I was reading an r/adultery subreddit thread and came across this idea called the rubber band theory — what happens when you pull back from an affair partner (AP) without telling them why.
It made perfect sense. For context, the original poster talked about her clingy AP and how he could be annoying. She crowdsourced advice on Reddit, looking for a way to deal with it. Here’s what she had to say…
I have an amazing AP. He’s thoughtful, kind, attentive, and fun. But lately, I feel so smothered. NRE [new relationship energy] was so intense we messaged at ALL free moments every day, and it turned to messages and phone calls. Now, it’s just too much, and I have no time for me because it’s always going to him. He’s super sensitive, and I’m not trying to crush the man, but I can’t sustain the constant messages anymore. Today I told him I would be on a family FaceTime to let him know I wouldn’t be around. But, I still got messages instead of being left alone. What should I say/do?
What others say about clingy affair partners
Female Redditor — I see him and talk to him A LOT, and I feel like sometimes it is just too much. I saw him last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Then he wanted to get together early today for a couple of hours. So I told him I’d see him tomorrow because we have a 6:30 am meet. But now he’s with his wife shopping and he keeps calling me with nothing to say. He’s 56 years old, LOL. He’s the best sex I’ve EVER had, but sometimes he can be a bit much.
Female Redditor — I had a pAP [potential affair partner] who never went to AP status because that clinginess made me lose all attraction. He expected daily chats at a specified time and constant daily check-ins or he would blow up my app. He demanded I set aside time in my calendar to check the app and respond. I ignored him for two days, and he threatened to call! I sent him a polite note and blocked him. He was 54.
Male Redditor — I’ve had a relationship end with an online AP because of feeling smothered. She broke it off after I told her I felt like I was always pressured into constant contact. She would get upset if I wanted time alone and she made me feel guilty when my SO [significan other] was around if I couldn’t chat.
Redditor — I slow fade for a week or so to let them get the point. I think most guys feel obligated to be up our asses. If he has a brain, he’ll get why you’re doing it. It’s been successful for me
OMG, I loved this — “obligated to be up our asses.” Men, pay attention.
Redditor — Don’t make a big deal out of it…but answer when you can/want to!
Redditor — The only option here is to keep the communication flowing and discuss it in person.
Redditor — Not answering often may not be the best. Try talking to him. It worked for me.
The “Rubber Band Theory”
Partway through the thread, a Redditor made this gem of a comment:
Why not just be bluntly honest with him? People need space and room to breathe. Surely he’ll understand this. Sometimes simply pulling back doesn’t produce the desired effect and can cause the other party to go into Stage 5 crisis mode, leaving them wondering what’s going on and putting them into “crazy person” overdrive trying to save whatever is left. (Rubberband theory is a real thing). If you like him, just communicate.
An excellent point. If we simply pull back from an overly needy partner, they’ll think something’s wrong, and their imagination will run wild.
If you pull back your side of the rubber band without warning, that tension will pull their side out of shape too. To reduce stress, it’s best to have a conversation.
What to do?
A Redditor suggested the OP could text her lover this:
“Hey, I know we’re both excited about this, and we feel like we want to talk all the time. But we have other commitments to other people who also need our attention. So I want to pull back a bit with the messaging because we must continue maintaining other important relationships. So this isn’t me being tired of you or “wanting a break.” This is me acknowledging that we have to control ourselves and for this wonderful thing we found into our larger lives in a way that works.”
This message says it all. Ironically, the OP said her lover didn’t think he was being needy, and this might be the best way to address it.
Most of the Redditors agreed that the OP’s AP would kill the relationship by smothering it. My AP and I usually check in first thing in the morning and chat here and there before work. We’ll then check in once or twice during the day and let each other know when we’re done working. Of course, supper is always a busy time for both of us, so usually, after that, we have a nice little chat.
We both watch the same show in the evening, so that gives us something to chat about and the time to do it. Then, when my SO goes to bed around eight, I start writing while my AP preps for their next workday.
Tonight, for instance, we were chatting because I didn’t know what to write about. When I came up with the idea for this piece and started writing I texted —
I can do that because my AP and I have discussed communications and our needs, to address this issue in the past. We tell each other when we feel needy or neglected, and the other answers the call. We respect each other’s time and life commitments, so don’t bug each other when we’re busy.
Any successful long-term relationship relies on both people saying what they feel they need to say when they need to say it. Being respected by the other person when they do is what makes it work.
I have that in my affair, but not in my marriage. We’ve never been able to communicate openly, and have suffered for it.
Unlike marriage, though, the nice thing about an affair is that you can easily block, ghost, and find another AP who’ll communicate the way you like.
No one cheats because they want more of the relationship they have.
© Teresa J. Conway, 2022