Extramarital affairs are relationships outside of the marriage where a furtive romantic or sexual relationship occurs.

Affairs have always been pretty common.  Sometimes both parties know the affair is taking place but, when one person is in the dark about it, the person actually having and hiding the affair requires a high degree of lying skills or unkind gaslighting.

There’s always a reason for beginning an affair, and it relates to some issue in your existing relationship.  A friend of mine once told me that an affair is really the consequence and not the cause of something not working properly in the relationship.

You don’t just wake up one day and «find» yourself having an affair.  It is a personal choice which is often beautifully justified.

If they are not fortuitous or serendipitous, why do affairs happen so frequently?  Isn’t it easier to take a look at what’s missing or unfulfilling in a relationship, why that is, and whether it is possible to do something about it?

In my post The Alpha Male, I talked about machismo, and how it is a predominant trait in Latin men, especially in the Colombian Caribbean coast (where I am from).  Most Latin men are raised to be alpha males – dominant and very controlling of women.  Latin women glorify masculine pride and condone many aspects of macho behavior.

I talked to a good friend of mine because I was very interested to hear an honest, male, and Colombian perspective on the topics of both machismo and infidelity.  I was surprised to hear what he had to say because his logic, as I see it, makes total sense.

Here’s the dealio:  A woman will only cheat if she feels neglected and stops being the center of the relationship.  Men, on the contrary, can feel loved and be the center of the relationship, but cheating is part of their DNA and a cultural thing – men feel empowered by society to cheat.

My favorite part was his closing remark:  A woman in a «good» marriage – and this has nothing to do with a comfortable financial situation or high societal status, it has to do with the «quality» of the husband – will not cheat.  A man will always feel that he is in a «bad» marriage so that he can cheat.

Research shows that both men and women are equally unfaithful, but women are better at hiding an affair.

In Colombia, however, if you are a woman having an affair, you are stigmatized and the talk of the town, whereas a man having an affair is considered a predictable and ordinary fact of our culture.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I watched Dr. Foster, a BBC series about a female doctor who suspects that her husband is having an affair.

The interesting part is that when she confronts her husband about being unfaithful, and after completely denying it more than once, his excuse is that he finds himself to be both in love with her and his mistress, which can be the case in many extramarital relationships.

You can give an affair the flavor you’d like – «It’s just lust» affair, «I’ll show you» affair, «Platonic» affair, «All in the family» affair, «Cyber» affair,  «Mind-body» affair…

This last one (the «mind-body» affair) is probably the most dangerous of all because it can be very powerful and the two people in it feel complete – emotionally, intellectually and sexually.  This is probably the type of affair that can lead to divorce and remarriage, and the type that Dr. Foster’s husband was having.

Whatever the type of affair, it is important to keep in mind that it is impossible to isolate an extramarital relationship from your day to day life – it is important to think of the significant consequences it can have on your immediate family, children (if any), and the harm it can cause to the person not having the affair.

Arguably, some affairs can be psychologically healthy.  An affair can help you get out of a destructive, toxic or numb relationship.  The positive feelings of confidence and restored sparkle generated by an affair can activate the grit to leave a marriage when doing so is the healthiest decision for the couple.

Also, an affair can help you revive the relationship with your partner. An affair can motivate you to tackle what you really want from your partner and inspire you to work on the relationship.

As I mentioned in my last entry Blissfully Attached, we live in a continuously evolving world, with an increasing variety of ways people perceive and define healthy, organic and desirable intimate relationships.  Affairs are almost mainstream today, and no longer appalling to most people.

Then the question is, will future generations give marriage the priority my parent’s generation or even my generation give to it?

A high percentage of millennials, for instance, think society is better off having priorities other than marriage, and are into more modern and open relationships – cheating allowed.

I don’t want to judge or try to see this through a biased religious moral lens. From my experience in relationships and marriage, it is pretty clear to me by now that relationships are a very complicated topic.

I don’t mean to justify extramarital relationships, but taking into consideration that they can be psychologically «healthy», perhaps an affair is what the doctor ordered in terms of escaping a toxic relationship reality for a bit, or the opportunity of liberation from a controlling and dominant relationship.

I have never been unfaithful, and I don’t think any of my partners have either, but I’ve certainly witnessed a lot of cheating during my life, and the suffering and distress that comes with it.

It is easy for me to talk about this subject as a happily single spectator from the sidelines and, truth to be told, I wouldn’t want to deal with an unfaithful partner right now.

What is the right answer for people going through relationship drama and actually having to learn that their partner is having an affair?

Even when trying to see this through a very modern lens, is it reasonable to conclude that affairs could be the means to a happy ending in a relationship?