If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, has it made a sound? The intrigue this question provokes is related to a central idea in postmodern philosophy, which is; a phenomena cannot be truly perceived apart from the context in which it is situated. A very obvious example of this would occur in a visit to the zoo, where we watch animals and think we are seeing true animal behavior. But what we are seeing are animals behaving in cages while experiencing being observed by humans. Their behavior is altered in ways that prevent us from knowing their most true nature. What has this got to do with undisclosed affairs?
If you are having a secret affair and still trying to carry on your primary relationship as though nothing has changed, you are under an illusion, which is; what you are observing about your primary relationship is unaffected by your secret. In the previous post I described some of what happens to your partner once they get the sense that something is going on, but here I want to address what happens to you in your primary relationship.
By not disclosing the affair you are altering your experience of your partner. No matter how much you may deny this, the very act of deception leads to their devaluation. That is because you now know this partner as someone who is being duped. As such, the power dynamic changes, you are in control and your respect for your partner begins to erode. This is true even if you find yourself feeling a new kind of tenderness for your primary partner, this tenderness is most likely a form of condescension. Your partner becomes like a child that needs your protection, and you convince yourself you are doing that by carrying on the deception. Your primary partner looks more and more neurotic as he or she feels inexplicable changes in you and is given no avenue to address them. In contrast, your new exciting partner looks better and better. He or she in on the secret with you, and so shares a kind of power. The lover has become the special one, and basks in the glow of that position and as a result, is at his or her very best. Meanwhile, your self esteem can be at an all time high because you have two people in love with you. This creates an illusionary gap between how together you feel and how dysfunctional your primary partner appears, one who no longer feels loved at all.
This new elevated self-esteem is brittle, however, because if you look below the surface you find that you feel guilty and anxious. You are kept very busy between your two relationships and also trying to keep the rest of your life going, and this busyness protects you from these feelings. (For a more in-depth description of what can happen to your biochemistry during an affair click here.)
This is all very problematic if you are at a point where you feel pressured to make a decision about who to be with. It is important to think about how things were with your primary partner before the affair. Most likely you were dissatisfied to some degree in your primary relationship, but these dissatisfactions probably are magnified now. It might be important to remember how you experienced your primary partner when you first fell in love because that is the same context you are experiencing your new lover in now.