Once a cheater, always a cheater? Does infidelity always serve a purpose in the relationship? Why do happy couples cheat?
Infidelity is often described as the ultimate betrayal in an intimate relationship. When beginning a relationship, you never want to think about your partner having an affair yet so often relationships deal with the lack of trust and are affected by infidelity. Twenty one percent of married men and fifteen percent of married women have cheated on their spouses, according to the University of Chicago General Social Survey. With infidelity impacting so many relationships, why is the topic still so taboo? Why do people cheat and can the couple overcome the attachment wound?
What is infidelity
Infidelity is described as the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife or partner. Infidelity has been a matter of contention in marriages for hundreds of years yet the definition is continuing to broaden. With technology, it is now easier than ever to engage in intimate conversations while online, without ever physically having to be with the other person. Is this considered cheating?
Couples therapist, Esther Perel (2015) explained in her TED Talk called “Rethinking Infidelity” that infidelity is subjective and without hierarchical structure from above. She goes on to explain there is no universally agreed-upon definition and it is very culturally connected. The couple is left to create a definition despite having different beliefs and values.
Why some people have affairs
The assumption is that men and women cheat when they are unhappy in the marriage. However, affairs often times have very little to do with the other person. Perel (2015) explains, “it is our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person.” Men and women are falling for the affair partner because they are a fantasy, a made-up image they believe will meet their every need. They might feel “in love” when with this other person yet they are really in love with what they are experiencing for themselves.
Affairs also reveal a deep inner longing for notice and value. When a couple has sexual intimacy, it is a way for them to connect, show playfulness and curiosity. When the couple’s sexual intimacy declines and they discontinue having sex, they have not only deprived themselves of the act but also those emotions and desires sex was providing to the relationship.
How to repair
Recovery from dealing with an affair is very dependent on the couple and their commitment to the relationship. When the partner that cheated is able to feel guilt and remorse for the act of the affair, the couple has a better chance at surviving. Therapy, both individual and/or couples is highly recommended after experiencing infidelity to address the feelings of betrayal and to try and build the second marriage with the same person (Perel, 2015). Experts also recommend focusing on the underlying issues of why the affair happened and what purpose it served in the relationship. Not all marriages experience infidelity as an opportunity to grow as a couple but if we challenge the assumption of “once a cheater, always a cheater”, we might have a better understanding of the purpose it has in relationships.
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Perel, E. (2015). Esther Perel: Rethinking infidelity … a talk for anyone who has loved [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_rethinking_infidelity_a_talk_for_anyone_who_has_ever_loved?language=en#t-1040224
Rethinking Infidelity: When an Affair Is Not the End Mira Adler-Gillies -http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2017-11-05/infidelity-and-how-your-relationship-can-recover/9107694