“Affair Love” vs. “Authentic Love”

Falling-in-love-11“Did I really love my affair partner?  Did my affair partner truly love me?”

Frequent questions I hear on other blogs and message boards — Whether cheaters feel, or felt, honest and true love for their affair partner.

And I suppose that there are cases with very long-term affairs where true love is developed over time between affair partners.  But it’s the exception.  Few affairs last beyond a few months.  Yet, many will swear they are “in love” with their affair partner.  That they found their “soul mate” in the affair.

Yet, is this true love?  Was the relationship “real” or mostly living out a fantasy?  Did we really love them?

The answer.  Maybe, but not likely.  Only each of us can answer that with 20/20 hindsight long after the affair is terminated and the embers extinguished.  I addressed this partly in a previous blog –  Looking back, I’m not sure to what extent I truly loved the OW, although at the time you could not have told me otherwise. I certainly felt like I was in love. Intensely.  We clicked on every level.  She seemed to be everything I wanted, everything I needed. I opened up my heart, soul, and brain to her completely.  I was like an addict — completely hooked.  “Love” was a word that went back and forth between us constantly. It certainly felt like love to me!

Certainly, you can get caught up in the illusion of love in any relationship — affairs are no different. I think that early on, in any passionate relationship, what we think of as “love” of the other person really isn’t. We don’t know them well enough to really “love” them. What we are really saying is “I love how you make me feel about me”, even if we don’t realize it.

And certainly affairs are more prone to feeling intense feelings. Why? Because for most of us, we got involved with someone else because we are STARVING to get our needs met.  Not just curious about being with someone else. Or that we occasionally felt like our spouse wasn’t there for us. But usually after a long term of not getting critical emotional needs met whatsoever.

affair_of_loveSo when someone else swoops in — into this vacuum created in the marriage — and meets all those unmet needs, it creates all kinds of unbelievable feelings inside you that feel like love. Not much different than a single person who hasn’t had a serious relationship in a long time and someone comes in and sweeps them off their feet.  How good would even a day-old hamburger taste to a starving man?  Pretty darn good!  Endorphins are being released in your brain in mega-quantities!  If I feel THIS good, it has to be love, right?

What follows here is a shorter, edited version that someone else wrote and something I found profound about the difference between “authentic” love and “affair” love.  I do not take credit for these words.  This person sums it up better than I every could.

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“Love” within the context of infidelity is an encounter between a person – the object of desire – and an experience – the passion of eros.   It can leave one intoxicated with emotion that drives both decisions and behaviors in often inalterable ways. The result of this fusion is one of the most destructive mistakes a human can make. The fundamental error we make is that we confuse a romantic/friendship/erotic experience with a person who just happens to be a part of the encounter. You believe you MUST have that person in order to have that experience.  Again, we are confusing how we feel about the person with exactly how they are making us feel about ourselves in the experience.

Then, drama of mythological proportion ensues. You collapse two worlds onto one another, failing to distinguish them as two distinct events that just happened in close proximity to one another. You confuse a person for an experience and attempt valiantly to translate that experience into something real. It isn’t real.

You confuse an emotional experience, i.e. the affair, with the person who you are having the affair with and believe you “need” that person to keep and preserve that experience. Willing to risk almost anything to legitimize the affair, you call it “love.”   Understanding this distinction can be one of the most important steps to ending an affair and recovering from infidelity.

couple-sensual-kiss-love-couples-merci-lovebisous-poljubac-sexy-new-album-kisses-sex-wow-paare-amor-romance-romantisme-amoureux-hot-couples-kandys-album-bw-pashion-love-pics-sexy-couple-love-romance-eLove, here, is a personally constructed narrative – a story – which we vehemently adhere to because we need it to be true.

