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Understanding Infidelity

Cheating, infidelity, unfaithfulness, and affair; all words that are taboo in society yet becoming more and more commonplace. Movies, music, TV, and social media all present this sensitive topic in manners that are less then factual. Furthermore, the media highlights extramarital affairs in ways that are “harmless” and “fun.”  Movies portray cheating as passionate and adventurous while internet sites like Adult Friend Finder offer opportunities that are convenient for any adult looking for a change in their mundane life. Of course, these adjectives, are merely that – words that do not hold any promise.

According to healthresearchfunding.org, at least 60% of all marriages in the U.S. will experience one form of infidelity. Yes, there is more than one way to cheat contrary to a lot of societal opinions. Physical affairs can result in a lot of damage for all parties involved once the secret is out, but emotional affairs are just as dangerous. Emotional infidelity is subtle as the individuals partaking in the act tend to view the contact as innocent since no physical touch is taking place. However, the mere vulnerability the individuals share with one another can offer the same passionate escape from married life, and ultimately a desire to be around the other person more.  Many people perceive emotional affairs as harmless, but it can be equally damaging to a relationship as a physical affair.

What is Considered Cheating?

Every couple should have a mutual understanding of what constitutes as cheating and be clear about where you draw the line in your relationship when it comes to interactions with the opposite sex. Is flirting with the cashier at the grocery store checkout lane crossing the line? What about close friendships with the opposite sex? In today’s digital world, a cheater’s paradise is at the highpoint. With the plethora of social media sites, the amounts of questioning and dissolution of boundaries can easily be overlooked.

For example, one couple came into my office because the husband was liking and following several pictures of attractive females on his Facebook feed daily. The wife demanded that he seek help. Although this may not be the definition of cheating for you, where are those lines defined? Where and when do you tell your partner to stop before the innocent “liking” on Facebook or Instagram leads to instant messaging, and then progresses from there.

The State of Affairs

Esther Perel is an iconic couple’s therapist that has traveled the world studying couples within various cultures and contexts. Her work is expanded in her literature as well as her numerous TedTalks on infidelity. One book I recommend to couples who are recovering from an affair is “The State of Affairs.” This book offers insight into what one can expect after an affair has taken place from various points of views including the cheater, their partner, and the other individual involved. It is too common to overlook the party involved as they too may be in a relationship of their own.

One of the chapters in Perel’s book titled ‘Even Happy People Cheat,’ is not only full of curiosity, but is also daunting and threatening, especially if you have ever considered your own relationship safe from infidelity. However, truth be told, it can happen to anyone, happy or not – obvious or not. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but the fact is there are a lot of individuals in relationships who may feel as though they are dead, lost, or confused. Although the relationship is thriving as a team, there still may be one who feels stolen of their true identity, therefore will seek it out in others instead of exploring it within themselves.

Safeguard Your Marriage

Now I do not want to play devil’s advocate, or to cause any negative fixation and paranoia. My intent with providing this information is only for you to be fully aware of any detachment you and your partner may be having. Just because the book sectionalizes happy marriages as being at risk, does not mean there are still signs that can be read by either party and brought up to be discussed.

Here are some of the steps you can take to safeguard your marriage:

  1. Be aware of any disconnect between you and your partner.

Staying on the same page is key, especially with intimacy and expressing your own wants and needs. Encourage your partner and ask the same of them in terms of harvesting your own unique interests. The point is relationships are work. Marriages are work. It is a daily upkeep that must be tended to in total transparency with love, kindness, and respect.

  1. Be completely transparent.

If you are feeling “off” make it a necessity to inform your partner right away. Start with “I” statements such as “I am feeling upset.” Do not place blame on your partner for feeling this way and instead take full accountability for your emotions. The more you speak to one another about these uncomfortable feelings, the less likely you will be putting yourself into a quicksand of temptation.

  1. Prioritize communication.

Setting aside a few minutes every day to connect with your spouse keeps the intimacy flowing, and the senses-of-self growing. However, when doing so make sure to keep all distractions at bay to the best of your control – phones should be placed aside and have the TV off.

These three simple practices can help to ensure that you are tuned in to the state of your relationship and attending to each of your needs.

Whether your world has been turned upside down by the recent discovery of an affair, or you are continuing to struggle with trust and intimacy issues even though the affair may be a thing of the past, we want you to know that it is possible to find healing.  Let us help you navigate the turmoil you’re experiencing and forge a path forward.  Take the first step and contact our Client Care Team today.


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