Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Did They Cheat?: Making Sense of An Affair

Inevitability, everytime I work with a couple who's marriage is in crisis due of infidelity, this question comes up. The most common answers of the betrayer is either, "I don't know," or some form of blaming their partner. It's an important question, but it's rarely easy to get to the answer. The betrayed partner has a high need to understand how the affair happened and often has a hard time articulating why it is so important to understand how their partner took the path of cheating.

The question is an important one. The answer informs the steps needed to keep it from happening again. In order for a betrayed partner to rebuild trust, they need for the betraying partner to learn how to "affair-proof" their relationship. Let's use Jack and Jill, two of my clients, as an example. Jack gives one reason for the cheating, "I was traveling and got lonely." My question, "There are a lot of ways, good and bad, of dealing with loneliness. Why that path?" Jack says, "When I travel to Asia, it feels like I'm completely disconnected from the rest of my life. It feels like I have two completely separate lives." At this point, I begin helping the couple problem solve ways of staying connected when the two are on the opposite sides of the world.

Jack might have given a different answer, "Jill never wants to spend time with me. She's too busy with the kids." It would be important for both Jack and Jill to understand that it is never the betrayed partner's fault that the cheating occurred. No matter what the circumstances, Jack, consciously or unconsciously, made the decision to cheat and took the actions. Jill may have some responsibility for Jack's unhappiness in the marriage, and it is important for her to acknowledge her part in his dissatisfaction of the marriage, but Jill has no responsibility for the choices Jack made.

Rarely is there just one contributing factor to infidelity. And many times it is the perfect storm of many elements, each of which needs to be examined and new strategies and habits formed in order to protect the relationship from future betrayal.

If your relationship/marriage is suffering from the immediate or lingering effects of cheating, you can reach me at 512-795-0402 or visit my website for more information about infidelity, affair, and cheating
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