Extramarital affairs: what drives normal people to have them?

It's the great temptation, and it's been happening for millennia. Since mankind came up with the institution of marriage, there have been men and women breaking that pact by succumbing to the allure of infidelity. It’s been written in books, sung in songs and expressed in film, so is infidelity part of human nature? Society has emphatically stated that it is absolutely not.

In fact, humans decided that affairs are so not okay that even the Bible dedicated two whole commandments to making unfaithful acts a sin.

But let’s be honest, that was thousands of years ago before we had knowledge of psychology or science and google wasn’t even a twinkle in a developer’s eye yet. Well…nothing technological had any twinkle in anybody’s eye yet and information was as reliable as a rich guy in a motel. Humans were basically savages, and the institution of marriage was a way to establish a sense of societal structure, cultural blueprint and perhaps most importantly, economic security.

Fast forward to today and we seemingly live in an alternate dimension. We marry because we forge our security with another person on an emotional level, and meanwhile, our economic stability is no longer a matter of life or death. For newer generations, just the idea of marriage makes some people cringe. So then what? Are people avoiding marriage or is there a new paradigm out there for the rules of marriage?

We can point to the concept of open marriages, a discussion that is both taboo and fascinating to the mainstream. This 2017 article3 in the New York Times looks at the happiness possibilities with non-monogamous couples and the reasons why an extramarital affair becomes a serious possibility.

Part of this mesmerizing world of married dating is the role that technology plays by making discreet connections easier than ever with online affair sites. Apps and websites are so common for singles in dating culture that the word on safe places to stray has spread to the curious, and evidently unsatisfied, older married but looking demographic.

But first let’s take a step back by inserting the scratch record sound real quick. For those with a more traditional view of marriage, the sheer thought of free affair websites can cause intense disgust. So then the deed happens and is the cause of serious psychological damage. Yet, even people who report happy marriages still give in to the thrill of illicit marital affairs. Is there any hope to surviving an affair? Exactly what do married men want from affairs and better yet, do married women only want emotional affairs? The rabbit hole gets deep.


Affair Definition:

Surprise! There is no agreed upon definition for what counts as an affair because there are no set rules. Does it constitute intercourse? Does a kiss count? How about cyber flirting? Is watching porn a deal breaker? Is it a betrayal of emotional loyalty? The answer can potentially and usually is ‘yes’ to all of the above.

There seems to be one consistent common denominator when it comes to the act of straying. Marriage seems to often suppress a deep rooted need for self realization that a spouse cannot fulfill. The thrill of reigniting that lost quality is an overwhelming green light to have an affair.

Esther Perel is a Psychotherapist famous for her work on human relationships and the challenges of balancing security and freedom. In her Ted Talk she says4 “Death and mortality often live in the shadow of an affair, because they raise these questions. Is this it? Is there more? Am I going on for another 25 years like this? Will I ever feel that thing again?”

There it is, according to Perel, the decision to cross that line of infidelity is a heavier psychological analysis that hits into the roots of an existential crisis. To put it bluntly, an affair is a raised middle finger to death.

What do men want from extramarital affairs?

Ah, a question for the ages. The easy answer is the old spreading of the seed metaphor. Men have sexual needs that can simply become stale as the inevitable routine of marriage seeps in. Add to this, the wife’s attention potentially being streamlined towards nurturing children and the sexual possibilities become few and far between. Men are undoubtedly visual creatures and dating sites for married adults present an intoxicating escape for even the most morally sound individual.

Why do women stray:

Okay, let’s cross over to the other side of the sexes psyche, shall we? The stereotype here is that women are in search of a steamy emotional connection that the hubby can’t provide. While that’s true, we have to debunk this by flipping convention and suggesting that women have some physical needs as well. To put it in perspective, one 2010 study from the National Opinion Research Center found that the number of Women who admitted to extramarital affairs rose to 40% over the last 20 years5, and that’s just from the women who admitted it. So what causes females to stray? Perhaps they have many of the same needs and desires as their male counterparts. Hint, they most definitely do. Common causes can vary widely ... but sexless marriages are very prevalent, as is polyamory. Unconsummated marriages, better known as mariage blanc are a phenomenon that may be intolerable, and cause for infidelity.

Do men have emotional affairs?

