Married people cheat. This is an unavoidable fact. Upward of 40% of married couples are impacted by infidelity in marriage or a relationship. And most people, even those who cheated, will admit that cheating is wrong. Myriad factors contribute to the cause of infidelity, ranging from mental disorders to the prevalence of social media and the ability to easily meet to “hook up.” Regardless of the reason for the cheating, it’s important that you know that you didn’t cause your partner to cheat. It may have been a cry for help, an exit strategy, or simply a means of getting revenge after being cheated on themselves. But the cheater alone is responsible for cheating.
How cheating is motivated by gender
Of the genders out there, men are more likely to have affairs than women. Men express love in a more physical way, oftentimes lacking the ability to express themselves emotionally to their partner. As a result, sex becomes an important method of conveying connection and intimacy. When men aren’t satisfied sexually, such as their partner regularly rejecting sex, then they struggle with the rejection and oftentimes don’t feel a connection with their partner, which contributes toward unfaithfulness in marriage or relationships.
On the other hand, women also cheat. In comparison, they’re trying to fill an emotional void. It’s easy for women to feel disconnected from their spouse and simply have a desire to be cherished and loved. As a result of feeling underappreciated or ignored, they may seek emotional infidelity in marriage. Females view affairs as a “transitional” partner, or rather a way to end the relationship. Still, sexual satisfaction can also be a driver of affairs for women.
Causes of affairs and risk factors
Myriad reasons exist for why men or women may pursue infidelity in relationships. However, certain risk factors, with one or both individuals in the relationship, contribute toward an increase in the odds of it happening.
Risk factors of infidelity
The typical saying is that it takes two to tango, or rather mess up a relationship with having an emotional affair or physical. Individual risk factors contribute to the chance of infidelity and include the following:
- Addiction: Abusing substances is a common risk factor. Alcohol specifically is a problem as it reduces inhibitions as a sober person wouldn’t cross the line, whereas a drunk person would be more inclined.
- Addiction to sex: Separate from substance abuse, an addiction to sex can likewise contribute significantly toward the possibility of cheating. If your partner feels unsatisfied with the sex with you, they are more likely to seek gratification elsewhere.
- Attachment styles: Ways in which we interact and behave in a relationship can contribute to infidelity in relationships. Styles such as attachment avoidance or attachment insecurity, in addition to other intimacy disorders, can contribute toward the likelihood of cheating. Poor self-esteem and similar insecurities increase the risk of cheating as a person would view it as a way to prove their value to someone.
- Childhood traumas: People who have experienced childhood trauma, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect, are at significant risk of having an affair. This is especially the case if the person has not sought to address the trauma through therapy.
- Exposed to infidelity: If your partner has previous experience with cheating through someone they know, this further increases the risk of infidelity. People who have experienced infidelity themselves through their parents or even friends are more likely to have an affair themselves.
- Mental illnesses: The presence of mental illnesses in the form of depression and bipolar disorder can result in unfaithfulness in marriage.
- History of cheating: The saying goes “once a cheater, always a cheater,” which has some truth to it. Individuals who have been involved in having an affair are significantly more likely to repeat the trend in subsequent relationships.
- Psychological contributors: Personality disorders, such as narcissistic traits, come with an increased chance of infidelity. With regard to narcissism, your partner may be driven to an affair by their ego and the belief of entitlement. Additionally, people with psychological disorders often lack empathy, which means they fail to understand the impact of their actions on you, their partner.
Risk factors caused by relationships
Beyond the risk factors already mentioned, relationships can also create risk factors for cheating. These factors include:
- Domestic violence and/or emotional abuse
- Disconnect emotionally and/or physically
- Financial problems
- Failure to communicate
- Lack of mutual respect
- Low compatibility (partners in a relationship or married for the wrong reason, resulting in “buyer’s remorse”)
Additional reasons for infidelity
Beyond the risk factors that contribute toward physical and emotional infidelity in marriage or a relationship, there also lie additional possible reasons. While risk factors increase a person’s inclination toward cheating, they may also have an actual reason that contributes toward being unfaithful. The underlying cause of many affairs is unmet needs.
You may be unable to fulfill your partner’s needs, but you may even be unaware of their needs as they haven’t been communicated. Partners in a relationship are not telepathic. Another problem could be the habit of running away from problems (i.e., conflict avoidance). Rather than facing you and communicating their problems or needs, your partner may prefer to avoid conflict.
Additional reasons many have cited as the cause for cheating includes:
- Availability of internet: Infidelity in relationships, be it emotional or physical, are much easier to pull off now due to the availability of the internet. Myriad websites exist that connect people together and make it easier than ever for a partner to have an emotional affair. “Online cheating” is still cheating, regardless of whether the two people ever met face-to-face.
- Body image problems: Many middle-aged men find themselves having an affair with women as young as their daughter, largely in an effort to prove that they “still have it.” On the other hand, a cheating partner may cast blame on their partner for an affair due to their partner “letting themselves go” physically.”
