Most affairs fall in a few categories: accidental affairs (these are the drunk affairs, "it just happened", or other careless acts of emotions), emotional affairs (these are the "I've fallen out of love with my partner" affairs or the "I need to feel loved/needed" affairs), and sex is power affairs (these are the "I will do it because I can still do it" affairs or revenge affairs). Something that all of these affairs have in common is that they cross a very significant boundary. It is the boundary between you and your partner and everyone else. Last week's blog was about setting healthy boundaries between us and our partner. Today I want to emphasize the importance of setting boundaries between our relationship and other people/relationships. This boundary allows us to know where our relationship lies in relation to others so we do not allow people to cross that line or so we do not cross it ourselves.
For example: Jane and John, and Bobby and Brea are two couples who are good friends. They all enjoy hiking together and do this every weekend. On one occasion Jane and Bobby were unable to go hiking so John and Brea went together. As Jane and Bobby became caught up in other things and attended less, John and Brea grew closer as they continued hiking together without their spouses. John and Brea began to share with each other about their spousal problems and eventually shared more than that. They accidentally have an affair that breaks up their friendship.
So could this have been prevented and where did they muddy their boundaries? The truth is we are all susceptible to cheating on our partners. No one is perfect and many times we build connections with people outside our relationship that can lead to something more. That is why being alert to our boundaries is so important. In the example above, what started as a "group" activity slowly turned into a twosome. If John and Brea had kept the boundary around the hiking as a "group" activity, meaning that they only do this if everyone could still go, then the affair would less likely have happened. Now you may think, John and Brea were probably attracted to each other long ago and this affair was meant to happen eventually etc. etc. Although you have a point, the fact of being attracted to someone does not mean you are "meant" to have an affair with them. The affair given above was entirely preventable in many ways, just like most affairs, because when boundaries are crossed then it's hard to see how far we have strayed from our relationship. Meaning that we are more likely to cross the line between friendship and lover and between commitment and infidelity.
What to do now? Maintain the boundaries between your relationship and other people by keeping some "relationship" things private, discuss issues about your partner with your partner first, make the time you spend with others about fostering those relationships rather than griping about your partner, and if you ever question whether you are crossing a boundary, just ask yourself if you would be okay if your partner were doing the exact same thing.