Why Do People Have Affairs? Can Infidelity Counseling Help Me Through This?
Few things are as heart-wrenching as discovering that your partner has been engaged in a sexual or emotional affair behind your back. It’s a special kind of grief —because this grief is personal. Shock and a sense of betrayal are common — as is profound grief and genuine confusion about what to do next.
Often infidelity comes as a complete surprise to the betrayed partner. Genuine shock that the person they’ve loved and trusted would DO this is common. The loss of trust is profound — not just in your partner, but in your own judgment. How could you have missed it?
If you knew about or suspected the affair… you’re probably not feeling much better. The hard truth is, you have to lie to yourself a lot to stay in an unhealthy relationships. Good marriage counseling can help you understand these lies and learn to love the truth instead.
If you were the unfaithful part, chances are that this moment is no walk in the park for you either. Most people don’t derive pleasure from hurting their partners. Truthfully, cheating is’t really isn’t about them; it’s about you. Emotional wounds, poor self-image, inflated self-image and even conflict aversion are all powerful incentives to cheat.
So… if cheating is so devastating to everyone involved… then, why do people do it?
Out of the mouths of the unfaithful, studies reveal why people cheat:
- Emotional Dissatisfaction: A deficiency of intimacy in the primary relationship (feeling unwanted, undesirable, or ignored; to correct an emotional power imbalance between partners in the primary relationship; feeling stuck in a failing relationship and needing an exit strategy; the primary relationship is/was characterized by high conflict
- Sexual Dissatisfaction: Lack of sexual fulfillment in the primary relationship (infrequency of sexual intercourse, lack of variety in love-making, divergent sexual desires, or difficulties achieving orgasm with the primary partner)
- Sexual Excitement: Seeking out novel sexual experiences or exploring sensual curiosities; deriving a sense of euphoria from engaging in extramarital encounters
- Sexual Gratification: Wanting to feel wanted, attractive, or desirable (instead of doing the work to build up a positive self-image yourself)
- Sexual Addiction: A compulsive urge to engage in available sexual encounters despite the negative consequences; may occur simultaneously with a Substance Abuse Disorder
- Low Self-Esteem: To curb feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy; to soothe a persistent fear of abandonment or to create emotional distance between yourself and the primary partner (the “hurt them—before they can hurt you” strategy)
- Sexual or Emotional Trauma: As a coping mechanism to alleviate unpleasant emotions resulting from childhood or adulthood sexual assault and/or emotional abuse
- Revenge: To level the playing field or seek vengeance against a partner who cheated on you previously
- Love: Falling in love with someone else or out of love with the primary partner
What Constitutes Infidelity?
This answer may vary considerably from couple to couple; however, infidelity is always the series of acts—whether emotional or sexual—that violate trust in a romantic or sexual relationship. Partners may not always agree about what constitutes infidelity. Is watching pornography equivalent to cheating? Is it ok to kiss same sex or opposite sex friends when emotional connections are not involved… but alcohol is? Is fantasizing about other people—co-workers, celebrities, etc.—allowed in your relationship? Although these are fine points that every couple should discuss, common categories of infidelity often include:
- One-Night Stands: A moment of drunken weakness or a planned one-time sexual encounter; repeated one-night stands with different partners, etc.
- Serial Sexual Affairs: Repeatedly engaging in sexual encounters outside the primary relationship.
- One-Person Stands: Multiple, extramarital encounters with the same person—with or without emotional ties
- Emotional Infidelity: Falling in love or becoming infatuated with another person outside of the primary relationship (without actually committing an act of sexual infidelity); allowing yourself to fantasize about this person; or sharing intimate aspects about yourself or private details of your primary relationship with this accessory person
- Online Affairs: Conducting an emotional affair over the internet (which may or may not subsequently develop into a sexual affair); participating in sexually explicit acts with this person online (including cybersex, webcam sex, or exchanging risqué photos, etc.)
- Secondary Relationships: An ongoing romantic affair that entails both sexual AND emotional infidelity
- Other “Violations”: Everyone has a different definition of what constitutes “cheating” in the context of their relationship. For some people, this definition may be expanded to include “unconventional” forms of cheating, such as watching pornography, masturbating to fantasies of other people, engaging in solo fetishes or paraphilias, etc.
How Can Therapy & Counseling For Infidelity & Affairs Help Me?
So, you cheated on your partner or discovered that your partner has cheated on you. What now?
