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What to Consider when Choosing between a Marriage and a Long Term Affair

26 Jul, 2019
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What to Consider when Choosing between a Marriage and a Long Term Affair

One would have to consider many factors while making the decision of whether to choose between a long term affair and a marriage.

The statistics world-over show us that second relationships have a lower chance of succeeding than the first ones. In the Indian context, this decision is even harder as marriages in India are usually a stabilizing social structure influenced by religion, economics and family relationships. 

Few people have the luxury or the liberty to marry for love and companionship. And even fewer are able to articulate their needs within the relationship.

Why affairs?

Understanding the motivation behind an affair is important.  Some individuals have affairs because their needs are not being met within the relationship. The lack of fulfillment may be the result of the lack of courage to express one’s needs or having an unresponsive spouse. 

In these situations, one partner may find it easier to get their needs met through an affair.  In other situations, one partner could be uncomfortable with emotional intimacy and an affair provides a subconscious barrier to forging this emotional connection with one’s spouse. But there are those cases in which an individual will say that they are completely in love with their spouse and that they truly care about their spouse, but they are still having an affair.

These individuals find there is something about the clandestine affair that makes them feel ‘wanted’ or just ‘excited’. It’s a thrill that cannot be experienced in routine life. 

These affairs have less to do with the quality of the marriage and more to do with living out one’s own fantasy. It stems from a desire to explore the uncharted parts of ourselves. When one gets married one becomes bound to certain narratives and defined by the choices that one has made.

How would life have been if our choices had been different?

Morally right or wrong, affairs are one way to explore those fantasies and paths that were left unexplored. There are a few factors that one needs to keep in mind while deciding which relationship to choose. First, one has to be mindful of the heartbreak and damage caused to all involved including your spouse, children and even oneself. 

If one’s affair is being fuelled by some block within oneself or some roadblock in the marriage do assess if speaking to a professional yourself will help you work through these blocks. Assessing ones spouse’s readiness to accept and work through the blocks is also important.  

If the affair is about living out a ‘fantasy’, then remember that the ‘other’ self can only exist in the bubble of secrecy, where it is untouched by the pressures of the real world.  

Most often once this bubble is pricked by the mundane and repetitive demands of real life, it will begin to mirror the monotony and predictability of marriage. Speak to your spouse about what you can both do together to feel more ‘alive’ or ‘desirable’. In other words are there ways of actualizing the unexplored parts of your self within the marriage?

Ashika Mehta practices psychotherapy in Mumbai. She has completed her Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University along with a BA in Psychology from Vassar College. Ashika also facilitates training programs for corporates and has conducted training for YPO and ASCENT.

Ashika has done intensive post-trauma work with those affected by the 26/11 terror attacks at the Breach Candy Hospital and facilitates therapy groups for those with chronic illness.

Ashika is passionate about working towards the prevention of the sex trafficking of at-risk women and children. As a Board Member of Apne Aap Women’s Collective, Ashika helps rehabilitate women in prostitution and creates educational and job opportunities for the children of sex workers.

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