Marital indiscretion has got to be the most painful and damaging act committed in a relationship with two spouses. Why does it happen? What motivates one member of the relationship to look outside the marriage for something they feel lacking in their marriage?
That begs the question: Does infidelity always come down to a matter of sex? Is it the novelty of having an intimate sexual connection with someone other than the person one has been married to? Is it seeking out a sexual release that hasn’t been satisfying with a spouse? Is it the thrill of doing something new or forbidden, something highly emotionally charged: secret meetings, romantic dinners, brief passionate hotel encounters? Or is it about sex at all?
Psychotherapists specializing in relationship counseling like myself commonly agree that men and women have affairs outside of marriage or a committed relationship for different reasons and those reasons are often not about sex. For women, it’s often about filling an emotional void. For men, it’s often the feeling of being emotionally disconnected from their loved one, unappreciated or insecure, feeling that their life is unfulfilling, or because of some deep-seated sexual addiction.
Being unfaithful can sometimes be that fine line that either you or your spouse has crossed. “Emotional cheating” is the term that we often apply to these nebulous situations that can be completely innocent at the start and then lead to a more advanced emotional attachment. Is texting a friend innocent communication? When is lunch or dinner a date? When is going to a person one feels could help with a problem or air a frustration more than just that? Or it can be deliberate: pursuing someone, flirting, making frequent late-night calls and arranging secret rendezvous. The answer can often be found in the level of emotional involvement.
In either case, infidelity has two distinct qualities:
- There’s an emotional connection to another person that would otherwise be reserved for their significant other.
- The relationship is being kept secret from their significant other.
A marriage could be in jeopardy. You or your spouse could be considering leaving the marriage; you, as the betrayed, may be left for the other woman or man. You may want to leave because you feel betrayed, that a trust has been broken that is impossible to regain.
The route out of infidelity starts with honesty and openness. All is not lost. In many cases, the member who is having the affair eventually comes to see himself/herself and their actions more clearly. But reconciliation won’t work without getting it out in the open. The betrayed member has to be informed, and both members have to want to find the best path forward by working on it together.
As a couples counseling specialist, I can help you decide if you want a future together, and if so, help you understand what led to the betrayal, and help you – if you choose – to reestablish trust, heal emotional wounds, and rekindle the relationship you once had and make it even better. Many of my clients working through infidelity do choose to mend their relationships and often create better ones.