With most romantic couples, there is an implicit agreement that both partners will be sexually and romantically involved only with each other. When this pact is broken, a great deal of trust is lost, which may never be regained and can easily lead to the end of a relationship or marriage.
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. The journal of sex research volume three published the results of a study that can help explain some common reasons why people cheat. The journal of sex research first states that infidelities or an extramarital affair could be motivated by dissatisfaction, neglect, anger, and sexual desire. Then, the journal of sex research goes on to say that personality may also play a role. This information from the journal of sex research shows us that motivations behind cheating vary and having varying levels of complexity.
In addition to the research published by the journal of sex research and the information that we can gather from the journal of sex research, the journal of social psychology, the journal of personality and social psychology, and the journal of family issues provide extensive information on the topic. Social psychology is a field that’s based around human behavior, feelings, and external (social) influences or factors. Simply put, it looks at social and personal relationships and psychology. Social and personal relationships are a big part of our lives, so it makes sense that many people who work in the mental health field have extensive knowledge of social psychology. Even in positions that only require a bachelor’s degree, knowledge of social psychology is present in one’s education. The journal of personality and social psychology has published information on the avoidance of an extramarital affair or infidelity in addition to the information that the journal of personality and social psychology has published on reasons for an extramarital affair or infidelity. One study published by the journal of personality and social psychology found that attentional and evaluative biases can aid people in the maintenance of relationships by avoiding infidelity, where another study published in the journal of personality and social psychology looked at the relation of attachment insecurity and infidelity.
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 with other men and women 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 men and women who are 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. You can also check out the journal of social psychology website, journal of sex research website, or the journal of personality and social psychology website for scientific, reliable information. Information from the journal of social psychology and journal of personality and social psychology can both be found on the Taylor & Francis website. You can go to the general website to search a variety of articles and journals, including the journal of social psychology and the journal of personality and social psychology, or you can go directly to the portion of the site for the journal of personality and social psychology or the journal of social psychology. The journal of personality and social psychology, as well as the journal of social psychology and the journal of sex research, publish articles on a variety of topics that aren’t limited to infidelity research or stepping outside of one’s primary relationship. There’s also a large body of research online regarding many aspects of committed relationships, close relationships, marital problems, and more.
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, disgusted, or a myriad of other emotions when remembering that a partner has been with other men and women. 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 private, 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 well being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the main reason for infidelity?
Psychology today reveals that infidelity occurs for a different number of reasons, and these reasons may vary by men and women. Monogamy fidelity and infidelity is always a hot topic of discourse, especially sexual infidelity among married men and women or married people. Infidelity could be as a result of lack of sexual activity which is often a factor when it comes to relationship satisfaction. Over the years after couples live together, there is a tendency that the relationship will get boring and if it is not discussed by both parties, there are chances that either of them will attempt to explore their options with other people.
Also, there are different sexual fantasies individuals want to experience while in a relationship or even in marriage which their partners for one reason or the other do not consent to, and when these fantasies are not satisfied, sexual infidelity creeps in. The sexual fantasies may be rough sex or role play which the other partner does not find interesting. Sexual fantasies are mostly like having a list for groceries where you check when you are done buying. Hence, those who crave for these types of fantasies are always looking forward to checking it off the list. When this becomes a lack in marriage or a relationship, infidelity sets in.
Marital infidelity could also happen if a partner feels he or she is not appreciated enough by his or her partner. When men and women lack this appreciation, they may feel that something’s missing, or they may wonder if their partner still finds them attracted. Sometimes, marital infidelity may happen when a wife gets complimented for her looks and appearance at work more than her husband compliments her. Compliments usually make people feel good or better about themselves and it increases self-worth. A woman who gets this consistently from a male colleague at work would see herself dressing up even better just to have herself complimented by the said colleague. It becomes worse if she gets nothing at all from her husband who sees her every day and does not even notice she has changed her hair.
For partners with budding careers, there are instances when their jobs may require extensive periods where they have to work away from home or travel for extended periods. This could also lead to marital infidelity as partners tend to explore some other available options for sexual satisfaction. Sexual infidelity in this case may stem from emotional attachment with a colleague over a period of time due to the career demands. In this type of situation, couples face the challenge of having to be without their partners for a long period. While there are notable options in bridging the gap despite the distance, these options may get boring over time, leaving room for either or both partners to explore available options.
