Anatomy of an Affair: Romantic Affairs


Romantic Affairs are intense. Of all the basic types of affairs, none is so crazy as falling in love with someone who is not your spouse. Often the romantic affair partner is someone much younger or older, someone with even bigger problems than our own, or with a lifestyle that is filled with the excitement that we feel has been missing from our lives.

“They feel life is for the taking, and that everyone deserves happiness no matter what the cost.” ― Suzanne FinnamoreSplit: A Memoir of Divorce

What Is A Romantic Affair?

A Romantic Affair is what might be called an “affair of the heart.” It is one in which a strong connection and intimacy is felt by the person having the affair.

A person involved in a Romantic Affair will often speak of having found his or her “soul mate.” The draw can be quite powerful and feels almost as if fate has brought the parties together. For those involved in such an affair, the feelings attraction and connection can cause them to forsake nearly everything they might have to be with their lover.

While there is a common assumption that men and women fall in love at different rates, or that men cheat primarily for sex while women are more likely to be looking for an emotional connection, this may not always be the case. Dr. Frank Pittman suggests that men are typically more honest about the sex than women, perhaps because men are better able to separate the issue of sex from that of emotional attachment. He believes that this is due in large part to the fact that men have their genitals on the outside rather than inside and so men seem to separate sexual response from a lasting and committed relationship more easily than do women.

Gender Differences in Romantic Affairs

In his practice, he says that he has seen many cases where men admit to the sex and deny any emotional connection to the affair partner, while women tend to talk of strong emotions and feelings of love while denying that sex took place. He believes that if a man denies the sexual context of the affair and dwells on the emotional connection above all else, he is probably lying. He finds that women, on the other hand, more easily talk of an emotional connection and the feelings induced by an affair while denying any sexual context to the entire episode.

Given the general gender differences in response to sex, many of these women may also be lying. It does, however, point to a significant difference between the sexes when it comes to the response to having an affair. The reasons men often give for an affair are related to more sex while women typically point to emotional reasons for deciding to cheat. At the same time, there is no real evidence that men and women fall in love at different rates, or that one sex cheats entirely for love while the other does so for sex.

Those caught up in a romantic affair seem quite capable of sacrificing any part of their lives to prolong or sustain the relationship. They are willing to give up their jobs, break up their families, destroy their own finances and give up almost anything that belongs to them to feed the relationship. Among the various types of affairs, romantic affairs are most likely to lead to divorce, though very few lead to lasting relationships between the affair partners. The obsessive desire to sacrifice for the cause diminishes as the chemical rush of the relationship subsides, and little is left that can be given by the time that takes place. The feelings of “I gave up everything for you” demand ever-higher levels of sacrifice in return, and with little return on investment, the feelings wane and eventually die.

The perfect romantic affair is between a victim and a rescuer. The ideal affair partner is that damsel (or dumsel) in distress, someone with even bigger problems than our own. They typically begin by helping the affair partner with some serious crisis and, as often as not, this crisis is related to the marriage of one or both of those about to have an affair. Intimacy is created that, while based on a falsehood coupled with a wildly out-of-character and even out-of-context sexual or emotional connection, leads the affair partners to the conclusion that the affair is kismet or destiny.

Combating Romantic Affairs

Romantic affairs are the hardest to break when discovered, and they often go without detection until the cheating spouse leaves the marital home. They usually come as a complete shock to the spouse being left behind and seem so out of character that many looking upon the sequence of events question the sanity to the person having such an affair. Those involved in such an affair exhibit the symptoms of narcissistic and borderline personality disorders.

Little can be done to counter this type of affair. Various attempts to shock the unfaithful spouse out of the insanity of throwing away a life that has taken years to build are met with speeches of the marriage being wrong or for the wrong reasons, and this new relationship having all the right characteristics. The new is in reality mere fantasy, based in large part on the excitement of its inappropriateness. Not many couples recover from this type of affair unless the affair is ended or nearly so by the time of discovery, or unless it is discovered and confronted in the very beginning stages.

Once a spouse commits to leaving the marriage for this new relationship, the affair is seen as the new and right relationship, and the marriage has been turned into the biggest mistake of the cheater’s life. Every reason that can be given as to why the marriage should be saved has already been resolved in the mind of the person walking away. Even if the affair itself dies quite soon after the choice to leave is made, a return to the marriage is nearly impossible and another “newer” and “better” relationship is sought instead. The old has been justified into being unviable and sent to the scrap heap as so much garbage.

Some couples do one day get back together after separation and divorce as the result of romantic affairs, but not many. However, there are some involved in such affairs who one day see the folly of what they are doing and choose to try to return to the marriage. If the marriage was generally good or long term and both spouses had a strong sense of commitment to family and vows, some are willing to end the affair. This is more likely in the very early stages of the affair, which is why it is critical in a marriage to be aware of what is going on in the life of your spouse.

