It seems to be happening all the time—so often that it makes you question whether marriage means anything anymore. We are being flooded with stories of quite prominent, well respected, and successful older men having affairs with younger women. The list has included politicians, ministers, priests, and businessmen to name a few. Their disclosures are shocking. They leave us asking the question, “why would such men risk everything—their marriages, reputations, careers, money, and status to have an extra marital affair with a younger woman? What could they have been thinking?
Based upon our experience as marriage counselors, we’ll attempt to answer that question by sharing what we’ve seen as a typical progression of steps leading to the extra marital affair. Many of these steps, to some degree or another, have been rather common among those who have gotten caught up in an affair.
First of all, most of these affairs didn’t start out that way.
Many of the women involved worked with these men–usually as some kind of assistant. Quite often, the young woman at work has spent as much time, if not more, with the husband than the wife. Her job has been to be there to assist and support her boss. And because she is aware of the burdens he’s carrying in his career, she knows perhaps better than anyone the stress he’s carrying. She has cared about the strain he’s faced, has been attentive and concerned about him, has offered to be someone he could talk to, and has been genuinely interested because she has wanted to help. This desire to help has tapped into her maternal instinct as a nurturer and care giver. The two of them may, at times, left the office to talk over lunch or dinner in planning and/or devising strategies to deal with some work related issue.
In time, these conversations have often evolved into discussions about personal issues beyond work. Her intent may have been to be a supportive employee and friend; however, one or both may begin to sense a deeper connection. They may begin to feel a certain degree of empathy for each other and a desire to be of even greater help and support. They may look for ways to spend time together because it’s a pleasurable escape from the demands and pressures at work. Before either of them realizes it, they have become deeply involved emotionally which may also lead to an intense sexual relationship.
We want to be quite clear that we’re not condoning or excusing the behavior of either party in the extra marital affair. That will become even clearer as you continue to read the remaining articles in this series. In addition to the man, the series will also include articles focusing on the wife who’s been cheated on as well as “the other woman.” And because we have so much more to share in helping couples deal with this devastating issue, we invite and urge you to read the entire series.