Questions for Cathy #14: Why Do People in “Happy” Marriages Cheat?
I wondered this same question: indeed, why do people in seemingly happy alliances have the need to go outside for some extracurricular activity? I’ve personally been approached with this question several times, and frankly, I didn’t have an answer. Luckily, I do have Cathy Chambliss as my go-to therapist for all puzzling relationship related questions.
Many have asked:
Why Do People in “Happy” Marriages Cheat?
Just because someone is happy in their marriage, does not mean they can get every need met from their partner. For example, if one spouse is an intellect and loves learning or reading, and the other has no interest in these things, one spouse may look to other people in their life for that connection. It does not mean they are unhappy with their spouse, but they realize their partner cannot meet that specific need. However, if you happen to be interacting with the opposite sex in order to have certain needs met, you may start to develop feelings for that friend . If you do not have very clear boundaries with the opposite sex when interacting with them, you may start to develop an attraction towards them.
I have heard many men in my practice, who have cheated, say they never stopped loving their wives. I have learned from listening to these men, that they can indeed love more than one person at a time. Ultimately, it is very important to have very clear boundaries with the opposite sex when interacting with them, so you can stay away from crossing the line into infidelity.
To tag onto this, I recall a therapist telling me that women expect their mate to fill all their needs, which of course, is unrealistic. Which, of course, I didn’t realize until those words came out of her mouth. I really thought my husband (ex) should’ve fulfilled all my needs. Isn’t that what a mate is for?! Nope, not really. The therapist stated that women have a harem of friends to bounce thoughts and feelings off of. Men, unfortunately, don’t engage their friends in the same manner. It was huge aha moment. The light bulb shone brightly. I got it.
Unmet needs: immense issue where infidelity is concerned. The key is to address this topic honestly, openly, and as soon as possible. It may be hurtful to one partner or the other, but if the need is communicated effectively and with care, the hurt can turn itself around into a positive result. If not, that’s when you bring in a reliable third-party to hear you out and hopefully, find a workable resolution.
Let’s hear it for boundaries! I’m a huge proponent of boundaries when necessary. But, this tact shouldn’t be overused or meant as a threat, otherwise it diminishes the possible positive result and is an excuse for a disrespectful power play. Boundaries can cause discomfort and resentment, yet if held with firmness, not spite; can lead you toward a healthier relationship. If the boundary is dropped due to reaction, guilt or complacency, the importance is compromised and so is the relationship.  Kind of like, the boy who cried wolf. And we all know how that ended.
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