Why Infidelity Happens
By Drs. Evelyn and Paul Moschetta

Nothing shakes a marriage to its core like an extramarital affair. Nothing. Not money problems, not interfering in-laws, not poor communication, not kid burnout and not colliding careers. None of these come even close. An outside affair blows through a marriage like a tornado. It turns everything upside down and inside out. Most of all, it leaves trust, sacred to any marriage, in shreds. Rekindling that trust is essential but it’s difficult, tricky business.

Why are extramarital affairs so common and are they really insurmountable? Are so many marriages that bad that it’s inevitable that one or both partners stray? Probably not. Really bad marriages are the minority. But so are the really good ones. That leaves an awful lot of marriages in the middle, just idling along on automatic pilot. It’s these relationships that are most vulnerable.

For the typical American marriage being on overload is the norm. Career hassles, kids, extended family pressures, money worries -- throw in a house and pets and the recipe is complete for a husband and wife to be so busy they can completely take each other for granted and not even realize it. When your marriage and the quality of your closeness or intimacy with each other falls to the bottom of your “to do” list, you’re in big trouble. If you feel like “ships passing in the night,” it’s time to sound the alarm.

More and more couples are unhappily finding out that marriage needs their focused attention. Falling in love may appear to happen naturally and spontaneously; maintaining that love so it grows stronger with time takes a conscious effort. Without this effort, marriage just drift aimlessly along as everything else grabs our attention.

Cheating in marriage is a unisex phenomenon. It’s much more common among husbands but wives also stray. Julie, 31, began a brief affair because her workaholic husband was almost never around. “And it’s not like he has no choice in the matter. It’s his business; he can come and go as he pleases. I begged for more time for me and for our son, but it fell on deaf ears.” While her husband worked, Julie simmered with an anger that turned into bitter resentment.

Hurt feelings covered over by anger are another reason affairs happen. The spouse who cheats is very often acting out in anger from within their marriage. This doesn’t mean they are justified in doing so. It means their ability to deal with feelings in a less hurtful way is flawed. It is never a good idea to cope with or try to solve a problem in your marriage by getting involved with someone else outside it.

Dan had an affair with his secretary when he and his marriage hit middle age. “Once the kids were gone, Alice focused all of her attention on me. Negative attention, that is. She complained about everything and nothing. I could do made her happy. We argued over stuff that never seemed important before. I hate to argue so I hold a lot of stuff in. Rather than come home and fight, I stayed at the office longer. That was it. Susan was my secretary for eight years. I complained. She listened. It was a line I should never have crossed.”

Once a marriage hits middle age, a lot can go wrong. Women and men change emotionally and physically. What they need from each other also changes as do their patterns and of communicating. Once children grow up and leave, wives need a greater level of interest and caring is difficult for most men. They usually don’t understand what is required of them. Even when they do understand, being more emotionally expressive doesn’t come easy. Frustration settles in when both partners feel misunderstood and unappreciated. Once this happens, the likelihood that of outside involvement becomes much greater.

Rebuilding and Repairing Damage to Trust

Loving someone hurts terribly when he or she cheats on you. The betrayal is heartbreaking. With it comes a degree of outrage and anger that can be overwhelming. It is from this low point that efforts to rebuild and repair a marriage begin. The partner who has broken the trust must allow the other to express their hurt and anger. It is difficult to be with pain that you have caused without trying to make it go away. Often no excuses or explanations, they will not be heard and only serve to fuel more anger. Being with your partner emotionally, feeling their pain as if it were your pain is essential. And while the hurt partner must get their feelings out, being verbally abusive or physically violent is never allowed.

A person whose trust has been broken will have a tremendous need to make some sense as to why it happened. Understanding why helps a person get a grip on a reality they first find unbelievable and intolerable. This is a second phase of the rebuilding work, coming after deep sensing of the other’s hurt has taken place and a heartfelt apology given. In order to understand why, the spouse who has broken the trust must look within and find out what motivated their behavior. This usually leads to a careful review of the marriage. Each partner must be able to see and feel what the marriage was like on a day-to-day basis for the other person. Very often partners see their relationship very differently and these differences are the weak links in a marriage because they are not getting talked about and worked through to a good resolution.

During this second phase of “understanding why,” the cheated upon spouse will fall back into the despair of being betrayed and the rage of being rejected. These “flashbacks” of intense feelings are to be expected. Just when they appear to have passed, they will pop up unexpectedly. Once again, the other will have to be patient, listen and show empathy and understanding.

The damaged trust caused by an affair can be repaired but only if the offending partner makes fixing it his or her #1 priority. He or she must demonstrate consistently in clear ways they can be trustworthy. They must prove to their partner that it is safe for them to reinvest their love in a badly battered marriage. This is perhaps the most crucial phase. Any doubt about one’s being completely trustworthy will be disastrous.

While being unfaithful is by no means limited to men, many more husbands commit adultery. So let’s take the example of a husband. How does he go about promising he can be once again worthy of trust? He makes sure that his wife knows where he is at all times and how she can reach him at any time. He lets her know his agenda each day. If he drives a delivery truck, he’ll make it clear what stops he has to make and who he’ll see and talk with at each place. He will call in during the day to make contact, express interest and concern and show his wife he’s thinking of her and their relationship.

If he is an executive or a business owner, he’ll do the same thing. (Was the affair with his secretary? If so, she’ll have to go.) He’ll make his schedule for the day known. If he has meetings out of the office he’ll say where, when and how he can be reached. He’ll keep his cell phone always on. Telephone bills from his car phone will voluntarily be shown to his wife, making it clear he has nothing to hide.

Whenever events lead to his coming home later than expected, he will call ahead. This should be the exception, however, since all efforts are going to demonstrate that he is reliable and dependable. The husband out to reestablish that his trustworthiness will always be on the lookout for any sign if doubt that crosses his wife’s mind. He’ll move quickly to clarify, explain and resolve any issue she is uneasy about. And he’ll do all this without being annoyed at having to make the effort.

While demonstrating that he has nothing to hide, that he is being honest and can be depended upon to be where he says he’ll be when he says he’ll be there, a husband who has been with another woman must also help heal his wife’s wounded self-esteem. Question: How does a wife know that after being sexually involved outside the marriage her husband still loves and desires her, wants to be with her and no one else? Answer: She doesn’t. That’s the next level at which he must create safety and security. His wife must feel sure that it is safe to once again give herself body, mind and soul in their marriage.

The husband who wants to ease the pain of rejection caused by his affair will make every effort to reassure his wife that she is indeed the #1 woman in his life. Verbal affection, praise, statements of love and caring are vital here. Saying, “I love you” and following it with large and small acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and consideration will be mostly reassuring. Physical shows affection, outside the bedroom, holding hands, hugs, etc. are just as important. Taken together these behaviors convey desire and love in a strong clear way.

By following these steps, partners can rebuild damaged trust. However, few are able to do it successfully without professional help. Getting over an affair is best done with the aid of an experienced professional who can help make the process less painful.

Special thanks to Lovegevity.com for providing this article.





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