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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience and meaning of women’s extramarital affairs Evans-Locke, Nina M.


A qualitative phenomenological paradigm was used to explore the phenomenon of clandestine heterosexual extramarital affairs for women in long-term relationships. Five women were recruited from two cities on Vancouver Island, B.C. During individual, in-depth, audiotaped, personal interviews, the women retrospectively described their experience of an extramarital affair (or affairs). Five common themes were extrapolated from the data using the seven-step model of data analysis outlined by Colaizzi (1978). The results indicated that in their long-term relationships, the women felt powerless, invalidated, and disconnected. They perceived themselves as having a sense of control and as feeling validated and connected in their affairs. The women felt shame and self-blame for having sexual and emotional needs. They felt guilty for engaging in an affair to fulfill these needs, for breaking a traditional code of behavior, and for the pleasure they experienced in their affairs. They experienced a sexual reawakening in their affairs which brought with it a clarity about themselves and their needs. The experience was felt to be healing and was also a catalyst for positive change for all of the women, although for some this positive change signaled the ending of their marital relationships.

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