Infidelity in a relationship is very painful, but… it is worth making sure that we define it in the same way as our partner. Sometimes we understand fidelity differently, which increases the risk of misunderstanding and suffering. Some people prefer open relationships in which they have sex with other people, combining varying degrees (or lack of) emotional commitment. Others allow themselves to have sexual intercourse with a third party, but without kissing. There is also no shortage of people for whom infidelity after alcohol seems of little importance. Sometimes we see flirting as a form of infidelity, as well as complimenting other women and men. We define infidelity as crossing the boundaries we have set with our partner. Note that in order to define well what infidelity is, we must first define the framework of our relationship.
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What percentage of men cheat? It is difficult to define this phenomenon unequivocally, so the spectrum is quite wide. They range from 33% to 75% (research by Esther Perel). It is worth noting that women suffer more from emotional infidelity, while men are particularly affected by sexual infidelity.
Note that in this article we are focusing on infidelity on the part of the man, but this does not mean that only men transgress established boundaries.
Types of infidelity
There are different types of infidelity. Some have emerged with the development of modern technology, which has made it easier to make friends without leaving the house. It is worth noting that we do not always feel jealousy because of another woman. Sometimes our relationship is overshadowed by a hobby to which a partner pays too much attention.
As women, we tend to cope less well with emotional betrayal. We are overwhelmed by the realisation that our partner has formed a special bond with someone else. Sometimes the relationship with a third party does not have a physical aspect. It lacks touch and desire. The other woman becomes our partner’s confidante, to whom he confides his emotions and problems. He shares his joys and sorrows with her. Male-female friendship is possible, but when it comes at the expense of the romantic relationship and obscures it, we have reason to be concerned. Emotional betrayal often informs unmet emotional needs.
There are times when a man wants to experiment and break from routine. Unexpectedly, an attractive woman appears on the horizon who arouses physical attraction in him. The result is sexual infidelity, which can be incidental or develop into a longer affair. It then poses a serious threat to our relationship. A relationship with another woman satisfies not only our partner’s erotic needs, but also our emotional needs.
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In the past, people used to get to know each other at work, at a meeting with mutual friends and in a neighbourhood shop. This narrowed the availability of potential sexual partners, and infidelities still occurred. Today, it only takes a few clicks. Dating apps and social networks promote easy networking. Some thrive exclusively online, while others are making their way into the real world. How do we recognise virtual infidelity? Our partner usually tries to keep it a secret. He spends a lot of time online and this is at the expense of our relationship. He shares his emotions and needs with other women and establishes a close bond with them. Sometimes she flirts or has cybersex. Occasionally she tries to date some offline.
Flirting evokes different emotions. Some of us see it as infidelity, others see it as a prelude to infidelity. Sometimes we say that it is not so bad in itself if it does not cross certain boundaries. Flirting is a form of micro infidelity, and we also include maintaining a close relationship with an ex-partner in this category.
Infidelity in objects
A relationship crisis is not always due to the fact that our partner is interested in another woman and gives her his attention. Sometimes he or she is excessively focused around his or her passion or work. He puts a lot of energy and time into it, so he lacks the resources to nurture and strengthen his relationship with us.
This is a special form of betrayal, which is usually closely linked to the value system. For example, we agree to speak with a common voice on parenting issues. If we have doubts, we consult each other first and together formulate a position to present to the child. Loyalty betrayal occurs when a partner does not respect these agreements. He allows his daughter or son to engage in some form of activity without discussing it with us.
Why do men cheat – what are the causes of infidelity?
A breach of the boundaries we set at the beginning of a relationship causes shock and disbelief. Over time, pain and sadness come to the fore. Many of my female patients wonder: “Why does the guy cheat?” It is difficult to give a definite answer to this question. The motives can be very complex, but we can distinguish a few of the most common ones. These will be discussed in this section of the article. I would like to point out that personality traits sometimes predispose to infidelity, but they are no excuse. It is up to each individual to decide how he or she will resolve the problem in the relationship. Will he or she want to talk about it, or perhaps have his or her needs met outside the romantic relationship. Problems are usually the responsibility of both parties, but it is up to the cheater to choose how to solve them.
