An affair is an arrangement in which at least one of the partners is married or in a committed relationship with someone else. An affair is not a relationship, and the usual rules do not apply. In a marriage the expectation exists that partners will be together on holidays and other milestone events like birthdays and anniversaries. In an affair, one cannot reasonably expect to spend holidays with one’s paramour, as his/her responsibility is to the family first. Many people involved in affairs report feeling lonely and rejected during holidays, as they sit at home alone while their lovers are with their families. In a committed relationship where the individuals don’t live together, there is still the expectation that the partners will remain in regular contact, through visits, phone calls or emails. In an affair, there are often long periods during which no contact can be made and if one partner is married and one is not, the unmarried partner cannot initiate contact. Single people involved with a married partner often lament that their partner does not call them regularly. They usually cannot accept that they are not having a relationship but an affair. They want their lover to call them every day, and cannot accept that this is not possible. They have half a lover so to speak, but don’t want to acknowledge that everything else in the lover’s life comes before them.
In a marriage there is also the expectation that the partners will be open and honest with each other. But individuals involved in affairs often say that they feel they don’t know their lovers very well, and this claim is justified. One woman seeking counseling complained that she didn’t feel that her married lover revealed much of himself to her. She said, “His wife sees him every day, she knows how he eats, sleeps, shaves, and all I get is one hour every two or three weeks; how can I compete with that?” The fact is, she can’t. An affair is by definition a secretive dalliance, so the need for discretion is often carried over into the affair itself.
Marriages often take time to end, especially if there is a contested divorce with children involved. Affairs, on the other hand, can end quickly. An affair can be hot and heavy one day and finished the next, leaving the abandoned partner feeling angry and shocked. Contrary to popular belief, the motivation to enter an affair is not purely sexual. While sex can be one of the reasons for cheating, it is not the only one. Most of the reasons people give for having an affair are psychological or emotional, not sexual.