Infidelity is present in nearly one-third of all marriages. The concept is not limited to just men, as women both young and old are closing in on their male counterparts in its frequency. This is due in part to the fact that women are more physically and financially self-supporting than ever, and this can lead to harming a marriage more easily than in the past.
When spouses are confronted with infidelity, one of the first things they wish to know is the reason why it happened in the first place. While this may not help to fix the relationship or solve the problems, knowing why the spouse cheated may be an important first step in healing.
Psychologists have divided the various types of infidelity into categories. These categories help to define the reasons for the infidelity, whether physical or emotional, and can assist the victimized spouse to deal with the confusion and hurt that now exists in the relationship.
Physical and emotional infidelity
There are two major categories of infidelity: physical and emotional. While physical infidelity is what most people think of when they imagine cheating, emotional infidelity can be just as damaging. Emotional infidelity can be insidious, due to the fact that it is often hidden from the non-cheating spouse. Generally, this type of cheating is non-sexual, at least at first. It can easily lead to physical infidelity, however, as sexual desires take over.
Spotting this type of infidelity can be difficult, but one psychologist urges spouses to trust their instincts and what they know about their partner’s sense of loyalty. Using indirect conversational techniques to tease out the spouse’s views on cheating can be one way to understand their mindset. Whether this definition of infidelity includes emotional cheating can be one factor in spotting that infidelity. The best time to confront these issues, the psychologist points out, is when the relationship is healthy. Waiting until the damage is done can make it difficult to identify the relationship problems.
One common type of physical infidelity is called opportunistic infidelity. This generally occurs when a couple is in love, but one spouse succumbs to temptation when the opportunity for sexual activity with another person presents itself. Drug use or alcohol is commonly involved in this type of infidelity, lowering a person’s inhibitions to stay faithful.
While this type of infidelity may lead to guilt, particularly when the person is truly in love with their spouse, these guilty feelings may lessen over time. This is because the threat of being caught also fades and the opportunity for this type of infidelity is not continual.
This type of infidelity comes in two varieties: conflicted and non-conflicted. A conflicted case of romantic infidelity occurs when a person genuinely feels love and affection for both their spouse and another person. While many believe that a person can only ever truly love one other, this is not true. However, carrying on loving relationships with multiple people, particularly when married, often leads to all parties being hurt in the end. This can also lead to that person living parallel lives, sometimes for long periods of time.
Non-conflicted romantic infidelity is often the product of a person having a low emotional attachment to their current spouse. They develop romantic feelings for another person, even while maintaining their marriage in order to make things work. Whatever commitment they feel with their spouse, whether financial, relational or because of children, they often keep that relationship going but seek emotional attachment elsewhere. This, however, can be extremely hurtful and damaging to the spouse who is then trapped in a marriage with very little love in it.
This type of infidelity takes place when the spouse is not getting the physical or sexual relationship they desire with their spouse. Often, this type of infidelity is justified by the person seeking what they are not receiving in their current relationship. As with non-conflicted romantic infidelity, the couple is usually only staying together due to their commitment. The relationship is lacking any physical or emotional attachment, leading to the person expressing their sexual desires elsewhere.
While all of these types of infidelity can be extremely hurtful to a spouse and damaging to a marriage, psychologists say that many marriages actually survive bouts of infidelity. Because infidelity tests the strength of a marriage and often reveals weaknesses, it allows a couple to fix their issues and emerge stronger than before.
Recovery from infidelity can help in rebuilding the marriage from a new base of mature love, rather than romantic infatuation. This, along with more open communication between spouses, can help to make a relationship more solid and able to withstand problems going forward.