In a relationship with an agreed basis of fidelity, finding out your partner has had or is having an affair is usually its biggest challenge. It strikes at the heart of your self-confidence and trust and it can shake the foundations of the strongest relationship. Very few people can cope easily with the thought of the person they love having sex with somebody else. Above all it makes you question your own sexual adequacy, leaving you to ask, ‘Why wasn’t I enough?’

It has been estimated that there is an infidelity at some stage in around seventy percent of marriages. That makes the affair a common social covenant but one which is largely denied, and for good reason. There is a very real risk that it will tear the marriage apart. You see it all the time. But the question must be put: is society hanging onto a fragile facade of fidelity? It is more constructive to acknowledge the situation and look at it in terms of primary and secondary relationships, rather than using the term ‘affair’ at all.

Concealing a secondary relationship can be seen as a survival tactic for the primary (or what you perceive to be the most important) relationship. It is not so much a case of deception but a realistic fear of loss — of the primary partner withdrawing their love or just walking out. That’s why Rule Number One has always been … ‘Don’t get caught.’ So Rule Number Two is ‘Don’t catch anything.’ The reality is that any extracurricular (or secondary) sexual contact will increase your risk of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease to your primary partner. Without meticulous attention to safer sex practices, the risk is multiplied. Even without the health implications for your primary partner, a sure-fire way to ‘get caught’ is to ‘catch something’ and pass it on.

The reasons people have affairs are wide-ranging. Sexual boredom may be one of those reasons and some people will see an affair as the solution to discover new sexual and relationship skills. An extension of this is when one partner is not interested in sex, the other has a stronger libido and they are unable to reach a compromise. The partner with the stronger libido might not want to forfeit the primary relationship but still needs the sex. Many people also feel emotionally deprived or unsatisfied in a single longterm relationship. Some marriages are undoubtedly eroded by a secondary relationship. The painful truth is that many marriages are surviving and growing because of a secondary relationship rather than in spite of it.

If you marry young and stay with that partner you may reach a time when the curiosity to find out what sex is like with someone else becomes an irresistible temptation. The catalyst for this is usually a specific attraction to another person, rather than a deliberate effort to ‘just do it with someone else’.

If one partner is bisexual they may live in a primary relationship with someone of the same or opposite sex but, because of the dual nature of their sexuality, they may have a series of casual encounters or another relationship to satisfy this duality.


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