Sometimes the biggest challenge is finding out what decisions are right for you. If you committed an act of infidelity that you regret, should you inform your partner? If your partner has cheated on you, should you attempt to salvage the relationship or sever emotional ties?
Counseling for infidelity can help you find these answers, with introspection and gentle guidance. Although infidelity recovery is a complex topic, common goals of therapy may include:
- Revealing The Affair: Working up the courage to inform a partner about an act of infidelity
- Difficult Decisions: Choosing whether a relationship is salvageable when confronted with a partner’s sexual or emotional transgression
- Identifying Problems: Allowing each partner to articulate why they believe the infidelity occurred – what are the significant issues (such as sexual dissatisfaction or emotional disconnect) that contributed to the affair?
- Healing: Recovering from the emotional trauma of infidelity—the overpowering emotions of betrayal, inadequacy, worthlessness, shame, jealousy, anger, depression, or panic
- Mental Health: Receiving treatment for related mental health challenges: sexual addictions, substance abuse disorders, childhood and adulthood sexual or emotional abuse, low self-esteem, a fear of abandonment, or codependency
- Implementing A Plan For Moving forward: Ensuring that infidelity doesn’t reoccur and identifying strategies for enhancing the bond between partners (developing common interests, carving out time for sexual intimacy, correcting sources of power disparity in the relationship)
- Rebounding In The Bedroom: Learning how to enjoy sex with your partner once again after the trauma of the infidelity subsides
Infidelity is not a death sentence for relationships. But the hard work of rebuilding trust takes time and effort. Let our experienced couples counselors help you through it. Call us today!
Meet our counselors who specialize in this issue
- Deanne MooreLPC, LMFTDallas Office$185 per 50 min sessionSpecialties: Blended Families, Business Partner Counseling, Christian Counseling, Codependency Issues, Couples Counseling, Divorce & Breakups, Family Issues, Infidelity, Last-Ditch Marital, Marriage Counseling, Parental Alienation, Women's Issues
- Cori HillMasters Level InternDallas & Park CitiesFees: Start at $50 per 50 min sessionSpecialties: Abandonment Issues, Adulting, Anxiety Disorders, Biracial Couples, Blended Families, Business Partner Counseling, Codependency Issues, Couples Counseling, Cross-Cultural Relationships, Depression, Failure to Launch, Families & Mental Illness, Family Issues, Female Sexuality, Infidelity, Interfaith Relationships, Last-Ditch Marital, LGBTQ Couples, Major Depression, Marriage Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Newlyweds, Panic Attacks, Pre-Engagement, Pre-Marital, Quarter-Life Issues, Relationship Issues, Stress Management, Virtual Counseling Sessions, Young Adults, Young Adults in Transition
- Katie HermesLPC Intern, LCDC-Intern Supervised by
Melanie Wells, LPC-S, LMFT-SDallas & Fort WorthFees: $90 per 50 min sessionSpecialties: Adulting, Codependency Issues, Couples Counseling, Divorce & Adjustment, Failure to Launch, Female Sexuality, Infidelity, Last-Ditch Marital, Newlyweds, Women's Issues, Young Adults in Transition
- Mary MillerLMFT associate Supervised by Melanie Wells, LPC-S, LMFT-SDallas & Fort Worth$115 per 50 minute sessionSpecialties: Business Partner Counseling, Couples Counseling, Female Sexuality, Infidelity, LGBTQ & Gender Issues, LGBTQ Couples, Male Sexuality, Marriage & Gender, Marriage Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Newlyweds, Parenting, Pre-Marital, Sex Therapy, Sexual Identity, Women's Issues
- Mark LuffLife CoachDallas OfficeFees: $90 per 50 min sessionSpecialties: Addiction & Substance Abuse, Adolescents, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Anxiety Disorders, Christian Counseling, Couples Counseling, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Infidelity, Interfaith Relationships, Last-Ditch Marital, LGBTQ Couples, Male Sexuality, Marriage Counseling, Men's Issues, New Parents, Newlyweds, Pre-Engagement, Pre-Marital, Relationship Issues, Sexual Identity
- Linda GrahamLPC-Intern Supervised
by Jenny Wang, LPC-SPlano/Richardson OfficeFees: $95 per 50 min sessionSpecialties: Anger Management, Anxiety Disorders, Codependency Issues, Couples Counseling, Dealing with OCD, Depression, Divorce & Adjustment, Infidelity, Insomnia, Major Depression, Marriage Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Panic Attacks, Phobias, Postpartum Depression, Relationship Issues, Social Anxiety, Stress Management, Suicidal Thoughts