in love with my affair partner—I didn’t care anymore about right from wrong, I just never wanted to feel empty again.
I learned first-hand having the title of ‘Christian’ will not give you the power to not have an affair. I looked like I was doing all the ‘right things’ on the outside, but my heart was still leading me down a dark path.
Eventually, change for me would only come from my relationship with the Lord. I know, I digress, but I wanted to bring up this point in case there are some Christians who find themselves where I was—feeling overwhelmed with guilt and shame. You are not alone, and there is hope for healing and recovery.
It’s important to note—an affair can happen at any time or anywhere—it is never the physical location you are in that causes the affair to start. What makes you vulnerable is where your heart is, how empty you are feeling, or how unhappy you are in your marriage. Affairs begin within ourselves.
We believe the lies we tell ourselves…
So over time, I began to have a negative narrative about my husband. Especially when he would hurt my feelings, make me angry, or wouldn’t listen to how I was feeling.
The narrative running through my mind would go something like this:
- You don’t understand me.
- You don’t spend time with me.
- Why don’t you like me?
- I don’t like you right now.
- I’m tired of arguing with you about this.
- You never listen to me.
- We don’t have anything in common anymore.
- I really hate you right now.
- You are such a mean person.
I believe you get the picture. But all of this negative narrative did was cause me to look at my husband negatively—I didn’t even want to be around him. Every time he hurt me or neglected me, I would put another brick on the wall-of-anger around my heart.
It’s hard to love someone with all your heart, only to have your needs go unmet day-after-day. I was protecting myself from further pain, but I wasn’t actively seeking healthy strategies to repair my marriage.
How to recognize when your marriage is vulnerable to an affair…
- When intimacy decreases significantly or is eliminated in your marriage. We crave a deep connection with our spouse and intimacy fosters closeness. Intimacy enables us to bond with our partners on many levels. If intimacy takes a back seat and we begin to neglect the quality time our relationship needs to survive, we can become vulnerable to someone else’s attention.
- We begin a negative narrative about our spouse– this changes our perspective of who they are and causes us to magnify their negative qualities more than their positive attributes. So much so, we can no longer see what we loved about them.
- Resentment sets in– even if they apologize, we can’t receive anything positive from them because we’ve allowed our hearts to be hardened. This leaves our hearts open to someone else.
- We meet the ‘perfect-other-person’ who flirts with us and makes us feel wanted and special.
- Communication breaks down in our marriage, and we start thinking about how good this ‘perfect-person’ made us feel. We even begin to avoid small talk with our spouse.
- Fantasizing begins- as the flirting continues, the fantasies about what it would be like with the other person intensify. We start imagining, “what if this happened or I wonder how this would feel and what it would be like to spend time with this person?” So by fantasizing about these different scenarios, we tell our hearts (which is where our emotions sit) that we are enjoying this attention. “It’s okay” to prepare for an encounter.
- An agreement is made—once the line has been crossed, what’s done, can’t be undone. We begin to search for fulfillment from this person who is meeting our needs, and a chemical called Dopamine starts to kick in.
Dopamine is the reward chemical in our brains. It releases feel-good chemicals when we are excited about someone or something. A study was done on a brain in love, and someone addicted to a drug affects found that the chemical reaction effects the same area of our brains. You literally become addicted to your affair partner. This makes ending the affair incredibly difficult but not impossible.
Once you choose hope, anything is possible…
I believe that most people go into marriage with the core value of believing they’ll have a monogamous marriage and that they won’t cheat on each other. I had the same intention with both my marriages, so I had to question myself, “what made me cross the line of my core values?”
Was it my response to life difficulties, or neglect in my marriage? I believe it was my response to the hard times my marriage was facing, and this is the area I needed to focus on healing.
If you’re feeling discouraged by betrayal or your own thoughts, there is hope for healing your marriage. It is hard work, but when two people want to fight for their marriage and are willing to do the work required to rebuild something beautiful, then the outcome is a stronger and healthier marriage.
My husband and I worked really hard to get through the recovery process, and I can tell you it was worth every struggle and setback to be where we are today.
To Read Part 2: 5 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage by Stacey Chenevert Go to — https://idoparttwo.com/5-ways-to-affair-proof-your-marriage/
To find more about healing from infidelity, go to https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com and connect with Stacey Chenevert
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*Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional. Please note, I Do Part Two and Women with Scars Affair Recover do not have an affiliate marketing relationship.
My name is Stacey Chenevert and I’m a relationship coach specializing in Affair Recovery. I’m also the founder of Women with Scars Affair Recovery. https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com Eight years ago I had an affair and it nearly destroyed my life and my marriage. So trust me when I say I know what it is like to suffer in silence, wondering if you’ll ever be able to get over the affair and save your marriage. Looking back now, I can say that the journey to recovery was hard but it was worth the fight. My marriage is fully healed and we thank God for the wisdom he gave us. Now my heart and my mission are to help other women who’ve had an affair find healing for themselves and their marriages without the fear of judgment, as they learn to live beyond the affair.