Extramarital Affairs and Marriage

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Do extramarital affairs help or destroy a marriage? A lot of people say that having such affairs helped them solve the problems they had with their spouses, while other people's marriages are destroyed by them. Do partners feel more comfortable in relationships outside their marriage and what could be the cause of that?

Studies conducted by Pittman, who argues that unfaithfulness is not normal or acceptable, have shown that first-time divorce occurs in the wake of an affair; yet its also Pittman that states that 'a crisis of infidelity can reawaken a petrified marriage and therapy can save the adulterous marriage', something in total contradiction with our traditional culture. Which should we believe than? Studies by Atwater lead us to believe that the second possibility should be seriously considered; in interviewing women engaged in extramarital affairs, she found that over half of them had improved their relationships with their husbands as a result of the affair. The fact that their needs were being met outside the marriage caused a change in their behavior in the marriage, as one woman reported:

"Since I have this second relationship on-going, I have been able to draw my husband out more and get him to talk more... and to be more open in expressing my feelings with him.... I am slowly but surely trying to bring our relationship up to a level that meets more of my needs."

The expressive area seems to be the most troubled one in these marriages, as the unfaithful wives sustained.
According to Atwater, extramarital relationships occur because "we are unrealistic about love and the ability of our spouse to satisfy all our sexual needs". She concludes that there are five completely untrue myths that contribute to our faith in sexual exclusivity: one person will supply all of another's emotional, social, and sexual needs people grow to love each other more through the years sexual exclusivity comes easily and naturally...
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