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Why Does Infidelity Happen?
Understanding and dealing with infidelity
Infidelity is common in today’s society, and yet, it’s a taboo that has existed for centuries. Relationships and marriages suffer when infidelity occurs. The deceived partner generally feels hurt and lost, or perhaps angry and betrayed. The partner having the affair might feel guilty and terrible about the harm and hurt feelings they’ve caused.
It’s a fact that many people have been exposed to affairs. Perhaps they experienced it as a child, seeing affairs occur in their parent’s marriage. Or, perhaps they found out about friends or relatives involved in affairs. Or, maybe they took part in an affair themselves. Then, there’s the flip side, being the one whose partner had an affair.
So…why do people cheat?
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist, who is a leading expert on relationship counseling, raises meaningful questions in her TED Talk video entitled “Rethinking Infidelity…a talk for anyone who has ever loved.”
The questions she raises dig deep into the reasons that affairs occur. Her talk also offers hope for those who want to restore their relationship after an affair. Of course, the reasons for an affair can vary from couple to couple. However, infidelity often shares common denominators.
Questions that help provide guidance during counseling
A question for both partners of a couple to answer:
Does the affair have to be the end of your relationship?
Questions for the partner who had the affair:
- What made you want to have an affair? Was it for the sex? Or was it for the attention, the desire to feel special or important?
- Did you experience a loss prior to having the affair—for example the loss of a parent, a friend, a career, or bad news from a doctor?
- Were you happy with your partner but looking for a deeper emotional connection, for novelty, autonomy or sexual intensity?
- Was your marriage already dying and the affair was simply the final straw?
- Did the secretive relationship make you feel more alive? Were you attracted because it was a taboo, something you shouldn’t do?
- Were you trying to find a different aspect of yourself, perhaps be a different or better version of yourself in a new relationship?
- Are you sorry that having an affair hurt your partner?
For the partner deceived by the affair:
- Did discovering the affair make you doubt yourself? Did you wonder who you were and if you had value?
- Could you no longer trust your partner? Did you start distrusting other people in general?
- Were you upset because you thought you had a happy relationship and didn’t understand why your partner would stray?
- Do you wonder what your partner found through the affair that they believed they couldn’t experience with you?
- Did you feel like you were no longer special—you weren’t “the one” anymore?
- After discovering the affair, did you feel a loss of identity, like you didn’t know who you were?
- Did you feel your partner lied to you, “you’re crazy, nothing is happening” and feel gaslighting was making you doubt yourself and your gut?
- Even though you never had an affair, did you betray your partner in other ways? Through condemnation, criticism, neglect, indifference or perhaps even violence?
Find out how relationship counseling can help
With any difficulty that arises in life, it’s possible to emerge from it with a broader perspective and a deeper understanding. Finding ways to rediscover joy and meaning in life is vital for everyone.
Whether or not you stay together and recreate your relationship is a decision that you as a couple will make. Either way, exploring the issues underlying infidelity can offer an opportunity for you both to grow as individuals.
Contact us about relationship counseling and discover what answers are true for you.