The allure of an affair
(And the dangers of fantasising.)
How many affairs are birthed through fantasy I wonder?
For whatever reason—maybe things aren’t great in our marriage, perhaps we’re bored, or feeling lonely—we find ourselves thinking about someone else.
We imagine what life would be like with them. Or what sex would be like.
We picture everything. We dream about how wonderful it would be. We think about how perfect this other person is. We wonder about how much more fulfilled we would be with them.
Anything seems possible when we’re fantasising. And, naturally, nothing is tainted by reality or practicalities. There are no imperfections in the realm of fantasy and imagination.
Our desires don’t get interrupted by tiredness at the end of a long day at work. Or a child being sick. Or a house having to be cleaned. Or bills having to be paid.
Somehow we lose touch with the real world when we’re thinking about someone else.
How much of this allure of someone else is a form of escapism? An attempt to distract ourselves from the mundane realities of everyday life.
Maybe we don’t want to have an actual affair, but somehow just giving thought to it serves as a distraction.
No matter how great our life is, no matter how wonderful our partner is, we can all at times be drawn to look elsewhere. ‘The grass is always greener’ is a cliché precisely because it can seem so true (even though it isn’t).
The allure of an affair pulls us away from reality. The fantasy takes us into parallel universe, where everything runs on different rules. Rules that aren’t real—we merely convince ourselves they are.
The life—or sex—we imagine with someone else isn’t real. It’s not how it would actually be. It never is. What we dream of never comes true.
The idea of an affair will always be better than the real thing.
That’s what makes fantasy so powerful. And dangerous. Left unchecked, it tempts us, step by step, one crossed boundary after another, to try and bring the ideas from our parallel universe into this one. And it may even work. For a while. But it never lasts.
Reality always strikes eventually.
Our fantasy person fails—inevitably—to live up to expectations. And our marriage may be irrevocably harmed.
It’s tempting to think this could never happen to us.
“Our relationship is so strong, neither of us would do that.”
“I love my partner too much to ever cheat.”
But it is naive for any of us to think we could never have an affair.
So often, after an affair, we hear people say things like: “How could he cheat on her, she was so beautiful?” Or: “He was the perfect husband, why on earth did she go looking elsewhere?”
But believing that having a beautiful or perfect spouse automatically means you cannot be attracted to someone else is a myth.
Acknowledging that we are all susceptible to the possibility is a vital step to actually reducing the chances of one happening.
Part of the reason for me writing this is to write to myself. To remind myself.
Perhaps the greatest danger to any marriage is assuming it won’t happen to us. Because then we’re not on guard. Then we’re not vigilant.
And we must be.
Endnote: The inspiration for this post comes from the novels I’ve been reading this summer, all of which have seem to have had one or more affairs woven into their storylines. It’s tempting to keep what we read totally separate from our own lives, but it reminded me that I’d be naive to assume I could never end up in the same situation.
Image: Jenn Richardson