Cheating with Things: There Is Such Thing as an Object Affair?

Infidelity is unfaithfulness in a marriage or relationship. But from one of our previous posts, we’ve agreed to disagree on what cheating really is. From this diversity of opinions spring various types of infidelity, one of which may actually sound new to you: object affair.

No, this is not necessarily the weird or abnormal desire for atypical objects or situations (e.g., paraphilias like falling in love with a zombie doll, having “sex” with cars, etc.). Well, not always. Object affair is a situation where the attention of one partner is drawn off the primary relationship because that attention is placed on something else outside the relationship, reshuffling the person’s priorities. This might be work, a hobby, an activity, an actual object, or some other interest. The outside interest may reach a point of near-obsession, and the neglected partner would often feel unnerved at themselves for feeling jealous over a nonhuman competition.

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So what do you consider to be an object affair and what do you do when this happens to your marriage?

What Is an Object Affair, and How Do You Deal with It?

We often judge the cheating wife without blaming the overly workaholic husband who wouldn’t spend a minute for his wife and kids. 

A healthy balance of outside activities are perfectly fine, normal, and encouraged in a committed relationship, but when one becomes so consumed with the object or if the interest excessively takes top priority, that is when problems arise. An object affair may seem harmless, but it can result in a lack of attention, communication, and intimacy in your relationship. These issues, if left unmitigated, may result in spousal discontent or, worse, divorce. The sense of being alone, the number of broken promises, feelings of anger and disappointment, and a belief that you are not very important are all similar for neglected spouses.

The first step toward overcoming marital issues related to living with the object affair is to start a conversation, express how the behavior makes you feel, and work together toward an amicable compromise. 

If only it were that easy.

Approach the discussion cautiously and compassionately.

Even though you don’t agree with your spouse’s side of the issue, the situation itself will put you and your partner under intense amounts of stress. As a result, and as you may have already figured out by now, conversations about object affair should be approached with caution and compassion. As frustrating as it may be to not scold your spouse for their obsession, nagging about it won’t work. Instead, share in a positive tone what your spouse has missed by working late or by prioritizing an event and not being present to you and your children.

Assess if you’re enabling the object affair.

You may be enabling your spouse’s need or desire to obsess over other things by delaying family meals, keeping kids up longer, postponing family activities, or spending your money on items and services (like takeout) that you could do without. Consider letting your spouse experience the consequences of spending time excessively on other things by serving dinner at the normal time and making your spouse eat cold leftovers once they finally get home, hours later, from other activities. If your spouse doesn’t want to go out of the house with you, leave your spouse at home and take the kids to the movies. If your spouse is too busy to take a few days off, take a weekend trip to visit family without your spouse. Don’t put your life or your children’s lives on hold waiting for your spouse to make time for you.

Choose hobbies for you both.

By choosing interests in which both partners can participate, the object is more likely to bond the couple than hurt the relationship. Providing an opportunity that your spouse will enjoy with you could ease the tensions between you both and allow for an honest discussion of the problems that are arising from your spouse’s object affair.

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Seek professional help.

When solving the issue of an object affair feels like a hopeless case, seeking professional help may be your last option. Psychologists and marriage counselors are available to mediate the discussion between you and your spouse. Simply bringing your spouse to a single session may make them realize the toll that the issue took on you. 

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Amanda Thomas

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