There’s no mistaking that once an affair has begun its extremely hard to stop. But why? You might wonder. After all, you have self-control, right? So can’t you reason your way out of an affair? Why can’t you just cut it off? Here are the main reasons that ending an affair is so difficult:
Affairs Are Addictive
Having an affair lights up the same areas of your brain as a drug. The dopamine hit has the same effect, and it’s hard to quit. There’s a high that comes inadvertently from the secrecy. There’s a rush that comes from the positive feedback that comes from your lover. The words of affirmation. The physical connection. The reward areas of the brain light up when that text comes through or you’re meeting up.
You’re Getting Wants and Needs Met
When you’re getting needs met outside of your marriage it feels like the best of both worlds. And if you’re single in an affair, you’re getting basic relationship needs met that may keep you hooked. Physical intimacy, someone who affirms you, who needs you, who looks at you with loving eyes. Someone who desires you, who thinks you’re great, who finds you interesting, who provides you with fun or a welcome escape. It can be really hard to walk away from all the positive reinforcement that’s provided from the unique connection of an affair.
Infidelity creates a dynamic that’s extra alluring. There’s a love-nest environment between just the two of you, and gosh that’s near impossible to quit. A client of mine down in New York City was stuck in the affair cycle with a colleague going on three years. He couldn’t believe it. “How has this been going on for yet another year?” He’d say, astounded at himself, “I just can’t stop coming back when it’s excitement, lust, and such a closeness…. It’s everything I don’t have at home.”
The Promises Keep You Hooked
Those promises can keep you hanging on. It’s hard to walk away when what you’re holding onto is HOPE. That your affair partner will leave their spouse. That it will happen when the last kid leaves for college in the fall. Or you’ll just finally run off together some day, like you’ve dreamed of.
After one of my client‘s 8-year long affair was discovered, she sat in my office with her head in her hands mourning the loss of her secret love, “I guess we both just assumed one day both our spouses would die and we’d be together. I don’t know what we thought would happen. We were each other‘s happiness though, and we couldn’t stop.” Her affair partner‘s marriage ended. She decided to recommit to her marriage since her spouse hadn’t found out. But the promise of a future with her affair partner had to first be grieved.
Another one of my clients has wished to quit her affair since the very beginning. But the hooks that keep her going back are constant (much like a drug); and she continually is promised by her AP that he’s leaving his spouse. She is distressed, but the hope of it “coming soon” is enough to keep her hanging on.
If you’re troubled by a cycle of infidelity that’s hard to break, you’re not alone. Affairs are notoriously so very difficult to end. Even if one party decides to cut off contact, the other may reach out, and it starts all over again. There are two people involved in a highly-addictive, highly alluring dynamic founded in the pull of the forbidden fruit. After all, as humans we always want what it is we can’t have. We want to escape, we want to see and find new parts of ourselves; we want to feel alive.
Feeling alive, feeling seen, feeling appreciated, cherished, wanted, and thought about are powerful forces for us. These are all integral aspects of an affair. If you’re having trouble managing an affair, or wondering how to handle it, don’t hesitate to reach out! Professional counseling can help.
Lauren provides boots-on-the-ground lived experience combined with invaluable professional expertise working with infidelity. She is committed to helping individuals and couples deal with and heal from marital affairs in a highly effective, yet warm and judgment-free style.
Lauren's articles help share much-needed information, and reduce the stigma and shame around the common experience of infidelity. Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about working together.
Lauren, Affair Specialist