Affairs, Cheating and Infidelity: Truth and Myths
The Reality of Infidelity
You can either be shocked by an infidelity, become devastated and make hasty decisions about what to do or try to understand why it happened and learn from it.
Although it is obviously very difficult for the hurt partner, once an affair has been discovered to try to think things through, it is always better in the long run if they are able to do so.
The shock of betrayal and the thoughts about what it means is driven in part by what we believe to be true about infidelity to begin with. There are many myths about cheating, affairs and infidelity.
In this post I debunk the myths about affairs and infidelity in an effort to help couples gain some clearer perspective on the subject.
Myth: Cheating or having an Affair/Infidelity destroys a marriage.
Truth: Although that may be true for some, many marriages survive affairs. Most marriages, where both partners are committed to the marriage and to changing the dynamics that may have supported the affair, emerge stronger from the infidelity crisis.
Myth: Having an Affair will benefit the marriage.
Truth: This myth is obviously the opposite of the one above it which suggests that the Affair will destroy the marriage. An Infidelity is something done in secret by the unfaithful partner. When it is discovered the hurt partner is often devastated. There is nothing beneficial about this. There is no evidence that would indicate that this process of betrayal is good for the marriage despite the fact that the couple may survive it.
Myth: Affairs happen because of sexual attraction.
Truth: There are many different types of affairs and reasons for having them. Although sexual attraction can be a reason to cheat on your partner, it is often the emotional needs of the unfaithful partner that causes the affair to begin.
Myth: Affairs happen when people get older and become used to each other.
Truth: There has been a steady increase in affairs happening with partners under the age of 30! It is thought that younger people have likely developed the habit of having multiple partners before marriage, a habit that is hard to break. In addition, cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend when you were younger seems not so long ago when you are still under 30 and in a committed relationship.
Myth: There are always signs of infidelity, but the hurt partner chooses to avoid them.
Truth: Although this may be true in some cases, most infidelities remain an undiscovered secret. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, once the affair is discovered certain clues about cheating then become apparent that were not so visible before.
Myth: Divorcing the adulterer or leaving the unfaithful partner is the best way to get the affair behind you.
Truth: Surveys have indicated that almost 8 out of 10 partners who divorced because of an affair regret the decision. This fact coincides somewhat with many surveys of divorced couples in general. Divorce is no picnic! It is a painful and often highly regrettable decision.
Myth: Affairs only happen in unhappy or troubled marriages.
Truth: Infidelity happens in good marriages as well. The numbers show that infidelity or having an affair is an equal opportunity phenomenon.
Myth: The unfaithful partner is less interested in sex at home.
Truth: Contrary to conventional wisdom, many unfaithful partners become even more stimulated and interested in having sex with their spouse while having an affair. In fact, sometimes an affair serves as a sexual jump start to a low sex relationship.
Myth: Men have the affairs.
Truth: Although this may seem logical, given that men are and have been in more powerful positions than women, in the world of infidelity women are catching up! It is now thought that women statistically represent about 40% of all infidelities. This is a surprising fact about cheating wives.
Myth: To achieve recovery from an affair, the unfaithful partner must reveal every detail to the hurt spouse.
Truth: To disclose all the minutia, sexual and otherwise may do more harm than good. An understanding of what took place, with whom and why is far more important than learning all the prurient facts of an affair. The hurt partner needs to be wary of becoming obsessed with hurtful details.
Myth: Couples must be in therapy if they are to recover from the affair.
Truth: If the couple chooses the wrong therapist, one who may be judgmental, moralistic or inexperienced with the complexities of infidelity, it can potentially impede the recovery. Finding an experienced therapist who specializes in Affair Recovery is critical. Some couples, once an affair has been discovered, make a serious review of their relationship on their own and try to find some deeper meaning for the infidelity.
Myth: Affairs or an infidelity happens because a spouse is looking to have one.
Truth: An infidelity can take place as a random act that was not planned at all. Sometimes it can be in the form of a “one night stand” or develops as a result of having become friends where personal and perhaps intimate information gets exchanged.
Myth: Unfaithful partners seek out the younger or better looking person with whom to be unfaithful.
Truth: The truth is that many affairs take place between same age couples, or between persons who would not be considered more beautiful than one’s spouse. Prince Charles and his long affair with Camilla Parker Bowles come to mind.
Myth: Everyone has Affairs.
Truth: The truth is that research has found that, including extramarital relationships that do not involve sex (emotional affairs), about 40-45% of marriages have had one partner who was unfaithful. Although that is a significant number, it still is not everyone.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist, clinical sexologist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as sexuality, infidelity, careers, and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work-life balance.