Whether it’s the workplace or the Internet, there’s no shortage of temptation for folks in monogamous relationships. And infidelity appears to be on the rise: According to one estimate, the number of people who are unfaithful to a partner has increased 40% since 1990.
Though the wronged partner typically has plenty of support in the aftermath of an affair, there are far fewer resources for cheaters themselves. Yet there’s both a need for more information for unfaithful partners and an opportunity for couples to navigate beyond an affair.
“As infidelity has become increasingly common, so does the lack of understanding surrounding the reasons and motivations that people have when they decide to have an affair,” said sex therapist Tammy Nelson, author of the new book “When You’re the One Who Cheats.” I asked her and some of my other colleagues to weigh in on some common concerns of couples coping with infidelity.
People don’t always cheat for the reasons we might think, experts say. “In my research for this book, I found that men cheat for relationships and connection, and women cheat for sex. This goes against the narrative that we have been told that women cheat for love and men cheat purely for sexual reasons,” Nelson said.
More details may not be better
If you’re feeling guilty — or if you want to stay with your significant other — it can be tempting to spill the beans. But you’ll want to consider what your motivations are for confessing. “I don’t recommend they disclose the details of the affair if they are only doing it to make themselves feel better,” Nelson said.
Trust takes time
Re-establishing trust is one of the most important yet difficult tasks lying ahead of a couple in which one partner has been unfaithful.
“The truth is that there are times when a relationship becomes stronger after an affair,” psychologist and sex therapist Rachel Needle said. “After an affair, partners can learn to communicate in a healthier way, become more connected and be more honest.” But that can come only after both partners do some difficult work.
You must both discuss the sexual and emotional reasons that led to the infidelity; otherwise, you may not fully recover and grow. “Some partners want to return to the way things were without doing the hard work of discovery of what each partner needs from the other,” Cooper said.