Part 7 – Attractions and Affairs
The Role of Affairs in Relationship
Hal & Sidra Stone
Affairs, aside from the pure physical and emotional pleasure that they bring, serve a wide variety of functions for people. They also affect the primary relationship in many different ways. There are times when an affair will end a relationship. One’s vulnerable child rarely forgives and never forgets. Once that child’s trust has been violated, it is rather difficult to reinstate the level of trust and the intensity of relationship that had preceded the affair.
However much we try to convince or cajole, the child will not be brought back into the relationship in the same way once it has been betrayed. It will remain wary for quite some time. There are, of course, exceptions to this as we shall see.
These exceptions are generally found in people who have developed a deeper understanding of themselves and their partners and who can begin to really nurture their own inner children in a new and very special way.
If a couple is in a classically bonded relationship, an affair may help to balance the energies and maintain the status quo, or it may help to break the bonding pattern. In the first case, the affair protects the bonding. Take, for example, Dan, who lives his life at home in the responsible father bonded to the needy child in his wife and in his children. Dan is always providing nurture, help, guidance, and money, but his needy child receives no care.
In order to balance this, Dan becomes involved with a woman who wants nothing more than to take care of him and make him happy. He carries on a lifelong relationship with this woman. This affair, then, allows Dan to remain in his bonded marriage as the responsible father, while his needy child receives his nurturing and emotional support elsewhere.
Dan might receive the same nourishment from his office administrator or nurse or secretary. Not all such affairs are overtly sexual; some are energetic bonding patterns that can be very much like marriages. Unless the other partner is quite sensitive to the meaning of such relationships, no fuss is made unless or until the affair becomes a sexual one. Our needy children must be cared for, and we will find some way for this to happen, whether we do this consciously or unconsciously.
Affairs can also act in such a way as to break bondings. Let us take John as an example. He is exactly the same type of responsible father as Dan. His affair takes another course. He becomes involved with a very sensual, free woman who awakens in him his own disowned sexuality. The integration (or taking back) of this sexuality changes him and breaks the dominance of the responsible father who has always ruled his life. This, in turn, begins to break the bonding with his wife. He returns home and makes new demands upon the marital relationship.
Since he would no longer be identified with the responsible father, he finally tells his wife that he is dissatisfied with their sex life, that he wants her to take more responsibility for decisions in the family, and that he wants her to get a job and help out with the financial burden. He has also learned about feelings and about his own vulnerability in the freer atmosphere of the affair. Knowing this enables him to talk with his wife differently and be sensitive to her feelings in a way that had been impossible from his position as the responsible father. This, in turn, allows new selves to emerge in his wife who, up until now, has been kept in a dependent daughter position.
In this example, the affair would have broken a bonding pattern, released much new energy, and resulted in a totally changed marital relationship. It would have precipitated a period of growth rather than preserved the status quo.