Infidelity undermines the very foundation of marriage in many ways. It causes heartbreak and devastation, loneliness, feelings of betrayal, and confusion to one or both spouses in a marriage.
Some marriages break after an affair. Others survive, become stronger and more intimate.
What Is Considered an Affair?
The definition of an affair varies between partners or couples. For instance, an emotional affair is still considered infidelity for some people, despite the absence of a physical connection.
A person may consider watching pornography as cheating, while another may not. Some people may only view affairs as sex outside the relationship. However, emotional affairs of any kind are harmful to the marriage. It could mean that the straying partner no longer invests in the relationship.
Affairs take many forms. While certain kinds are very clear-cut, others vary. Each party should define their interpretation of an affair in the context of marriage and their expectations for each other.
Types of Infidelity
- Object affair
This happens when a partner neglects the relationship to follow an interest outside the marriage. The pursuit can get to an obsessive point.
- Sexual affair
One partner has sex outside the relationship without an emotional attachment to the other person. According to some studies, women are more likely to forgive an affair if there’s no emotional connection than men.
- Cyber Affair
Online infidelity is a brief emotional involvement with someone met online with no immediate intention of physical, sexual intimacy. It takes place via sexting and chatting. This includes watching pornography.
- Emotional affair
An emotional affair is a romantic relationship in which one partner establishes an intimate relationship with someone outside the marriage. The outside individual is often of the opposite gender, and the unfaithful partner may spend much time communicating with them.
The unfaithful partner can discuss problems within the relationship with the outsider and neglect their partner. Sex isn’t always involved in an emotional affair.
An affair that combines sexual and emotional intimacy is often considered a secondary relationship.
Reasons Why Affairs Happen
- Lack of Satisfaction in The Relationship
For a relationship to be successful, both partners should feel stable and secure in all aspects. Aside from physical intimacy, this also requires emotional intimacy.
If one of these areas is lacking, the relationship begins to feel unsatisfactory, increasing the likelihood of having an affair.
- Feeling Unappreciated
Feeling undervalued can relate to unrealistic expectations of a partner rather than actual neglect. For example, when both partners are working, women mainly handle household duties and childcare. In such a case, an affair validates the other person’s sense of worth.
- Body Image and Age
Most middle-aged people have affairs with younger women/men as a way for them to prove that they’re still attractive. A spouse can blame the affair on the partner’ letting himself/herself go.’
Prolonged periods apart can present an opportunity for affairs. For instance, traveling for work or enlisting in the military. The absence facilitates a lower risk of getting caught and can lead to loneliness and resentment.
While long-distance is not ideal for marriage, there are alternative ways to strengthen the marriage when apart.
Other common reasons outside of sex that contribute to infidelity include:
– Lack of affection and commitment
– Lack of emotional intimacy, fondness, and caring for each other
– Breakdown of communication that relates to emotional needs
– Physical health issues, such as chronic pain or disability
– Mental health issues including depression, anxiety, ADD, learning disabilities, or bipolar disorder
– Substance abuse and addiction, including addiction to sex, gambling, drugs or alcohol
– Unaddressed marital problems that have accumulated over the years
– Personal unhappiness, avoidance of personal or relationship problems
– Low self-esteem, boredom, and desire for new sexual experiences
– To end the main relationship
Effects of Infidelity on the Uninvolved Partner
The effects of infidelity spread to other people besides the spouses, such as children. They affect the other partner both physically and mentally, making them experience;
- Anxiety and depression
- Rage and posttraumatic stress (PTSD)
- Increased distress, self-blame, and shame
The affected partners tend to blame themselves for the affair and often wonder if they weren’t enough. It’s important to remember that the decision to cheat is entirely on the other person, even if there were some problems in the relationship before.
- Low Confidence and Self-Esteem
It’s common to feel disoriented, as the things that provided a sense of comfort no longer do. Finding a sense of stability within yourself is the key to realizing your strengths and ability to cope with the situation.
- Poor Performance Both at Work and Socially
It’s important to avoid making major changes to aspects of your life while in emotional distress due to the affair. Healing takes time, so having a support network of family and friends helps you find ways of addressing the effects of the affair.
