MARRIAGE COUNSELING: DO MEN AND WOMEN CHEAT FOR THE SAME REASONS?

Having affairs

You may not be surprised to know that men have affairs at higher rates than women do. They seem to have an ability to compartmentalize their behavior. They may stray, but will still expect to maintain the relationship with their current partner or spouse. They may have a physical affair even if they feel their current love relationship is going well and they have emotional and loving feelings for their partner.  

Women on the other hand, will be unfaithful more often when the relationship isn’t going well. They tend to look outside their relationship as a way to fulfill their unmet emotional needs even more than the physical fulfillment of an affair.

Of course there are exceptions to this, and each relationship is unique. This information is based on surveys and research done by relationship experts. The main thing that causes affairs is a lack of connection between the partners. The relationship is lacking in emotional closeness or physical intimacy. That emotional connection is what is needed to keep couples feeling loved and important in their relationship. We all need to feel that! When that is gone, the relationship is vulnerable to an affair. No matter the reason, the results are the same. The injury to the relationship is devastating and the breach of trust is painful and often means the end of the relationship.

Different types of infidelity

Crushes – We all have them. We have a “work spouse’ or a gym crush. These are people you might think about in a sexual way, but never pursue it further. You can fantasize about being with them, but your commitment to your spouse would prevent that. It’s normal to have these fleeting crushes, but as adults, we prioritize what’s important and keep our promises, right ?

Emotional- This is the tricky one. Emotional affairs can be incredibly destructive to your relationships and are easy to fall into especially when you’re lacking connection with your spouse. Make no mistake. This is infidelity even if you never have sex with the person. If you’re emotionally intimate with someone and sharing your feelings and secrets with them instead of your spouse, that’s the same as cheating. You’re playing with fire here, and can do a lot of damage. For a lot of couples this is a worse betrayal than a physical affair.

Dangerous Behavior: Strip clubs, porn and prostitution for many become an outlet to feed unmet sexual needs or fantasies. When dangerous behavior is involved for the thrill, it’s a sexual addiction and needs to be treated as one. This goes beyond a sexual affair into addictive behavior. The idea of being caught often doesn’t enter your mind, but you stand to lose everything publicly if you’re caught engaging in this risky behavior.

Financial: This is an area that isn’t often discussed. Financial infidelity can be anything from keeping secrets about investments, to shopping addictions. You and your partner need to be on the same page and in agreement on how the family finances are handled. Many families have been ruined by this type of infidelity.

Keeping secrets: Internet relationships, chat rooms, camera sites and cellphones allow us privacy to carry on conversations via text or chat while sitting in the same room with a spouse or partner. Make no mistake. If you’re engaging in sexual discussions or activities online or making intimate and emotional connections with others and you’re hiding it from your partner that is having an affair. If it’s something you can’t share, something you know is wrong, or something you’re ashamed of and you keep it a secret that is cheating.

Consequences for the relationships when you cheat or are cheated on

Infidelity is a choice; you can choose not to cheat – This is the wake-up call your relationship needs. If you find yourself with feelings for someone other than your life partner or spouse, stop yourself and take a look at the relationship you’re in. There’s something missing there; a lack of emotional connection, intimacy and closeness that makes your relationship susceptible to an affair. It’s not a moment of weakness, or a mistake. Those are cop outs and excuses. Be an adult and look at your life objectively. You’ll find that this didn’t just come out of left field. Something has been lacking for some time; there may have been a gradual pulling away and a growing feeling of emptiness, loneliness and unfulfilled desire.

This is where you man (or woman) up! Go to your partner and be the grown up. Respect your partner and your history together enough to look them in the eye and say “I’m unhappy”. Tell them you’re lonely, that you’re in pain. Tell them that you’re walking that fine line, and in your head, you’ve considered (even if you’ve not acted on it) cheating on your partner.

This is not easy to hear, but it’s far better than admitting you HAVE cheated.

Infidelity can be ruinous to your relationship. A breach of trust or relationship betrayal is one of the more painful relationship injuries that exist. It will take a great deal of love and commitment for you both to come back and heal from an injury like this. It is possible, and you will need the assistance of a qualified couple’s counselor in order to do it. It doesn’t matter what type of affair, though I believe there are varying degrees when it comes to repairing trust there is a lot of work to be done.

You both have to take some responsibility for what was going wrong in the relationship that is made vulnerable to the affair. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to sit around and point fingers and blame. You need to find out why you or your partner felt lonely enough or was hurting so much that they couldn’t reach out to you, their partner or you couldn’t have your needs met in the relationship. Once you find this out, it’s possible to work through the pain of the betrayal and to build a better, stronger relationship for the future.

It’s not easy, but it is worth it. Couples who complete counseling have told me that the problems in their relationship ended up being the best thing that ever happened to them, because if forced them , if you will, to do the work needed to have a healthy and close connected loving  relationship after all was said and done.  

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2018-01-23T18:36:22+00:00

About the Author:

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Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. His weekend workshop, Two Days: Seven Conversations has become a popular venue for many to set off on their journey of connectedness. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

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