The Peter Pan syndrome
When discussing the issue of why men cheat, it is worth noting the so-called ‘Peter Pan syndrome’. Although it has never been classified by psychological societies as a form of disorder, the name is commonly used and describes the problem of emotional immaturity quite well. A man who exhibits its symptoms is unable to take responsibility for his own actions. He tries to place it on others – his partner, parents, friends, neighbours and even the weather. He displays a narcissistic personality trait, making him seek only to satisfy his own needs. He ignores those signalled to him by his partner. He has a strong need for attention and admiration. He likes to be the centre of attention and is often regarded as the soul of the company. It is difficult to be enthralled in the long term by an adult man who remains emotionally immature and unable to meet the basic challenges of an honest, mature relationship. Such a man often avoids serious conversations about feelings, the future or commitments. Instead, he focuses on momentary pleasures without thinking about the consequences of his behaviour for others. This causes a partner who suffers from Peter Pan syndrome to try to satisfy his needs outside the relationship. It is not uncommon for him to cheat on us or even abandon us for another woman who initially feels charmed by his natural personal charm.
A relationship with a narcissist
Are you wondering, “Why do men cheat?” As I mentioned at the beginning of this part of the article, this is partly due to the personality of some men. This in no way excuses their infidelity. By recognising certain traits and behaviours, you can anticipate infidelity and avoid it by not getting into a relationship with the wrong man. Usually, overstepping boundaries in a relationship is an alarm signal. Infidelity informs us of problems that distance us from each other and result in the satisfaction of needs involving a third party. There are exceptions to this rule. One of them is a relationship with a narcissist. Men who struggle with this personality disorder are characterised by a lack of empathy, a belief in their own uniqueness and the use of double standards. They are often very afraid of their partner’s infidelity, even though they commit it themselves. The narcissist, although boasting about his achievements, has low self-esteem. He tries to raise it by getting into numerous affairs. When he feels desired by many women, his self-esteem temporarily increases, but does not stabilise.
Need for attention
“Why do married men cheat?” This question is often asked by my female patients. I encourage them to look at infidelity as an alarm signal. Infidelity usually occurs as a result of a partner’s unmet needs. Sometimes he or she is trying to get attention by violating set boundaries. This happens when, for example, we are absorbed in childcare or career development and do not notice him. By taking more time to talk and nurture a close relationship, we can rebuild it. There is then a chance that another infidelity will not occur. If you want to avoid infidelity, pay attention to whether the romantic relationship is meeting all the needs in the relationship. By this I mean realistic and adequate expectations. Keep in mind that neither of the nads can require a partner to bestow unconditional love on us and thus respond to our childhood deficits.
Taking revenge on your partner
Emotional betrayal usually hurts us more than physical betrayal. We see bonding as a key element of any romantic relationship. When it is established with a third party, it can result in a break-up and entry into a new relationship. Why do men cheat emotionally? Sometimes they take revenge on us in this way. They cannot cope with our tendency to be overly critical. Let’s look at our own behaviour. Are we overreacting by sending negative messages? It’s not a matter of looking at your partner indiscriminately and making no demands on them. We have the right to expect him or her to take care of a shared child and to participate in household chores. Sometimes our critical comments are about trifles and contribute nothing to the relationship. If we point out to our partner that he is not setting the table properly, ironing his shirt or wiping the bathroom mirror, we unintentionally alienate him. We become unattractive to him (also sexually) and he begins to see us as his enemy. Our criticism also discourages him from having frank conversations. He prefers to have them with, for example, another woman who understands and appreciates him. Although there is nothing fair about this, a new person who is unfamiliar with the faults of our partner(s) will always be a more attractive confidant. We can remedy this by cultivating assertive but non-aggressive communication in the relationship.
Low self-esteem and the desire to raise self-esteem
Many people seek answers to the question, “Why do men cheat with younger men?” There are various factors that can contribute to an affair. One of them is the need for novelty. Sex in a steady relationship often becomes predictable and therefore not very exciting. Even if we like broad beans, we don’t want to eat them every day. Its seasonality makes it an extremely attractive delicacy. A similar situation occurs in romantic relationships. Sex becomes more satisfying when it goes hand in hand with experimentation and a breath of fresh air. (Mind you, this does not mean that we have to eat something new every day, or enter into a new relationship! Sex with a younger partner can be a confirmation of attraction for some men. Their self-esteem is boosted when they can provide her with an orgasm. At the same time, the ego is pleasantly tickled by interest from a young and attractive woman. A midlife crisis occurs when we start to think more often of death as a real prospect. Sexuality is its opposite. When entering into a relationship with a younger partner, a man feels as if he himself has lost several years. A relationship full of vitality chases away the spectre of death and provides a temporary solution to this natural stage of human development. It is no surprise that we are attracted to younger and attractive people. However, love is more than attraction and desire.
