Infidelity- Psychological impact when partners cheat in relationship


Q: Why does a spouse cheat?

There is no simple answer to this question, considering the reasons for infidelity or cheating could be several. For instance-
History of infidelity in their family of origin as hurt lies deep in the past. The belief about the opposite gender- women are prey to be caught and women believe they are nothing without a man and sometimes it is deeply rooted in the marriage itself.

Some common reasons

  • Not understanding what relational love is
  • Not meeting the emotional needs in the relationship
  • Inability to communicate feelings or needs
  • Not having the verbal skills to solve the problems together
  • Inability to accommodate each other’s needs and wants in the relationship
  • Not knowing the person you married ( discovering aspects of the partner after marriage which are unacceptable )
  • Inability to adjust to cultural or ethnic differences
  • Unrealistic expectations about the marriage
  • Discovering that your partner has not grown in the relationship – you have outgrown your partner
  • Sexual curiosity
  • Boredom
  • Lack of sense of humor and excitement
  • Getting into a monotonous life cycle and to lose sight of each other and take each other for granted

Q: Does cheating happen only in marriages where intimacy and communication is weak or can it happen in excellent marriages too?

The probability of cheating happens much more when the above reasons are prominent in the relationship considering the foundations of an excellent or happy marriage is good communication, a strong sense of partnership and immense respect, trust and honesty, and a wonderful sense of humor in the relationship.

Also, new research is illustrating that older people are more likely to cheat on their spouses compared to their younger counterparts. As per the research, many who cheat have been in marriages for 20-30 years.

Q: How do we process the fact that a partner was cheating (as the faithful partner)?

  • Talk rationally, honestly , thoughtfully and candidly with your partner about  how there is a major problem in the marriage ( taking accountability for the marriage ) and how could you both make an effort to resolve this with a solution
  • Seek professional advice from an expert- marriage counselor
  • Forgive –so that you can stay in the marriage with integrity or leave the marriage with dignity

Q: Is it important to take some of the blame in the issues leading up to the cheating?

Absolutely, although reasons for a marriage to fail can be several it is imperative that the couple takes onus for what might have gone wrong to cause the breakdown in the marriage.

Q: Is it important to also not take on the role of the victim? Victimizing yourself and thinking “you messed up so now you have to fix it, not me” isn’t that an unproductive, even harmful attitude in the long run?

Peoples who have been betrayed have to understand that there is no shame in staying in the marriage – they are not doormats, they are fighters. They need to understand that the strength they provide to their families by working through the pain and the relationship is enormous. Most often times it is important to note a fatal blow such as infidelity can inspire change that was sorely needed in the relationship. Many cares deeply for the well being of their partner even while lying to them, just as those who have been betrayed by their partner continue to love them wants to find a way to live and stay together.

Q: Once you find out, how do you gain trust again? 

Cheating leaves both partners feeling confused, angry, betrayed, sad and in a state of shock and grief. Shock is a very normal reaction to discovery of infidelity. The discovered person is often in a state of shock and grief and feels scared and confused as the discoverer. Therefore it is unwise to take an immediate action on impulse after discovery – it is important to reflect and reconsider. As the dust of  discovery settles and clears , many times couples feel they are at a better place than before in a relationship


Q: How do you evaluate if you should stay or go? 

To decide whether you should “leave or go “after an infidelity it is important to look at it as a thought – through solution.  It is unlike any other decision making process we make in life.  We can’t read a few reports and ratings to make this decision. It is not an intellectual exercise. For many couples, this situation happens unpredictably. To evaluate and get out of the painful spiral – ask yourself the following questions to respond to the most pressing and important thing to decide whether you should “leave or to stay”  – CLARITY

  • Clarity on Financial dependence
  • Clarity on the needs of the Children
  • Clarity on Lack of self esteem and self confidence
  • Clarity on why Opinion of friends and family matters
  • Clarity on why Approval of others matter
  • Clarity on why Societal expectations and norms matter
  • Clarity of what you need form this marriage
  • Clarity if your partner will be able to meet your needs and wants and valid desires
  • Clarity if your partner wants the same from you
  • Clarity whether you can create lasting changes together – real, genuine and lasting change.
  • Clarity that you are committed to break patterns of defeating behaviours such that there is not a repeat of a breakdown in marriage
  • Clarity of getting more information of what both of you want going forward- how to feel, , who you are willing and want to become in the marriage

Q: What are the steps to take to get to a good place in your marriage? 

