Affair Help: Driven to an Affair

Sites like this exist because so many people turn to the internet for affair help, seeking advice, support and information.

There are numerous articles (easily accessible) written by the users of sites like these, or by journalists and authors, and some are written by therapists or divorce lawyers. The idea of infidelity being big business is not a new one.  Whilst many infidelity and affair help articles are published freely without other motive, others promote their research, book, or professional standing in the ‘infidelity world’. The posts Affair Help: The Business of Controversy and Affair Help: Reaction and Response touch on some of that issue. All well and good, to a point.

In the previous two days we have published articles by author and relationship expert Kate Figes, which were written to publicize her book. Ms Figes explains that:

For the past three years I have examined all of the research, interviewed hundreds of experts such as marital therapists, divorce lawyers and people working in ‘the infidelity business’ and talked to 45 men and women who have lived through the experience of an affair themselves.

Kate Figes’ articles explored a variety infidelity issues. We post these (and similar articles) to inform, provide affair help, and to build a comprehensive repository of articles and information for those that visit this site. The articles don’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of either myself, or the membership here because whilst we may not agree entirely (or even at all) with the content, we respect that people have their own views, values and ethical or moral frameworks who might get value from them.

However, there are many articles that I feel are ill-conceived, or that entirely oppose my own viewpoint. I often address those articles and ideas in commentary about the article as I publish it. Since the two articles by Kate Figes were already lengthy, I chose (instead of commenting at publication) to comment on one particular issue in this separate post.

As Ms Figes explained, she had made considerable effort to research the issue of infidelity, as part of her research for her affair help book.

She published some of the responses that she received from those she reached out to as experts, and one in particular by British psychologist and author, Brett Kahr, caught my attention:

When I started my work, I had the naive notion you’d find 99 per cent of the fault in the man who had mistresses, while the wife just cleaned and cooked or was perhaps withholding sex after the seventh baby.

But having done this work for a long time, I can say hand on heart that it is usually 50-50. When you start to unravel the story of the affair, we find that each one has had a contribution to make in hurting the other. The aggrieved women are often biting and critical, which can then drive the man into the arms of a more understanding woman. When it’s the woman who’s had an affair, there is often passivity in the man, which seems to anger and propel the wife.

I agree that each partner contributes to the tone, nature and issues within their relationship. I equally agree that each must share the responsibility for the state of their relationship (and some are good, some are bad). I can even go so far as to say, “Sure, 50/50 is a reasonable notional proportion (in terms of blame allocation).” I’ve used a similar line myself, “You own 50% of the issues in the relationship.” However, I have a Part 2 to that idea and it is, “You own 50% of the issues in the relationship, right up to the point that the cheater went outside it: The cheater is entirely to blame for their decision to have an affair.”

I take issue with the vocabulary often employed in statements and articles about affairs and infidelity; Professor Kahr’s statement here is an example of language that I feel I must challenge.

can then drive the man into the arms of

Infidelity & Affair Help: Fault & BlameWhat this (and others who use similar language) suggests is the absurd idea that the behavior of one spouse somehow COMPELS or FORCES the other into an affair.

If you are in a bad relationship, or even a normally imperfect relationship with problems (and no relationship is ‘perfect’), how does that inescapably drive or propel someone else to an affair?

I don’t feel that you love me, and that FORCED me to enter a two concurrent relationships instead of simply exiting the one I am in.”  “You didn’t give me the attention I feel I am entitled to, and that MADE me have an affair.” Asinine.

What these ‘experts’ are doing is painting a picture of the cheater as some hapless victim of their heinous partner, doomed by external forces to the certain and unavoidable catatonic response of screwing someone else.

This type of language hurts the general understanding of infidelity and affairs. I can get behind language that says that whilst the both partners share responsibility in fostering a certain climate within the relationship (contributing to its vulnerabilities), the cheater ultimately elects to cheat of their own volition, acting in response to their own internal narrative around not only their perceived maltreatment by their partner, but their perceived plight/lot in life in general.

If one partner’s imperfect behavior compels the other into an affair, does it not suggest that in EVERY relationship with imperfect behavior (i.e. all of them), at least one partner will be driven to an affair? There is clearly some fuzziness about which partner will be forced into the affair, because if there is a 50/50 contribution to hurtful behaviors that force an affair, why aren’t they both ‘driven’ to the same result?! Using the, ‘if your partner is imperfect it drives you to an affair‘ theory, it means that if you’re in a relationship, you’re cheating. That is what I call Swiss cheese.

What is further damaging are statements like these:

The aggrieved women are often biting and critical

there is often passivity in the man

I do not know which I consider more offensive, the suggestion that most faithful female partners are bitchy harpies, or that faithful male partners are somehow spineless wimps. The implication that if you have a bitchy harpy of a partner then it’s entirely justifiable to cheat, is equally objectionable. Similarly, it’s invidious to suggest that if men would simply ‘man up’ and beat their chests a bit and keep the little women in line, it would secure them in the marital bed.

What I further glean from Professor Kahr’s statement, is the inference that men cheat because they’re desperately and understandably seeking refuge from abuse, but that women cheat out of anger and vengeance. This veiled misogyny continues to to subtly inform the perception, understanding, and handling of infidelity. As one of the membership here said, this type of characterization implies that if men were more aggressive and women could just learn to be submissive and sweet, affairs wouldn’t happen at all.

The truth of the matter is that both men and women cheat because they choose to. Yes, they may be in unhappy relationships (equally, they may not be) but their infidelity is not thrust upon them by their partner. Instead it is planned, sought out, and engaged in with full cognition (setting aside the cognition issues of drunken one night stand) and selfish aforethought. They have the right to leave a relationship that they are not happy in. Cheating neither seeks to resolve issues, nor is it an inescapable outcome for an unhappy relationship.

Broad exposure to this type of thinking, illustrated in just five sentences quoted from Professor Kahr, damages the already vulnerable, and provides fodder for the cheaters who seek to heap the responsibility for their affair on the heads of their faithful partner.

We’re fighting an uphill battle.

~ Wayfarer


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw