The many shades of an affair: Different types of affairs

It’s an unfortunate reality that people cheat on their partners, whether they are married, dating, or somewhere in-between. It can be caused by an unexpected fling, a mid-life crisis, or the result of actively looking online for casual dating affairs sites

However, cheating isn’t as simple as a one night stand. In reality, there is more than one kind of affair that someone can have. Sometimes your partner may not even realize it until they are well into the relationship, and other times it’s as plain as day. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the more common types of affairs, as well as what they are, how you can recognize the start of cheating in a relationship, and what you can do if you or your partner has had an affair. 

Common types of affairs 

For many, the term affair may simply mean “sex with someone other than your significant other”. In truth, there are many different kinds of adulterous actions that can happen which impact the primary relationship that you have. 

Before we examine the root causes for many of these indiscretions, we’ll examine the common types of affairs that occur, how they may start, and what is involved.   

The Emotional Affair

Simply put, an emotional affair is when someone has a strong emotional connection with someone other than their partner. That means that they use this other person as a support in their life while withdrawing or distancing themselves from their significant other. 

Although emotional intimacy is a defining portion of this type of affair, it can still also be a platonic relationship without sex. This can often happen when a good friend begins to bond closer than you may like with your partner, or when they open up to someone other than you. 

Of all the affairs out there, this is one of the few that has the highest probability to actually work out, as it’s based on something more than just sex. Sex is something that can always come about later, and an emotional bond is already a good foundation for a relationship. 

The Romantic Affair

These are your standard love affairs, where your partner may be living a double life with someone you aren’t aware of: either a co-worker or someone they met through happenstance. This is the next stage of an emotional affair, involving sex and bonding.

You may notice your partner spending more time away from you and home, idly on their phone more often, or just generally distancing themselves from you. This is the kind of affair where your status as a primary partner is no longer a stable thing, and divorce may be close.

vector art of two co-workers holding hands

One Night Stand

This is a classic affair, and one many married people experience when they have troubles. It’s as simple as it sounds: one of you ends up sleeping with someone else, either going out intentionally to have sex with someone or giving into spontaneous impulse. 

It’s like either you are a sex addict, and just needed to get your rocks off. It’s also not an indicator that you or your partner love this other person. For many, it can be understood as a mistake and one that a relationship can recover from if it opens eyes to problems. 

Revenge Affairs

This is often a response to one cheating partner’s action, where the other spouse will then go out and have a physical affair with someone else. In either case it isn’t necessarily romantic or emotional, and this isn’t about actually wanting an affair. 

It’s really about sending a message to their partner that they’re upset and want them to feel the same things they felt. It should also be noted that this isn’t always done as a response to the other partner having sex with someone, but may be something else. 

In any case, if the two of you are lashing out at one another trying to hurt them by sleeping with other people, it’s a pretty clear sign that there are issues in your relationship that need addressing. You both might be better off cooling down, getting counseling, or divorcing. 

Virtual or Cyber Affair

Sometimes a partner may be having an affair without ever meeting the partner face-to-face in real life. Many online dating services facilitate chats and messaging options for people who just want to enjoy virtual sex with one another. 

Sometimes this can be with web-cams, other times it can just be dirty text messages and talk to one another. They may never even see each others’ faces, or they may send each other pictures. 

There can be a lot of overlap with this particular type of affair and others, including emotional affairs and one-night stands. It may also be meaningless fun that was never intended to be more than a release, or it can be the first step toward something more. 

In any case, this is a point where if it is caught and addressed, there is still a good chance your relationship can recover. 

The Arrangement 

Some couples are comfortable enough with one another to acknowledge that their own relationship is a primary relationship, and they are allowed to each do their own thing with others. The arrangement is when both are aware of the affair and are okay with it. 

There are many commonalities between this kind of sex life that couples have and a poly relationship, although you can’t quite say they are the same thing. This is unique in that it may not actually be another relationship with multiple partners. 

When and how does cheating start?

Cheating in a relationship can really start at any point, depending on the circumstances behind it that drive one partner to have an affair with someone else. It can be a slow burn that bursts into flame or it can happen in an instant with no warning. 

vector art of a woman catching her husband having an affair while they're all wearing face masks

With the slow burn, problems between you and your partner can build up and cause a divide between the two of you, resulting in the two of you avoiding each other or one of you resenting the other. 

That resentment can push a person away to looking for emotional bonding, sexual gratification, or even romance from someone else. It can also be an effort of building up self-esteem again if the person in question has felt spurned. 

Cheating is essentially the result of a problem, or many problems, between you and your partner. One of you may no longer feel like the other person is able to fulfill a role for them, and is looking for that elsewhere. It can also be done as a way to hurt the partner. 

In any case, it signals that if the two of you don’t address issues, then your relationship is inevitably going to come to an end one way or another. 

Signs that your partner is cheating on you 

There are a few key signs you can look for to see if your partner is cheating on you, primary among them being intimacy avoidance and a general distancing between the two of you despite your own efforts to be physically or emotionally close. 

They may be spending more time on their phone, or just generally away from the home with any number of excuses. You can also see if there are any noticeable odors or stains on their clothes that may indicate sex or just being out without you knowing. 

Affairs can vary in length depending on the type of affair it is and for how long it may have been going on already. One thing is for certain though, is that it can’t last forever and will eventually come to light, either through their admission or when you find out. 

vector art of two women and one man sitting on a bench, man is holding hands with the second woman

Can a relationship recover after an affair?

Yes, although it really depends on both you and your partner and whether you both want the relationship to recover. Affair recovery is when the two of you make an effort to fix things between the two of you and will put in the time and effort needed to do that. 

One thing to stress here is that, for your own mental health, you should make sure that you take your time with this. Don’t force it and don’t compromise on how you feel. Be open and honest with each other about this. 

To really make sure that your relationship recovers, there are a few things you need to do: first, your partner needs to cut all ties with the affair partner and end things there. You also need to involve a third party such as a counselor or therapist to help you both along. 

Sometimes relationships don’t work, though. It could be that your partner wanted the relationship to end and was using an exit affair to push the two of you to divorce. An exit affair is a deliberate act to cheat in order to end the primary relationship. 

If you both want the relationship to work, then there’s always a chance it can. However, if one of you doesn’t then it can’t be forced. 

vector art of man trying to talk to woman after she caught him having an affair

I want to have an affair, where do I find one?

If you are intent on having an extramarital affair, there are of course opportunities to become a cheater. Ashley Madison is one of the premier services for affair dating, with Adult Friend Finder also offering a good community to date within. 

You can also consider using something as general as Tinder, if you just want a one night stand, or Gleeden. 

If you want to find someone for an affair in person without going online, then your best bet is going to be at bars or clubs, although meeting someone can happen anywhere. 

FAQ about different types of affairs

Finding out or suspecting that your partner may be having any number of affair types can be an overwhelming experience. Taking time to come to terms with this should be a priority for you. 

To help you out with any questions you might have, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about affairs. 

What’s the worst kind of an affair?

It’s very debatable and extremely personal, so this will depend on how you feel about it. In terms of recovering your relationship, a romantic affair is one of the worst, as your partner will be involved on many layers with someone else that may rival your own relationship. 

How common are affairs in marriage?

Generally, sexual affairs in marriage are more common than you may think. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy found that around 15% of married women and 25% of married men have cheated on their spouses.   

How can I fix my relationship after one of us had an affair?

The first thing to do is to make sure that the affair is actually over and that neither of you are doing anything with other people that could be construed as an affair. The second is that the two of you should be open and honest about problems you have and how you feel. 

It is recommended that you take a third step and do couples therapy to address the issues in your relationship in a controlled, safe environment with someone who has experience helping couples fix their relationship. 

Finally, you need to give the relationship time to heal. Trust may never be built back up to what it once was, but if you both are willing to put in the work needed, it can be done.

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