Couples Academy

Understanding Infidelity

Understanding Infidelity

A Complete Resource To Understanding Infidelity

Let’s talk about something that is surprising—and sadly—common throughout the world. Most people know about infidelity and may even have unfaithfulness in your own relationship. Too often, infidelity causes upheaval in relationships and marriages, bringing about divorce. However, with the right tools and therapy, couples can heal from infidelity and move on with a relationship that is stronger than ever before.
Continue reading to learn more about infidelity, including the signs, causes, and methods of recovery.


What Is Infidelity?

Commonly referred to as adultery or cheating, infidelity defines an act when one person engages in either emotional or sexual intimacy with someone outside of their relationship. Infidelity can generally be any kind of interaction between two uninvolved people that crosses a boundary within the relationship or marriage.

For example, flirting with someone through text messages or exchanging gifts with someone you met online. How a couple defines cheating should be clarified before committing fully to one another, as you may view infidelity differently.

Infidelity is usually a brief encounter—usually lasting between a month and a year. Long-term affairs may go on for 15 months or longer. About 30% of affairs last longer than two years.

The Different Kinds Of Infidelity

Of course, infidelity is more than calling up a high school sweetheart, meaning them at the highway motel in secret, and carrying on an affair from there. Infidelity, as mentioned above, is any form of betrayal in a relationship.

However, there are several recognizable types of infidelity that you should be able to recognize:


Sexual Infidelity

This form of cheating involves any kind of sexual intimacy outside of a relationship. This includes one-night stands and long-term extramarital affairs. Sexual infidelity may also involve emotional intimacy.


Emotional Infidelity

Emotional cheating is one of the more difficult forms of infidelity to spot right away. Often confused as a great friendship or platonic love, emotional infidelity generally involves developing feelings for someone that overshadow your current relationship or
marriage. The level of flirting and sexual chemistry is just as high as it would be in a physical relationship.

Keep in mind that emotional infidelity can happen in person or over the internet.


Online Infidelity

Not to be confused with emotional infidelity, this form of unfaithfulness involves online relationships. For example, online or cyber infidelity involves sexual or emotional affairs that take place in messages, texts, forums, and chat rooms.


Micro Cheating

This is a term that defines those actions that come across as flirtatious but not exactly cheating. It is behavior that crosses a line or boundary but does not result in intimacy outside of the relationship.


Financial Infidelity

Lately, more and more people are focusing on financial stability within their relationships and marriages. Financial infidelity does not have to involve sexual or emotional intimacy with an outsider. Instead, it is the betrayal one partner feels when the other leaves out how much they spend, earn, loan, and borrow their money. Any debts that are hidden, or secret accounts, can also be viewed as infidelity.

Financial Infidelity

Object Infidelity

Sometimes certain distracts are so strong that they take away from the relationship. An example of this situation is when one partner spends hours on their phone or playing video games and neglects their relationship.


Signs Of Infidelity In A Relationship

Without any solid proof, it can be hard or even upsetting to assume your partner is cheating on you. Infidelity, after all, is a terrible betrayal of the trust you have built. However, you do not want to turn a blind eye to the signs of infidelity. Being able to spot the red flags will not only help you figure out what is going on; it also helps you approach your partner with your suspicions.

Here are some signs of potential infidelity:

  • There have been significant changes in your sexual chemistry. Your partner may have trouble becoming aroused or seem less interested in having sex. Conversely, their libido may be through the roof when they have problems in the past.
  • Your partner is not sleeping through the night. Due to their sleep problems, you may also be sleeping less.
  • They seem distracted by their phone or even anxious and stressed.
  • Your partner spends more time away from home. They go on trips with friends and out on the weekends.
  • You find it difficult to communicate with your partner. They may become defensive and hostile, even when talking about normal subjects.
  • You notice that they seek more privacy and hide things from you, like their emails or phone screen.
  • There is a suspicious feeling in your gut that something is wrong, even if you cannot put a finger on it.


