I’m happily married yet I keep having affairs and can’t stop

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I’m happily married yet I keep having affairs and can’t stop

Q. I’m happily married with three children; I have a good job, live in a nice house, have an amazing wife and love my kids dearly. Life at home with my family is good, we are happy. At work I’m stressed, I have a demanding job with a lot of responsibility. I travel (even during the pandemic), which means I’m away from home most week days. This is where it all goes wrong. I use charm and playful banter to seduce women. It’s all just a bit of fun, lots of laughter, often a few glasses of wine and then it ends up in the bedroom, mostly hotel rooms. I’m on my third affair in as many months. I don’t want a full relationship with any of them, I love my wife, love going home to her and the children, and yet I can’t seem to stop this cycle. I tried to limit myself, cut down like an alcoholic, but the compulsion to connect and have sex is a strong driver. If my wife found out she’d kick me out, end our marriage and that would destroy me. I need help.

A. You say you love your wife and that you’re happy, and yet you treat her as if she was your mother. You seem to worry more about her kicking you out then about the impact your infidelity would have on her and your children. 

In psychological terms this is called ‘mother’s nipple’. When you’re away you play around, have fun with other women like a teenager at a party, and then go home to ‘mother’ who welcomes you with unconditional love. Only a parent can give unconditional love. It seems that your relationship with your wife is predominantly based on a parent-child dynamic. 

First let’s look at why you feel compelled to chase other women. The cycle of affairs is rooted in early childhood and your relationship with your mother. It’s a search for emotional intimacy and attachment that you may not have had as a child growing up. Your mother may have been absent from your life or she may have been physically present but emotionally unavailable. This leaves you with a longing to be loved and accepted. You might compensate by working hard, striving for success or, as in your case, affairs.

Your early attachments form the foundations for your adult relationships. The longing for emotional intimacy becomes entangled in the sexual act. You think you have it in those few moments when you’re having sex with the other women, and as soon as you’re alone, you’re engulfed by loneliness. This is called the ‘genital hole’; it’s situated in your stomach area, around the belly button. It’s the absence of a secure early childhood attachment to mother or female primary caregiver. The longing can be laced with anger towards mother, which then plays out in the lack of commitment and respect towards women – you deceive your wife and use the women you seduce on your travels for sexual gratification and a false sense of emotional intimacy and no commitment.

Sex and seduction or any amount of affairs will not fix the pain of the deep longing

The first step is to acknowledge the feelings that are driving your actions. Feel the pain of the longing, the need for acceptance and approval, and stay with it. Let any emotions surface – anger, sadness, tears. 

Second step is to make a commitment to yourself, one business trip at a time, that you will not play your well-rehearsed seduction game. By all means join your colleagues for an after work drink or a meal but hang out with the guys. If you chat to women think about how you can show them respect. When temptation kicks in, remove yourself from the situation and go to your room alone. 

Just like an alcoholic, it’s full abstinence from all affairs 

You’d benefit from therapeutic support to help you work through the roller coaster of emotions that will undoubtedly surface.

If you have a question for Carla please email Carla@carladevereux.com and enter – Your Questions Answered – in the subject line.  

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Psychotherapy delves deep into the root causes of your symptoms.  Psychotherapy in Solihull, encompasses a multitude of approaches, each offering a wide range of tools that help different people.