What causes people to be unfaithful? Is there anything that can be done to reduce the likelihood of your partner cheating? These questions have been posed to me on numerous occasions. Of course, unfaithfulness is a complex issue that has multiple factors. For the record, in my mind, nothing justifies unfaithfulness. Often people will express that they have not been physically intimate for a long time or they've grown apart, but there are other options to choose other than cheating. Sometimes people cheat because they believe the relationship is dead and therefore their behavior doesn't matter. We tend to rationalize our behaviors when we make bad choices. The reality is that being unfaithful to your spouse is wrong and creates negative ripple effects on many aspects of life. Some people seek extramarital affairs to bolster their ego, gain attention/adoration, and/or find sexual satisfaction. Often people describe their decision to be unfaithful as a need to fill an emotional void, experience external validation, and feel a greater connection. Some may look outside the marriage because of boredom and feel an affair satisfies their need for excitement and challenge. However, affairs are not real relationships and that passion will fade over time.
After an affair, couples are faced with the decision to either break up or remake the marriage into something different and hopefully stronger. Often couples decide to work through the betrayal, anger, and hurt associated with an affair and attempt to rebuild trust and connection. But how do they come to this decision and what can be done from preventing it from happening again? Helping behaviors from the cheating spouse include accepting responsibility for their actions, showing signs of remorse, and a commitment to making changes to prevent the adultery from happening again. Couples also need to address factors contributing to the infidelity, and take specific actions to secure the relationship. Sometimes infidelity is an indicator of a troubled marriage, other times it's related to a troubled person, but mostly it is a combination of the two, not that it ever justifies the decision. Sometimes multiple affairs indicate sexual addictions which would require specialized psychological treatment.
Healthy marriages don't happen without regular maintenance and effort. When we make our relationship a top priority and carve out time to be connected we create greater stability. Of course that requires us to communicate through conflict, work at emotional and physical connection, and validate each other consistently. We should set aside alone time with our partner regularly and work at meeting each other's needs. Listen intently, respect always and forgive regularly. As individuals, it helps to have a support network of same-sex friends and an accountability person who has a good moral compass. We are in a better place when we live a balanced life and value relationships. Remaining humble and giving of our time, our talents, and our resources will help keep us grounded. Having a faith that sustains you and relying on God to ground your relationships makes you stronger. Lastly, realize that utilizing the professional help of a psychologist to maneuver through difficult times is the sign not of weakness but of strength.