Infidelity refers to unfaithfulness in marriage, and it can severely damage the people involved. Infidelity will leave one partner feeling alone, betrayed, and confused, and it often ends the marriage. What some people consider infidelity, others may not. For example, in one relationship, a person may see their partner watching pornography as cheating, whereas another person in another relationship might not see things the same way. Others simply view infidelity as having an affair outside the relationship. Whether you have intercourse or are fantasizing about it with someone other than your partner, it can still be detrimental to your relationship.
Causes and types of infidelity.
Different things can cause infidelity and the characteristics of these reasons are complex. Infidelity can happen in both happy relationships and troubled ones, and sometimes, it can result from dissatisfaction in the relationship itself or as a result of negative self-image and low self-esteem. Additional reasons for infidelity include a lack of attention or affection. Infidelity can also be driven by love, sex, or romance outside the marriage.
There are also people who are addicted to sex due to compulsive behaviors. For example, sex addicts are attracted to feeling high or stress-free after sex. Others who are addicted to love and romance may seek the feelings that new relationships provide. Furthermore, there are people who are driven by their status or position of power.
In the era of technology, people can easily be unfaithful by crossing the lines of platonic friendships and into romantic relationships with the use of computers. This secondary romantic relationship will end up having greater emotional intimacy than their marriage and create strong sexual chemistry, and the partner involved will live their lives in secrecy and deception.
Some of the causes include:
Lack of emotional and/or sexual intimacyRelationship or marital problemsMental health disordersSex addictionWanting to end the marriage
Research suggests that risk factors for infidelity include
Unresolved relationship or marital problemsMajor life changes or other milestones (parenting, unemployment, etc.)Being a manHaving an avoidant personality style or being commitment-phobicLiving in countries where infidelity is morally accepted
Types of infidelity:
Sexual affair: One partner has sex outside the relationship. While they do, they often do not experience any emotional attachments. Studies have shown that women are more likely than men to forgive a sexual affair when emotions are not involved.Cyber affair: One partner engages in sexual talk through messages and texts or uses a camera to show themselves and view others. Viewing pornography is also regarded as internet or cyber affair. Emotional affair: This type of affair occurs when one partner is emotionally attached to someone else, and as such, it will definitely have the biggest impact on someone’s marriage. Object affair: One partner neglects the marriage to pursue an interest that may reach the point of obsession.
The effects of infidelity.
Infidelity can impact both partners in the relationship and the effects can extend to others, such as children and other family members.
Research shows that being cheated on may negatively affect physical and mental health. Among others, the partner may experience anxiety, depression, and distress, low self-esteem and self-image, self-blame, feelings of shame, rage and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Guilt and helplessness is also common feelings in this situation. Partners who are cheated may also engage in high risk behaviors in future relationships, such as unprotected sex, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders and more.
Early warning signs.
There are some early warnings that suggest infidelity might be a problem in the relationship or marriage.
The first and most common warning sign is secrecy. Is one partner not sharing the content of their text messages? Is one partner not telling the other about contacting someone of the opposite sex? Is one partner keeping secrets about their whereabouts? In healthy relationships/marriages, partners don’t feel the need to keep so many secrets. They usually share everything about their actions, thoughts, and emotions.
The second warning sign is distance. When emotional and physical distancing occurs, the couple can lose its identity.
Not all couples facing the above are having an affair, but these situations make the relationship or marriage more vulnerable.
Marriage coaching after infidelity.
Marriage coaching can be challenging after infidelity has been discovered. The most important thing is for the coach to maintain an unconditional positive regard for both the partner who was cheated on, and the cheater. This means the coach keeps an unbiased view of the situation to avoid falling into the trap of leaning towards one side and having more compassion for the partner who has been hurt. A good professional knows how to maintain equal empathy and respect for both partners.
During the first sessions, the coach will assess the couple and help them clarify treatment goals. After infidelity, partners who want to repair their relationship/marriage need to resolve any ambivalence about staying in the marriage or working towards separation in a healthy way. Either way, marriage coaching during this time releases painful emotions that will be seen both inside and outside the sessions. This is expected and is necessary to observe the exchange of anger and guilt between the partners.
A common approach is for marriage coaches to work together with the couple (both partners). However, in the case of ambivalence, your coach may suggest some individual sessions. When working with couples, professionals often use an integrative approach, and an approach that is tailored to each couple. Regardless of the technique, marriage coaching for recovery from infidelity requires safety and forgiveness since the main objective is to address painful emotions and memories and stabilize them at a safe level while empathy and forgiveness do their part.
During marriage coaching, defensiveness from one partner and interrogation from the other may sabotage efforts toward recovery. The disclosure process may involve questions as to where, who, and why, and other information regarding their motivations, or even explicit details about sexual intimacy.
Course of treatment.
At the beginning of relationship coaching, the hurt partner may need to hear the spouse who cheated apologize for the infidelity. The cheating partner may also need to call their partner or text them more often during the week so that the hurt partner feels that they are being thought of. Saying sorry is important during the beginning of marriage coaching.
During marriage coaching, partners may propose a ritual of symbolically putting the infidelity behind them, such as the symbolic burial of reminders near the place where they got married. It is a time for bad memories to go away to make space for good memories.
It is important for the hurt partner to feel reassured that they are as sexually desirable as the “other” person. It is the role of the coach to inspire partners in this regard.
Near the end of relationship coaching, partners are learning how to discuss everyday marital problems instead of the details from their bad experiences.
Factors that ensure success:
The coach maintains a nonjudgmental attitude. The coach does not affect any decisions the couple makes. The couple stops sharing their problems with family and friends. The couple is learning from the sessions. The sessions are honest and the partners aren’t keeping any secrets from each other.
We need to keep in mind that numbers may vary. If someone is lying to their partner about their behavior, why would we expect them to tell researchers the truth? That being said, the statistics are powerful one way or the other.
Infidelity is the most frequently cited cause of divorce reported by couples (Fincham & May 2017). Research suggests that women are most likely to be unfaithful between the ages of 30 to 50 years (Wiederman, 1997), while for men, it is the ages between 55 and 65 (Atkins et al., 2001). Research supports the finding that couples who receive marriage coaching after infidelity show improvements during relationship coaching, including greater marital satisfaction, greater forgiveness, and less traumatic symptoms (Atkins et al., 2010). A 2014 study by researchers from UCLA and the University of Washington found that when couples tell the truth, they are more likely to work hard and recover from infidelity in both the short term and long term (Marin et al., 2014).
Therefore, contrary to what most people believe, not every marriage ends because of infidelity. It is important that every couple seeks marriage coaching immediately after infidelity as it increases your chances of repairing your relationship. Nonetheless, marriage coaching is not only for repairing marriages but also for couples to explore their thoughts and emotions and discover the options they have after this kind of experience.
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