Many marriage therapists and couple counselors agree that infidelity is one of the leading causes of failed marriages. This article is an insight into infidelity: who cheats and why?
Infidelity tears apart the trust that ought to be the foundation of the relationship. It causes feelings of anger, insecurity, self-doubt and inadequacy that some couples never get past.
Understanding the reasons why people cheat is key to preventing and recovering from affairs.
You might believe you already know what you would do if your spouse were to ever cheat. But for many people, uncovering the reasons why infidelity happened in the first place could open the door to repairing the damage, and making sure it never happens again.
What is infidelity?
We all have our own idea about what infidelity means to us.
Some people define cheating as having sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse. To others, cheating could be just looking at or fantasizing about having sex with someone else, or sharing personal moments with somebody outside the marriage.
To many people, emotional infidelity can feel even more hurtful than physical infidelity.
And others feel strongly that secrecy is a form of cheating. Some examples of secrets that fall into the bucket of betrayal include:
- an unwillingness to share one’s whereabouts
- having secret email accounts or cell phones
- engaging in risky internet behavior (like compulsively watching porn and hiding it)
Since our understanding of betrayal is so individual, you and your partner should talk about what betrayal and infidelity mean to you.
Then, as Stan Tatkin teaches, it’s important to safeguard your marriage by making agreements that protect your relationship. Some of these agreements might include:
- our relationship always comes first
- we tell each other everything
- we always manage people and situations outside of your relationship so that our partner feels safe and secure
Sometimes this requires some serious negotiation. But it’s worth it! The reality is if your partner feels uncomfortable or threatened by your behavior, you are not protecting them or your relationship.
Statistics show that more men than women cheat on their spouses, but no doubt, women cheat, too.
Both men and women alike end up treading into dangerous waters. They put themselves at risk of cheating by secretly opening themselves up to situations that provide opportunity for connecting with someone other than their spouse.
Although not all married people will cheat when given the chance, one’s willingness to approach a ‘red zone’ situation increases the risk.
Most happily married people will avoid situations they know are dangerous. But if they end up feeling an attraction to someone else, they simply talk to their spouse about it right away.
There are numerous reasons why some people don’t protect their marriage from infidelity and end up cheating.
Why do people stray in a marriage?
Statistically, about 30% of all married people will be unfaithful. Sustained stress and unresolved problems in a marriage can lead even the steadiest of individuals to be vulnerable to affairs.
Many of these people are surprised by their behavior when they begin to cheat. And they are often oblivious to the things that may have set the stage for infidelity.
Some of the most common reasons why people cheat are:
- Too much time spent away from the home and marriage due to work
- Internet making it easier for people to engage in covert sexual activity
- Mismanagement of people outside of their primary relationship
- Sexual incompatibility or differences in libido
- Avoidant, insecure attachment styles
- The attractiveness factor: the more one is desired, the more attention they will get, increases the likelihood and opportunity
- Risk-taking behavior acted out through infidelity
- Mental health issues such as narcissism, or sociopathic traits remove barriers to cheating
- A sense of entitlement caused by cultural gender roles, greater power or wealth
- Not talking enough to your spouse out of fear of conflict, then finding someone else to talk to
- Being “addicted” to novelty
- Unresolved relationship problems that lead to severe emotional disconnection
Healing is Possible
By no means does cheating have to be the end of your marriage. In fact, the discovery of infidelity can be the catalyst for a much better partnership.
Healing can begin when a spouse who has cheated stops the affair, has remorse, and is willing to become transparent. Trust can then be repaired and the relationship can end up better than it ever was prior to the infidelity.
Open communication and a willingness by both partners to do the work is essential, and with the help of a professional, healing is possible.
If You’re Considering a Breakup
If you’ve been dealing with infidelity and are unsure about the next step in your relationship, speak to a marriage therapist before you make any life changing decisions. Also, if you’re suffering from the pain of betrayal and are unsure how to heal, know that there is hope.
Professional marriage therapy or relationship coaching can be the answer to your pain. It will allow both you and your spouse to understand why the cheating even happened.
Couples counseling can give you the guidance and skills to repair the damaged trust and create a secure and happy relationship.