February 8, 2023

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Why affairs are increasing in the cost of living crisis

“I don’t know why I cheated on my wife, I didn’t do it on purpose. I think maybe the argument was too much,” 41-year-old contractor Mark – whose name has been changed to protect his identity – shares with Mashable. “I never thought I would be someone having an affair.”

Mark had an affair with another woman late last year. “It’s one of those things that I felt bad about at first and wanted to stop and confess to my wife, but I kept putting it off. Now a year has passed out of nowhere and it feels too big to let out. he explains. “I wasn’t trying to have an affair. Looking back, I think it was about getting attention.”

Money issues between Mark and his wife began in September 2021 and have yet to unwind. “It all kind of grew out of the livelihood crisis, rowing. We used to live paycheck to paycheck, so even a slight increase in bills would have let us down. Then we got a big raise.”

SEE ALSO: How the Cost of Living Crisis Is Affecting the Way We Date

Soon all their conversations revolved around money and where they would find it for gas, electricity and petrol. “That’s when we started fighting every day.”

He met the woman he’s having an affair with after one of those arguments in a bar. “I didn’t want to cheat,” he says. “This woman just started flirting and showed me the most affection I’ve had in months. I did something terrible before I even realized it.”

“I wasn’t trying to have an affair. Looking back, I think it was about getting attention.”

Since the UK’s cost of living crisis began last year, thousands of people have turned to affairs, according to data from matrimonial affairs website Illicit Encounters (essentially a dating app for married people who want to cheat). The site, which has well over a million members, saw a 169 percent surge in new members this summer, with August 2022 hitting a record high in sign-ups in a month.

Money worries can lead to fraud

So what exactly is causing people’s eyes to wander outside of their marriages? There could be arguments about money. A recent Stowe Family Law report showed that 20 percent of couples hit by the cost-of-living crisis routinely argue about what to do with their dwindling funds. Since stress has been shown to make people more likely to cheat, it’s perhaps no surprise how many affairs occur.

Charlotte Fox Weber, psychotherapist and author of “What We Want: A Journey Through Twelve of Our Deepest Desires,” tells Mashable that couples often experience money-related stress because money “creates corrupting opportunities for control issues.”

“With money, there’s fantasy and reality, and reality tends to be disappointing,” she explains. “Couples in love may feel like they are embarking on a joyful adventure, but there is no awakening so rude as the reminder of not having enough money.”

SEE ALSO: People Can’t Afford Their Findom Kink In Cost-of-Living Crisis

She finds that couples are constantly the way they want to experience independence and freedom and how they share responsibilities between themselves, especially when it comes to money, and that creates a lot of opportunity for arguments and stress in general.

Further research by Illicit Encounters polled 1,000 of its members and asked the question, “Do you think the cost of living crisis is affecting your marriage and making you more likely to cheat?” with an overwhelming 85 percent of them answering “yes.”

Of course, Illicit Encounters customers will draw high numbers from a question like “Do you want to cheat?” but it confirms the specific correlation between nationwide fraud and nationwide money stress

And it’s not the first time we’ve seen this. Jessica Leoni, a spokeswoman for Illicit Encounters, says the surge in registrations follows a similar trend they observed during the 2008 financial crash.

A research study by relationship therapy company Relate also had similar findings, suggesting that the aftermath of the UK’s 2008 recession was taking its toll on couples. For those who were severely affected, the separation rate increased by up to 16 percent.

Loneliness, shame and the search for attention

Fox-Weber explains that having money problems can be so embarrassing and people often feel alone and embarrassed about their financial problems. Enduring heated arguments over and over again about the same problem can lead to self-loss, and cheating can sometimes feel like the antidote to that.

“Feeling wanted [through gaining positive attention from someone else] awakens something in itself. And while cheating may not be the solution to life’s problems, it can tempt people looking for that sense of possibility,” Fox-Weber adds.

Raymond, a 51-year-old electrician who has not revealed his last name to protect his identity, is one of many people who had an affair in 2009. He believes it all started with the 2008 financial crisis.

Raymond had been with his wife for 13 years when his affair began in 2010. “I had ended the marriage much earlier, maybe about two years ago,” he tells Mashable. “When the recession hit, we lost our home and I lost my job. My wife put so much pressure on me to fix it, which I don’t blame her for. She couldn’t work because of a disability, so she couldn’t work. I couldn’t fix it. But I couldn’t either. I failed as a man. I couldn’t take care of us.”

He explains that the pressure of mounting bills, being fired, and feeling like he wasn’t a good husband took a lot of strain on their marriage. “There was hardly a marriage anymore. I was the one who came up with the idea of ​​getting a divorce but she was immediately dismissive. She said she didn’t want to ‘be one of those women who got divorced’ and I didn’t want to let her. And to be honest, I don’t think either of us could afford to do it alone,” he explains.

“I was shagging a woman I met at a friend’s meeting before I knew it. I’ve never had to deal with so much guilt. Every time I slept with the other woman, I was disgusted with myself.”

Raymond thinks that’s why he had an affair. “I had nowhere to run. I couldn’t fix it and I couldn’t give it up either. I was shagging a woman I met at a friends meeting before I knew it. I’ve never had to deal with so much Guilt. Every time I slept with the other woman, I was disgusted with myself, but it was like I was hooked. She didn’t need anything from me and it felt so good,” he explains.

“It was about nine months before my wife found out and made me finish it,” he continues. “We didn’t break up. I got another job and things have improved a bit. We no longer struggle to make ends meet, but our relationship has never been the same. We are still together now and have decided never to speak to each other [my affair] again and again.”

Fox-Weber explains that in times of financial crisis, having a partner at home can sometimes be a reminder of reality, of how murky uncertainty and its impact on romance can be. A fantasy takes people away from it. “Someone who believes they will fail, who feels trapped and constrained by money problems, might seek refuge to find ways to conform life to their prediction,” she explains. “Self-sabotage and self-indulgence are frighteningly close together.”

SEE ALSO: What It’s Really Like To Be The Other Woman In An Affair

Stowe Family Law has also warned that many people could end up in Raymond’s position due to the cost-of-living crisis. As basic spending continues to rise, many couples seeking a separation cannot afford the money to divorce. Financial woes have always been a problem for couples going through divorce (the average divorce in the UK costs around £14,561 ($17,307) in legal fees), but Niamh McCarthy, a partner at Stowe Family Law, says: “The current background financial uncertainty and rising costs add to this pressure.’ Many of the firm’s clients have expressed interest in a divorce, only to reconsider when faced with the numbers.

Raymond’s situation, like that of many others who have been in his position, provides a prime example of societal pressures adding to the strain on the relationship. For most of us, relationships are linked to self-esteem, and lack of money can bring a person’s self-esteem down to earth, especially straight men. This is most likely due to gender role pressures.

While the reason for the rise behind affairs is clear, it need not and should not be inevitable. Understanding and managing money is difficult at the best of times. And as a cost of living crisis wrought by war and government mismanagement rages across Britain, more than ever, communication, patience and less projection will help couples focus on how to healthily manage their stress and harm from one another can avert.