Causes Of Infidelity

Many people assume that infidelity is the result of dissatisfaction in a relationship, but that’s not entirely true. Even happily married people will cheat. You may ask yourself if those who say they are happy truly are or if there are communication issues in their relationship.

Here are some of the causes of infidelity:


Falling Out Of Love

Do you recall the butterflies you felt when you started dating your partner? The thing is, some people no longer can. That scintillating tingle of new love is effervescent, much like the carbonation in champagne. After a while, the exhilaration of falling in love, well, falls flat. For most, a solid relationship is built on the love that comes after—a stable, enduring love.

However, there may come a time when you start to fall out of love. During that time, it becomes tempting to see if that spark of dopamine can be ignited with someone else.

Falling Out Of Love


Is infidelity premeditated? Often, it is purely situational. Consider this: You and your partner are currently arguing. During a low period in your relationship, when you are feeling self-conscious, a friendly coworker happens to say, “You look great. Let’s go get something to eat.” From there, things spiral.

Now, you didn’t really choose to cheat, did you? You chose to get lunch with a coworker. Yet, there is a combination of factors here that may add up to infidelity, including your dissatisfaction, feelings, and the attention of someone who finds you attractive. All these things add up, increasing the risk of infidelity.


Commitment Issues

Certain individuals may have trouble committing to a monogamous relationship. Some people can’t sign onto the idea of exclusivity. Others are scared of getting hurt again after a previous traumatizing relationship. Commitment issues can drive someone to engage in an affair, especially if they have a lack of interest in a long-term relationship. Infidelity is sometimes seen as the way out.


Anger Or Revenge

There are those who cheat out of anger and hurt. Perhaps you discovered that your spouse cheated on you; now you want to get back at them. There are other reasons that are motivated by anger, too, such as feelings of frustration or anger when your partner is not around or after an argument.

Anger is a powerful emotion, one that sometimes drives people to do unconscionable things, like betraying the one they love.


Sexual Desire

The simple truth is that some people will cheat on the one they hold dear because of their sex drive. Even those who are satisfied with the frequency and quality of the sex in their committed relationship may still seek other sexual opportunities elsewhere. This could stem from a high libido or issues with intimacy.

Sexual Desire

Unmet Needs

There is an acronym for the reasons why people cheat: HALT, or hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Usually, these feelings are summoned up when needs are unmet. Too often, relationships go stale because partners can’t communicate their needs and wants effectively. A rift is created, and everything falls by the wayside. If you just learned to say what you need, your relationship would be much more fulfilling.

Yet, those unmet needs lead to frustration and resentment. It also fuels the urge to have those needs met elsewhere.

Now, unmet needs do not have to be only sex-related. Unmet needs are also connected to love languages. Are you receiving the amount of physical touch you need? Are you receiving enough affirmations? Is your partner helping you out enough? Do you spend time together?

If such unmet emotional and physical needs go unnoticed, it can drive you to emotional infidelity, as well.


Low Self-Esteem

Having sexual relations with someone who finds you attractive can be empowering and exciting. You feel a rush, and that boosts your self-esteem.

In other words, individuals looking to gain a boost of self-confidence may engage in infidelity. Many people are driven to cheat because they do not think positively of themselves. Additionally, they may feel that their parents simply say what they say because they do not want to cause hurt feelings. This is called “relationship obligation,” and someone you just met does not have to engage in such behavior.


Infidelity Recovery

Getting beyond infidelity is a time-consuming and arduous trek up an icy cliff. Aside from the moment of discovery, when the world seems to come crashing down, there is an emotional toll on those involved. Learning that your partner has betrayed you is deeply traumatizing, even when you suspected it. To be the person who cheated—to hold immense guilt inside—is also anguishing. That guilt is why some people avoid telling their partners; they never wanted to hurt you.