After all, so much depends upon our belief that the affair is “real”.   The possibility of “true love”, the confirmation that “soul mates” exist, the justification for destroying families, leaving spouses, children, jobs and friends – all MUST be justified with legitimacy and purpose. Otherwise, those of us in affairs are nothing but hedonistic idiots.  So we have a huge capacity to convince ourselves that it was real.  If we didn’t, how could we live with ourselves?  It’s often only after the affair is over that we fully realize the truth of what we did and why we did it.

The stage is set for grandiosity and narcissistic self-indulgence. On this platform, all manner of illogical and nonsensical choices are made. We are in pursuit of a valid human need – deep intimacy and belonging. Yet, we are moving toward our fated demise. Authentic love, based on friendship, history and seasoned emotionality, can never result from affair love, which is grounded in escape, deception and illicit illusions. Anything based upon deception is destined to fail. Period. Without integrity, life simply doesn’t work.

The different types of affairs and marital recoveryEven if you remove moral judgment out of the equation — although few would say that it was not an immoral choice — we still have to make a simple distinction about what is so commonly misunderstood in the delusion and stupor of the affair. The experience can never deliver on the illusions we seduce ourselves into believing.

Affair love is rooted in the attempt to legitimize an illusion. In fact, that’s the source of its power since so much is at stake.

A real relationship cannot compete with an affair. The novelty, forbidden, and surrealistic nature of an affair relationship beats a real relationship any day with its sobering demands. Within its pursuit lies everything it means to be human.

Real relationships compete unsuccessfully for the illusion affair relationships deliver – the anticipation that one’s deep longings for contact, wholeness, completeness and soulfulness are met. The affair promises to transcend and annihilate the mundane status quo of so many of our marital arrangements. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, however, you must distinguish between the fantasy of an affair versus the potential intimacy in a committed relationship.

Here’s the straight truth: an affair is a bastardization of every one of those needs. It exploits the normal and natural right to human intimacy by selling a cheap version of temporary escape. It is a shallow relief that barely scratches the surface of authentic love, a commitment to a life partner who knows and loves you despite disappointments. Real relationships have a way of rubbing our noses in the slime of life. It is within the alchemy of that authenticity that true love can be encountered.

Affair love is an illusion, based on a lie, fueled by fantasy, protected by self-justification, insecurity and ego. It NEVER delivers on any expectations. Is it any wonder why real relationships, based on an affair, fail at a rate twice that of divorce?

Authentic love embraces contradiction that affair love cannot. The “contradiction” I speak of here is you. You are a contradiction. As a human being in a relationship, you are going to be inconsistent, hypocritical, have bad days and good, be at your best and often at your worst, and have phases of life where there may be little lovable about you. Authentic love, of which I was surprised by, is a quality and intensity of love sustainable and real because it is NOT contingent upon the emotions or circumstances to be just right.

Contrast that with Affair love, where you are on a perpetual honeymoon and the emotional tone is always courtship behavior. You are insulated from reality because an affair never touches the light of day since it requires deception to sustain it. You always look good, sound good, smell good and think you’re good – just like reality… right? It’s a house of cards waiting to implode.

The result is a perfect storm of illusion and flight. The primary relationship doesn’t have a chance to survive because it cannot compete with a fantasy untested by the sobriety of reality. Your affair relationship thrives on the fantasy-based love of exhilaration and novelty.

Soul mates are created, NOT found. True love exists but not for the faint of heart or narcissistically challenged. Success has requirements. So does real love. It requires you to know yourself intimately, all of you – how you’ve been wounded by life and how to evolve as a person capable of loving another. It requires you to be transparent, authentically asking for what you want and being willing to enthusiastically give back. It requires you to grow up. Groveling when things go wrong is out. Keeping your integrity and standing firm on your commitment is in. It requires you to stand for what you know is possible, despite terrible circumstances, and demonstrate the courage of a warrior, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’ve lost that loving feeling, even when you aren’t getting your needs met on a regular basis.

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well said.

33 thoughts on ““Affair Love” vs. “Authentic Love”

    • LOL. Why am I not surprised that you whole-heartedly agreed with this? I knew you would!

