March 6, 2012

Relationships | An Affair Of The ....

I'm always thrilled when some of my rambling tweets are intriguing enough for you to pay attention to...and not to mention when I actually get to ramble on about something you want to know!

I know, my life away from my blog must be just riveting!

Anyway, I wrote something the other day about how half of emotional affairs evolve into sexual affairs. My facts on the subject were based on one of those relationship surveys I happened to read in one of the trashy women's magazine that tend to frustrate and amuse me so much.

My Twitter friend Paul (@PAscsupporter) wanted to know what I thought was "worse" when it came to affairs between men and women: emotional or sexual?

This particular subject is especially challenging for me, as I sincerely think there are two very distinct schools of thought on this particular subject, if not three! We have those who are involved in seeking something beyond their marriage with someone, we have the spouse who is being "cheated on" and then we will have those that believe subjects like this can't be defined in crystal clear terms.

Then there is the people who debate the issue of whether or not humans - and living creatures - are meant to be monogamous.

That's just scratching the surface. Because like so many things when it comes to relationships between men and women, this can be an exceptionally complex and confusing subject.

A number of studies on the subject have shown that men's affairs tend to be more sexual, while women's tend to be more emotional. But, as with so many things when it comes to relationships, marriage and the limits people set within them, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what might define an "affair" and not every one can be hemmed into a narrow category.

But, digging into my trusty resources for a definition before we go too far:

An emotional affair can be defined as follows:
"A relationship between a person and someone other than (their) spouse (or lover) that has an impact on the level of intimacy, emotional distance and overall dynamic balance in the marriage. The role of an affair is to create emotional distance in the marriage." In this view, neither sexual intercourse nor physical affection is necessary to impact the committed relationships of those involved in the affair. It is held that an emotional affair can injure a committed relationship more than a one night stand or other casual sexual encounters.

And, I don't think I really need to describe what a sexual affair is ... do I?

So now we know the difference between in the heart and in the panties, let's get to the nitty-gritty.

Women tend to be more emotionally invested - as a generalization - so it makes sense that women would gravitate more to something that appeals to us on a different level. Whether it's a sense of "still having it after all these years" to looking for emotional fulfillment that may no longer exist in their marriage, there are any number of reasons why women are often identified as being in emotional affairs. We need the affair to fill an emotional need, a void that exists and a feeling of being "special."

Women are more likely to become involved with someone they are attracted to beyond the physical, and want to see more than once in order to satisfy those emotional needs. We're just not as inclined to go purely for the physical gratification.

Men - again as a generalization - tend to look for the physical needs they no longer have fulfilled at home. Perhaps their wives won't do certain sexual acts, or no longer turn them on, or no longer have the passion and desire for some mattress dancing. Men seem to look for something that is more "animalistic" and hits on their need to get some action. And even though I learned from a personal friend that men do want to have their emotional needs fulfilled, the available statistics don't seem to support an argument for men primarily seeking emotional affairs.

But Paul's question was, which is worse?

If I had to pick one, I would have to say an emotional affair is worse. Some physical moments can be overcome, shared, forgiven ... even celebrated if you don't have too many sexual hang-ups in your life, but it seems that (if we follow the definition above) the elements of an emotional affair run so much deeper.

I think we can allow ourselves moments of physical pleasure without over-thinking the whole situation. It appeals to a more basic human instinct. Whether it's a drunken kiss at an Office Party or a Spring Break fling in his hotel room, these are physical moments that don't always equate to who we really are. The emotional side of the argument runs deeper within our psyche, and that is where, I think, the true crux of the matter lay: by opening your internal intimacy to another person you are "cheating" the person you vowed to love and honour IF you do so without inviting your marital partner into the whole sexual experience.

However, in all of this, I think I have found the best way to define exactly where my life is at now: a romantic friendship, which refers to both very close but non-sexual relationship and at times physical relationship between friends, often involving a degree of physical closeness beyond that which is common in modern society.

Now, shut up and kiss me ;-)
Andee     xoxo


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention here. On the whole, I think you are probably right in that the emotional affair is probably worse. It is more likely to take away from the love that made the couple get married, choose to live together, or be committed in whatever fashion they are committed. But I think men often see it a different way, one that is more biological and visceral, even territorial. We fear the sexual affair because it opens the women to conceiving another man's baby and so depriving us of our progeny, and procreative function. Nowadays, we can detect paternity with a test, but prior to this, how would a man know the son to whom he plans to bequeath his inheritance is truly his son, born of his seed? the only way is to protect the woman from being inseminated by another man. It's ok if she likes some other guy more than us but she better not let him get her pregnant.
I again would be curious to know some hard and fast statistics on this as well as some of the detailed reasoning that other men and women have. It's a very fascinating subject. And it is a good reminder that marriage/partnership takes work, and it is continuous and ongoing work, to keep it happy and thriving. Both need to give and receive and be flexible and open to change and adaptation. We change everyday.
Paul @pascsupporter.

Gemma Jones said...

There is a lot of emphasis in our culture on the physical act of cheating i.e. the sex act. I don't think there is as much about the emotional side.
There are probably a large number of women out there who have 'emotional affairs' and justify to themselves that they aren't cheating because there is no sex. Of course they are lying to themselves.
I also think that if you are a woman the emotional side of the affair is more devastating than the physical side but for a man the opposite is the case. This is a generalisation but you get the point.
Jake and I have discussed cheating of course because as part of our swinging journey we have had to deal with sexual acts with other people. To us having sex with another person is not cheating (kinda obvious that one). Having said that neither of us is free to go off and have intimate moments with whoever and whenever we like. Primary consideration still has to be given to the primary relationship.
We tend to define cheating these days as something that you wouldn't want your partner to see you doing. In other words if you are hiding something, a conversation, a sex act or your feelings about a particular person then you are cheating. Something I have been surprised about is that you can be quaking in your boots about telling your partner something and when they hear it they will say "Oh I knew that and I didn't think it was a big deal." When you have a completely honest relationship things seem so much easier.