Yep! It turns out the second most common reason men stray is because their wives are not there for them emotionally and the connection they find with another woman serves as a reminder of what connecting with somebody feels like again. Men have other needs despite what society tells us and it’s downright rude to generalize the male mind as ‘wife nag=have affair.’ Sometimes the man could be secretly gay and is finally ready to connect to other gay males online. Women can take their husbands for granted just as much as the opposite holds true, double standards be damned. Which leads to the next point…

No support system/the wrong support system:

Humans are tribal, and a bunch of dudes encouraging each other’s behavior is a powerful thing. If a married man’s social circle is made up of dating app recommendations then the odds are quite high that this is the lifestyle that dude will pursue. For men who simply have no community of male confidants, that independent voice might manifest that support system in the form of a new partner. Married men who stray are starting at a connection deficit.

The same holds true for women. The tribal mentality hits just as strongly in women, as they are the more social of the sexes. Gossip and impressions within a woman’s social circle can greatly influence her choices, especially if the group enables finding a 'steamy affaire' as validation or self-empowering. On the flip side, if a woman doesn’t have a support system that can understand her emotional needs, then seeking an affair is both a measure of desperation and an influx of adrenaline.

Wanting out/feeling trapped:

As the years of monogamy pile on, that old existential voice might pop up again. If one partner happens to feel bored, insecure or trapped with their marriage partner, then the door to infidelity and the pursuit of discreet connections may open up. In some cases where communication is better and the couple might live a more alternative lifestyle, polyamory dating might become an option.

Unhealed trauma:

Another reason is the inability to fully commit to a partner because of unresolved childhood or relationship trauma. While some men and women who exhibit unfaithful tendencies are severely shunned from their past relationships, there is a greater psychological root to their instability and a marriage might not be the best thing without such individuals seeking the proper help.


Danger Age:

A woman’s age, they never reveal it, but you can’t fool your subconscious unless you have magical delusion powers (Hint, some people might). Have you ever heard a woman say “I’ll be 29 forever?” Well there’s something to that, according to one recent study6 people are twice as likely to have an affair at the age of 39. Meanwhile, the years ending in 9 are also a beacon for a mid-life crisis and a potential affair alert.

Married too young:

Another relic of the past, the early marriage paradigm is scoffed at nowadays. It was common place in the majority of societies to be married with kids by the time age 25 rolled around. Needless to say, this left little room for a person to explore and grow into their own as an adult with sexual desires. For women, add all the gender role definitions that would trigger any good feminist and you have a recipe for a woman who is finding middle age as a gateway for revisiting lost opportunity. For men, the incentive might be a defiance of aging and reliving past glory.

Arranged marriage:

Potentially an unpopular one on the politically correct spectrum, arranged marriages were the epitome of socioeconomic security in many eastern cultures. With immigration and integration in the west, these cultures are adapting to a more organic match making style of arranging partners but it still doesn’t take away from the arrangements of yesteryear. With online dating websites set up as safe spaces for secrecy, women who are at risk finally have an outlet to escape repressed feelings of exploration. It could be as normal as an extramarital affair or as adventurous as women seeking women.

Status sleeping:

Another unpopular one. Women who are looking for a promotion or a jump in social status might find it particularly leisurely to entice her boss into an affair. If there are no children involved and the husband takes a back seat to career priorities, well…the rest speaks for itself.

Emotionally physical:

Let’s purposely examine the common ones for last. The emotionally neglected wife is the easy cliché but nevertheless deserves our attention as the most common reason why women stray. Loneliness and lack of connection and intimacy with her spouse is a powerful straying tool. Lastly, the physical component is still necessary to touch upon as women are also sexual creatures. Sexual satisfaction is still necessary to a happy marriage and any woman deserves to have her needs met, or else..well, they have options at the tips of their fingers as they download an affair dating app.

Best Places to meet for affairs:

  1. An unlikely neighborhood where the two people will create their own setting and it’s unlikely the spouses will ever frequent the chosen area.

  2. A park or nature. Seems like tall trees and secluded outdoor locations makes perfect sense for a rendezvous. You might pack a picnic and/or go grocery shopping for ingredients along the way.

  3. Hotels. Unoriginal and cliché, but does it have to be? Book one near an interesting location or use it as an excuse for a road trip.

  4. Computer screen. Also known as cyber sexting or sex skyping. The power of technology is no joke, especially if we’re talking about a new emotional connection where an adult dating site will give you all the access you need.

A tale of two sexes:

And with that, we can take out some of the misconceptions about the two genders. Yes, they are different in their motives for seeking affairs but the underlying causes are still the same, that missing piece of thrill will not go quietly into the good night. Life is short. Have an affair.


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