Affair and Cheating

Can an affair affect your marriage positively?

Can an extramarital affair help you save your marriage? Bonobology contributors share their views

We usually hear of affairs breaking a marriage. Unless the husband and wife are both inclined toward polyamory, extramarital relations are always a no-no. Marriages expect and accept monogamy, so infidelity is always seen as harmful, right? But love is multidimensional. At times it can even pep up your married life. This makes Saheli Mitra wonder if an affair can affect your marriage positively.

Many of those who have an extramarital affair never thought it would happen to them but suddenly find themselves in this complicated, dangerous situation.

Yes, we all unanimously agree that infidelity is a mistake. But what happens once you’ve crossed the line?

An extramarital affair – one that involves social, sexual as well as interpersonal interaction with another (and not just a sexual or emotional attachment) – gives you an opportunity to see your marriage through the lens of the extramarital relationship. The latter can actually provide motivation for the revival of the former, serve as an engine to revitalise the marriage by pushing back against the perceived stagnation.

In other words, the extramarital relationship becomes the spoon that stirs the pot. We get into an extramarital relationship because certain needs aren’t being met in our marriage – the extramarital relationship stands in contrast to the marital relationship by its nature. When we compare both the relationships, this contrast shows us what we have been missing in our marital relationship. This gives us a chance to determine what it is that we actually need in our marital relationship to feel satisfied.

Read this thought-provoking account of how the other man in her life makes this writer happy

Sawmya agrees that extramarital affairs can bring positivity in one’s married life and shares an incident where a husband cheated on his wife, who took counselling and now the spark in their marriage is back. Smriti concurs and says that she has friends who are giving their marriage a second shot post an affair. An affair might help in reviving the old flame in our marriage, but if taken too far, “it usually ends up being catastrophic to the marriage, because then we try to break the boundaries and then it is the case of moth following the flame,” warns Saurabh.

There’s another aspect to an affair, too. SaumyaTewari points out that while the affair keeps the marriage going, the ‘other’ hopes that someday the affair will turn into a relationship. “The ones in the marriage, in this case, have managed to make their lives fulfilling. But life has become unfair for the one who longs for care in the affair but ends up lonely everyday!”

For an affair to do wonders to a marriage, both partners need to take the affair positively, which is really unlikely to happen, given our egos and possessiveness.

So, an affair would fail to pep up your married life 99/100 times. “And that is some probability which I would never bet for,” says Ayushi.

“A pep up at the cost of trust? Don’t go there – it might come back to bite you,” warns Amreeta Sen. Ankur agrees that the element of doubt will always remain with the one cheated on. It’s hard to erase pain like that. “Couples may continue for whatever reason but it’s tough to even let go of it over time,” he says. “People in extramarital affairs are known to turn soft and more caring towards their partners. It could be because of the guilt, that they become considerate,” says Dr Sanjeev Trivedi, providing a different viewpoint.

Indian attitudes to sex have been changing over the ages…

A betrayal of trust may make the guilty party realise the consequences of the transgression if it gets known and also make him/her evaluate whether the affair and the breaking of trust was worth it, says Amit Shankar Saha citing Mrs Das in Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story Interpreter of Maladies. But there can be an affair where there is nothing hidden and in such cases, especially when the spouses are best of friends, the important thing is to have a sense of responsibility. Often it isn’t necessary for someone married to go to the extent of having an affair but rather someone else can provide an emotional support (it can be a member of the same gender or of the opposite gender).

Amit agrees that “it is too far-fetched to think that a single person can provide all types of fulfilment, barring exceptions. People often compromise on one’s myriad feelings and ambitions in order to stick to one partner for all sort of satisfactions. A spouse can be one’s sexual partner, an emotional partner, and may not be an intellectual partner. Or even some emotions can be shared with a spouse and yet some emotions may not be suitable to share with him/her and for that someone else may be needed and it need not be that someone need to be indulged in an affair.”

One can have love for many without having an affair and not feel guilty for denying that love to one’s spouse. Love isn’t like water in a glass that it will become less if poured out. It’s like air in the glass, it remains full even if poured out.

Published in Affair and Cheating

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