Once your spouse is in love with someone else, it might seem to be too late for the marriage. Since one of the subsets of romantic affairs is the conflicted romantic affair, this is not always the case. This is the classic “torn between two lovers” scenario about which songs, movies and romance novels rely upon for their lyrics and plots. In this case, a person feels as if they are in love with two people at the same time and do not really want to give either one up. When confronted, they often respond by claiming they want a divorce to pursue the affair relationship. Few actually follow through with this idea, however. What they want is the marriage and the affair. It is usually little more than an attempt to leverage the spouse who confronted them into accepting the idea of allowing them to continue both relationships.

If a romantic affair is discovered and confronted early enough, or if the cheating spouse does not see it as a replacement for the marriage, or the affair has not been justified by turning the marriage into Hell on Earth, even romantic affairs, especially the conflicted romantic affair can result in reconciliation. Ignoring the infidelity once discovered or being so out of touch with your spouse that your first sign of trouble is when you come home to find the house empty is not very likely to result in keeping the marriage intact.

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10 Responses to Anatomy of an Affair: Romantic Affairs

  1. Atlast says:

    I call BS. If your AP was the “Love of your Life” and you were his, the two of you would be together. You would have left your spouses and found a way to ride off on a unicorn into the sunset.
    The truth is, affairs are entered by two disgusting, broken and lost individuals that are selfish and self-serving. They don’t care who they hurt, yet dread being busted by their spouses. For the life of me I will never understand how two people can be so stupid. I feel sorry for your husband and for your AP’s wife. Get some help. You need it.

  2. NGO says:

    My husband to had a romantic. affair 5 years later he moves ou to go live with her n her children. He says he’s lost and doesn’t know where to go. But I got to the point that I don’t wanta fix it. She was addicted to pain pills n he list his mother. Both lost souls looking for the fairly tale. The roller coaster was incredible. He has so much guilt it makes his narcissistic tendencies worse. Lots of list money, 2 jobs n integrity. But you all have to enventually let go. Things do happen for a reason. It opened my eyes to that I had settled with my life too. Kids always first and family. On e you stop counting pennies an hurts and remove yourself from the situation things get clearer. There is no prefect situation just a lot of very strong emotions. No one is prepared to deal with it. I found the best thing that worked for me was to think what would I do if my husband had passed away. I would grieve the loss and move on. So I had to remove myself emotionally. Take care of myself.

  3. Lou says:

    An old post but I will add my experience.

    I think this is exactly what I’ve been involved in and it really hit home to me.

    Over the course of nearly six years I’ve been enmeshed in a relationship outside my marriage, he is married too. I was very quickly and deeply pulled into a strong emotional state of belonging with him, but there were many times I felt despite his constant declarations of love, me being his soulmate, he couldn’t get me out of his head, that there in the background there was something which felt ‘ off’. I was on a constant roller coaster, very deep gut butterflies and longing to be with him, then left wondering why he’d be so obsessive, but then cool off.
    There were many red flags. I was in deep euphoria, and hopeless longing ( because of his attention and proclamations) but then I’d have the rug pulled from under my feet for a while.
    Because of this cycle, but continuous obsessive love he claimed to have, I had many times when I knew I should end it, but I just couldn’t. I was always made to feel from him that we were destined, ‘ our time would come’ and I really loved him, so I chose to stay, even feeling that I was being used like some kind of fantasy.
    I always felt that he really did love me, but as the years went on began to feel that actually he had a deep fear of just letting go. Because of the dynamics and constant persistent contact ( all containing declarations of love, longing and matches made in heaven)I was scared to death of that too. He always had excuses of course, but his actions only matched his words in the beginning, or at the times I suggested it should stop.
    I always felt apart from his wife, that there may be another person involved, he liked to subtly mention other women and incite jealousy/ suspicion.

    When it all blew up in the open, which conveniently happened after I’d suggested we ought to stop, he gave a completely different and untrue picture of me to his spouse, completely wiped/ left out that there was any emotional connection and played it down as a short lived fling. ALL being my fault which was far from the truth.
    There were many times I searched for answers for his behaviour, not least many contradictions and certainly some gaslighting and future faking.

    That it is difficult to get out of is an understatement, I have PTSD and am seeing a therapist to help me deal with and come to terms with it ending ( which I did myself before I ended up on a psychiatric ward).
    I have studied Narcissistic and Borderline boards and am 100% sure that both are what I’ve been dealing with in this person.
    I will also add, I’m not the sort of person who condones affairs, I didn’t have esteem issues, I was very confident in my life, but this was like being involved with a hypnotist.

    You are correct in that it is very very difficult to let go. If I hadn’t been the one to end it, even though it felt like I was going to die, he would have been quite happy to let things settle, then casually come back for more, and after weeks of excruciating pain, that was the final boundary I wasn’t going to let him break.

    • Ort says:

      Honestly I don’t feel sorry for you. Your description makes it sound like you see yourself as a victim in your consensual affair. The truth is, you are the abuser (of your spouse), and your affair partner is also an abuser (of his wife). So affairs are situations where two abusers get together, abusing themselves, AND simultaneously abusing their respective spouses. It’s an abusive-cluster-fu@k. And you were a willing participant. You were not abused or manipulated or hypnotized into the affair. You stayed in it because it gave you pleasure. Roller coasters are pleasurable to some people – you enjoyed the “toying” your partner played on you. If you’re doing it for self-gratification or self-benefit, hypnosis does not come into play. Don’t kid yourself.

