Questions for Cathy #17: What is the Most Surprising Aspect of Infidelity?

In the life of a marriage and family therapist, I’m sure there are many surprising aspects of relationships that are uncovered in the process of processing. Therapists hear a plethora of stories day in and day out: some common, others, not so much.

Since infidelity isn’t one-size-fits-all, there will undoubtedly be plenty of aha moments. I’ve had more than a few surprises while researching this topic. A good thing, since that allows me to continually keep an open mind. But, I wanted a therapist’s perspective. I wanted to know about an inside moment, so I turned to Cathy Chambliss, LMFT to answer. Of course, I asked generally speaking. Due to client confidentiality, nothing of a private nature was revealed. 

The simplicity of the answer will, well … probably surprise you.

EML: What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about infidelity?

CathyThe most surprising thing I’ve discovered about infidelity in my practice is, how often it occurs in relationships. It really highlights the fact that monogamy is challenging for many couples, and it may even go against our mammalian nature. However, I do know that loving monogamous relationships are possible. Many people do not know how to create both emotional and physical intimacy. This is why couples counseling, workshops, and reading books can be so helpful for struggling couples.


Considering her answer, it’s safe to say infidelity is a huge issue. Yet another confirmation in the direction of infidelity becoming normalized. Or am I reading too much into it? Those in opposition may react in disbelief or disdain: “It’s only one therapist’s opinion.” “Who cares what therapists say?” etc., but if a professional in the business of examining and exploring relationships is telling us she’s surprised infidelity is so common—I think we need to pay attention.

I’m speaking of infidelity in a committed relationship whereby partners agree to be loyal to each other until further notice. That’s the defining factor—until further notice. If you’re not giving a heads-up as to how your thoughts, feelings, desires, and love have changed before you step away from your commitment; there are, and will be, major problems. Believe that.

I suppose, like anything else, until it happens to you it’s someone else’s issue. I understand the sentiment. Who wants to entertain the idea of such a disruptive circumstance? The significance of this act evokes all sorts of emotions best left easily resting in denial. “It won’t happen to me!” Hopefully not, but, you never know. And it’s that unknown element that can benefit from a preemptive honest conversation.

Before my experiences with infidelity, I didn’t contemplate it much, if at all, because the consequences hadn’t yet affected my life. Especially, when I was the “other” woman. It was as if “he” was just another man I was “dating” who had another life and we’d see each other when we could. The great disconnect. Talk about blinders and a good dose of cognitive dissonance. Then there’s the flipside; my life was turned completely upside down by my ex-husband’s infidelity. It was an entirely different reality. Highly different.

We each have a reality. Are you aware of yours? Are you addressing disappointment and dissatisfaction before the proverbial corner is turned? If so, and you happen to be in maybe-it’s-finally-time-to-say-something mode, and, if Cathy’s observations are spot on—choose to go with truth, and not the consequences. 





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