Why do people have affairs?

Is a marital affair a sign of sex addiction? We review why people have affairs and make the distinction here.

minute read

People have extramarital affairs across the world for a few simple reasons. But is your spouse a sex addict because s/he has had an affair? Does having an affair mean that you are addicted to sex?

Why people have affairs

Although marriage is common throughout the world, so is infidelity. Extramarital affairs and sexual relationships outside a marriage can hugely disrupt family harmony and can result in divorce. In fact, modern marriages are influenced and under pressure from modern lifestyle morals, which challenge and test the commitment made between man and wife. So with such high stakes, why do people have affairs at all?

As complex as our modern lives have become, there are a few simple reasons why people have affairs and break the promise of fidelity with their partner. These include:

1. The marriage is not a priority

2. Communication problems

3. Lack of clear boundaries in relationships

4. Opportunities at work or on the internet

Is infidelity a sign of sex addiction?

Yes and no.

Infidelity can be a sign of sex addiction, but just because a partner has cheated does not make her/him a sex addict. Let’s explain it like this. The main feature of sex addicts is the inability to be intimate during sexual acts, followed by the compulsive use of sex to avoid feelings or responsibilities. Sex addiction is, in fact, an “acting out” behavior, much like drug addiction, during which sex becomes the drug and closeness becomes impossible. At the heart of this dysfunction is fear, pain and/or anger over past events.

Likewise, if you are constantly cheating on your wife or husband or if you are avoiding emotional attachment…you may be a sex addict. Having multiple sex partners or having frequent phone sex or masturbating more than 5 times daily: all of these are sex addiction signs.

But not all people who have affairs are sex addicts. There are those who seek comfort and intimacy outside of marriage because the marriage lacks these qualities. Or there are people who cheat and have an affair because they do not know how to discuss important issues with their spouse, and are tempted by others.

Sex addicts are in pain

If you are the victim of lies and adultery, it may be difficult to accept your spouse’s actions. And you can certainly seek help from a third party to try to sort things out. But if your spouse is a sex addict, s/he is fundamentally in pain and needs help from a mental health professional. All the promises in the world will not help a sex addict stop the compulsive THINKING and OBSESSION with sex. Instead, the deeper issues about why and what compels the behavior must be addressed. And then you need to set boundaries and identify which acts are “sexually acting out” and which are healthy.

For more reading on the line between healthy sex and compulsive sex, check out Is my husband a sex addict?  and Masturbating all the time.

Reference sources: How to avoid an affair, BYU
University of Missouri Tips on Avoiding Extramarital Affairs
Why do men marry and why do they stray?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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