Realising erotic fantasies not accepted by the partner
Sometimes the answer to the question: why does a guy cheat on a woman turns out to be quite simple. His motives are closely related to the erotic fantasies he wishes to realise. Sometimes our partner’s visions do not suit us. We then have the right to say no in order to remain true to ourselves. It’s a good idea to discuss your sexual fantasies and think together about what we want to try and what is outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we get discouraged too quickly when we hear about the first of our partner’s dreams. We assume that since it doesn’t suit us, the next ones will turn out to be even ‘worse’. If we remain more open, we may discover that our sexual desires sometimes overlap. By satisfying them, we derive mutual satisfaction. This also reduces the risk of infidelity.
Let’s listen to each other with curiosity, without setting ourselves up for the immediate realisation of every fantasy. Let’s give each other time to discuss and consider which one is interesting for both of us.
The need for novelty
The answer to the question “why do men over 40 cheat” was somewhat answered in the paragraph about trying to raise self-esteem. Sex in a steady relationship becomes boring, especially if we don’t pay much attention to this area of life. By introducing variety, our own erotic language, sensual dressing-up, we can fuel the fire and prevent it from dying out. There is a need for novelty in all of us. Mature men often get into a serious rut and try to break it by having sex with another woman. It brings a breath of fresh air into their lives. Note that since most of us need new stimuli, recognising this need can contribute to a closer bond and exploration of new sexual fields in an ongoing relationship.
Avoidant attachment style and fear of intimacy
Both parties are not always responsible for infidelity. Sometimes one partner represents an avoidant attachment style. This is formed in childhood in a relationship with caregivers who do not meet the child’s needs. The young person eventually stops signalling his or her expectations because he or she knows that they will not be met with interest anyway. He learns to function independently, without looking to others. Proximity frightens him, so he may avoid commitment. When our relationship with a man with an avoidant attachment style begins to blossom, betrayal unexpectedly creeps in. He thus distances himself because he fears closeness. The problem with such a relationship is the unhealthy cycle of avoidance that results in turning against the romantic relationship. Although the person representing this style is not responsible for the way he or she was brought up, he or she can make an effort to change and learn to enter into close and satisfying relationships.
Signs of infidelity – how do we know when a man has cheated on us?
Can the behaviour of a husband or partner who is cheating indicate that he is committing infidelity? There are some indications that are worth taking into account in order to react in time. I would like to point out that their appearance is not conclusive proof. Always bear in mind the wider context, e.g. your partner is going to the gym because he was advised to do so by his doctor because he is overweight. How do you know if your husband is cheating?
Sudden change in behaviour
When your partner changes his behaviour and suddenly starts going out frequently with his friends, although he has never done so, it is worth looking into the matter. It is possible that he has renewed old acquaintances or met people who share his passions. If he invites his friends to his house and shows you pictures of joint outings, for example fishing, then you are unlikely to have any cause for concern. “How can you tell if your husband is cheating on you?” There are usually inaccuracies in his statements. You will learn a lot by talking to him about his colleagues and the activities he undertakes with them.
Taking more care of yourself
How do you know if a husband is cheating on his wife? How do you know if he is having an affair? These questions are often asked in the study. If your partner has hitherto paid little attention to his or her appearance and has suddenly started to, treat this as an issue worthy of attention. As I mentioned earlier, signing up for a gym membership is not always prompted by an affair. Much more often, it’s due to health issues and a doctor’s recommendation. Sometimes he changes his clothing style because he wants to hide his body’s imperfections that have appeared with age or due to illness. Remember that men receive much less permission to talk about their weaknesses or illnesses.
Emotional and physical distancing
The behaviour of a husband who cheats often involves emotional and physical distancing. He avoids talking to you and simply cuts off topics that do not suit him. Sex, which he used to enjoy with you, recedes into the background. He gives the impression of being absent-minded. I would like to point out that problems at work manifest themselves in a similar way, so try not to draw hasty conclusions. Always consider the wider context when analysing your partner’s behaviour.
Mysterious messages in the middle of the night
Messages that reach your partner in the middle of the night can be unsettling, especially if you don’t know who the sender is. This unusual situation deserves attention, but I caution you against violating his right to privacy. I understand that you would simply like to check who is writing to him and on what matter. However, such an attitude would violate his secrecy of correspondence. You could ask him about the nightly messages and see how he reacts to your interest. Will he feel confused and drop the subject or will he give you a concrete answer.
Hiding with the phone in another room
If up to now he has been talking in your presence but now locks himself in another room, it is worth taking an interest in this unexpected change. Ask him who is calling him and observe his reaction. It’s possible that he is taking a call from work and doesn’t want the children who are playing in the living room to disturb his conversation. Give yourself time to observe and wonder if there are other reasons why he doesn’t want to talk in front of the family.
What does a guy who has cheated feel?
My female patients often wonder what a guy who has cheated feels. We are all different, which is perfectly illustrated by the emotions we feel when we commit infidelity. Not every man feels sadness and guilt. There are times when a breach of established boundaries has left him unimpressed or has provided him with a pleasant adrenaline rush.
“What does a cheating husband think?” If he has a narcissistic trait, he is not worried that he is causing us harm and we will abandon him when the truth comes out. Men who struggle with this personality disorder usually do not have developed empathy, which makes it easier for them to break the accepted rules. They feel no remorse for this. They consider themselves special and therefore assume that no rules apply to them. They prioritise their own needs, with absolutely no regard for us. Numerous romances boost their ego. At this point, it is worth noting that narcissists usually have low self-esteem, which they scrupulously conceal. Infidelity in a relationship sometimes becomes a nice break from everyday life for a man. Moments spent with a lover are a source of pure pleasure. Another woman does not place great expectations on him, does not criticise and gives him her attention. By meeting her, he flourishes. Sometimes he decides to abandon his wife for a new partner. Note, however, that every relationship that develops into a longer relationship is fraught with the same problems and does not remain an eternal idyll. Some men who commit infidelity focus on sexual satisfaction. With a lover they can realise their erotic fantasies.
How to live after a man’s betrayal?
Many of my female patients wonder what to do when their husband cheats. There is no single proven solution that can be replicated with the desired result. We differ in our personalities, previous experiences and approaches to fidelity in a relationship. For some of us, betrayal represents the end of a romantic relationship. We are aware that we will not trust our partner a second time. Being in his or her presence will make us feel uncomfortable and we will remind him or her of the betrayal at every opportunity. If you feel that a break-up will benefit you the most, then stay true to yourself. The situation is different if the betrayal was incidental; it is a little harder to come to terms with the idea of a longer affair. A partner who sincerely regrets their decision and wants to work on the relationship promises better than a narcissist. The latter does not see the fault in himself. It is possible that he or she will admit it in order to get the desired effect of your forgiveness, but there is no sincere regret behind it. This raises the risk that the narcissistic partner will soon commit further betrayals. Romance with other women strengthens his self-esteem. In addition, he feels special and does not intend to follow the accepted rules. I often hear the question, “How do I behave when my husband cheats?” “What should I do when he has cheated on me?” First of all, look at your partner’s attitude. Does he regret his decision and is he ready to break contact with that woman? If you see that he does not intend to do so, the situation looks much worse. Sometimes infidelity strengthens a relationship. This happens when the partner regrets it and together you try to repair the relationship. Infidelity often communicates that something is missing and some needs remain unmet. Below are some steps you might want to take. They do not completely exhaust the issue: what to do when your husband cheats, but they are quite a relief.
-Grant yourself the right to grieve. Infidelity disrupts the balance of your relationship and turns your existing life upside down. It causes shock and disbelief. You have the right to mourn what has happened.
-Take a look at your relationship. Don’t do it straight away when you are racked by strong emotions that taint the picture. When their level has subsided, it is worth reflecting on what has failed in your relationship – lack of communication, routine in bed, an overabundance of other responsibilities, etc.
-Consider whether you are willing and able to forgive. For some of us, betrayal is such a severe blow that the presence of a partner becomes difficult to bear. The emotional wound does not heal.
-If you see a chance to forgive your partner, meet with them to talk. Try to find out the reason for the betrayal. Avoid going into too much detail, especially if you are not ready for it.
-Consider what you can change to repair the relationship and not meet your needs outside of it.
-Work on rebuilding closeness through conversations and valuable time spent together.
-Evaluate your efforts so far. Are you able to trust him again? If you are still brooding over the betrayal, consider couples therapy. Sometimes talking in the presence of a professional brings better results because it sheds new light on the problems that are damaging your romantic relationship.
-If you can’t trust him and keep bringing up infidelity, it’s worth considering a break-up.
