Frank Pittman (1989) clarifies some of the misconceptions about
No, not everyone has affairs; about one third to one half of us
do (although some new research suggests maybe up to 73%)
over a period of years. Women, especially younger employed
women, are having about as many affairs as men, but the
difference is that men frequently have brief affairs or one-
night-stands while women are more likely to get emotionally
involved. Only about 20% of married men are continuous,
compulsive philanderers or womanizers. Pittman's experience is
that womanizers usually get divorced (often after many years).
Faithful partners rarely get divorced.
No, having an affair doesn't always mean that love is gone.
Both men and women sometimes just want sex, not love.
Occasionally, a spouse has an affair as a warning or a "wake up
call" for his/her partner. Often an affair reflects an ego that
needs inflating. Or, a person finds him/herself in a tempting
situation or in a friendship which gets out of sexual control.
Affairs frequently mean that the wayward spouse has a
problem, not that he/she doesn't love you any more.
Nevertheless, it often inadvertently ends in divorce. Pittman
says with honest work on the marriage, couples therapy, and
with forgiveness (once), the marriage can gradually revive.
No, the "other woman/man" is not always beautiful/handsome
or sexually "hot." Pittman says the choices are mostly neurotic
or a mishandled friendship. Sex is not usually the main
purpose. No, the deceived faithful spouse did not "make me do
it." The unfaithful one makes the decision to "act out" his/her
feelings via an affair. No, it isn't best to keep your affair secret
or to pretend you don't know about your partner's affair. For
sake of the marriage, the mess of the affair and other problems
need to be dealt with. Affairs often die when exposed;
marriages often die when problems are unexposed. Only 1 in 7
new marriages resulting from an affair are successful.
No, the best approach is not to "keep it a secret." In fact, the
suppressed emotions erupt and the marital problems multiply;
thus, much honesty and work, usually in couples therapy, is
almost always needed to salvage the marriage. (An isolated,
meaningless one night stand may be another matter.) If you
are tempted to be unfaithful, read Pittman's book or one of
several others, e.g. Lawson (1989) or Linquist (1989), before
doing so, to find out what you are facing and why. It's seldom
worth it. If your spouse has been unfaithful to you, read
Golabuk (1990) or Dolesh & Lehman (1985). Pulling your
marriage back together is possible (Reibstein & Richards, 1994;
Weil, 1994; Spring, 1997--recommended), even trust,
forgiveness, and intimacy is sometimes possible.