Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is infidelity?
Infidelity is defined as the act of being unfaithful to a spouse or a romantic partner. Infidelity can include extramarital sex, having an emotional affair, or cheating. When you find out that your partner has been unfaithful, it's an incredibly painful experience. It's likely that you're confused and have found yourself wondering why this is happening to you. Their actions are their own, and getting cheated on doesn't mean that anything's wrong with you, but it can be tough to face what happened and decide what to do next.
Why do people engage in infidelity?
People cheat or engage in infidelity for a variety of reasons. When one partner cheats on the other, there's a disconnect in the relationship. A person may stray from their relationship so that they can get attention or affection. Maybe their current partner isn't demonstrating physical affection or emotional validation. A person who isn't getting their needs met may stray from their relationship. Cheating could be a tactic to attempt to gain confidence in themselves. No one deserves to be cheated on. Despite gender stereotypes, both men and women can engage in infidelity.
Cheating to test the waters
Sometimes people cheat so that they can have an excuse to break up with their partner. They create triangulation where there are three people involved in their romantic life - their partner, the person they are cheating with, and them. Cheating is sometimes a way to envision a new life without their current partner. The person is testing the waters, seeing if they are desirable to someone else. It can be scary to leave a long-term relationship. If they see that there are more prospects out there, they may be building up the courage to leave their long-term partner.
Is infidelity common?
In the United States, many studies have been conducted over the years to gain information regarding infidelity. Unfortunately, it is not at all rare. Infidelity occurs in roughly a quarter of marriages, and it's even more prevalent in relationships held by unmarried couples. The journal of family issues website is one place that you can find reliable information about families and relationships, whether you are looking for content about infidelity or something else.
What should I do if my partner hasn't been faithful?
It's painful to find out that your partner cheated on you. You may be feeling sad, angry, or a myriad of other emotions. There's no wrong way to feel after experiencing betrayal. One thing is sure - if your partner has been unfaithful, you are likely experiencing emotional pain and a lack of trust. The most important thing to do here is to examine what is best for you. Do you want to continue this relationship and feel that it can be amended, or do you feel that it has disrupted things too much for the relationship to recover? Both of these answers are valid. If you do decide to separate and want to do so peacefully, divorce counseling can be helpful.
Can a relationship be repaired after infidelity?
Infidelity can cause a lot of pain, but it's not necessarily a hopeless situation. A relationship can be repaired after infidelity, but only if that's what both you and your partner want. If you or they have no desire to stay in the connection, it's time to call it off. That said, if you still love each other and want to make it work, there's hope. Many couples heal from cheating. Seeing a couple's counselor or a marriage and family therapist is often a vital step to putting a relationship back together after infidelity. It takes some time to rebuild trust after people cheat, but with effort on both sides, it is possible.
Healing from infidelity
Whether or not you decide to patch things up with your partner, healing from infidelity is a long, dedicated process. It's important to feel your feelings on an individual level, and if you do decide to stay together, seeking guidance is nearly imperative. You don't have to go through this alone. Whether you see a mental health provider online or in your local area, you can get help for infidelity or other relationship issues. The counselors at ReGain can help you and your partner work through any struggles you're facing together from the privacy of your own home. ReGain sessions will always be kept confidential, so your information will be kept safe. Don't be ashamed about asking for help. It will improve your relationships long-term and can be beneficial to your overall wellbeing.