The Truth About Affairs

C o n n e x I o n s    C o l u m n


Based on experience in his therapy practice, Riaan Swiegelaar gives us a clear understanding of relationship dynamics in our romantic, family & professional connections. This is his regular relationship feature…


The truth about Affairs…

Affairs can be exhilarating, exciting, passionate and romantic. They can also be damaging, destructive, painful, time-wasting and demeaning. Affairs inevitably hurt someone – and frequently they hurt all the parties involved including children, if there are any. Some affairs of course end happily for the couple – let’s face it, plenty of good second marriages began as illicit romances – but the vast majority of extra-marital liaisons don’t end in a new marriage or relationship.


So, starting an affair is not a brilliant step to take – and yet people do it all the time.


Can affairs help a marriage or a relationship? Mostly, NO. People ask me this question to justify what’s happening in their lives. But in my experience an affair only helps a marriage in two situations. 1.Where one person in the marriage hates sex and is relieved that the partner gets sexual satisfaction elsewhere. So, a blind eye is turned and as long as the affair doesn’t get too emotional, the original relationship is preserved. 2.When a married person has a fling with someone but learns through the experience that he or she is still in love with the marital partner and is far better off at home. Such a person may be found out – and there’s usually a long and difficult time ahead before he or she regains a spouse’s trust.


Can affairs be harmless or a bit of fun? The early days of an affair are usually all about illicit excitement and sex. And it’s quite common for the participants to believe that they can control what’s happening and just have a harmless bit of fun. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, one of the lovers begins to want something more. Minds get involved, as well as genitals. Love develops out of sex. And people start to want more time together and to enjoy more companionship and – frequently – a future.


Will my lover leave home for me?I believe that if a married lover fails to make plans to leave home within the first three months of an affair – he or she will never leave. Whether or not this is true, it’s certainly apparent that if an affair goes on for a long time – and sometimes they go on for 20 years or more – the outcome is usually bleak. When women find themselves in long-term affairs of this kind, with a married man – they often sacrifice their friends, their family and their chance of marriage and motherhood. They also often spend important days – such as their birthdays, Christmas and New Year – alone. When they’re young, they say they do this willingly. But they can become very sad, and often bitter, in the end. The harsh truth is that even if a married lover does eventually leave his wife, or even if that wife actually dies, the man will often take up with someone new instead of marrying his long-term mistress.


But of course it’s not just married men who have affairs. In 2011, most women have jobs or careers – and they also have reliable contraception. So having an affair is much easier for them than it would have been for their mothers or grandmothers. This means that nowadays there are plenty of male lovers hanging on and hoping that their married female lovers will leave home. But the chances of a happy future are no better for them than they are for women in a similar position. In my practice, I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have had long affairs at work, but who have suddenly been dumped when they or their lover retired. This is happening to both genders and can be terribly painful.


Taking control:   So,what can you do if you’re having an affair with a married lover and you know the situation is hopeless, but you still haven’t the strength to break away? My best suggestion is that you ask yourself this question: ‘Do I want to be in this relationship more than I want to be out of it?’ Think about it before making your decision. The chances are that at this stage, you will answer ‘yes’. But something interesting will happen after you ask yourself this question. For the first time, you’ll have put yourself in control of the situation. You will be able to say that you have chosen to be in the relationship – for now. And that’s very significant. You see, often in these situations we say that we’re powerless to deal with them. We claim that everything is beyond our control. But this isn’t the case for you. You’ve asked yourself if you want to be in the relationship more than you want to be without it, and you have said ‘yes’. You’ve made a decision. You’ve taken control.


Interestingly, now you have taken responsibility for the affair, you may feel you can start to take control in other ways. Maybe you’ll stop hanging around all the time, just in case your lover happens to be around. Maybe you’ll choose to see more of your friends. Maybe you’ll start questioning whether you’re being properly appreciated in this relationship and whether or not you deserve something rather better.


Just see where your thoughts take you…


In the next issue: Bullies @ Work…


Riaan Swiegelaar is a Relationship Coach, Transformational Therapist and a Intuitive Healer. He runs a practice at the Far Hills Hotel. He can be contacted on 082 844 6588, or

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