What is marital infidelity?
Marital infidelity in popular parlance, means cheating on your husband or wife. Having an affair outside marriage is wrong and it is not a given that it mostly leads to divorce. Marital or sexual infidelity is not gender specific, as both men and women cheat. Studies show that 13% of women and 20% of men have engaged in sexual infidelity while married. There are different types of people who engage in sexual infidelity for various reasons which may include but not limited to;
Lack of Communication:
Communication is the key that holds any form of relationship together, especially when it comes to committed relationships and close relationships like the one that occurs in marriage. The right communication between partners plays a vital role in the success of a committed relationship. The root cause of emotional infidelity most times are often ignored and mostly not discussed. A partner who would engage in sexual infidelity already has some iota of emotional infidelity with other persons rooted in their minds. While sexual infidelity has to do more with the physical activity of having sex with someone outside marriage, experts in the field of psychology today reveal that emotional infidelity is related with the mind and the fantasy that comes with having sex with someone else outside of your partner. For couples who communicate very often and are open to the no holds barred communication type, where you let out most of your inner cravings and thoughts.
Emotional disconnection happens gradually and slowly without you even realizing it. Many times, in a relationship, poor communication often leads to emotional disconnection as you feel there isn’t a need to talk to your partner about issues if you are going to be misunderstood. When emotion levels do not match, disconnection sets in as you both want different things at different times and no one is willing to give up his or her stance for the other. This has the potential to trigger emotional infidelity, though that doesn’t make infidelity excusable. Sometimes, couples view infidelity as a happenstance but it is not. The signs of sexual infidelity, online infidelity, and other types of infidelity, such as emotional infidelity, are always there for those who care to observe.
This disconnection may also be aided by social media, sometimes called online infidelity. Online infidelity is a type of infidelity that stems from finding and having sexual attachment with strangers online via social media. They may search for men and women on social media or dating apps without ever meeting up with said men and women, but even without extramarital sex or a formal meeting, the hurt is still there because of the emotional disconnection. Even if one never meets up with the men and women they talk to online, they may exchange photos or conversations that make it clear that what was going on wasn’t platonic. Social and personal relationships outside of a marriage such as those that one has with friends are important, but social and personal relationships such as friendships vary from a committed relationship that is romantic in nature.
If someone chooses to rekindle a relationship, emotional intimacy will be important in addition to sexual intimacy. There are many different forms of intimacy, including sexual intimacy, emotional intimacy, and intellectual intimacy. When married couples lack intimacy, a variety of problems can arise, and counseling can help.
Business or financial pressure:
Believe it or not, this could also be a contributing factor to emotional infidelity and marital infidelity for men and women. Many times, as a result of the pressure to keep afloat financially, the crisis of infidelity begins to set in, as ample time where both partners could use to bond and communicate is mostly used chasing other business sources and ideas as a result of pressure to be financially stable and provide for the family.
Different types of trauma, if not properly treated, are mostly going to have negative consequences sooner than later. It is imperative to find a therapist or support groups that can help in dealing with situations like this. For people who were neglected or abused as children, they often deal with the trauma themselves for fear of being embarrassed if they share with friends. Support groups are a great way to feel among people with similar trauma cases and share your experiences. People with childhood trauma who have found it difficult to find a therapist or support group, often carry the burden into marriage which invariably affects their relationship with their partners, often leading the other partner to seek solace with others. People dealing with this kind of trauma may have even rejected their partner’s advances to find a therapist for them.
Trauma can also sometimes lead to mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, causing such a person to act irrationally. People with bipolar disorder are known to be depressed and high energy sometimes. It can be difficult to have an intimate relationship with such a person and for those who are married, the other partner starts seeking options outside the confines of marriage.
Research finds that men and women who have high narcissistic tendencies cheat more. This research finds that there are distinct relationships between infidelity and personality traits in said men and women. Narcissism, for example, which is the exceptional interest in and admiration for oneself, is a contributing trait that supports why infidelity occurs. There are other infidelity researches which support these findings.
The chance of infidelity is also high if there is no mutual respect among the couples or partners in a relationship. Respect, just like communication, is a pillar for successful relationships. A relationship or marriage that has both partners not giving each other the needed respect, could lead to either or both partners engaging in infidelity or extramarital sex.