      It’s not exactly flattering to the cheater — but I call them as I see them!

      • I think being on the outside of affair-thinking – meaning, that I have never gone through that – it all makes sense.

        Hindsight is 20/20, my dear.

        Thankfully you have this site up for those who may be considering an affair, thus, they can avoid dealing with all of the ugliness that an affair delivers upon discovery. It’s a harsh reality, but this article very eloquently describes the reality of the relationship.

      • And that’s my intent. I’m not slanting things against cheaters, or betrayed spouses or even affairs, just to make people feel better or to help them avoid an affair. Truly I’m being as honest with this topic as i can be and HOPEFULLY people will see through this honesty that affairs just aren’t the answer for almost any problem or question.

        And I call them as I see them — whether they make a cheater feel uncomfortable or a Betrayed Spouse. I’m not here to spare feelings. Too many websites and message boards do that.

        This is a serious topic and we need to be “real’ about it.

      • Exactly, no matter how painful the truth is about it, it needs to be stated. It needs to be heard. And that is better to happen before affairs are pursued and further damage created.

    • I agree — time and distance are frequently necessary to really see any relationship situation accurately, but I do think that love affairs tend to make us more prone to illusion and fog because of their intensive and secretive nature.

      • Absolutely. One thing I noticed was missing from the post was the fact that “anticipation” plays a lot into the heightened feelings. We lose that when we become familiar in our marriage, and it is an EASY FIX!!

    • Funnily enough in the middle of our affair she told me how an internet friend of hers had asked whether l was really in love with her or just with the ‘emotions’? This was something that l had never ever considered before. That one could be in love with an ‘experience’. So l huried to reassure her….’No Darling, its you l am in love with’!
      How right this friend was. But it is only three weeks out. And l am a complete wreck every morning and evening. The times when l was alone or at work and able to spend hours texting and talking.

      • It takes time. A new hobby. A re-categorizing of what is true and what you told yourself was true. In some ways, the rebuilding is very much like starting over after a fire. Cleanup first. Then redesign. Then gathering tools. Then rebuilding.

  1. I cant thank you enough for this blog. I am in a 2 yr affair and on the verge of telling my spouse i want a divorce. Up until a couple of days ago, I would have sworn i am madly and passionately in love with this person. The dilemma is that I believe (based on a lot of therapy and a lot of reading) that I am now seeing it for what it is…an addiction, but the other person is still in complete denial. I’m still battling with how and when to end it with the affair partner as I see it as the hardest thing I will ever be called on to do (besides trying to repair my marriage)

    • I’ve never been so touched by a comment. I almost cried literally. I’m so pleased that something I’ve written has turned someone away from a bad path. Good luck to you. Think long and hard about the path you are on. I was there too. A 2 year affair and seriously considering divorce. I’m glad I turned away from that path, although it was difficult. Looking back, I see that my affair was not only the biggest mistake of my life, but it was at least 50% a self-indulgent illusion. I wish you clear thinking and peace.

      • I’ve saved this page as a favorite and its the first thing I read when I login my computer at work each morning. I always knew the right path, but I justified something terrible with all of the things described so well here. Thanks for putting this up. I’ve read everything google has to offer regarding this topic, but this page is the only one that slapped me in the face and forced me to deal with things honestly. I am a hedonistic idiot, but I’ve got a good chance of coming out of this with the damage self contained. Today is better than yesterday and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Maybe next week I’ll be the man I should be.

      • The article really spoke to me too (although i wish I had seen it 2-3 years ago when the thing was just getting going!). It’s why I reprinted it here. It’s a bit harsh, but there is much truth in it.

        Don’t worry about being a “hedonistic idiot” — we all are. nobody is saying we are without sin and responsibility here for very self-indulgent, immature reasons. We are. But hopefully we learn from all of this and become that better person. We are all human, after all

  2. Reblogged this on Mind Blown's Blog and commented:
    Wow. Very profound and enlightening. This is m favorite part: “Again, we are confusing how we feel about the person with exactly how they are making us feel about ourselves in the experience.”

