Why do people have affairs or cheat on their partner?
Relationship infidelity or cheating is a very common presenting issue in my work. Statistically speaking the majority of adults have cheated at least once in a long term relationship, and for many there is a pattern: either they are the serial cheater or they are the partner who consistently finds partners who cheat on them. Adult intimate relationships will inevitably go through periods of difficulty and an affair is often the symptom of the a problem not the actual cause – albeit when a partner gets caught out the focus can be on the affair on not on the core relationship. In the article below, Sadiyya Patel sets out what she has learned over the years working as an agony aunt. I reference the article because it mirrors much of insight that comes from my work.
Importantly, an affair often acts as a useful pivot point in a relationship – either to address unmet needs or disquiet, or to promote change.
7 Reasons For Affairs That You MUST Know About
reason for having an affair are as many and varied as the people who
have them. There is no one singular reason for infidelity. But if you
take a closer look, you will notice that the reasons for affairs fall
into 7 major categories. In this article we’ll take a look at each of
LOOKING FOR LOVE IN THE WRONG PLACES.
people who have affairs are individuals who are unhappy with their
marriages and who start looking outside the marriage to have their
emotional and physical needs met. In many instances, these relationships
began as friendships and they gradually evolved into a physical
relationship as well.
LOOKING FOR ATTENTION, ROMANCE & PASSION.
is no romance and passion in the marriage any longer. The married
couple isn’t spending any time together or making the marriage a
priority. One spouse, in particular, feels taken for granted and
ignored. Anger and resentment build and they become soft targets for
attention outside of marriage.
Having an affair makes them feel
special and loved again. So many couples fall into this trap. If you’re
taking your spouse for granted, you need to change that now. Schedule a
weekly date. Make time to talk and reconnect. Look for ways to spice up
your sex life and most importantly make time for sex and intimacy.
CONSTANT CRITICISM AND LACK OF APPRECIATION.
or both of the partners is focused on finding fault with the other.
Fault-finding, nitpicking and constant criticism hurt the spouse who
then becomes hungry for approval, admiration and appreciation. Constant,
carping criticism is deadly to a marriage. A spouse who feels that
nothing is ever good enough will eventually stop trying.
DULL SEX LIFE OR A SEXLESS MARRIAGE.
reason seems similar to number 2 above. But unlike number 2, the
cheating spouse may be very happy in other areas of the marriage. The
only problem is caused by a lack of sex or a boring, routine sex life.
partner may lose the physical attraction they once had to the other or
one spouse may be a poor lover who doesn’t fulfill the needs of the
other. So the unhappy partner finds someone outside the marriage to
fulfill these needs.
If your spouse is complaining about your love life, don’t brush it off. Do what you can to improve matters before it’s too late.
TO BOOST HIS/ HER EGO.
is common amongst men going through a midlife crisis. They still want
to know that they are attractive to the opposite sex and often set out
to prove it by having an affair with a younger woman.
If you think
that your spouse would be vulnerable to this type of an affair, then
you could provide the ego boost that your spouse needs through frequent
compliments and by showing appreciation. Tell him how good he looks, how
you love his smile, how she still turns you on even after all these
years. Tell your spouse these things before someone else does.
THE ONE NIGHT STAND.
type of affair can occur even in the happiest of marriages. An out of
town trip, an office party with too many drinks and a willing co-worker
can all lead to a mistake that is often deeply regretted the morning
These types of affairs are not caused by something lacking
in the marriage, but more that the cheating spouse is poor at
controlling his impulses.
(nb: I have put this in quotation marks as it is a label rather than an identified phenomenon)
How much sex is too much; not enough? – these things are highly subjective and definitions contentious so labelling desire as addiction or using it in an addiction model is generally unhelpful. Agreements about the frequency of intimacy between consenting adults needs to be by mutual consent. Too much for one can be too little for someone else: the meeting of physical needs within a relationship is however part of the 'deal' so agreement becomes important between partners.
Counselling can help people negotiate this issue, potentially saving the relationship.
For additional reading on affairs and infidelity I also recommend the following books:
An affair can be a useful point at which to re-evaluate your relationship. Counselling offers a safe space for either you, or you and your partner, to come and discuss how you want to move beyond the affair to a new future.