I have a confession to make. I am having an affair. It is an intra-marital one though. It is an affair with my wife. What makes it different from an extramarital affair is that it is with the same person over and over again. And the lover here is none other than my wife. If anything, it is and will be the longest affair of my life. It is in fact for a lifetime to be exact.
Here are 5 main differences between an intra-marital affair and an extramarital affair, or between a wife and a mistress.
1) Secrecy. You don't “marry” your mistress. You don't send out wedding invitations and ask loved ones to come witness the unholy matrimony. No official, whether a church pastor, a registrar or a notary public, will offer to solemnize the union. If ever it was deemed a union, it would be a union based on deception and lies (leaving aside the crime of polygamy of course). A mistress is a fugitive from legitimacy unlike a wife. And if there was a marital vow for extramarital couples, it would be till "found out" or "caught red handed" do they part. In other words, the so-called death that parts them is the uncovering or unraveling of their secret affair. For the wife, the union is a publicly celebrated event. It is therefore the opposite of anonymity and secrecy. In fact, the news of a wedding is embraced with screams of joy but a leak in an extramarital affair is followed by a wail of despair and shame.
2) Time. A mistress can't expect it to be forever. Unlike the wedding oath, extramarital affairs are more transactional than covenantal. It satisfies a risqué longing, and once sated, there is no obligation for either to continue the illicit affair. And as an extramarital affair is conducted under the covers of anonymity, it is convenient for the couple to break the relationship once the flame dies off. A wife however is forever. You can think of it not as a dying flame but as rekindling the same candle over and over again. Yet it is unfortunate that some men still commit the unpardonable (having a mistress) so that they may love "unconditionally" (fulfill his spousal duties to his wife). Paradoxical I know. Notwithstanding that, when you marry, it is intended for life. And when you have a mistress, it is intended for a season. Time or duration therefore distinguishes them.
3) Children. The most common champagne toast of the wedding night is procreation. Everyone is eager to celebrate the union of the couple. It is an event that is natural, expected and even triumphant. It is a glowing symbol of pure and culminated love. Children are a blessing and they are also a blessing to the marriage. The married couple that stay together generally labor together for offspring. And when the hint of a child is conceived in the womb, it is a news that takes flight even before the double-bars on the clear-blue indicator fully materializes. However, a mistress' pregnancy is a disaster. In fact, the unwritten rule for such a liaison is not only secrecy but anti-procreation (or a-procreation?). It is a relationship that put to sleep the woman's reproductive organs for as long as the liaison endures. It is one that revolves exclusively around pleasure without the burden that comes with planned insemination. In other words, sex for the man is twofold: release and forgotten. For a marriage, it is release and anticipation.
4) Sacrifice. This is the shallow bit of the differences but it is also a generally accepted reality. An extramarital affair is a two-way street. The man has his transient needs to be satisfied and the mistress needs to be kept. Short of a barter trade, the relationship is often asymmetrical with the man providing and the woman receiving. In short, one is a giver and the other a taker. In fact, the gifts are often seen as a payment for companionship and abiding secrecy. Crudely put, it is a hump-hump and a hush-hush transaction. There is no kiss and tell here. But the mistress always gets more out of it than the man when the commingling deepens. In the end, it is often empty and superficial unlike a marriage. The premise of a marriage is love, sacrifice and family. It is based upon roughing it out together against life's odds. Where sex generally defines a man and his mistress, and it is an end in itself, for a marriage, sex is but one of the fruits of the blessed union. It therefore goes far deeper than orgasmic pleasure or an insuperable satisfaction of the flesh. The sacrifices made in a marriage are mainly other-centered while the sacrifices made in an illicit affair are largely self-serving. And when the children comes, the collective sacrifice made by the parents to bring up their children further deepens, strengthens and enriches the marital bond and intimacy. As a whole, the marital commitment and sacrifice far exceed those of the extramarital affair's and this accounts for its resiliency and resolve, and the much-deserved respect and emulation.
5) Love. This is the tricky bit and I shall be candid. The mistress and the wife both go through largely the same process. First is the attraction. Then the courtship (or rendezvous). After that comes the proposal (decent or otherwise). With a yes, the intimacy or sex comes in and comes in regularly. Between the two adults, it is mutual and consenting all the way. You can't deny the passion and the promises made between them. On the surface, the way a man treats his wife differs little from the way he treats his mistress. But still there is a pivotal difference, an often overlooked one. Love discriminates between the two. True love ensures a wife is different from the mistress. I believe a marriage that lasts is a marriage ruled by selfless love. It is a passion underscored by respect, honesty and responsibility. I will go out on a limb here to say that sworn monogamy is not measured only by the duration because many couples I know stay married for the kids and not for each other. What is so inspiring about sworn monogamy is the depth for which each of them love the other. I have witnessed cases where the demise of one spouse effectively takes away from the other the longing to live. Over the years, they are literally inseparable. Their love only grows stronger over time and no one - however prettier, richer and sexier - can take the place of the spouse. No one truly satisfies. For this reason and this reason alone, the thought of cheating does not even figure in their mind. The two have deservingly become one and they are complete. Now what passion can rival that? I think that one's passion for his mistress will always fall short of this depth and completeness because it is tainted by that first and continuing betrayal. And because of its anonymity, the liaison only thrives in social darkness. It may have the appearance of selfless devotion but it is marred by a divided passion and ridden with guilt. But true love is undivided sacrifice for the other unconditionally. For it is only within the safety and sanctity of marriage that such passion can be nurtured and honed over the years to become truly enriching, resilient and inspiring. Cheerz.