  • Make a concerted effort to working on rebuilding trust
  • Your partner is equally committed to rebuilding trust
  • You and your partner are able to discuss difficult and uncomfortable conversations about the infidelity – As per psychology today ,ability to handle uncomfortable but not intolerable conversations , is a good sign of repairing the marriage for better
  • Ability to talk about the affair openly -, you don’t need to have a press release but you should certainly be able to talk about it and not feeling ashamed. As per an article in Huffington post friends are there to hear you out but not necessarily to advice you on how to save your marriage. So choose wisely with whom you want to share your personal and intimate business.
  • Ability to talk about Regrets in relationship with your partner
  • Ability to hold back and listen to your partner’s pain rather than  be tempted to use the term “ get over it”
  • Ability to express your anger, sorrow and pain comfortably and candidly
  • Ability to develop and enjoy activities together – spending quality time together and not talking and being preoccupied with the affair
  • Ability to regain your intimacy in the relationship – able to work through your self esteem, shame , guilt and regain the confidence in bonding again with your partner
  • Ability to accept professional help – Seek marital counselling

Q: Percentage wise, how often do couple’s divorce in the face of cheating? 

According to American Psychological Association infidelity in the US accounted for 20-40 percent of divorce. Also in a Gallup poll, researchers noted that more than half (62%) of partners say they would leave their spouse and get a divorce if they found out their spouse was having an affair, 31% percent would stick it out and not divorce

However, in reality Divorce magazine, study notes that about 70% of couples actually stay together after an affair is discovered.

It is noted that Adultery is still one of the most cited reasons for a divorce.

According to a study published by National Institutes of Health (NIH) one partner in 88 percent of couples cited infidelity as the major reason for their divorce.

Q: Also what are the stats on women versus men cheating?

According to the American Association of Marriage and family therapy -, national surveys indicate that 15% of married women and 25% of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is 25% higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included.

Q: What does cheating say about marriage as an institution? 

Marriage is an exclusive relationship. Marriage isn’t just a contract between two people. It is also a status that organizes and directs behavior, ideally to serve important social purposes, most importantly a safe and stable relationship to raise children. Marital fidelity is also an ideal that calls for commitment and restraint. It provides us an expectation and an ideal in relationship to hold us back from weakness, intense and uncontrollable desire and failure.

 Q: Do you think humans are wired for monogamy in the first place?

I certainly believe human beings can be wired for monogamy if they look at the merits of the relationship and what it provides –

Marriage is an exclusive relationship. It is beyond sex and stability. There is much more richness and value to it. Being faithful to one another, growing old together, enjoying the accomplishments in career and raising decent children and grandchildren are all a few of the  prominent merits

Monogamy is a pledge of fidelity and that’s what people want as a pillar of marriage. It is about being an adult and living with some of your fantasies and desires unfulfilled in relation to something more stable, committed and profound you acquire in your life.

Q: Why does a couple even try to get over cheating? What would be the point?

Many marriages can survive infidelity and also get it to a better re-start. This will truly depend on how much the couple is willing to acquire skills to make the marriage successful and agree in good faith that marriage is an exclusive relationship. If the couple is able to put in the effort to establish some core foundations such as

  • Total honesty
  • Total trust has to be rebuilt
  • Commitment to resolving underlying issues
  • Commitment to start over again

Q: Can couples survive cheating? How many do statistic wise? 

Some researchers have estimated that marital infidelity occurs in about 2.3 percent of married women and 4.3 percent in men. It is also predicted that almost 25% of men and 11% of women will at some point in their lives will indulge in infidelity in their relationships. The key to a marriage surviving an infidelity is dependent on good marital history.  If 20% of a couple’s history is simultaneously viewed as positive by both spouses, they have a greater and a better chance – 90% chance of making it.

Some ways to survive the cheating:

  • Being open and transparent in their communication- providing all information
  • Cutting off all contact with the other
  • Remaining in the present
  • Expressing remorse
  • Taking responsibility
  • Trusting self
  • Keeping promises and your word
  • Giving space to the spouse to heal.


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