relationships - dating - love - intimacy - health
The way you think about your relationships, the skills and attitudes you bring to them and the time and effort you put in can make all the difference. People are social creatures and relationships matter to us. We enjoy them, we cry over them and we're curious about how to get our relationships to be the way we want them. How well your relationships work can have a big impact on how satisfied you feel with life. Stimulating, resilient, satisfying relationships with partners, friends and family rank high on many people's wish list for a happy life.
Most people list being faithful as one of the top three essentials in a successful relationship. But the fact is, people cheat. Relationships psychotherapist Paula Hall looks at why people have affairs and whether it's possible for a relationship to survive one.

Why affairs happen
There are as many reasons why people have affairs as there are people. But usually an affair is an external sign of an internal desire for change. Something in the person's life or the relationship isn't OK - and the affair creates the trigger for change.

Affairs aren't only about sex. In fact, relationship experts maintain that any intimate activity between two people that breaches the trust of a partner constitutes an affair.
Is your relationship at risk?

Here are some common causes of affairs
* Relationship problems - if you're unhappy in your relationship you'll be more tempted to look elsewhere.
* Boredom - if you're bored with your life, an affair may seem like an adventure.
* Low self-esteem - you may need reassurance that you're attractive and loveable.

Types of affairs
Although there are many reasons for affairs, most fall into one of four categories:

The boat-rocking affair - when one partner has an underlying dissatisfaction with the relationship. The affair is an unconscious way of drawing attention to the problem and bringing things into the open.

The exit affair - when an affair is used to get out of a relationship. Rather than confront the fact that a relationship isn't working, an affair forces the issue.

The thrill affair - the illicit nature of an affair brings with it an adrenaline rush. Add to that the excitement of sex with someone new and the romantic trimmings of a fresh relationship, and it can seem irresistible.

The three's company affair - can go on for years; it can also describe a string of successive affairs. Some people find it difficult to commit to one person; they feel stifled by monogamy and fear putting all their emotional eggs in one basket. Having a third person on the scene can provide an outlet for difficult emotions.

Be open - honesty is the key to avoiding affairs. Share any temptations with your partner and agree to support each other.
Be close - build and maintain emotional and sexual intimacy in your relationship. The closer you are, the stronger you are.
Be smart - don't slip into complacency: everyone is vulnerable to temptation.
Be alert - if you find yourself feeling attracted to someone, take action to avoid getting any closer.
Behave - if you'd describe yourself as a natural flirt, remember: if you don't want to get burned, don't play with fire.

When affairs are discovered
Whether the discovery of an affair is gradual or sudden, shock is the first emotion you're likely to experience.

When the shock wears off, you may be left with feelings of anger, sadness, confusion and perhaps embarrassment, especially if you were the one being unfaithful.

Most people find themselves wondering how this could have happened and questioning whether there can be any future for their relationship.

Surviving the affair
Trust is essential for a healthy relationship, and it's something we often take for granted until it's gone. If you're the one that's had the affair, you'll need to work hard at reassuring your partner that it's them you truly love and that you've learnt from your mistake.

If you're the one who's been cheated, you may find yourself asking questions for a long time. But as time passes, you'll find yourself feeling more secure and confident about your relationship.

Trust only takes a moment to break, but much, much longer to rebuild. At first it may feel that your relationship will never recover, but with hard work and patience it can survive. An affair always signals a turning point in a relationship - but it doesn't have to signal the end.