What “Lemonade” Taught us About Affairs


Beyoncé released her sixth solo album in the past week and it has had fans and critics speculating the status of her relationship with Jay-Z. Lemonade details the emotions that an individual goes through when their significant other is unfaithful. Marissa Nelson is the CEO and Relationship Therapist of XoXo Therapy specializing in individual, couples and sex therapy. She has dealt with clients that have had to deal with infidelity and below are some of the types of affairs she has noticed.


So to start things off, here are 6 key research facts on infidelity:

It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.

People who engaged in affairs often report mistaking the intense rush of feelings they experience in their affair for love. They often compare these intense feelings with their primary relationship and use the difference to justify the affair. Then they realize at some point that what they felt was not based on a real foundation, but on the rush of something new, the universally positive reflection of self they got from their affair partner, the secrecy, and the drama.

When people leave their marriage or relationship for their affair partner, the new relationship rarely survives (3 to 7% survive).

70% of couples survive the affair rather than divorce or breaking up.

Affairs are becoming more common in the workplace and social circles.

Infidelity is an equal opportunity issue that cuts across gender lines, educational levels, sexual orientation, social and economic class and culture.

It’s Just Sex Affair

One-night stands, vacation time-outs (What happens in Vegas or Brazil stays there), business trip rendezvous, and so on are affairs of lust. Often the thrill of the moment takes over, and then when it’s over, it’s back to reality. This can also happen if lovers are into each other for a primarily sexual connection, which usually fades when they discover that there isn’t much depth or connection with the other beyond sex.

The “Screw You” Revenge Affair

Let’s say my partner had an affair or breach of trust… well… if I get a freebie then I’ll feel better, and we’ll be even, and he/she could possibly feel the pain that I’ve endured because of the original indiscretion. Alternatively, in the absence of requested affection, a partner might try to “teach the other a lesson” by showing him/her that there are other fish in the sea. While it is thought that you may feel better, more often than not you feel worse, guilty as hell, and the relationship now has a new hurdle to climb over.

The Emotionally Intimate Non-Physical Affair

Can you call it an affair if there is no sex involved? Hellz yes. It’s sharing a very intimate and emotionally close bond that feels like much more than just a friendship. Secret meet ups, flirting and innuendo, private phone calls and texting, and sharing things with that person that would not be expressed to the current partner. All this is done in privacy and without the partner’s knowledge, and it’s knowingly downplayed as platonic even though the feelings are not. While there is the boundary of sex that is not crossed, infidelity is more about the emotional energy being given to someone else, and the secrecy that shrouds the relationship.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Affair

I find these affairs mostly commonly happen when in long distance relationships, a partner travels a lot, in military scenarios, etc. When couples are separated for long stints of time, one or both may reach out for connection and companionship. They typically have no plans to leave their partner and when they are together, it’s all about that union. However, because both partners understand the circumstances of distance and don’t want to face the reality that their lover could be intimate with someone else, some choose to not ask the questions they don’t want to know the answers to.

The Second Spouse Affair

Remember the movie, Waiting to Exhale, when Whitney Houston’s character was in a relationship with a married man. He kept telling her he would leave and they would be together, just be patient. The love feels so complete because it’s a connection on all levels – sexually, emotionally, spiritually and they have secretly created a life together. The second life includes trips, dinners, sleepovers and life decisions that factor the lover in some way. It is a longstanding relationship where there is deep attachment and love, and can go on for years without the knowledge of the primary partner.

The Departure Affair

This is when some partners in the relationship love but are not “in love” with the other.  The couple shares a rich history and life together and are friends, but both are unhappy. The relationship/marriage has been on life support for some time now, and the affair is just another way exit the relationship (as is working a lot etc). The cheater is usually sloppy and will do little to cover up the cheating in this phase or can be very direct in what is going on or in expressing dissatisfaction and being “done”. Often used to sustain an emotionally distant relationship, I find that this occurs more with couples who have been together for a long time with children, and often choose to separate once the kids are old enough.

The Repeat Offender

It’s not the first, second or third time this person has cheated. The lines between having “friends” and something more are always blurred in these affairs. Flirtatious comments on social media? Check. Inappropriate text messages and emails? Yep. Rarely is this person upfront and honest, or accountable for how their actions are disrespectful to the relationship. Most betrayed partners are often accused of being jealous and only fuels feelings of distrust and insecurity.

The Developmental/Life Events Affair

Affairs that center around major life events such as pregnancy, mid-life crisis, empty nesters, loss of loved ones etc. Men and women may turn to a lover to renew sense of self, and cover feelings of anxiety and depression. A partner may turn to an extramarital affair as a way to affirm their sense of masculinity or femininity, or to experiment sexually with fantasies ie BDSM, or same sex encounters.



About the writer:

Marissa Nelson is CEO of Washington DC based XoXo Therapy LLC and is the Master Relationship Therapist of IntimacyMoonsTM. She served as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients in the Greater Washington DC area up to her recent move to The Bahamas. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Sex Therapist & Divorce Mediator, and specializes in couples & intimacy issues.

With specialized training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy, and Sexual Health, her therapeutic approach is to provide support and understanding to help her clients effectively address personal life challenges. With compassion and understanding, she works with each couple to help them build on their strengths and attain the personal growth they are committed to accomplishing.

Marissa conducts speaking engagements, workshops and group therapy for general adult audiences. She has been featured in over 30 TV, Radio and Print media spots within just the last 18 months. Notable appearances include Esquire Magazine, the Washington Post, Good Day DC, Baltimore Morning News, Let’s Talk Live, and several appearances on WHUR DC Radio’s Pillow Talk. Due to her rising popularity along the eastern seaboard of the United States, Marissa was recently offered a dedicated column in the #1 African-American bridal magazine, Munaluchi Bridal, and was named a select blogger on Popsugar.com (the 45th highest traffic website in the United States). On November 9, she will be featured on TVOne’s airing of For My Man.

Young, dynamic, articulate, and exceptionally qualified, Marissa possesses a Master’s of Family Therapy (MFT) from the esteemed Couples and Family Therapy Department of Drexel University in Philadelphia.  Marissa also completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Sexual Health and Sex Therapy from the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work.


Website: http://www.xoxotherapy.com/


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