Why People Cheat And Have Affairs
Infidelity…unfaithfulness… cheating. Most people can immediately relate to the meaning of any of those terms. Essentially they mean that a partner or spouse has had (or is having) an affair.
An affair can be sexual or emotional. It is a breach of trust by a partner who goes outside of the relationship for sex or intimate emotional connection with someone other than their partner.
People may have differing opinions on what type of an affair is worse, physical or emotional.
In fact most people seem to agree that having an affair that includes an emotional connection with someone may have more of an impact on the hurt partner than simply having sex with another person.
If the unfaithful partner becomes emotionally attached to the third party creating a stronger bond, even falling in love, his spouse may feel that it will be too hard to overcome that large of a betrayal.
In any case there can be many reasons for someone to have an affair or cheat on their spouse.
Affairs or infidelity can fall into many categories. In this post I outline what I consider to be some of the most common reasons for affairs.
This type of encounter can happen when opportunity and poor judgment are working together. It is often the result of drinking, partying too much or even idle curiosity. Poor judgment can lead the curious partner to stray and enter the realm of the one night stand.
Long Term Affair
This type of affair can be ongoing for many years. It may in fact coexist with the life of the marriage itself. A partner may even have offspring from such an affair.
For example, a former television journalist, Charles Kuralt, was discovered to have raised an entire second family. He led this parallel life for many years and was only discovered after his death.
In this type of affair the motivation is anger and revenge. The cheating partner who steps out of the relationship wants to get back at the other for some perceived wrongdoing. They may be holding a grudge about something that happened a long time ago but was never resolved. They may have been feeling unappreciated, unloved or even humiliated by their spouse.
Instead of seeking resolution the cheating partner uses their negative feelings as a way of rationalizing having an affair.
A Happy Marriage
This is often the most difficult type of affair for a spouse to understand. Here the marriage and the relationship appears to be fine. The couple gets along well, they resolve their differences and are relatively happy.
However, in this scenario there is sometimes the privately held desire for something new in the way of having an experience with another person. That feeling, existing below the surface in a spouse, can give rise to taking advantage of an opportunity to step outside of the marriage.
An Unhappy Marriage:
An affair that emerges from an unhappy or unsatisfying relationship is often one where the complaint may be poor communication, emotional disconnection, bad or no sex or even separate lives. Couples frequently dismiss their dissatisfaction as a part of life, argue unproductively over it or just simply learn to live with it. Those strategies can ultimately lead to a cheating spouse seeking solace with someone else.
Poor or Boring Sex
After being together for several years most couples struggle with keeping their sexual relationship interesting. Sometimes both partners express interest in keeping this important part of their lives fresh and the couple continues to thrive sexually. They learn how to keep the desire for each other alive and well.
When one of the spouses becomes more dissatisfied than the other and feels that there is little interest in spicing things up, he may begin looking elsewhere for a more exciting sexual experience.
To be desired by someone new can help raise one’s self esteem.
Already Decided Affair
Here the unfaithful partner has already made up their mind to leave the marriage and uses the affair to make their escape. The thinking is that the marriage could not work so why not use the affair as a transition to divorce.
With the advancement of technology the Internet has been the go to place for almost all things. It is easy to use, can be anonymous and has a seductive quality that can become addictive.
Partners engaging in Internet Affairs can find themselves caught up with the reintroduction of a former friend through Facebook or other platforms. They can also become distracted with meeting a complete stranger online with whom they might never have sex but can carry on a secret emotional connection. Cheating using technology has never been easier.
Compulsive Sexual Behavior
Compulsive sexual behavior is often described as sex addiction. In this type of affair sex is used to cope with feelings of extreme anxiety, emptiness or even a deep emotional wound. Sexually compulsive individuals have very poor impulse control and are at high risk for having affairs. This person can be very insecure or even highly narcissistic and craves adoration which they try to get through frequent sexual encounters.
Fear of Conflict
Some partners are so fearful of causing conflict by either questioning their spouse or requesting better treatment, that they seek someone outside the relationship for relief. This type of person may have been brought up to avoid conflict at all costs and has developed a hyper sensitivity to it. In fact they may perceive almost any assertive conversation with their spouse as potentially explosive.
Even though the idea of this type of person actually cheating or having an affair may seem counter intuitive, it can be experienced by them as a relief from the stress of fearing confrontation.
Fear of Intimacy
A partner who has never been able to truly connect with their spouse in a deeper and meaningful way might enter into an affair to maintain that distance. They may be unaware of the real issue and feel a profound sense of discomfort if the spouse wants to be closer emotionally.
Affairs often develop out of complicated sets of circumstances. Of course there are some personalities that are at higher risk for having an affair but much of the time it is a person who may never have cheated before that ends up being unfaithful.
Your life together does not have to end!
How spouses or partners decide to deal with each other once an affair has been revealed is a highly personal matter. It can have the effect of literally blowing up the marriage or the opposite effect of, with the right guidance, creating an even stronger relationship than before.
An Affair does not have to end the marriage or mean divorce!
Partners can recover if they work at understanding the reasons for the affair in the first place, make the changes necessary for a better path forward and begin to reconcile their differences.
Seeking the right kind of help when an Affair is discovered can make the difference between catastrophe and reconciliation.
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About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity and intimacy.