Take the Affair Type Quiz to know which affair describes your current or past relationship



Type 5: Split Self Affair (Romantic Affair)


 Romantic Affair


Mid-Life Crisis


Coming Out Affair


   “The 2nd most difficult affair type to recover from is the Self-Self Affair. The choice between the loyal and stable wife V the emotional connection and friendship of the 3rd party is a true challenge. Many will choose to leave the marriage for a chance to find a deeper emotional connection with another partner. The survival of the marriage hinges on the ability for the individuals to authentically express their deepest desires, and re-connect on an emotional level.”  ― Savannah Ellis, Founder IRI


  • Vulnerability comes from need for affection & attention
  • The 3rd party provides more than just sex, but a deeper emotional connection – making the person feel “alive” and special or needed.
  • The focus has not been on the marriage but the happiness and needs of the family or responsibility.
  • The marriage typically revolved around the children/ (or Business, Lifestyle)
  • Defined relationship roles – “The Great Family Man” “The Perfect Mother”
  • Little, if any, attention to marriage enrichment

Chance of Relationship Survival = 50/50

Romantic Infidelity


Surely the craziest and most destructive form of infidelity is the temporary insanity of falling in love. You do this, not when you meet somebody wonderful (wonderful people don’t screw around with married people) but when you are going through a crisis in your own life, can’t continue living your life, and aren’t quite ready for suicide yet.


An affair with someone grossly inappropriate—someone decades younger or older, someone dependent or dominating, someone with problems even bigger than your own—is so crazily stimulating that it’s like a drug that can lift you out of your depression and enable you to feel things again. Of course, between moments of ecstasy, you are more depressed, increasingly alone and alienated in your life, and increasingly hooked on the affair partner.


Ideal romance partners are damsels or “dumsels” in distress, people without a life but with a lot of problems, people with bad reality testing and little concern with understanding reality better.


Romantic affairs lead to a great many divorces, suicides, homicides, heart attacks, and strokes, but not to very many successful remarriages. No matter how many sacrifices you make to keep the love alive, no matter how many sacrifices your family and children make for this crazy relationship, it will gradually burn itself out when there is nothing more to sacrifice to it. Then you must face not only the wreckage of several lives, but the original depression from which the affair was an insane flight into escape.


People are most likely to get into these romantic affairs at the turning points of life: when their parents die or their children grow up; when they suffer health crises or are under pressure to give up an addiction; when they achieve an unexpected level of job success or job failure; or when their first child is born—any situation in which they must face a lot of reality and grow up. The better the marriage, the saner and more sensible the spouse, the more alienated the romantic is likely to feel. Romantic affairs happen in good marriages even more often than in bad ones.


Both genders seem equally capable of falling into the temporary insanity of romantic affairs, though women are more likely to reframe anything they do as having been done for love. Women in love are far more aware of what they are doing and what the dangers might be. Men in love can be extraordinarily incautious and willing to give up everything. Men in love lose their heads—at least for a while.


How does the “Romantic Affair” affair type begin?


The romantic affair begins when one spouse, most often the husband, develops a strong relationship with a third party. Examples, from working with Self Self affair types in my own clinic, have the following Top 3 Places where these Romantic Affairs begin:


  1. The workplace
  2. Church/Religious congregations
  3. Hired help – eg Nannies, prostitutes, personal assistants


The 3rd person is typically:


  • Younger, by 10 to 20 years
  • Female, who had a difficult or challenging childhood.
  • Was hired to perform a role, or works under the unfaithful spouse in a community/church project. It begins as a “one up/one down” relationship type.


The 3rd party is sweet and conversational, offering compliments and genuine interest in all the cheating spouse has to say and do. The cheating spouse has not received this amount of personal interest for some time, if ever, and engages the 3rd party in conversation. A mutually beneficial friendship evolves, and this couple shares their feelings on personal likes and dislikes. They get to KNOW each other. The cheating spouse feels alive and connected to the 3rd person, as she truly “gets him” for who he is in the present moment. He doesn’t need to fulfill a role of husband/Dad/provider. The 3rd person has now taken over the fulfillment of conversation, intimacy, friendship, recreational fulfillment, and much more.


The feeling of “feeling alive” is highly addictive. For many, it is worth giving up ones job, business, position/status, family, and marriage. “You only live once,” maybe the deciding mantra of the cheating spouse, choosing to divorce the stable marriage, over the chance to feel emotional connection to another human & life!


