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Why Cheaters Tend to Have Their Affairs Close to Home

... and why those affairs might be harder to stop.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (2018), national surveys indicate that approximately 15 percent of women and 25 percent of men will have sexual intercourse outside of their marriages. Affairs that are emotional and sexual yet void of intercourse account for another 20 percent.

Yet despite these numbers, most people do not typically go out of their way to have an affair. Affairs take up time and can be both expensive and exhausting. A male client told me that he made the mistake of inviting his lover to the same general vicinity he was vacationing with his wife. Not only did this turn out to be financially expensive, but the man was also in a constant state of worry that his wife would discover the affair or that his lover would expose it. As soon as he returned from his vacation, he told me that he needed a vacation.

Nevertheless, when someone says, “I was not planning on having an affair, it just happened,” there may be some truth to this. In my clinical experience, when people are either consciously or unconsciously open to an affair, they will start one with someone who is relatively easy to engage with. That is, they allow themselves to passively fall into an affair and be open to it or put themselves in a position that would increase the odds of it happening. Why go out of your way when neighbors, colleagues, or local coaches are available?

According to Jacquin (2019), some of the top places for an affair are: work, gym, social media, and believe it or not, church. And while people on social media can connect halfway across the world, the author reminds us that most of these connections are with people from our past. Not much strain there: push a button and your equally lonely boyfriend from the 7th grade responds from Seattle, Baltimore, or Mozambique.

But what can we learn from this? First, if your partner is having an affair relatively close to home, he or she is willing to risk destroying both of your lives. I have treated far too many couples in this position, and the fallout from the community alone is enough to shame them and their families. In some cases, just going to their child’s little league game is too embarrassing to handle.

Second, there may be some ambivalence involved because your partner does not necessarily want to work too hard to have the affair. While this might be somewhat relieving to the partner who is cheated on, it can lead to a prolonged, tortuous, on-again, off-again dynamic.

Third, affairs close to home may be harder to end. This may be especially true if the offending partner sees the lover as a matter of course, like at work.

Fourth, having an affair close to home allows for the excuse that your partner simply fell into it even though he and she may have been open to one all along. If the behavior was premeditated, your partner would have to take more responsibility for the affair.

Fifth, a lover is almost never a priority to the offending partner, especially if the offender has a family. Why then go too far out of your way?

And sixth, do not offhandedly discount those closest to you as being potential suspects in an affair, especially if you are feeling suspicious. After all, affairs are like car accidents: they happen close to home.

Facebook image: antoniodiaz/Shutterstock


American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (2018, July). Infidelity. Jacquin, A. (2019, October). The most common places affairs start.

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