They start with a look.
They start with a "hello".
They start in messages.
They start in conversations.
Affairs start when someone feels seen and heard and appreciated and acknowledged in a way they they aren't experiencing in their committed relationship.
Affairs start when emotional and mental needs get met by another in a way that they aren't in their committed relationship.
Affairs start with connection in messages and conversations with someone who is being present in a way that their committed partner isn't.
Affairs start because both partners within the committed relationship are going unconscious with themselves and with each other.
You have needs in a relationship: Safety, respect, adventure, connection, empathy, growth, attraction, certainty, passion, acknowledgement, fun, intimacy, communication, purpose, community, newness, desire. You have those needs in your personal lives as well. In a relationship, when you stop getting your needs met for yourself, you expect your partner to meet them for you. But when your partner stops meeting your needs (sometimes they don't even know they're supposed to be meeting them), you'll seek to get them met elsewhere. This behaviour is very subconscious and most people don't realise their needs aren't being met until they find themselves engaging in unworkable behaviour to fulfil a deeper longing.
Anyone in a long term relationship knows how hard it can be to keep things interesting and fresh. The daily routine, how you parent, the conversations you have, what you wear, the holidays you take, what you watch on TV, sex, who you socialise with, what you eat, where you go out, where you shop, how you fight and what you do on weekends can all become so predictable and repetitive and boring - if you let it.
Relationships take work - but so does life. You have no problem showing up in your job and being present for your colleagues and clients (even when you don't want to) and working hard and putting in overtime and stretching yourself to do the best you can (even when you're tired), but you don't bring that same attitude into your relationship because you're taking it for granted. Be careful of assuming that you can just keep giving your partner the scraps of yourself at the end of each day, after everyone else has gotten the best of what you have to offer, and expect them to be OK with that.
Most couples I work with use tiredness and a lack of time as excuses to not put energy into making their relationships work and it's a really dangerous attitude to have. Pay attention before things start sliding out of control. Take your focus off of work, friends, family, money problems and your kids for 10 minutes and really think about where you are with yourself and your relationship.
Is your partner meeting your needs? Do they even know what they are?
What about them? Are you fulfilling their needs?
How often do you take the time to really check in with each other?
What bad behaviours or red flags are you ignoring?
What excuses are you putting in the way of truly connecting?
Are you already engaging inappropriately with someone else?
If you are, please stop trying to convince yourself that, just because you're chatting with someone else over text, it's not serious and it's not really cheating. An emotional affair is just as deceitful as a physical one. Are you telling yourself that the flirting is just innocent? Does the other person know that or are they under the impression that you're interested in something more?
Just because it's over text doesn't make it any less real. There are consequences for seeking needs outside of your relationship. Pay attention to how you are presenting yourself to other people and where you should be implementing clearer boundaries in your communication and behaviour.
You have to decide where your relationship sits on your list of priorities and then do something about it before a 'look' or a 'hello' or a 'message' or a 'conversation' tears it all away from you.