I have a close friend who recently told me she had an affair. Nothing really surprises me when I hear things like this. Perhaps I have become too cynical. She seemed tired, drained and lost as to what she should do to make things better.

Sitting in a tiny coffee shop in Soho, Central London, I tried to comfort her but my words seemed to resound off some kind of emotional air-bag. Nothing I could say could change anything. I don’t think she could make sense of anything anymore.

Happily married (or at least what seemed to be) with a wonderful husband and two gorgeous children, I asked her why she did it. She didn’t know. All she kept saying to me was that ‘she needed to escape from things. Steven and I have being having problems,’ Lord knows I understand that feeling. Welcome to marriage!

I could see that she wasn’t happy at all. That was clear. Extra-marital affairs happen so frequently and I believe they are a symptom of living a life that has lost meaning somehow. We start searching for a spark, some kind of exciting realisation that reminds us we are alive and still able to feel.

The problem with having an affair is that we end up feeling more than just passion. What can often follow in the destructive aftermath is pain, fear, confusion, abandonment, emptiness and loss. Is it really worth it? I asked my friend if she had any feelings at all for the man she had being seeing and she said ‘not really. I’m just unhappy in myself.’

When the passion has burned out, what is left? Sex is sex. It’s great at the time. It can certainly masquerade itself as love with all the trimmings. That is the illusion. Love and passion are related but like siblings, they have similarities but are very different to one another.

How to tell the difference?

Passion is all consuming, It makes you feel exhilarated, alive, vibrant and on top of the world. Love is actually quite a calm feeling, It makes you feel happy, peaceful and content. It has a sense of completeness like nothing else. It is easy to forget the true bliss of being happily in love, Washing dishes, ironing clothes and running errands to the supermarket is not something that reminds us how lucky and happy we are.

Passion is like a wave crashing against the shore. Powerful, intense, full of energy – aliveness. The waves don’t last all the time though. There is ebb and flow, change and continual movement. There is no stability and no prediction. Everything is uncertain at sea.

My friend was certainly lost at sea and looking for a lifeboat. All I could do was offer reassurance with the classic line ‘things will get better.’ I hate saying that. How do I know things will get better for her? I don’t, but I can only offer her some comfort.

At this risk of sounding totally cliche, I have to admit that things usually do get better in the end. “Time heals all wounds” and all that stuff. Somehow, things eventually end up making sense when the time is right.

© Christina McDonald 2014


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