- Feelings of boredom: When a partner feels that they’ve lost the thrill of the chase or the excitement that comes with a new relationship, they may be more likely to cheat. Rather than finding a new way to spice things up with their partner, they may feel that an affair is a way to rejuvenate the relationship.
- Feeling unimportant: Infidelity comes about when a partner feels unappreciated or neglected. For example, one partner may be working a lot or one performs the bulk of the housework and childcare. The person who feels they’re doing all the work and for no acknowledgment may feel vindicated in pursuing an affair.
- Lack of happiness/satisfaction: When one partner feels dissatisfied with their marriage or relationship, emotionally or sexually, they may feel inclined to cheat. Relationships require significant work, so without mutual effort, a couple can easily grow apart. A lack of romance in marriage is often cited as a reason for a partner to cheat.
- No feeling of commitment: If a partner doesn’t feel committed to their relationship, they may feel more empowered to cheat.
- Opportunity: If you’re absent a lot for work or due to a busy social life, it’s easier for your partner to find the opportunity for an affair. Absence provides a person with myriad opportunities to pursue an affair while posing little risk of being caught. If your partner feels lonely or resentful due to a long-distance marriage or relationship, they’re more likely to consider an affair.
- Pornography: Though this has been downplayed for its role in infidelity in relationships, pornography is dangerous to any relationship. It is effectively a “gateway” to some people and is easily accessible due to the internet.
- Revenge: If you’ve previously had an affair or damaged your partner in some way, your partner may feel justified in reacting with a revenge affair.
Dealing with infidelity in a relationship
Depending on the relationship or marriage, an affair is perceived as a cry for help. Basically, it forces the couple to finally face the problems that both you and your partner may have been aware of but failed to address. Sometimes a partner may try to get caught so that they can more easily bring forward the issue that drove them to infidelity. It’s easy to see how infidelity ruins a marriage, but it isn’t so easy to address the contributors that caused it.
Others may view infidelity as an exit strategy, or rather a way to finally bring about the end of a relationship. Saving a marriage after infidelity isn’t always easy. Most relationships tend to end when an affair comes to light. If a relationship was already unhappy, then it’s hard to keep it going when one partner cheats on the other.
If a relationship is truly strong, rebuilding trust after an affair is possible.
Surviving infidelity in a relationship
When an affair finally comes to light, the immediate impulse is to discover how the relationship between you and your partner led to this point. Infidelity is a symptom of deeper issues and rebuilding a marriage after infidelity is quite possible in the right circumstances. Just remember, that if you were the one cheated on, you’re not responsible for your partner’s decision to cheat. Do not blame yourself for their behavior.
Women tend to view emotional affairs as more threatening than sexual, though men tend to forgive emotional affairs in comparison to sexual. The most common response to learning of any affair is jealousy.
Treating infidelity with counseling
An affair doesn’t need to rip a relationship apart. You and your partner can adopt numerous strategies to ensure that you make time for one another and put a priority on your relationship, working toward healing after infidelity.
Take a couples or single assessment
One of the main ways to help a loved one realize that they need to seek out help in salvaging your relationship is by getting them to take a relationship assessment. This helps to point out problems and strengths in the relationship. Our Couples assessment gives people the opportunity to take inventory of their entire relationship and identify problem points that may have contributed to an affair. You can then use the results of this assessment to explore how both you and your partner scored yourselves and each other.
Simply fill out the questionnaire by truthfully scoring yourself and your partner on all aspects of the relationship. Remember the truthful part, because that is critical for addressing problem areas and helping a relationship to succeed.
Encourage your partner to see a therapist or try couples therapy
Once you’ve completed the assessment, you can sit down with your partner and examine the results to identify relationship problems and discuss the possibility of couples therapy. If you and your partner want to answer the question “can a marriage survive an affair?” and avoid a breakup or divorce, make this into an honest discussion.
But if you can’t simply discuss the assessment results, that’s where therapy comes into the equation. With the results of your assessment in hand, you can approach any counselor with evidence of relationship problems you are encountering. A licensed professional can then use this during counseling sessions to help address the issues flagged by the affair.
When you care for someone that cheated on you, it’s too easy to try and address their problems by acting like a therapist yourself. It might seem helpful to give them someone to talk to and maybe even “vent.” But the problem is that you’re not a therapist. Trying to play that role while also being supportive of your partner can become quite draining and may even make you resent your partner. You aren’t responsible for being a therapist. But you can help encourage your partner to seek out therapy.
Gently guide them toward working with a therapist. This can drastically help improve how they deal with their decision to cheat on you.
Try therapy yourself
Regardless of whether your partner agrees to or resists the suggestion of attending therapy, you should still try it yourself. Such an effort will help you to develop the skills necessary to understand the signs of anger issues your partner may be experiencing and how to cope with your partner’s frustration over the stresses of parenthood. Therapists can also teach you how to effectively support your partner. Simply take the results of your partner’s assessment with you and your counselor will tailor each session to giving you the tools to help your relationship succeed.
When dealing with marriage after infidelity, help seems difficult to find. But it’s of critical importance that you take care of yourself. Going to therapy gives you the opportunity to also focus on your own mental health.