In the early 1980's the term moral panic came into wide use as a way to describe innocuous trends that were turned into sources of righteous indignation and unnecessary fear for the public. In many ways, the martial affair has become one of the best examples of the effect that a moral panic can have. The fact is, more and more Americans are admitting to having had a marital affair. Surprisingly, most report that as long as the affair remained secret, it did not have a negative effect on their marriage. Sound strange? Having a marital affair may be much different than you think.
To start with, most couples are not honest with each other about the state of their sexual relationship. It is a well known fact that many couples, over time, develop a less satisfying physical relationship. While "advice" about how to reestablish a sexual connection abounds, the truth is that the element of novelty and excitement is one of the reasons that a couple's sexual relationship flourishes in the early stages of dating and marriage. A Marital Affair offers the elements of a sexual relationship that make is exciting, and the short-lived nature of most affairs means that there is never any pressure to develop the partnership further.
Another reason that an affair is so enticing is the element of fantasy that it involves. Most of us live highly stressful, busy lives that focus far more on the "have tos" than the "want tos". Additionally, the increased stress experienced by many of us means that we are less likely to be excited by things that are usual- our partner at home may still have our hearts, but they are simply too close to us to give us the thrill that was once present. Martial affairs offer the fantasy of a relationship that is simply about fun and enjoyment, without the concerns of daily life. And the ritual of pursuing and ultimately winning a new partner can be just the excitement we need to return the passion to all aspects of our lives.
The changing views of sexuality that many of us have are another reason for the prevalence- and necessity- of Marital Affairs. While many of us may be in a relationship with a partner of one gender that is fulfilling in most ways, a sexual desire for a partner of another gender is a craving that can't be satisfied. Additionally, more people are choosing to include other people in their relationship, allowing for the possibility of situations such as open marriage or "swinging". This allows both partners the chance to feel sexually satisfied and attractive within the confines of their committed relationship.
Traditional views of marriage are rapidly loosing their hold in our more enlightened society. The idea of monogamy is a relic of a time where women were seen as property, and marriage was little more than a contract to facilitate reproduction. Today's successful marriages are a combination of intimacies that are far deeper than sex alone. Love for a marital partner is not diminished by any type of relationship with another person, whether that is sexual or emotional. A Marital Affair is about satisfying the highest level of needs on Maslow's hierarchy- the desire to be fulfilled on all levels, and the respect for ourselves to believe that we deserve that satisfaction.