- Loss of Trust in the Cheating Spouse
The victim of an affair often finds it difficult to trust and doubts their judgment of other people. If they decide on a new relationship, mistrust can follow. It’s important to deal with the trust issues and negative effects of the affair by getting professional help.
People who get cheated on are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. This could be having sex while on drugs, unprotected sex, drug and substance abuse, overeating or under-eating, and over-exercising.
Effects of Infidelity on the Partner Who Cheats
Infidelity also affects the partner involved in the affair, especially if it lasts for extended periods.
- The person may experience increased anxiety or depression
- They may feel overwhelming guilt
- Feeling helpless or trapped in the relationship
An affair can last longer because they may feel it’s challenging to change the situation. The longer it drags on, the more intense the effects will be. Most affairs become exposed, and the fear of speaking up about it harms both partners further.
Additional Effects of Infidelity
- Financial Consequences
In most cases, marital funds get used on the new partner for things such as meals, dates, hotels, gifts, to name a few. This is a form of dissipating marital income.
In the event of a divorce, the court considers this fact when dividing assets, and you may need to reimburse your spouse some amount.
A woman can spend money on personal enhancements such as cosmetic surgery during an affair. If a divorce follows shortly, this act is dissipating marital income as well.
Most couples opt for marriage counseling, with separate individual sessions and joint sessions. This is another financial consequence of having an affair, as therapy sessions cost money.
Another consequence is the loss of income, where one partner loses a job. There are legal fees involved with divorce consultations and counseling for the children involved.
- Effects on Children and Family
The emotional turmoil that comes with the discovery of an affair can be intense. If you and your spouse decide to stay married, there are many emotional hurdles to get through.
For instance, there is telling the truth and all details of the affair. There’s a need to reconnect while acknowledging the anger and hurt.
The relationship with your children can suffer significantly if they learn about the affair, whether during or after. Children can end up losing respect and trust in the parent who had an affair.
They can also develop a negative attitude towards the partner who wasn’t involved, feeling like they pushed their spouse to have an affair.
Children can feel betrayed, especially if the affair results in a divorce, interrupting or distorting the family life they have adapted to.
Some children may end up doing the same thing themselves subconsciously once they get married, imitating the parent at fault.
- Effects on Sexual Health
Affairs can have sexual health implications, especially where there’s unprotected sex.
They expose the other partner to STIs, some of which have no symptoms. If left untreated, they can have severe consequences on their reproductive health.
Mending a Broken Marriage
Recovering from an affair is a difficult, uncertain, and challenging journey for both spouses.
However, as couples rebuild trust, reconciliation can strengthen and fortify the relationship. Admission of guilt and forgiveness can renew the love and affection between spouses.
Here are some steps that promote healing;
Take some time off – Before making a final decision to stay or leave, take some time to heal and understand the reasons and motivating factors behind the affair. Avoid making rash decisions in emotional distress.
Seek professional help from a marriage counselor or therapist and learn how to prevent an affair from recurring in the future.
Be accountable – If you were at fault, take responsibility for your actions and end the affair, including all interactions and communication with the other person. If the affair was at work, limit interactions with the co-worker to business or find an alternative workplace.
Get help from different sources – Enlist the help of understanding people who will not pass judgment. These can be, trusted friends, experienced spiritual leaders, and qualified counselors.
Look for a licensed therapist who specializes in marital therapy and has experience in dealing with infidelity.
Marriage counseling helps you;
· Think about whether the affair is big enough to affect your marriage and how you can move past it
· Identify issues that may have contributed to the affair
· Learn how to rebuild and strengthen your relationship
· Avoid divorce
If you’re not up for the idea of marriage counseling, consider individual therapy as a channel to explore your feelings and help you ground your choices.
Restore trust – Agree and come up with a plan to restore trust and a process to facilitate reconciliation. If you were unfaithful, admit guilt and seek genuine forgiveness. If your partner was cheating, offer forgiveness where possible and find understanding together.