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Understanding Infidelity

I am often asked why people are unfaithful, how it can be prevented or whether a relationship can recover from it. There are many assumptions around infidelity, but the reasons can be more complicated than we realise. What we do know is the impact of infidelity can be absolutely devastating for all involved. There is help available for those who are struggling with their feelings or behaviour, or for coming to terms with an affair. There is support for those who are having relationship difficulties, are trying to work through their feelings or rebuild their lives and relationships following an infidelity.

So why are people unfaithful?

There is no one particular reason as to why an individual will stray outside their relationship. Instead, there are individual circumstances around each relationship and it can be the case that it has nothing to do with the relationship itself but in fact the individual. There are many myths around infidelity, here I address a few of them.

Myth

People are only unfaithful if there is something is wrong in their relationship.

Truth

While this may be the case for some, this is not the case for all. In fact, many people will report that they love their partner dearly, that the relationship is good and do not want the relationship to end. However there is something else in themselves that they may want to explore, they may want to have something they relate to from the past, for a new experience, excitement or to fulfil a desire. For some, it’s about reinforcing that they are still desirable or for boosting confidence. For others it can be as a result of feeling unfulfilled within their relationship, that they no longer feel close to their partner, or feel appreciated.

Myth

People are unfaithful because they want more sex.

Truth

For some people infidelity is about the sex, excitement, variety, and escapism. For others it is about wanting attention, affection or replacing something they feel is missing in their life or relationship. For example if someone feels unwanted, undervalued and taken for granted in a relationship then they may be more susceptible to infidelity if their desire for being wanted, valued and appreciated can be met elsewhere.

Myth

Infidelity only happens within certain cultures and parts of society.

Truth

Numerous studies have shown that infidelity is not linked to only one gender, one culture, one social-economic group or at any particular age group. There is research to back up that prevalence is higher within certain groups but the reality that it is a behaviour that is present but disapproved of throughout society.

How can infidelity be prevented?

While we cannot ever foolproof ourselves from infidelity entirely, we can be aware of the reasons that may cause it. In cases of looking for excitement I encourage couples to look at how this can be achieved within the relationship, it is never too late for a ‘relationship reboot’ if both partners are willing. Ideas include introducing date nights, finding out what makes the other feel good by talking about their needs and desires and being open to making changes and exploring in a way that you might have done earlier in the relationship. In cases of feeling unfulfilled for whatever reason within the relationship I encourage couples to explore this, to talk, and to understand why and look at ways changes can be made. Communication remains key in relationships and even small changes in the way we communicate can make massive changes in how we feel within them and towards one another. Feeling loved, valued, respected and desired are important within a romantic relationship.

Can a relationship recover from an affair?

The revelation of an affair within a relationship undeniably tests it to it’s limit. It involves the need to understand why it has happened and what the significance of it has meant to each. The impact of it may be hard to imagine without having experienced it. However, with the reality of it, follows a roller coaster of feelings and emotions for all involved that can continue for months or years. Some report the pain and recovery process from it is akin to a bereavement. While some decide that the relationship cannot be repaired and choose to separate, others are able to build a new, sometimes stronger relationship together. While it takes time, love and commitment, a relationship can recover from an infidelity.