Consequences of infidelity
You already know why men cheat. Now it’s time to look at the consequences of boundary violations in a relationship. Sometimes the consequences of infidelity are very painful, but infidelity sometimes strengthens a romantic relationship. It helps to eliminate the problems that led to emotional and physical distancing from it.
Loss of trust in your partner
If we agree to monogamy at the beginning of the relationship, we experience infidelity very acutely. He has violated the boundaries set. We do not know if he will not do it again. We suffer a lot and do not want to experience it a second time. We wonder if, when he doesn’t answer the phone for a longer period of time, he spends time in the company of another woman again. Trust is difficult to rebuild, but it is not impossible. Much depends on our personal characteristics. If we are very cautious when entering into romantic relationships, betrayal can not only discourage us from our current partner, but also from a relationship with another man. We reinforce the belief that it is not worth trusting members of the opposite sex because they will let us down anyway. This way of thinking is often the aftermath of family narratives. If our mothers often emphasised that men have a problem with being faithful, we have probably internalised this message. We perceive it as our own.
Decline in self-esteem
A partner’s infidelity is always a serious blow to our self-esteem. When it happens, we wonder what she was better at than us. Sometimes we want to know too much, we look at her social media profile and even meet her in real life. In doing so, we fester wounds and do not allow them to heal. This encourages us to fall into complexes and even depressive states. Sometimes, after a betrayal, we get caught up in the cult of the beautiful body. We exercise intensively at the gym, follow restrictive diets, use the services of the best plastic surgeons. All this to rebuild our self-esteem. Unfortunately, self-esteem does not usually depend on how many anti-ageing treatments we have undergone recently. It is worth considering whether we recognise our other resources. We form our self-image piecemeal. It is not uncommon for it to be dominated by the part of the body we do not like about ourselves. We overlook our sense of humour, intelligence, empathy and friendship skills.
Infidelity usually signals a problem in a relationship; it rarely involves an assessment of our physical attractiveness. There is a high probability that he went to bed with her because she showed him interest or remained open to his erotic fantasies.
Revenge against a cheating partner
Unfortunately, the consequences of infidelity sometimes take their toll on children. Infidelity hurts, but let’s not use a son or daughter to take revenge on a partner. We may judge his or her attitude as morally reprehensible, but let’s not hinder his or her contact with children who need it. Let’s not talk to them about the harm done to us by him. Let us allow them to have a good relationship with both parents, even if we are planning a divorce. The partner is still their father and it is possible that he is doing a good job in this role.
Breaking up with your partner
Infidelity does not always mean the end of a relationship. Some couples decide to stay together, although they don’t necessarily get along. This is because they have not resolved the issues that led to the boundary breach. There is a risk that these will flare up again. Paradoxically, others strengthen their relationship through infidelity. There are people for whom betrayal means separation. They are unable to forgive and trust again. If you belong to the latter group, you will probably have to put your life back together again. This raises many challenges, but it also presents an opportunity. By deciding to make a new opening, we can gain a lot.
Working on relationship and intimacy
Can we learn something good from an event that has inflicted pain on us? Betrayal changes the dynamics of a relationship. Afterwards, nothing will be the same as before. However, this does not mean that it will turn out to be worse and less satisfying. A breach of boundaries in a relationship opens our eyes to problems that we did not see before. Together, we can work through them and strengthen our romantic relationship. Our bond will benefit from this.
Enriching your sex life
The reasons for infidelity are often mundane. They stem from the need to chase away the routine that has set in in the bedroom. When we talk about erotic fantasies, we do not automatically commit ourselves to fulfilling them. We can listen to our partner, discuss certain issues and choose those forms of sexual activity that suit both parties. By adding variety to sexual intercourse, we bring a breath of fresh air into the relationship. We then feel greater satisfaction from the romantic relationship.
Infidelity generally occurs as a response to problems in a relationship. We usually contribute to them together with our partner. This does not mean that we are responsible for the solution the other party chooses. Each of us has a rational mind that helps to foresee the consequences of the actions taken. At the same time, it points to other solutions, including talking about unmet needs. When our partner cheats on us, despair sets in. Initially we are convinced to break up, we see no other solution for ourselves. Let’s give ourselves the right to grieve and mourn something that has irretrievably ended. This does not mean that in time we will not look at the problem from a broader perspective. Paradoxically, betrayal sometimes proves to be a stimulant that pushes us towards growth and change. We work on the relationship, intimacy, open communication and intimacy. Our relationship becomes much more fulfilling.