Digging into the inner core of the fear of having an affair ultimately reveals the fear of losing control.
We fly off the cliff of the wedding day and pray with a heavy dose of faith that the parachute opens and we land safely in the fields of the first year.
We leap knowing that many before us were caught on the craggy cliffs of romantic fantasies and unrealistic expectations about what marriage is supposed to provide.
I've addressed many of the bulleted fears above in other articles, but the fear of having an affair has received less attention.
Sure, the fear of one's partner having an affair also arises, but, interestingly, the bigger fear of the people I counsel is that he or she will have an affair. The surface layer is a cognitive distortion that many people carry that says, "If I find someone else attractive, does that mean I'll inevitably cheat on my partner?
It's astonishing, but many people simply don't understand that just because you get married that doesn't mean you cease to be a living, breathing human being that notices other living, breathing human beings.
In other words, finding someone else attractive doesn't mean you're going to have an affair!
You sent a signal of receptivity that said, "Notice me. Desire me." Again, this doesn't happen to you by some invisible, powerful force. If you decide that your marriage is an impenetrable door, you send a clear signal to the world that says, "Not available." You don't flirt.
You allow an affair to happen when you're not taking full responsibility for your actions. You don't spend unnecessary extra time in the coffee room with colleagues who clearly have the hots for you.
They have avoided falling prey to the culturally encouraged quest to plan the perfect wedding and have instead spent the months leading to their sacred day doing the proper emotional work that will lay a healthy foundation on which to begin their marriage. It's a lot more fun (in an addictive and denial-laden sort of way) to search for the exact right shade of napkins to match the exact right shade of tablecloths.
But for my clients the real work of the engagement is to examine their relationship under a microscope to make sure it's marriage-worthy, then dive in to the courageous work of attending to their own grief of letting go of being single, letting go of their primary attachment to their family of origin, grieving paths not taken and doors unopened (no more first dates, no more first kisses), and facing their fears of the unknown and the uncertainty of the enormous commitment they are about to make.
There was an opening in your heart or a hole in your marriage and instead of addressing it directly and responsibly, you put yourself in a position to be available to an affair.