Yet, no matter how long the infidelity remains a secret, no matter how both parties try to frame it, cheating is a major blow to even the happiest of relationships.

But there is hope. Infidelity does not mean the end of your relationship or marriage. Infidelity recovery takes work, but it is possible.


When Your Partner Has Cheated On You

You may be hurt and heartbroken. Perhaps you feel angry at having been betrayed so grievously. You may even want to walk away from everything. That is understandable. Still, therapists caution that this is not the time to do anything impulsive. Instead, follow the tips below to begin your healing journey:


  • Find professional help. Speaking with a neutral third party, such as a couples counselor, is recommended if you plan on working through the pain and healing your relationship. Therapy can also assist you with sorting through the emotions.
  • Talk about what happened to your partner. You need to know why your partner did what they did. What motivated them? How can those issues be resolved?
  • Ask if your partner wants to leave. Infidelity is not always caused by dissatisfaction or falling out of love, but some people cheat because they no longer want to be committed.
  • Consider what you want. Do you want to stay in the relationship? Do you feel that it is worth fixing? Choose the path that is best for you.
  • Work on rebuilding trust. If you plan on remaining together, then the next step is working alongside a therapist and rebuilding your relationship. Reestablishing trust once it has been broken will be difficult, but it will be worth it.


If You Cheated On Your Partner

Cheating means there are issues in your relationship that have yet to be resolved. It is important for you to consider why you did what you did and speak truthfully to your partner. Keep in mind that the damage caused may be too great; your partner may want to end your relationship. It is best to respect their decision, regardless of what you think.

Consider the following:

  • Did you want to end your current relationship? If you cheated because you no longer want to be with your partner, then it is better to be honest and let them know. If your motivations are unclear, speak with a therapist.
  • Can you commit to therapy? Therapy, whether it is for the individual or the couple, is beneficial when you are trying to move forward from infidelity. You will gain some perspective on your relationship, the issues, and even how past trauma may have influenced your decisions.
  • Do you know why you cheated? Figuring out the causes behind infidelity is important because it can help you work through unresolved issues. By exhuming problems and working through them together, you eliminate the need to cheat and strengthen your relationship.
  • Do you think you will cheat again? Infidelity is hurtful and distressing. Some victims are so overcome that they develop PTSD-like symptoms. If you think that
    you may cheat again, remember that. Do not promise to be faithful. Instead, be honest and seek therapy.

If You Cheated On Your Partner

Should You Go To A Therapist For Infidelity?

Infidelity is a challenge to overcome. So if you were wondering if you should see an infidelity specialist or marriage counselor, the answer is yes. You absolutely should see a therapist. If not, you and your partner are going to remain stuck in the darkness. You will not be able to come to an understanding, and the relationship you have worked so hard to maintain will fall apart.

Therapy is crucial because it helps you both push through the pain and see one another in a new light.

Through counseling, you come to understand why and how the affair happened. Therapists are trained to de-escalate tense situations, making it easier to speak about events without blaming and shaming each other. Instead of the downward spiral of negativity, you find yourself in front of an unbiased individual whose main concern is validating your experience and helping you work through your emotions.

You also learn how to communicate with one another more effectively. Affairs can be a display of bad behavior, but they can also be a cry for attention. For a connection that has been lacking. A therapist helps both parties come to the understanding that there is room for understanding and, eventually, forgiveness.


You Can Save Your Relationship

Infidelity is a complex subject with many faces. Even in happy marriages, one partner may cheat on the other. Yet, as dark and depressing as dealing with infidelity may seem, there is a light. An incident of cheating does not mean your relationship is done. Infidelity recovery is possible when you have the support of an infidelity specialist or couples counselor on your side, like those of us at Couples Academy.

Couples Academy has helped many couples overcome the pain and shock of infidelity. We guide you and your partner down a path toward mutual understanding, healthier communication, and a stronger, more loving connection. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our therapy services.