Here, we asked experts for the questions you should ask yourself if you’re thinking about diving into a new relationship while you’re in one already. This is what they had to say.
“What is the potential cost?”
The first things you should think about are the ramifications if you get caught – because chances are, you will. Whether you secretly want to sabotage your relationship or you know that an affair would devastate your partner, you need to ponder how this might play out, says Kathryn Smerling, Ph.D. marriage and family therapist.
“Most people I see who are thinking of having affairs are lonely and bored,” she says. “They may not feel appreciated or validated in the relationship.” In those cases, starting up an affair may sound enticing, but isn’t a real solution to feeling lonely in your relationship, she says.
“Am I ready for a double life?”
If you think you are then it is important for you to know that keeping secrets leads to lots of anxiety, says Greenberg. You might just end up feeling stressed out, wishing you had never started this in the first place.
“Sneaking around is extremely stressful and anxiety producing because it is very difficult to keep track of lies and to keep two separate lives going on at the same time,” says Greenberg. Consider whether cheating is worth your sanity.
“What if things go wrong?”
When people feel jilted or betrayed, it brings out the worst in them, says Greenberg. And that goes for all three individuals involved in this relationship: you, the other person, and your partner. If the person you’re having an affair with becomes obsessed with you, it can become annoying at the very least or dangerous at the very worst, she says.
“Obsessions can lead to the person you’re having an affair with to have a desire for revenge, including the destruction of your primary relationship,” says Greenberg. At the same time, betraying your partner’s trust could hurt them enough that they act out on their feelings, endangering you or the person you’re sleeping with.
“What do I want to get out of this?”
While you might gain affection, attention, and excitement, those things can be fleeting. Keep in mind that what is tempting is not necessarily healthy or permanent, says Greenberg. “What may be permanent is the loss of your family and your sense of feeling stable and grounded,” she says.
In some cases, people who decide to have an affair may consciously or unconsciously want out of a relationship. But having an affair is not the way to go about it, says Greenberg. Instead, speaking to your partner honestly about wanting out of the relationship is the most honorable way of handling things, she says. While you might be afraid of what you’ll lose—like stability, family, or even your reputation—ending your current relationship before jumping into a new one will save you and your partner tons of drama and painful feelings.
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