This excerpt from The Affair has been published with permission from Jacana Media publishers and is available from all leading bookstores.

Types of affairs  (This excerpt focuses on sexual flings)

The fling
She/he doesn’t mean anything. It’s you I love.

The sexual fling is usually one in which one party had a short-term or even once-off sexual experience with another partner. For men these are usually sexual.

They are often spontaneous and lack any planning or preparation. Your office party fling falls into this category and they are often accompanied by excessive alcohol consumption and are hurried and thoughtless events.

Women participate in these as well.

Unlike men, they are usually not simply sexual. Women tend to crave some kind of emotional connection and with enough alcohol and flattery, they can be seduced into feeling like the goddess instead of the tired mother and wife they usually are.

On impulse she allows a flirtatious situation to cross a boundary. Men can more easily allow the encounter to stay as an encounter and not pursue a relationship. Women are, generally speaking, less comfortable with casual sex and are more inclined to allow the memory to linger.

They are also more inclined to translate the encounter into something more romantic and enduring in their imagination. Sexual flings are not always linked to alcohol and the passion of the moment. Often both men and women use the sexual affair as an act of revenge.

They feel discarded and neglected and actually decide to have a sexual encounter that will allow them to feel special and valued again.

In my experience they usually do so by returning for a short while to one of their previous sexual partners.

The word “fling” manages to sound innocuous enough but they are dangerous. Much of the internet literature, if it can be called that, implies that they are not.

This type of infidelity is called “a bit of nookie on the side” or “a hook-up” which manages to make it sound like eating a cup cake when you’re on diet.

People have different responses to this situation.

For some, the absence of an emotional connection, which is often the case, renders the incident more palatable. It is not as deeply personal as the other affairs.

However, not everyone is inclined to have such a tepid response. It can as easily be seen as an act that betrays the trust of the most precious person in your life, ignoring the sacred vow of forsaking all others.

For the betrayed it’s an act that will have a long-lasting effect on a marriage and cause unhappiness and insecurity in the fabric of the family. Your children will hear vicious arguments and threats of divorce should you be discovered.

The potential cost of a hook-up appears to exceed its value in every respect.

Another popular version of the “harmlessness” of a sexual fling is that it re-introduces a spark to a tired marriage. This version manages to imply that women (or men) whose spouses are cheating casually should in fact feel a measure of gratitude.

The justification goes along the lines that the guilty spouse arrives home determined to assuage his/her guilt by being particularly pleasant and accommodating to their partner.

Not only is he in a great mood, he is feeling like the stag of the good old days and ready to repeat his performance. The more sex you have the more sex you want. Why am I feeling a distinct lack of gratitude? This version manages to suggest that a thank you card would be in order here.

A fling, although short lived and impulsive, still betrays the vow of sexual exclusivity.

Because they lack emotional content men are often surprised and even annoyed at what they deem to be an amplified response to something that “meant nothing”.

What they are saying is simply that this was “sex for fun/sport” and they never intended for a minute that the incident would damage their marriage.

In their opinion, their family is their REAL LIFE and this was an unfortunate incident to which they expect a reaction similar to that had they damaged the car after drinking too much. Those same men, however, would not and do not accept that their wives might have a fling to which they too would be expected to have a “small response”.

The popular film Fatal Attraction is a story about a man who had what he thought would be a brief fling with a madly attractive stranger.

Clearly they had different responses to their sultry weekend and she had no intention of releasing him or even grasping that their passion was not love.

She informs him that she will not be ignored, will not be tossed aside after a weekend of pleasure and will get the respect she deserves even if it requires informing his wife. He is a man flailing, trying to make his secret go away, trying to silence a scorned woman and salvage a marriage he actually still wants.

Our intention often fails to dictate the circumstances into which we can waltz so carelessly. It’s easy to assume that not returning for seconds is sufficient to keep a fling in its rightful place – the margins of our life.

I know a man who had his car stolen from a hotel for which he had no explanation.

He made a false police report in an effort to cover that up but the car thief was apprehended and the matter placed his marriage squarely on the rocks. Another was trapped in a hotel room with a lover who was having a seizure that required medical assistance.

She was so tempted to flee the scene but had no idea if the result would be a dead body in a room into which she was seen entering. Others have been faced with unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Purchase a copy of The Affair from Raru.co.za.