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Infidelity – The Anatomy of an Affair

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I am currently in the process of writing the first in a series of books on infidelity entitled Broken Promises.

The pain of an affair is excruciating for everyone involved; husband, wife, kids, and the frequently demonized, other woman. I have worked with them all.  What may begin as an innocent flirtation, can turn into a powerful force which takes on a life of its own. It is my hope to bring greater understanding to couples working through the aftermath of an affair and to offer insight for anyone engaging in pre-affair activities to help them reconsider their options.

Following is an excerpt from the chapter entitled:  The Anatomy of an Affair.  In this excerpt we look at the symptoms of an addiction and compare these symptoms to those experienced by someone in the throws of an affair.

The italicized information is adapted from an article on addiction appearing on the website Medical News Today . The correlation to affairs following each addictive property is based upon my experience helping hundreds of couples recover from the painful aftermath of infidelity.

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The Anatomy of an Affair – Addictive Properties

The pain of an affair is excruciating for everyone involved; husband, wife, kids, and even the other woman. I have worked with them all. What may begin as an innocent flirtation, if not addressed and managed, can turn into a powerful tsunami which has the power to wipe out everyone in its path.  Can a person become addicted to another person? You bet.  Here are some parallels drawn between substance addiction and the addictive nature of an affair.

Substance dependence can cause powerful cravings. The addict may want to give up (quit), but finds it extremely difficult to do so without help. The signs and symptoms of substance dependence vary according to the individual, the substance they are addicted to, their family history (genetics), and personal circumstances.

Addiction: The person takes the substance and cannot stop – in many cases, at least one serious attempt was made to give up, but often unsuccessfully.

  • Affair:  In the case of an affair quite often several attempts are made to pull away from the other person prior to actually stopping the connection. Once started, an affair, like an addiction, takes on a life of its own.

Addiction: Withdrawal symptoms – when withdrawing from the substance for a period of time, the patient has physical and mood-related symptoms. There are cravings, bouts of moodiness, bad temper, poor focus, a feeling of being depressed and empty, frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment. Withdrawal can trigger violent outbursts, trembling, seizures, hallucinations, and sweats.

  • Affair: During periods when the individual is unable to connect with the person he is attached to, he can become edgy, moody, and prone to becoming upset more easily. At first an affair can be a source of relief from various life stressors. After a time the affair itself creates more stress as the two people involved try and figure out ways to connect while keeping their secret alive.

Addiction: Addiction continues despite awareness – the individual continues taking the substance regularly, even though they are aware of its hazards. 

  • Affair: Simply being aware of the potential pitfalls is often not enough to stop the behavior. Even though you know what you are doing is not right, the connection formed in the throws of an affair can become too powerful to let go of. There is a push/pull nature of an addictive substance. You may be able to pull back for a while, but then experience an even greater need which is difficult to combat.

Addiction: Taking risks – an addict may engage in risky behaviors to obtain, or while under the influence of, the substance.

  • Affair: Risk taking is inherent in an affair. People risk employment, marriages, their relationship with their kids, their reputation, even friendships can be compromised. By the time the potential impact is realized often much of the damage is done.

Addiction: Dealing with problems – an addicted person commonly feels they need their drug to deal with their problems.

  • Affair: This is especially true with a workplace affair. The workplace is fertile ground for the gestation of an affair. When we work in close proximity with someone who is there for us during extremely stressful as well as exciting times, such as the completion of a major project, it can create an intimacy which makes people more vulnerable to an affair. These connections are even more difficult to work through due to the nature of the working environment.

Addiction: Obsession – an addicted person may spend more and more time and energy focusing on ways of getting hold of their substance, and in some cases how to use it.

  • Affair: Waiting for a returned text or listening to voice mail messages over and over; obsessively checking Facebook, or emails; engaging in the newer apps such as Snap Chat; there are so many ways to check in on the whereabouts of the other party. Checking can become an obsession, as well as thinking about the next rendez-vous.

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I hope you enjoyed the excerpt and will post more from the list later in the week.  If you have any comments, feel free to contact me at:  I would love to hear from you!

Dr. Jeanne Michele is an expert in helping couples work through relationship crises like infidelity.  For more information on her upcoming book, Broken Promises please click on the link and you will be directed to the book website.



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