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The Psychology of Sexual Affairs

Sexual relations outside of marriage seem to have been part of the human experience from the beginning of time. Different cultures, religions, and ethnic groups have referred to it, and conceptualized it in different ways. Furthermore, society views sexual relations outside of marriage differently depending on whether it is a man or a woman who engages in it. In most societies it is accepted that men act out their sexual urges more readily than women do and therefore there is less shame connected to desiring sex outside of marriage for men than there is for women. People have sexual affairs outside of their committed relationships primarily to satisfy unmet desires which are different for men and women

A good romantic relationship is very challenging to maintain. There are various needs that must be understood by both parties such as one’s personal and biological requirements as well as those of the couple as a unit. Obviously, the more needs/desires are met within the boundaries of the relationship, the less the necessity to go outside of the relationship. If the basic necessities of the relationship and the individuals in it are not properly addressed, human nature takes over and each party will go about satisfying their desires through various means; one of which is to connect with someone else emotionally and/or sexually.

Couple’s requirements: Once two people connect romantically and create a union, a new entity is born. This new entity represents many dimensions of each partner as well as the new characteristics that are unique to the particular couple. The couple, then, has its own identity and requirements which have to be acknowledged and nurtured.

Personal/biological needs: These inclinations are fueled by the inner world of the person. These are the psychological, biological, and individual factors that make up the uniqueness of each partner. Just as men and women are different biologically, so are their inner make up. Each sex perceives, processes, and expresses his/her world in their own unique way. What makes a male feel like a man and a female a woman is the product of biology, culture, and societal norms.

Males are generally polygamous in nature and have to exercise restraint in order to stay sexually with one partner. Anthropological and social studies confirm that this has been and remains the nature of males. What has happened to keep that nature in check is partly due to the influence of religion in the last 5000 years. Religious teachings, especially Judeo-Christianity, have told men that polygamy is not good for the family and society at large. Societal norms have been against it; so a boy learns that once he grows up and makes a commitment, he needs to express his sexual needs within the committed relationship. In the Western world most men in serious relationships have learned just that (to keep their sexual expression within the committed relationship).

Women are generally monogamous by nature and are pulled to attend the ‘nest’ and raise the children. Today’s women try to do it all, raising a family and managing a career and often don’t feel appreciated. Women are naturally inclined to feel fulfilled when they are attended to and cherished by their partners. Women who attempt sexual affairs are often the one’s who feel neglected and/or taken for granted. Generally when women feel good about their place with their husbands, they will not have sexual affairs even if their sexual relations with their husbands are not satisfactory. By the time a woman has chosen to have an affair, her relationship has already suffered a great deal and will take a lot of work to heal it.

Men on the other hand have sexual affairs more often than women and for different reasons. Research has shown that about 25% of married couples experience sexual affairs. A man may have an affair even though he considers himself happy. An affair for a married man could be due to several reasons; among them, not being admired, looked up to and/or respected by his wife, not being able to express his sexual fantasies with his wife, having an interested woman available, needing to feel more masculine, and being bored with his married life.

A man’s motivation to have an affair generally differs from a woman’s. In general, due to their more polygamous nature and societal acceptance,. men are quicker to embark on a sexual experience outside of the relationship than women, and to that extent, men can bounce back to the marriage quicker, and they are also more willing to heal their original relationship after an affair.

In my practice, I have worked with a lot of couples over the last 22 years and found that there are some common themes when it comes to extra marital affairs. A women views the affair of her husband as betrayal of trust and a rejection of her femininity, and feels deeply dismayed. Women tend to go into a depression, internalizing the problem. Men generally externalize their feelings of hurt and rejection by resorting to some expression of anger toward their partners.

Awareness of the needs of the self and partner, (sexual and otherwise) and honoring them will reduce the desire to look elsewhere to get them met. It is also helpful for women to view sex as a way to share love, excitement, and adventure in life and not as a duty. men will do better if they let their partners in on their desires and fantasies as well as to have a deeper understanding of female sexuality.

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