Many couples experience the agonizing pain of infidelity and many amateur counselors like to expound on the reason infidelity occurred in the first place. Infidelity and affairs are everyday occurrences in our society, especially due to coverage from media concerning high-profile individuals. Movie stars, business moguls, and even the royal family have made infidelity commonplace.
But for those who have experienced infidelity firsthand, it’s not just a curiosity, it is a crushing blow to one’s self-esteem. An important step in getting healing to move past infidelity is to understand the truth behind a person’s motivation to cheat.
Before we delve into common myths concerning infidelity and affairs, I want to first say emphatically that there is no justifiable excuse for infidelity. Infidelity and cheating always hurt somebody and usually not just the betrayed partner, but children, extended family, and even friends. We as a society must debunk any idea that infidelity is defensible in any way shape or form.
My decision to expose some common myths is to help the wounded party recover as quickly as they can, and not allow society or anyone else to dictate how you should respond. Almost every situation of cheating is unique, and any kind of healing or reconciliation depends on the parties involved and only the parties involved. Many people remain mired in inconsolable guilt or anger until they can process the truth about infidelity.
Common Myths about infidelity
1. Infidelity only happens in unhappy or troubled marriages. This myth is a very painful lie perpetrated on the betrayed party. According to Frank Pittman, author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy, “The reality is that having an affair is not a reaction to not loving your mate. You have affairs because of things about you, not things about your partner. Sure, there are people out there who don’t love anybody, and they would be doing the same thing no matter who they were married to.” Affairs happen for many reasons; but if unhappiness was the reason, we would have no successful marriages at all because every marriage sees its fair share of unhappiness.
“Bad marriages don’t cause affairs; affairs cause bad marriages” -Frank Pittman
2. Infidelity is a sign of no sex at home or that the cheater is always looking for a younger, sexier model. Statistically many affairs take place between same-age couples, and some cheaters have reported satisfactory or increased marital sex during the period of their affair. Some people cheat simply because they have the opportunity to, simply because they can, not because they aren’t getting enough at home. The adoration of, and being pursued by, other women can be hard to resist, and some men simply don’t have appropriate sexual boundaries.
3. It’s a midlife crisis. The answer to this myth is sometimes both yes and no. Cheating often goes hand in hand with the characteristics of a mid-life crisis, but not every cheater is in the throes of a mid-life crisis. The sex-addict cheater cheats as part of addictive behavior, but the mid-fife crisis cheater, cheats to make themselves over; to escape the inevitable slump towards old age. They are desperate to escape their tragic existence and upgrading to another sex partner provides the chemical dopamine needed to cheat on their existing sex partner.
4. Infidelity happens because one partner wasn’t meeting the needs of the other. Again, this is a tricky one. Let me reiterate, there is never a justifiable reason for an affair, and there is no such thing as “Affair proofing” your marriage. Popular writers like to espouse simplistic formulas that guarantee your partner will never cheat if you follow their secret recipe. Usually, these writers are “soft” misogynists who view traditional roles in marriage as the most “affair proof” marriages. However, as well-meaning and out of touch these authors are, their recipe doesn’t always work. One author writes that domestic support is one of the five most important needs of a man, with the implication that if a woman doesn’t fulfill this, then the marriage becomes more susceptible to an affair. As a divorce mediator, I NEVER see this as an issue in couples’ divorces, simply because in our modern world, most women work, and the couple shares the domestic chores together. What is more likely, is that one partner may have needs that they are not expressing to the other and when an affair partner comes along that meets that need, they become convinced to bond with their new “soul mate.” Almost always the cheated-on partner is willing to meet those needs if only they had been communicated to them.
5. Infidelity must always end in divorce. It’s an unfortunate fact that society views anyone who stays with a partner who has cheated, as a weak person with no self-respect. While no relationship can be repaired without honest work and repentance from the unfaithful partner, many marriages can and do survive infidelity. And there are many good reasons to try and keep a marriage together especially if the unfaithful partner is willing to take responsibility and do the work of restoration. Many marriages that commit to building new relationships on different dynamics emerge stronger than before the infidelity crisis. Surveys show that 8 out of 10 partners who divorce because of an affair regret the decision afterward. Divorce is not the easy answer that society would have us believe, and many times repairing a broken relationship so as to enjoy a lifetime of companionship and an intact family is worth the work in the long run.