Romantic Affairs are intense.


Of all the basic types of affairs, none is so crazy as falling in love with someone who is not your spouse. Often the romantic affair partner is someone much younger, someone with even bigger problems than our own, or with a lifestyle that is filled with the excitement that we feel has been missing from our lives.


The Split Selves have tried to do marriage right. Both spouses have sacrificed their own feelings and needs to take care of others, and the deprivation has caught up with one of them.


The affair is serious, long-term and passionate. The spouse who is having the affair focuses on deciding between the marriage and the affair partner and avoids looking at the inner split.

The Great Challenge for the Unfaithful partner: Choosing the lover or the wife/husband

The Mid-Life Crisis Situation


This type of affair is characterized by two individuals who believe they are “in love”.


With this type, the betrayer believes that he or she has fallen in love, and feels powerless over powerful emotions. It is not uncommon for the betrayer to feel guilty over what they are doing, but at the same time they feel they are no longer in love with their spouse and know that they will never be happy unless they are with their lover.


This type of relationship frequently develops from an existing friendship that begins to deepen as the boundaries between the two individuals weaken.


In fact, the power driving the relationship is the strong emotions generated by the growing romance. In this type of affair, the betrayer has most likely made the decision to leave their marriage. They realize that they can never be happy unless they get to be with the one they love.


Unlike the “One Night Stand”, this type of affair often indicates a deeper problem in the marriage. Let me be clear – the marital problem is not the cause of the affair, but there are defects that at the very least, serve as inhibitors to the betrayer’s motivations to consider working on the marriage.


The Coming Out Situation


The split self-affair is an attempt to experience the emotional self that has been denied over a lifetime in the service of doing things right. Love had little to do with their marriage because the mantra was – “make it work”.


These men may never have had a strong emotional bond with their wives, and married to gain security all status, or to get away from home. In some cases, they were forced to marry to legitimize a child already on the way, or because it seemed to be what they should do.


Some men finally admit they are gay, however married a woman for one reason or another. The term “gay” was not popular 10+ years ago, and those men who had “feelings” for other men, did not have the support system or education to process their feelings. They married and had children with the best of intentions. Now the children are older, they need to decide on “doing the right thing” by the family/wife, or being authentic to themselves. The search is for authentic emotional connection.




  • Typically, this type of affair is a long-term relationship that has developed into a romance.
  • Frequently, there is a pattern of the betrayer swinging back and forth between the marriage and the affair partner. When they are at home trying to do what is right, they are miserable and feel they will never be happy. When they are with their affair partner, they are ecstatic, but may be feeling so guilty that they can’t stand it so they move back home only to feel miserable and to realize once again that they can never be happy unless they go back to the affair partner. This dance of insanity can continue for years.
  • The betrayer often seems incapable of making a decision as to what they are going to do. Even though the betrayer doesn’t want to be in the marriage, other factors may keep them from choosing to divorce. For example, feelings of guilt or of failure may cause them to stay. There may also be strong feelings regarding what is best for the kids, so they may decide to stay for the children. A lack of commitment to the marriage, but choosing not to leave, is not the solution to a country club affair.

The “split-self” affair is generally a man living a double life, who values the comfort and appearance of a long-term marriage but also has a mistress, maybe even another family. We give a “poor” prognosis for resolving issues that come out of these affairs, but a “low” probability of divorce – perhaps the most depressing combination.

Gender Differences in Romantic Affairs


Surviving a Split Self Affair


This is the classic “torn between two lovers” scenario about which songs, movies and romance novels rely upon for their lyrics and plots. In this case, a person feels as if they are in love with two people at the same time and do not really want to give either one up. When confronted, they often respond by claiming they want a divorce to pursue the affair relationship. Few actually follow through with this idea, however. What they want is the marriage and the affair. It is usually little more than an attempt to leverage the spouse who confronted them into accepting the idea of allowing them to continue both relationships.


If a romantic affair is discovered and confronted early enough, or if the cheating spouse does not see it as a replacement for the marriage, or the affair has not been justified by turning the marriage into Hell on Earth, even romantic affairs, especially the conflicted romantic affair can result in reconciliation.


Ignoring the infidelity once discovered or being so out of touch with your spouse that your first sign of trouble is when you come home to find the house empty is not very likely to result in keeping the marriage intact.


Recommended Courses:



Take our Online Affair Counselling Course to Accept and Move on from this type of affair.


©2011-2017 The Infidelity Recovery Institute

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