Do marriages survive infidelity?
According to an article on Psychology Today, it can be summarized that many view infidelity as something that happens in an unhappy marriage. While it is true that an unhappy marriage is most likely a contributing factor to infidelity, we can also view infidelity as something can happen even in happy marriages. For a different number of reasons, sexual infidelity can happen in both the good and bad marriages. Having established that, defining infidelity as in the case of emotional infidelity can be tricky. However, sexual infidelity which involves having an affair with someone other than your partner can be devastating, especially to the partner on the receiving end. The path towards healing is going to be a personal one for the suffering party which will most likely take a long time to fix.
When it comes to sexual infidelity or extramarital sex, there are some steps the cheating partner must take. According to Psychology today, these steps are the first action items that must be checked by all the parties involved. Healing is going to take time and trusting again will require a firm decision from the partner feeling hurt. Like infidelity, adultery is another word that is used for describing when one partner in marriage cheats on the other.
Since both partners are willing to save the marriage despite sexual infidelity, both must come to terms with the fact that it is going to be a long road, one that’s mostly likely going to involve tears and some bouts of anger, and that they may also need to find a therapist to help with the process. Some men and women are afraid to share what they’re going through with a counselor or therapist, but it can help to remember that your information will be kept private.
Today, infidelity has taken a new form like having an affair with someone you have never met. This is called online infidelity or internet infidelity and has the potential of ruining relationships or marriages if not properly handled. Irrespective of the type of infidelity, whether online infidelity, sexual infidelity, or internet infidelity, the road to recovery, if agreed by both parties, has to be genuine as critical and more intentional steps are taken in order to have a happy home again. You may also need to find a therapist to help you through these steps.
When you find a therapist and you explain the type of infidelity you are experiencing, even if it is online infidelity, internet infidelity or sexual infidelity, as in the case of having a physical affair, both partners must be ready to not throw blames at each other, but to share their deepest regrets, be willing to let go and forgive, make firm commitment at having intimate relationship again, commit to cutting communications with a potential rival to their partner, and improve on communication.
What are the signs of infidelity?
Looking for signs that your partner is cheating either online infidelity, internet infidelity or sexual infidelity, only confirms you have been seeing some changes in your partner’s behavioral pattern in the home. Signs of infidelity include: secretive social media use, locking of devices and refusal to have them unlocked if demanded by the partner, reduction in attention span even during serious discussions, less sex with partners with no reasonable excuse, lack of feelings of romantic love, long isolation periods with no tangible reason, hostility towards the other partner, frequently unreachable or not available.
Do cheaters always cheat again?
Research finds that there are different reasons why people cheat and this is not limited to them finding and getting attention from someone outside their relationship, especially if such a person makes them important and does things their own partners do not do for them. It is not always true that people who have cheated would cheat again. It is important to find a therapist who would help you and your partner heal and become better.
Internet infidelity is also considered a form of cheating and as such, due to the way the Internet works, many may find themselves going through the phase over and over again even after committing to doing otherwise.
There are cheaters who continue cheating based on personalities and would rather not discuss the option of open relationships. Research finds that narcissism also contributes to this as people who think only about themselves and would damn the consequences.
For those with sex addiction whose partners may not be willing to give in to sex as much they want, it is important to find a therapist who could help them deal with the situation. The cheaters are also encouraged to deal with the root cause and psychological trauma that may have led them onto that way of life.
Just like men, according to this report, more women reported to have engaged in sexual infidelity over the course of the last 30 years.
Why do people cheat on people they love?
While it is known that sexual infidelity often occurs in unhappy relationships, it is very much possible to cheat on people you love, especially happy relationships. Psychology Today posited that this could happen for a number of reasons aside being an addiction. Sexual infidelity can occur even in happy homes as the cheater sometimes feels the need to explore the want of freedom from one’s partner despite having a happy marriage. Sometimes it could also be the hunger for some sort of new experience.
There is also the allure that accompanies sneaking around like young people when diving into sexual infidelity. There is the feeling of fun they get when doing things in secret. Some also see sexual infidelity as a part of their lives they missed out on, especially when they were growing up as a teenager. They therefore want to explore out of curiosity as men and women.