      I was cheated on by my spouse, and it’s more painful than someone like you can ever imagine. And sadly, the article above fits my spouse’s behaviors to an exact “T”. I found out after it was too late — my spouse had decided that our marriage was “hell” and the affair was “bliss” — but soon enough the affair turned into hell and is now my spouse has neither a marriage nor an affair. My spouse is now a very lonely person with no one to love and with no one’s love.

    • Lou says:

      For the poster below ( no option was left to reply)

      Thank you for your reply which gives an honest and understandable description of how the person on the receiving end feels. I agree totally that I was a willing participant. I have not described my own marriage, but just kept to the actual theme of how it feels to be involved in a Ramantic affair, and not to evoke anyone’s pity.

      I don’t claim to be a victim either, but do try to describe how deeply one can become addicted to, and be carried away on the wings of a fantasy.

      I will say, during the time I was involved in this, I never once considered it to be a fantasy. We BOTH claimed the other to be the love of our lives. I really felt it and also believed him.

      I felt real deep love for this person, i still do, and the roller coaster was far from enjoyable, I’m certain I would not have PTSD now if it were. I did not walk away laughing.

      I also believe the description mentions ‘ for people who are involved in romantic affairs tend to have some degree of Narcissism in there somewhere’.

      Those who have read about Narcissism/ Borderline personalities will know that manipulation and a push pull dynamic, coupled with a fear of abandonment and tendency to fantasise about perfect love, all play a very big part and add to the difficulty of being able to walk away easily. The involvement goes very deep.

      I blame no one for my part other than myself, and yes I do know how it feels to have it happen to you.

      I stayed in it because he gave me intermittent hope of a future fairytale together which felt very real to me whilst describing his home life as hell with all the usual excuses of why he couldn’t leave, but kept asking me to wait for him until the time was right.

      I feel genuine sorrow for the pain I caused on my part, certainly not self pity.

      Whilst we are both now suffering the consequences of our actions, and I am in a place I deserve to be, and I wouldn’t wish these feelings on anyone, or the hurt it caused, that hurt hits everyone involved, not just two people.

      The last part of the article says, in this type of affair, when it is exposed, one partner will usually still want the marriage and the affair ( maybe both partners) In my case this was true, there was, and would never have been any closure from him. I enforced that myself.

      Merely giving my own opinion that this article is spot on.

    • Denise says:

      Lou, Thanks for your honesty and I understand the dynamics of the affair you were in .. I too have always attracted borderline personalities and I completely sympathize with the battle you face . I know it’s been a few months since you posted but I hope your recovery is better at this point .. Others can judge but until you have walked the walk you can have no say in this nor understand .i too am in love with a borderline and deep down know that it will end in only sadness in the end .. i am working on ending mine too and I’m not looking forward to the pain ahead.. The guy I love I do believe loves me but sometimes love isn’t enough ..I guess when you look back you have to just focus on what you learned from it all and that it helped you grow ! Hang in there !

    • Laura says:

      I know this is old post – but just read it.
      To say that I am stunned at the level of either (A) self-deception or (B) narcissicism of cheaters.
      In her initial post, Lou makes it extremely clear that her ‘lover’ was to blame for lying to her, leading her on for years(?), but still being so magnificent she couldn’t end the affair. At no time does she question her sanity for stayiing in this affair with a man with the stability and consistency of a hummingbird on meth.
      Nor does she seem to let it bother her that her beloved’s vascillating emotions are due to his wife? Family? She never mentions the fact that she has a husband she is cheating on in the original post. Just that she can’t live without the married man who is stringing her along.
      It baffles me how someone can cheat. If you don’t love someone enough to be faithful then respect them enough to end the relationship before bringing stray people into it.
      While neuroscience, biology, and culture have helped explain how infidelity comes easily to some men, I can’t begin to understand how a woman with a fully functioning set of morals can knowing be destroying another woman, laying waste to her children’s lives with trauma that will impact the rest of their lives. And if she is married as well – how she can cause even greater devastation to her own children and to a man who she once must have loved.
      Sorry – a woman who can cause that much heartbreak over lust and a fairy tale idea of romance doesn’t have a clue what ‘love’ really is.

  4. girlinlondon says:

    this is alaa , poor sonia and raf how could he do that and he even denys his son – i heard the tapes n it makes me sick , playing with her mind, abuseing her treating her as if she was unfaithful but it was him , she got the abuse he had the affers i feel sad for her but – she let him go when she was lied to there geting marryed they where married already n had a bby n one on the way , calling s.s on her setting her up , alaa played her and raf really badly , dam these tow sick ppl need each other there all they have that n there lies.

  5. ezeh uzoamaka says:

    it is very good to be fidelity

  6. Efunwole says:

    It’s good to be good

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