The Unfortunate Allure Of Affairs


Couple kissing in black armchairBy Elizabeth Shore

“The allure of affairs is that they’re not bogged down with the realities of everyday life.”

So I’m at home, indulging in one of my true guilty pleasures: the ID Channel. I really shouldn’t be watching this channel. I mean, I really shouldn’t. After all, I’ve got books to write. Deadlines to meet! Luckily my guilty pleasure hasn’t gotten out of hand. So far. I dole it out to myself a little at a time, like candy to a child, so as not to OD on it and fall into an ID Channel stupor.

But anyhoo, I’m watching one of my favorite shows, Wicked Attraction, whose premise is stories about two people who hook up for scorching hot sex that ultimately leads to bad things in the end. One of them murdering the other’s spouse, for example. Interspersed in the story are comments from folks such as the detectives who investigated the situation and noted authorities who lend expertise, such as forensic psychologists. On an episode I watched recently, a forensic psychologist stated the quote above, about affairs not being bogged down with the realities of everyday life, and it got me thinking. Is that what’s so darn enticing about affairs? Is it the escape from the daily grind, the stolen moments of suspended reality where nothing matters except the pursuit and achievement of outrageous, passionate sex? The opportunity to set aside the mundane and wallow like a pig in mud in lots and lots of amazing sex.

The start of a relationship is an intoxicating experience, isn’t it? Chemistry picks up steam, hormones are flying, and the intimate journey is a thrilling, hedonistic process of discovery. There’s nothing tired or boring about a brand new lover, no siree. What’s not to love about a fresh touch on your skin, a new lover’s mouth devouring yours, a sensual exploration of what drives you wild. The mere thought of it gets the  heart pounding and the panties damp. And if that relationship happens to be an affair – no strings attached! There can’t be, right? ‘Cause it’s an affair. One or both of the involved parties is linked with someone else. Someone who would be devastated to learn of this clandestine tryst. So affairs are kept quiet, and secret, which only serves to heighten the dangerous allure. It’s like parents locking the liquor cabinet to a teen. He must have that alcohol, if for no other reason than he’s not supposed to. It’s the wild excitement of forbidden fruit.

When it comes to sex, we like it new. It’s exciting and adventurous, which sadly is another attraction to an affair. It’s a lot more work spicing things up with a well-known lover versus simply taking on someone new. Why is that? Why are some unable to resist the allure of a heated affair while fidelity for others is indeed a sacred oath?

There are those who argue that we humans are simply not wired for fidelity and that the expectation of monogamy is unrealistic. Certainly there’s support from the animal kingdom, where scientists have discovered that animals formerly thought to mate for life do indeed have animal affairs. But animals don’t have the same desire we humans do for things like truth and security. They also may not know the meaning of jealousy. Now, obviously, I’m not a . . . I dunno, coyote or anything, so I don’t actually have inside information. But I’m just sayin’.

In any case, the unfortunate truth is that affairs for many are far too tempting to resist. There’s even a website, ashleymadison.com, for those who like to cheat. Their tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair.” And the worst part – Ashley Madison boasts a membership of over 23 million.

I’ll watch my show because, after all, it’s got that trainwreck element where I just can’t look away. But I’m curious what others think about why affairs are – for some people – impossible to deny. Sound off below ’cause we love to hear from readers. And while you’re at it, be sure to click the little follow button to the right.

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8 Comments

  • Madeline Iva
    January 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

    What I’ve noticed is this: a lot of romance readers don’t like affairs in their romance novels. Perhaps they’re too in touch with the other side of an affair — the devastated betrayal, the I-didn’t-see-it-coming-and-now-feel-like-such-a-fool-to-have-trusted-you tears and misery.

    Yet I think that we look to romance for some barrier between the lovers—otherwise it’s just not romance to us in the U.S. And let’s face it–there aren’t many barriers out there today.

    So what’s a romance writer to do? Right now I’m reading Mrs. Poe — As I’m reading along I keep feeling ambivalent about the affair represented in the novel. There’s also new movie coming about about Dickens and his big affair with a young woman.

    What’s fascinating is that readers who will happily embrace menage will not like the idea of someone having both wife and mistress, or husband and lover. So it’s got to be about the power dynamics of betrayal and the feeling of powerlessness that betrayal can give a woman.

    Again, I say all this as a writer. As a wife — hell would have no fury if I found out my own DH was cheating. The reality is so extremely painful, I doubt that many readers with personal experience of cheating (the bad end of it) would ever become happy readers of plots involving extra-marital sex.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

      I felt the same about Mrs. Poe. I was oddly not turned off by the fact that both of them were, in fact, cheating. Yet if I found out my own DH was cheating . . . well, I feel exactly the same as you do.

      However, there certainly are a lot of people having affairs. The temptation is, for some, impossible to resist. The fresh new sex is like the most potent of drugs and they become addicts, always looking to score some more of that awesome drug.

  • LizEverly
    January 15, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Maybe it depends on our culture. We Americans don’t want to read about affairs in our romance literature. Yet, as you say, we certainly have them. I think it’s more than the sex, really. I think there’s an emotional aspect to it, as well. Some yearning. Some unfulfilled part of themselves not satisfied in their current relationship. I wonder about French and Italian readers. Parts of France and Italy it’s much more acceptable to have affairs. So I wonder if their romance literature reflect that. Great post, Elizabeth!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      That’s an interesting point, Liz. I wonder if affairs are more “acceptable” in other cultures.

      I also think that part of the reason why people have affairs, perhaps women more so than men, is that when people are in a vulnerable stage in their lives, whether it’s from personal disappointments, tragedies, or whatever, it’s easier for them to have their defenses down and not turn away from someone offering comfort, even if that comfort is an extramarital affair.

  • Author Charmaine Gordon
    January 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    And then consider actors. You get caught up portraying a character on stage or television, or in a movie and your lover in that context becomes personal. An affair begins and often ends when the show is over. Heartbreak for one, usually the woman. Picture coming home from performances to the waiting spouse unaware of infidelity, you with swollen lips, flushed face. The hour is late; he doesn’t notice. In your heart you feel shabby; but your body is thrilled with the eroticism of forbidden romance.

    Do not practice to deceive. The price you pay may be too high.

  • Madeline Iva
    January 15, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Someone once said that sex is the battlefield in a marriage–like Liz indicated.

    But not all marriages are created equal, are they? I’ve about people who are married starting a romance with someone else–but there are always extremely extenuating circumstances. In two of the novels, the marriage is pretty clearly, already almost 100% over. In the other novel, the wife was carrying on her own vile deceit first…way before the husband cheats on her. And their marriage is pretty dead. He’s hanging on out of loyalty, and it takes a huge drastic step for the heroine to pry him away from his evil wife…

    I like these stories because there are definitely barriers there that I can push against to create the romance. But I have no idea if readers will….(shrug.) We’ll see….

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

      The Wild Rose Press used to not publish books in which an affair was included in the plot line. They’ve since changed their policy. As you say, interesting to see how readers will respond.

      I actually wrote a novella – a historical – about a heroine forced into marriage at sixteen to a total brute of a guy who beats her. Her family had money but no title. The a-hole husband had a title. To better the family, she’s married off to him. Finally after several years she just can’t take his nastiness anymore and makes her escape, changes her identity, and begins a new life. But then she meets someone and falls deeply in love. Of course, technically, she’s still married to the brute. It will be interesting (if I can get it published!) to see what readers think.

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