This is part seven of the eight-part series on how to save your marriage after an affair.
Before reading Andrew G. Marshalls book, How Can I Ever Trust You Again?: Infidelity: From Discovery to Recovery in Seven Steps (affiliate), I wasn’t aware there were so many different types of affairs. This series has been insightful to write, and hopefully educational for you guys. This series is just so you are aware of each type of affair. If you want to know more, getting Answer G. Marshalls book would give you more in-depth knowledge. Today we are going to be talking about the “Exploratory Affair.”
- The Accidental Affair
- The Cry For Help Affair
- The Retaliatory Affair
- The Self-Medication Affair
- The Don Juan and Doña Juana Affair
- The Tripod Affair
- The Exploratory Affair
- The Exit Affair
The Exploratory Affair
Exploratory affairs are notoriously easy to spark because of how society is constantly telling us to compare ourselves, look at what is better, what you’re missing out on. These factors alone can drive someone to start thinking about if they are missing out in their own relationship.
Often, when these affairs happen, it’s in a significant life change or transition like turning 40 or pregnancy or sending your children to college. Anything that changes the dynamic or taps into fears of “what if” can be a trigger. If you are starting to question your life choices, how your life has turned out, those are things to look out for!
These affairs are hard to pinpoint in regards to the outcome because on one end, the person can have the affair and realize that they genuinely want to be with their partner and there is nothing else out there for them. On the other end, the person might find that there are better things out there, or it might reinforce their feelings about their partner lacking. Exploratory affairs are most often short-term and sexual in nature.
Exploratory affairs are most often short-term and sexual in nature. Usually the unfaithful is mostly satisfied with their primary relationship but are overwhelmed with curiosity about what sex would be like with someone other than their partner. Often times if a couple married really young, are stuck in routines, or have always had a limited sex life are at risk for an exploratory affair. The affair does not resolve anything for the unfaithful and often leads to more dissatisfaction than they began with.
How To Save Your Marriage
Given that these affairs can go either way – with the unfaithful coming back to the relationship or the unfaithful realizing things are missing – it’s hard to figure out which way it will go. If you’ve had a stable relationship, then this might not be the end, but if you’ve been in crisis for a long time, this affair could do extreme damage.
If you want to save your marriage, the faithful must step back and resist getting angry and becoming obsessed with changing things that might be impossible to change. Rather, the faithful should put effort into things that they can change- they can focus on themselves, and improve themselves. Maybe they struggle with communication or being affectionate or working too much. Those are things the faithful can work on, they can learn communication skills, reach out to their partner for a hug, or leave earlier from work if they usually stay late. Those changes can show the unfaithful that they might have misjudged the relationship and the capability of things changing.
Andrew G. Marshall talks about how these affairs don’t have to turn into Exit Affairs. They might end up turning into Self-Medication Affairs if things are not worked on, and the unfaithful finds that sexual curiosity has become a need.
I mentioned earlier in the affair series about a resource to help you get back on your feet. Affair Recovery has fantastic video logs from those who have been through it, offer EMS weekends, and have courses online to take. I personally follow Sams videos and have spoken to him and have found him to be an excellent source. He really breaks down the dynamics within affairs into “bite-size” pieces so you can truly learn from the videos and apply the skills to your healing journey.
Another source is Esther Perel, whom I mention in Recovering After An Affair. She is well known and has two books out and has a podcast (that I have fallen in love with!) that really can give you insights into the dynamics of affairs, the most common pitfalls, and the ways to reconnect to each other. There is always hope when two people decide to commit to each other and work on their relationship.