Love versus lust in extramarital affairs

For those who find themselves swept up in the high seas of an extramarital physical affair, it’s easy to think that you’ve fallen in love; however, before you make that life-changing assumption, ask yourself a few of the following questions about your forbidden paramour. The more you answer “No”, the more likely it is you’ve merely fallen into the fun, flashy trappings of lust.

* Do you regularly spend extended periods of time with this person, and have you done so for at least one year?

* Do you perform routine or mundane domestic duties with this person (ie. yardwork, shopping, home repairs, financial planning, co-parenting, getting insurance quotes, etc.)?

* Do you have the same circle of friends?

* Do you have biological children together?

* Have you made large purchases together and do you own shared property?

* Do you know and interact with this person’s parents, siblings, extended family and close friends?

* Do you spend holidays together?

* If you suddenly became bankrupt, would this person support you financially?

* Has this person seen you at your very worst (ie. sick, anxious, angry, grief-stricken, etc.) and supported you through a number of such episodes?

* Do you have a shared history that includes a range of diverse experiences (ie. travel, accomplishments, funerals, weddings, business ventures, etc.)?

* If you could not have sex with this person, would you still put as much effort into seeing her or him?

* Would you be proud to introduce this person to your children, parents, family and friends?

* If you became incapacitated, would you give this person Power of Attorney over your assets, minor children and personal health decisions?

The above questions may sound pedantic – that’s the point. Love puts down roots and that takes time. Lust is a faster ride. It’s like a roller coaster. The sudden loops give you butterflies but, without love to keep you on the rails, the ride always ends abruptly. And usually with nothing to show for it but a queasy stomach.

I understand why affairs start. People want to feel excited and sexually desired. They want to feel appreciated, adored and intimately connected to another person. They want to feel that they matter to someone and that someone understands them. Married people expect to receive those feelings from a spouse – that’s why they get married in the first place.

Unfortunately, those feelings of appreciation, adoration, understanding and intimacy can fade in a marriage as time marches on. Bills, work, housework, kids, in-laws, changing priorities, negativity and the passion-slaying effects of familiarity can drive a wedge between a formerly loving, lustful couple.

With commitment and some effort, however, these kinds of feelings can be revived and can reconnect two people who have drifted apart. But here’s the kicker: If you’re spending all your energy and affection on an extramarital girlfriend or boyfriend, you have nothing left to spend on your spouse. When you think of it like that, it really isn’t fair, is it?

Instead of squandering something as fun as lust on a virtual stranger, focus on how you can start to feel both lust and love toward – and from – your spouse. Both of you are entitled to those feelings, and they are an essential part of a happy, healthy marriage. If you need professional help to bring those feelings back into your relationship, get it now. The longer you wait, the harder it will be – especially if trust has been broken and you’re struggling to re-build it. Skills-based relationship help, like the kind I provide in my office, is a practical and non-judgmental option.

It is possible to have a lustful, loving marriage, even after infidelity. You can have your cake and eat it, too. Just keep in mind that wedding cake tastes a lot sweeter than divorce cake.

Debra Macleod is a couples’ conflict resolution specialist and a leading relationship expert in Canada the USA. Her private practice is in Red Deer, AB. Visit her website at

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