  3. This is a very thoughtful commentary. It addresses a question I’ve turned over in my mind many times. My affair is heading into its fourth year. My Other Man — who is now my Only Man — and I didn’t tell one another we love each other until we had been seeing each other nearly 2 years. Twenty months, to be exact. I believe we do have authentic love, epic love, love that could last a lifetime. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. It terrifies me that I could have changed my life for something that isn’t real. But I’m willing to take the risk..

    • It’s possible, but the odds are against it. In real life, it won’t be the same. And you have the weight of how it began — as part of a great deceit and betrayal — that hangs over it if it makes the transition to real life. But yes, it does happen. But you are taking a huge risk, yes.

  4. I told my husband when I thought he was having the affair ,It’s fun for the time she makes you feel like your 18 again. But all good thing come to and end ,It’s a fantasy “it’s not for real” your getting her best ! for right now . He said “i’m not doing any thing” I laughed and told him “here’s you rope hang your self if you want to . He did, and we live a shell of a marriage now because he will not be honest, it was his friends wife he did this with. He’s is a sad man who’s life is a Big Lie ! and he digs it deeper every day .Knowing I know ,I just look at him when he has to deal with the other husband because he doe’s not know. She told him it’s was someone else. One day he will find out and then ,we will see.

    • I don’t mind you spreading my link to that message board, although I read that thread and was appalled by it. Exposure out of revenge. In order to do damage. It’s simply a bad idea. It has unknown consequences and does not speak well to the maturity of the person that engages in it. The “advice” in that thread is not only wrong, it’s self-destructive and appalling.

  5. I found early on that she was still married and living with her husband. For the kids. And that she had just ended a five month affair with a married man. And that she was in a FWB relationship. That involved domination/submission. On his part. And l simply couldn’t care. We were in love. And that meant anything was permissible. And worst of all. I took any little fault in my relationship. Blew it up to the size of a five storey building. And played it to her for two hours at a time. So l felt totally justified.
    In fleeing the ‘abuse’.

  6. This is a very thought provoking post and it forces those involved in affairs to really assess how they feel about the person they are cheating with. It also forces them really assess how their affair partner feels about them as well. This is a great post!

  7. HELLO I just wanted to say thank you so much for doing this for me and many others. At the beginning of the break up I felt like I would never love again and that my life has ended. Thanks to all your advice, I now have the courage to face every new day. My heart has healed tremendously and I feel like I can now really move on. If it wasn’t for your words then I would probably still be in that dark place of my life. Thank you, thank you!!

  8. This is probably one of the best articles I have ever read about this topic. I go back to it to remind myself when I get that longing feeling. My spouse and I are in the rebuilding phase. We were having one of our marathon discussions about us and the affair. My spouse said something to me that brought tears to my eyes and I wanted to share it because I feel it highlights what authentic love is really about.
    My spouse said he was upset that this OM took what was “his”. He was referring to me being a possession in a sexual sense. But then he recanted his position. He said he may have possessed your body for a time but “you are still mine”. I asked for an explanation. “Mine” meaning, he never sees you sitting in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal with your legs tucked under you like you are still a child–or the way you make that face when you are imitating someone. That is “MINE” and he will never take that from me.
    Now that is authentic love.

  9. I have broken the love of my life’s heart…. I can honestly say I was not in love with my affair, I was in love with myself. The experience from the high of my self esteem is what drove me to the affair. I could not bare what I had done but never found the courage to tell my partner. Now almost 3 yrs later it is out and still I chose the path of lying to her up until the end. Wrong move I know. I love and loved my partner through it all. I don’t feel she is responsible for my actions at all. Sinking is the worst feeling. But looking into her disappointed eyes is a feeling I will never get over, she didn’t deserve any of this. The pain I have caused her is unbearable and unacceptable. I will never be able to go back and make this right by her.

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