It could also be that they want to explore some sort of emotions they haven’t felt ever in their lives. In all of these, sexual infidelity or infidelity of any type really hurts the partner on the receiving end.
Can you really love someone and still cheat on them?
The saying is if you truly love someone, you would not cheat on them. That may be right, but it is not always the case. Sexual infidelity may occur not as an aftermath of a situation or circumstance but as a result of one’s personality. Infidelity in animals where over 90% of animals have multiple partners cannot be compared with infidelity in heterosexual relationships. Humans are higher animals and tend to have a rational or an irrational reason for doing things. Sexual infidelity can happen when such a person feels the need to satisfy and fulfil some sort of narcissism or explore the thrill that comes with having an affair outside marriage.
Is infidelity forgivable?
The road to redemption is a long road and both partners must be willing to take despite infidelity. Sexual infidelity is bound to mar a once healthy relationship but forgiveness is essential if the cheater is ready to do the needful and the partner who was hurt also agrees to play his or her own part in the redemption process. The cheating partner must be ready to discuss the issue of infidelity. Sexual advances between the couples during this period must be put on hold until both partners agree that they are getting over the hurt. A therapist would also go a long way to help both partners if they are willing to adopt one.
What is emotional infidelity?
Infidelity isn’t always sexual or solely sexual. There is also such a thing as emotional infidelity. Emotional infidelity is when someone develops a strong emotional connection with someone outside of their marriage that has crossed into a non-platonic territory. Emotional infidelity isn’t having a close friendship with someone outside of your marriage; emotional infidelity is much more than that. Emotional infidelity is what’s going on when someone engages in what’s called an “emotional affair.” Healing from emotional infidelity in a relationship is much like healing from any other form of infidelity. To heal from emotional infidelity, trust must be regained over time. It’s not a process to rush. If your relationship is struggling as a result of emotional infidelity, counseling can help. Counselors and therapists understand the impact of emotional infidelity. It’s normal to wonder why your partner has engaged in emotional infidelity. After discovering emotional infidelity, you might wonder, “am I not giving enough?” The truth is that there are a number of diverse reasons that it could happen and that, as with any other form of infidelity, emotional infidelity is not the fault of the betrayed spouse.
How do you survive infidelity and betrayal?
Surviving infidelity, whether that’s emotional infidelity, sexual infidelity, or a mix of sexual and emotional infidelity, takes courage. Partners who once deeply care and love for each other, soon discover that trust is gone and love is dead. The things that made them happy have become alien to both parties and many start to seek a way out. For every situation of emotional infidelity, sexual infidelity, or internet infidelity, the road to recovery is long and must be hard thought. Studies show that it is possible for marriages to survive post-infidelity. If you’re searching for “infidelity sexual affair support” or “infidelity sexual infidelity help,” there is hope.
Cheating partner must dissociate from the person he or she had a sexual affair with. If it was a colleague at work, a change of job is advised. Psychology today posits that both partners must agree that they both played a role in the outcome of the sexual infidelity. The damage caused by sexual infidelity may have also been extended to other people in the family like the children, and both partners must be willing to put in the work to ensure that in this case, the children are not hurt in the process. Marriage and family therapy can be extremely beneficial in this case. Family therapy requires a family to attend therapy sessions together, and it can help a child understand and handle what’s going on more effectively. Family therapy may help a child to grasp the fact that both of their parents are still there for them and express the feelings they have about the future to their parents. Family therapy is meant to be a comfortable place.
Clear and concise communication will also help both partners if they decide to put in the work to recover from the mess of sexual or emotional infidelity, and they may also need to find a therapist or an expert in psychology today to help them through the process of recovery. Due to the nature of the effect of emotional infidelity and sexual infidelity, both partners must be open to ensuring they do not fall into depression, especially the partner who was cheated on. It is imperative to take care of one’s health and ensure that you do not fall into depression. If you do start to experience symptoms, a provider such as a licensed marriage and family therapist or licensed professional counselor can help.
Going through a phase of emotional infidelity or sexual infidelity? Reach out to an expert in the field by looking on an online directory like the one on Psychology Today, or by talking to one of our trained counselors to walk through the process of healing and recovery with you. You can also use the “find a therapist” link on the american association for marriage and family therapists website to assist you in finding a provider.