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Why do people have affairs?


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AffairAdam ate the apple and knew what it meant to yield to temptation. Affairs are a lure of the forbidden. The yearning to court danger and indulge in unacceptable pursuits is what makes up for the fantasy element.

“The act of getting away with something unacceptable increases the thrill.” says Latha Nithyanand, clinical psychologist and marriage counselor. She adds, the society has been indulgent towards men and hence they have the unofficial license to stray. However, on a psychological level, “it is running away from responsibility.’ she says.

One of the flimsiest reasons to have an affair - is an unhappy marriage. The dissatisfaction either real or perceived is cited frequently as the single most reason to look beyond the marriage. Statistics reveal that 92 to 93 percent of individuals have had an affair (including a one night stance) at some point of time in their life.

Latha validates that men are biologically not prone to monogamy. But this does not mean they can indulge. For men, sex is not emotional rather it is the act itself. Contrarily, for women sex has an aura surrounding romance. It is a series of events that culminate the act which takes precedence. The wine and flowers – the courting ritual is what augments the act. Also, culturally, women have been revered for their ‘virtue’. The spotlight is on their chastity and the stigma of being called ‘fallen woman’ acts as a deterrent.

It is always the fault of the woman. She is inadequate and so her husband strays. Remember, it is Eve’s doing that got both banished. Forget the fact that Adam could always have refused. It is the woman who has to be blamed.

Man’s affairs before marriage are an act of youth ’sowing his wild oats’. For woman to behave the same, she is called a ‘hoyden’ or ‘hussy’. A married man having an affair proves his ‘manliness’ and insatiable appetite. For a married woman it is being a virago. The standards are double.

This does not mean women don’t have affairs. For a woman to have an affair, it could be an act of getting even with an errant husband. Or it could be a traumatic marriage and she is on the rebound. With society being more permissive, it is also an act of defiance. Unrealistic expectations - ‘mind blowing orgasm’, ‘lovemaking being an earth shattering experience’ hyped in romance novels – all fuels the need to explore the elusive emotion. The fact that it is a myth and good only for imagination escapes her mind and she is trapped in a fantasy world.

A lot has been discussed about why men and women have affairs. For men, it is the ‘no strings attached’ clause that makes the affair alluring. The husband might have a satisfying marriage, but the wife comes with a baggage – meaning responsibilities while the mistress is ‘unadulterated fun.’ The lack of inhibitions with the mistress adds up to the spice. 

However, had the roles been reversed and the mistress became the wife then the dynamics would definitely change. Latha recounts an instance of man saying, “Had I married my mistress probably she would also be like my wife. It is the ‘no responsibilities – no holds barred’ factor that makes go for a fling.”

Latha emphatically states, “Promiscuity is not a license to have an affair. One needs a personal code of ethics and code of conduct that sets the humans apart from animals. The urge to mate has to be tempered and regulated to contain in a marriage and that is what being human and married is all about.”

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