Why are a quarter of us having affairs when no-one wants to?


One quarter (24%) of people have had an affair and cheated on a partner at some point in their lives, according to results released today.

Perhaps not surprisingly, exactly 24% of people surveyed (by Relate and Relationships Scotland in ‘The Way we Are Now’ study of 5000 people) also said they were dissatisfied with their sex lives.

It’s disturbing news and something a lot of happy couples will skip over, not wanting to spend any longer than necessary with the unwanted image of a much-loved partner having sex with someone else.

My advice would be if you want to affair-proof your relationship, don’t look away.

Do the opposite and instead face the fact that one or both of you might be tempted in the future – even if you don’t really want to be.

Contrary to popular perception, the majority of people who have an affair don’t want to have one.

Given the choice between feeling utterly sexually satisfied with a partner you love or sneaking around behind their back, feeling guilty and knowing you’re risking your marriage, kids and future happiness for a bit of argy-pargy, any sane person would choose the former.

Sure, once an affair has started there’s a pleasure rush, with all those love and sex hormones reignited by the novelty and excitement of fresh flesh.

Not so appealing, however, when you come home to find your partner ashen faced, your bags packed and your kids sobbing in their bedrooms, wondering why Daddy or Mummy are going away for a while.

Some of us (22% of men and 13% of women) might entertain the idea of having an affair ourselves on occasion – but no-one wants to be the one left home alone.


Another sobering statistic from the survey was while a whopping 94% of counsellors and sex therapists think a relationship can survive an affair, only a third of the public agree.

Two-thirds of us believe they’re the death knell.

Yet despite knowing how damaging they are, the human race has been having affairs almost as long as we have having relationships and continue to do so.

The question is – why?

Esther Perel, psychologist and world respected authority on sex and relationships, believes expecting our partners to satisfy our every need is a big part of the problem.

In the old days, we got married for economic reasons, companionship and to bring up children.

Friends, bosses, parents and other people in the community took care of other needs like entertainment, advice, or providing hobbies and interests.

Now we expect “one person to do the job of a whole village,” says Esther.

“We want our partners to also be our best friend, trusted confidante, passionate lover – and we live twice as long!”

The other problem is that we want two very different things from one relationship.

We want love and we want sex.

The ‘love side’ wants security and predictability to make us feel safe.

Our ‘sex side’ wants novelty and adventure to make us feel alive and excited.

It’s a big – some might say impossible – ask to get all of our often conflicting needs met by the same person.

Why is why we’re tempted to invite a third person into the relationship and have an affair.

The 1957 film, An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Photo via Tumblr.


Living together - what most people in love do - is also a desire killer.

We most want what we can’t and don’t have and if our partner is lying beside us every single night, their high availability puts them low on the desire scale.

If we had to step over a pile of diamonds every time we stepped outside our front door, they would cease to be precious stones.

Ironically, the very model of monogamy doesn’t help prevent affairs - in lots of senses it encourages them.

But there are ways to beat the system and remain happily monogamous and faithful.

Spend time apart.

Don’t be Tweedledum and Tweedledee and do everything together. Don’t merge, stay as two, separate individuals.


Wave your partner off to do their stuff while you go off to do yours. Absence makes us desire someone more.

This is why affairs are so powerful sexually. The person usually isn’t always available to us. We see them sparingly, not 24/7.

Watch your partner when they are at their best.

We are at our most attractive when we are doing what we love. It might be our job, playing a sport, telling a story, cooking a meal.

When we feel happiest, we’re the most confident and attractive.

Look at your partner through a stranger’s eyes.

Don’t just watch them when they’re at their best. Watch other people watching them.

This isn’t easy. Seeing a worrying attractive person checking out your partner is uncomfortable: it makes you feel insecure and suddenly threatened.

It also makes you appreciate that it’s not just you that finds them attractive, making them suddenly a lot more attractive to you.

Give up forever on the spontaneity myth.

The biggest, most harmful myth about love and sex is that you’ll suddenly just feel like sex ten years into your relationship and if you don’t, you either aren’t in love or don’t fancy your partner.

Spontaneous desire happens at the start but couples who are still enjoying great sex years in, create desire.

They work out what turns each other on and do it.

Desire might seem like it magically appears but they’re made it happen.


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