What Is Infidelity?
Infidelity (also known as “cheating” or “having an affair”) is considered a breach of the expectation of relationship exclusivity.
Extramarital affairs have an impact on the dynamic balance of a marriage. The role of an affair can create emotional distance within the marriage.
Infidelity can be a violation of physical or emotional intimacy but what constitutes infidelity varies between cultures and relationships. Even within an open relationship (one in which one or both partners agree to engage in extramarital sexual relationships), infidelity may occur if one of the partners acts outside of the boundaries of their relationship.
Generally infidelity is a mixture of both physical and emotional intimacy, but occasionally an affair can be strictly emotional or physical.
Emotional infidelity is emotional involvement with another person, a process in which one partner channels emotional resources (time, attention, romantic love, etc) to someone outside the relationship.
In the strictest sense of the term, an emotional affair excludes physical intimacy. It’s a reciprocated crush that is not acted upon.
An emotional affair is the expression of the need or desire to be absent from one’s primary relationship without having to actually leave it.
Emotional infidelity is often considered “not really cheating” in the mind of the cheater, because without any physical transgressions, they do not feel it is really hurting anyone.
Emotional infidelity can cause as much, if not more, pain and suffering within the marriage.
Physical infidelity (or sexual infidelity) can occur as a one-night stand or a long-standing affair.
Types of Infidelity:
- Conflict avoidance affair: Those who engage in these types of affairs are afraid to be anything but nice, as they’re afraid that conflict will lead to losing control or abandonment. They don’t know how to properly manage conflicts within a marriage, so they cannot resolve their differences as the marriage erodes.
- Intimacy Avoidance Affair: These people are frightened of getting too close, so they keep the barriers high. Conflicts are a barrier, as are affairs. The emotional connection is through frequent, intense conflict. Often each spouse ends up in an affair.
- Sexual Addiction Affair: Sex addicts use repeated bouts of sexual intercourse to numb inner pain and emptiness.
- Split-Self Affair: These people have tried to do right by their marriage. Both partners have sacrificed their own feelings and needs to care for others. The deprivation has caught up with them. The affairs are serious, long-term, and passionate. The unfaithful partner focuses on deciding between the marriage and the affair partner, and avoids looking at the inner split.
- Exit Affair: These people are, underneath it all, conflict avoiders, but they take it further. One spouse has decided to leave the marriage; the affair provides the justification. The partner blames the affair, not the crumbling marriage.
The Impact of Infidelity:
- Breach of trust
Emotional Stages Following Infidelity:
- Stage One: Roller-Coaster. This is a time filled with strong emotions that range from anger and self-blame to periods of introspection and appreciation for the relationship.
- Stage Two: Moratorium. This is a less intense period in which the faithful spouse attempts to make sense of the infidelity. They may also obsess over the details of the affair, retreat emotionally and physically from the relationship, and reach out to others for help.
- Stage Three: Trust-Building. This is the stage in which couples who have decided to stay together and make their marriage work begin showing commitment to the relationship. The injured parties begin to forgive and build trust.
Signs of Infidelity:
Changes in looks: The unfaithful partner becomes suddenly and uncharacteristically conscious and particular about their looks.
Emotional changes: An unfaithful woman may seem silent and emotionally withdrawn from her spouse. An unfaithful male may become easily angered and moody.
Guilt: The unfaithful partner may lavish their spouse with gifts.
Personality: Sudden changes in values, beliefs, personality, and preference may indicate an extramarital affair.
Secrecy: The unfaithful partner may become secretive about the computer, cellphone, or other internet-accessible devices.
Changes in sex drive: The unfaithful partner may become uninterested in sex or overly interested in sex with their spouse.
Changes in Finances: The cheating partner may become secretive about finances and money, especially if they are lavishing gifts on their lover.
Increase in workload: The cheating partner may excuse their absence upon “excessive workloads” and “business trips.”
Why Do People Become Unfaithful?
Infidelity – emotional or physical – is usually a matter of opportunity. Despite what a cheater may claim, affairs don’t “just happen.” Affairs require careful planning and decision-making. Being unfaithful causes infidelity.
There are usually three kinds of forces that work together to create an affair. There’s no one reason people have an affair.
- Forces within the individual that pull them toward affairs – attraction, novelty, excitement, risk, challenge, curiosity, falling in love.
- Forces within the individual that push them toward affairs – desire to escape a painful relationship, boredom, need to punish their partner, to fill a gap in an existing relationship, attention.
- Society factors – glamorous portrayal of affairs in movies, television and books.
Infidelity and The Internet:
The rise of The Internet has created new challenges for couples. Internet chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter and blogs have allowed for a number of ways for those in relationships to stray into the murky grey area of unfaithfulness. The Internet has allowed for:
- Behavior Rationalization: The reasoning that using the Internet to fulfill a sexual or emotional need is “innocent” and “harmless” despite the secrecy and highly sexual nature.
- Anonymous Sexual Interaction: The allure of anonymity on the Internet allows for expression of fantasies and desires without being known.
- Effortless avoidance of psychological discomfort associated with exchanging sexual messages with strangers.
Moving Past Infidelity:
Be honest. Discuss the affair openly and honestly, no matter how difficult.
Be accountable. If you were unfaithful, take responsibility for your actions. End the affair. Stop communications and interactions with the person you were having an affair with.
Figure out what’s next for you both. It’ll probably take time to sort out all of the emotions surrounding the affair; but when you’re ready, if you decide to reconcile, realize that fixing the marriage will take energy, time, and commitment.
Find a good marriage counselor who specializes in infidelity to put the affair into perspective, identify issues that may have led to the affair, and learn how to rebuild and refortify your marriage.
Restore trust. Counseling can help affirm your commitment to the marriage and prevent further secrecy. If you were the one who had the affair, remember that while you may be ready to put it behind you, your partner has their own timetable for healing.
Forgive. Affairs are emotionally devastating. Forgiveness won’t happen overnight, but it may get easier over time.
** Original post on bandbacktogether.com