If you are, or have considered, entering into an extramarital affair, see which of these reasons are highest on your list and why. For each reason, we gone into more detail on what participants in the Omarzu et al study actually said.
1. Lack of sexual satisfaction in your primary relationship. This was the most common reason cited by individuals in the Omarzu study. Recall that the large majority of the sample were women. Both women and men who enter into affairs are hoping to improve their sex lives. They may enjoy many other mutual activities but, for whatever reason, the sex is not working out for them.
2. Desire for additional sexual encounters. This was a relatively infrequent reason cited by the individuals in this study. It’s possible that more people had this as a reason but didn’t want to admit to it as it is not a very socially desirable wish to articulate. For example, one man in the study stated that he felt he needed more sex in his life to reward him for performing well at his job.
3. Lack of emotional satisfaction in your primary relationship. Seeking emotional intimacy can be nearly as compelling a reason to have an affair as can seeking physical intimacy. Participants who stated the need for emotional closeness in an affair felt they were lacking a connection to their primary partners.
4. Wanting emotional validation from someone else. Being appreciated is a key factor in the emotional connection that partners feel toward each other. Partners may grow apart and, as they do, fail to acknowledge the needs that both have in their relationship.
5. Falling out of love with your partner. This was a relatively insignificant reason in the Omarzu study, perhaps because “love” is so difficult to define. In the grand scheme of things, having sexual and emotional intimacy seems to trump love.
6. Falling in love with someone new. Very few people indicated that they had fallen head over heels for the person with whom they had the affair. Again, emotional intimacy plus sexual closeness seems to be a more important factor that leads partners to stray.
7. Your wanting to seek revenge. In a relationship that is already suffering, the desire to hurt a partner who is (or is perceived as) cheating seems to raise the stakes significantly from mere lack of intimacy.
8. You’re curious and want new experiences. People who cited this reason felt that they wanted something new, this motivation went beyond curiosity and into some type of contest to measure their sexual prowess. It might have been less complicated for them to compete on the tennis court or golf course, but the allure of someone and something new led them to choose this particular form of challenge.
Extramarital affairs clearly represent a complex mix of desire, anguish, and need for connection. Rarely are they apparently entered into without conflict or even distress. They may be the product of, or the cause of, the ending of a marital relationship. Happy couples may decide to experiment and, as Calhoun observed, find that their marriages survive intact if not improved. However, as shown in these studies, it’s a risky venture, not one for the faint at heart.