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 isn’t really 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?
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
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)
Seeking out novel sexual experiences or exploring sensual curiosities; deriving a sense of euphoria from engaging in extramarital encounters
Wanting to feel wanted, attractive, or desirable (instead of doing the work to build up a positive self-image yourself)
A compulsive urge to engage in available sexual encounters despite the negative consequences; may occur simultaneously with a Substance Abuse Disorder
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)
As a coping mechanism to alleviate unpleasant emotions resulting from childhood or adulthood sexual assault and/or emotional abuse
To level the playing field or seek vengeance against a partner who cheated on you previously
Falling in love with someone else or out of love with the primary partner
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? These are fine points that every couple should discuss.
A moment of drunken weakness or a planned one-time sexual encounter; repeated one-night stands with different partners, etc.
Repeatedly engaging in sexual encounters outside the primary relationship.
Multiple, extramarital encounters with the same person—with or without emotional ties
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
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.)
An ongoing romantic affair that entails both sexual AND emotional infidelity
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.
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. Infidelity recovery is a complex topic.
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!