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The 5 Types of Illicit Love Affairs

It can start as playful flirting and then move on to an intimate lunch for two.

That leads to a stolen kiss and then sex. And one more marriage vow is broken. While all affairs are illicit by their very nature and will lead to a broken heart, they are not all the same.

Emily Brown, director of Key Bridge Therapy & Mediation Center in Arlington, Virginia and author of "Affairs: A Guide to Working Through the Repercussions of Infidelity," believes women have caught up with men--if not passed them by--when it comes to infidelity. "One of the things I ask couples is: How did the two of you create enough space in the marriage for there to be an affair?" she told The Washingtonian magazine.

Brown has identified five distinct types of affairs, each of which has a different motivation:
1. The conflict avoidance affair
Call him Mr. Nice Guy. Or Mr. Too-Nice Guy. He is terrified to be anything but nice, for fear that conflict will lead to abandonment or a loss of control. Because married couples who think like this don't like to talk about the hard things, important issues are not addressed. Problems pile up, one on top of the other. Issues are not resolved, and the marriage erodes. An affair is an easy way to escape the conflict and problems in the marriage.

2. The intimacy avoidance affair
When someone is too afraid of getting close, he or she erects barriers. Conflict is one barrier, but affairs are another. Married couples whose emotional connection is through frequent and intense conflict will often become involved in an affair. These couples are the mirror opposite of those who avoid conflict.

3. The spilt-self affair
People who fall into this category have really tried hard to make their marriage succeed. Both partners have sacrificed their own feelings and needs to take care of others, but this 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 but avoids looking at the inner split. Most often, this is a man's affair, but that may be changing. "It wakes up their emotional self, which is why those affairs last so long and are so intense," Brown told The Washingtonian.

4. The sexual addiction affair
Sexual addicts use sex over and over again to numb their inner pain and emptiness, much like alcoholics use alcohol. Among married people, men are sexual addicts more often than women.

5. The exit affair
An exit affair occurs when one partner decides to leave the marriage and uses an affair to provide justification to get out the door. This person is a conflict avoider at heart, but he or she takes it further by blaming the breakup of the marriage on the affair instead of examining how the marriage got to this point.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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