Why do people cheat or have affairs?
Affairs and cheating can include many things – kissing, sexting, groping, right through to a long term affair. It all depends on the feelings of each person in the relationship as to what is acceptable to them, and the agreement or understanding made between the couple and what was agreed at the beginning. Each relationship is different, and comparisons between each relationship really are unhelpful.
When one person in a relationship cheats or has an affair, the other understandably feels betrayed. Whether you are the one who discovers it by accident, or your partner told you about it, it rocks your very foundations and you feel wounded to the core. You probably experience a multitude of jumbled emotions, amongst them shock, sadness, confusion, anger, and maybe more. There are often feelings of ‘I haven’t done anything wrong’. That the other person has ruined everything, it was all ok until the other person cheated. There are doubts as to whether your relationship can survive, or whether you want to continue. Often it’s not a simple decision as there may be other considerations, such as children, a home and life together.
The root causes
Couples tend to mistake affairs as the cause of the problem, when in fact it is a symptom. The root of the problem is that the relationship has been neglected for one reason or another. Let’s face it, life can get really busy, and trying to juggle everything can be difficult.
It could be that work commitments take one partner away from home or they have to work long hours, leaving little time to focus on the relationship, especially when tired and exhausted.
A baby can be such a joy, however they do demand a lot of attention, mum feels exhausted after the birth, and constant feeding and sleepless nights can put a strain on the relationship.
The daily grind of life can take the excitement out of a relationship, and it can make both in the relationship feel un-appreciated, a drudge, a workhorse, being at the beck and call of others.
Perhaps the children have flown the nest and suddenly there is a void – and the couple realise they have drifted apart over the years, wondering what they have in common.
Whatever the reason, one person’s needs are not being met in the relationship, and so they look outside. Sometimes it can be that they focus on interests or hobbies, at other times it could be that another person pays them attention, or meets the needs that are lacking in the relationship.
How working with a professional can help
It is at this time working with an experienced professional can be really helpful - by exploring the root cause of the problem with the couple. Finding out why the relationship has gone awry, and the part each person has played in this. He/she can also help the couple explore whether there is a way forward together – and sometimes there are times this is not the best solution. In this case it’s about working with the couple to help them part amicably. It can be extremely painful to hear what each other really feels. It may be that it's the first time each has had the courage to say things that have been festering for years. However really opening up communication can really help the healing process, and new beginnings.
A relationship counsellor is not emotionally attached to the outcome, does not have any bias to either person, and can offer a different perspective. He/she is not there to tell the couple what to do, apportion blame or judge. He/she is there to be impartial, allowing each person to be heard respectfully, offering suggestions, tools and techniques to get the relationship back on track - or not - as the case may be. It can open up discussion in the sessions, and encourages communication between the couple.
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About Wendy Capewell
Wendy Capewell is an experienced integrative counsellor who specialises in working with those struggling in their relationships, either with individuals or couples. She has her own successful private practice in Hampshire.