Infidelity is a topic we frequently discuss with clients at our Fort Worth family law firm. As a divorce attorney, I find there are generally two kinds of affairs—physical and emotional—which come in a variety of shapes and forms. Read on to learn more about the different types of affairs, why affairs happen and when they result in divorce.
Affairs are one of the most common reasons people divorce
A study published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology sheds some light on why people divorce. While infidelity isn’t the #1 reason people get divorced (lack of communication holds the top spot), affairs and divorce do go hand in hand. It’s the second biggest reason people get divorced (cited by 59.6% of individuals and at least one party in 88.8% of couples surveyed).
I was a product of a broken home myself, so I understand the toxicity that infidelity brings to a marriage and how difficult that environment can be for the victim of the affair and the couple’s kids. Once trust has been broken between a husband and wife, reconciling the marriage can be very, very difficult to do.
It’s a different relationship afterward— no matter how much counseling you go through. Again, trust has been obliterated, and the emotional toll on the victim of the affair can be devastating. There’s a reason infidelity is one of the seven deadly sins; it destroys relationships, and it destroys people. As I tell my clients who are victims of affairs, “I know this feels like the biggest betrayal of your life because it is.”
Most people who have been the victim of an affair simply can’t get over the betrayal, which is why affairs frequently result in divorce.
What are the different types of affairs?
Depending on who you ask (or what blog you read), there can be a number of types of affairs that lead to divorce. Various mental health experts and blog writers come up with an assortment of titillating headlines, like, “7 types of affairs,” or “3 types of men have affairs” or “13 types of affairs and their messages” and so on.
We can all come up with some creative descriptions and headlines about different kinds of affairs. However, even though every affair is somewhat unique to the individuals involved, our firm’s Fort Worth family law lawyers generally see two main types of affairs in our practice: physical and emotional.
Types of physical affairs
The first, and most obvious—the physical affair—is where one party has an intimate sexual encounter or relationship with another party outside of marriage. Many people try to rationalize their behavior, believing that physical intimacy without intercourse doesn’t constitute an affair. Sorry folks, but if you’ve been intimate with someone other than your spouse in any way, you’ve had an affair, and you’ve betrayed your spouse.
Different physical types of affairs range from one-night stands to revenge affairs to long-lasting affairs that go on for years. Cyber affairs are another physical type of affair. While cyber affairs may occur entirely anonymously via webcam, video texts, emails, chat rooms, etc., the cheater is still having a sexual encounter with someone other than their spouse.
Other people have affairs outside of marriage due to a sex addiction. While sex addiction isn’t an excuse to cheat, mental health professionals do consider it to be a serious form of addiction, on the same level as a drug or alcohol addiction. Sex addicts (like other addicts) usually need intense therapy to overcome their addiction, along with the support of an understanding spouse.
Types of emotional affairs
Emotional affairs can also destroy marriages and lead to divorce. While no physical or sexual intimacy may be involved in emotional affairs (at least initially), the cheater is still sharing a level of intimacy with someone other than their spouse. Unlike a close friendship, people involved in emotional affairs often feel sexual tension and/or romantic interest toward the party they are having an emotional affair with.
For example, some emotional affairs start out innocently enough in the workplace, where two parties start out as co-workers and end up spending a lot of time together. Eventually, the co-workers find they have a lot in common and look forward to being in each other’s company. Over time, the relationship evolves to a point where the sexual tension and dreams of romance arise.
When someone spends more time thinking about and sharing intimate moments with a person other than their spouse, those are classic signs of an emotional affair in the making. If the married party feels sexually attracted to their co-worker (or friend), would rather spend time with that person than their spouse and keeps information about that relationship secret from their spouse, those actions seal the deal.
Why affairs happen and the types of people who have affairs
A blog about affairs written by a divorce attorney wouldn’t be complete without discussing why affairs happen in the first place. For one, some people just shouldn’t get married. They don’t believe in the sanctity of marriage and never planned on being faithful in the first place. Generally speaking, there’s no spirituality in that person’s being, so they have no fear of a higher being or any repercussions from a faith perspective.
The other type of people who have affairs are the people you would never expect to cheat. They typically never envisioned themselves cheating either and feel guilty about being unfaithful. These affair scenarios usually start with a lack of communication between spouses (the number one reason people get a divorce), as well as a mis-ranking of priorities in the marriage.
Frequently, affairs happen because a husband or wife places too much of a priority on something else (children, career, a business, addiction, etc.) and not focusing enough energy on the marriage. The spouse who feels neglected starts getting attention from someone outside the marriage. What starts as a friendship evolves into an affair—be it physical, emotional or both.
Oftentimes, the people you’d never expect to have an affair start rationalizing their decision to cheat—as guilty as they may feel about being unfaithful. That business trip they wouldn’t have taken in the past, now they take it, because they know the co-worker they’re attracted to will be going, too.
Eventually, the victim of the affair will get a sense their spouse is pulling away, realize that communication is clearly strained, and acknowledge there is a lack of intimacy in the marriage. These are all the key signs that a marriage is in trouble and reasons that spouses stray.
What should you do if your marriage is in trouble?
Marriage is hard work. Period. Once a marriage gets to the breaking point, and a spouse goes outside the marriage for emotional or sexual intimacy, it’s very difficult to right the marital ship. If you still love your spouse and want to stay married, get counseling before it’s too late.
On the other hand, if you married someone who never should have been married in the first place, or you can’t get past your spouse’s infidelity, contact a divorce attorney near you to weigh your options.
Our divorce lawyers Fort Worth TX are here to help. To schedule a confidential case review with our founder attorney Justin Sisemore, please call our law office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.