What is considered cheating in a marriage? For most people, it’s having sex with someone who is not your spouse. It is sexual perfidy that ends the sanctity of marriage. Betrayal is considered the ultimate sin because when you commit to someone, you are expected to be faithful and honest.
When it comes to intimate relationships, cheating is a dealbreaker for many. It’s not necessary that only unhappiness in a marriage leads to infidelity. Even the happiest people can cheat on their spouses. Just because it happens often, should we justify cheating? What about the immense pain and emotional trauma it causes the person who is being cheated on?
To understand the full extent of the impact of infidelity on a marriage, we spoke to counseling psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couples counseling and family therapy.
Types Of Infidelity
According to Pew Research Center, over 90% of Americans consider infidelity immoral yet around 30% to 40% of Americans cheat on their partners. In another study by YouGov.com, 19% of respondents claimed they had engaged in sexual activities outside their current relationships.
Contrary to what most people assume, sex isn’t the only driving factor that makes people disloyal. They could be sexually satisfied yet cheat on their partner. Five common types of infidelity can take place between married couples:
1. Cyber infidelity
This form of infidelity takes place in the virtual realm in the form of virtual affairs. Devaleena says, “Cyber infidelity is what happens before you engage in sexual activities. If they are spending a lot of time on their phone, then you need to find out if your partner is cheating on you online. This cyber-affair is digital and takes place in IMs and video calls. Cyber infidelity includes flirting, sexting, and even pornography if it is taking place without the knowledge of your spouse.”
2. Emotional infidelity
This is also known as romantic infidelity. When a person has little to no emotional connection with their partner, they look for this emotional intimacy in someone else. They are committed to their partner but the lack of an emotional connection makes them yearn for deeper emotional affairs.
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3. Opportunistic infidelity
This is one of the most common types of infidelity. It’s when one of the spouses gives in to temptations and has intercourse with someone else. Lust can make people do things they regret. That’s why it’s considered one of the deadly sins. A person’s heightened sexual desires are one of the prime motivating factors for infidelity in this case.
4. Financial infidelity
Devaleena says, “If a couple has agreed to have combined finances but when one of them lies, steals, hides, and spends stashes of money without the other partner’s knowledge, then it amounts to financial infidelity.” Possessing your partner’s credit cards and having secret bank accounts also fall under this type of infidelity.
This type of betrayal happens when a spouse plays in the gray area between being loyal and being an infidel. They haven’t done anything to cheat on their partner yet. But they engage in these harmless little acts that they know will have an impact on the person they’re eyeing. Some of the things that contribute to micro-infidelity include:
- Dressing differently for a party or occasion when you know that particular person will be present
- Socializing with them secretly
5 Signs Your Spouse Is Cheating On You
Devaleena says, “Each couple has different dynamics. These signs don’t necessarily have to mean that your partner is cheating on you. But these are the most common indications there is someone else in your partner’s life.” Just so you aren’t completely blindsided when this happens, here are some signs of a cheating spouse.
1. A change in behavior and attitude
Devaleena says, “The first thing to notice is how their temperament has changed. A cheating spouse will be too dismissive, unbothered, and snap quickly. They will become more and more critical of you in order to appease the guilt of what they are doing behind your back.”
A few other behavioral changes to look out for are:
- They lose their temper or get defensive when you mention a certain person
- They used to like certain things but don’t seem to be fond of them anymore
- They are over conscious about how they look and what they wear
- They may appear emotionally distant or start paying an unusual amount of attention to you, almost as if they’re overcompensating for something
Your spouse can be genuinely stressed or have work issues they can’t seem to cope with. But these small sudden changes in their behavior could also mean that they are having an extramarital affair.
2. Increased communication issues
Communication issues aren’t a good thing in even the most stable and secure marriages. Infidelity isn’t the only thing that can damage a relationship. Lack of communication does an equally great job of it. To have a healthy emotional connection, you need to communicate well with your partner.
An unfaithful partner won’t communicate with you much. Even when they do, they will act like they aren’t interested in talking. They will nod their heads and act as if everything is good just to be done with the conversation. Some other signs of bad communication issues are:
- They don’t compliment you or use words of affirmation anymore
- They will ignore what you say
- Their body language and gestures such as eye rolling and sighing express their annoyance
3. Sudden lying and avoidance
One of the signs of marital infidelity is lying and avoiding difficult conversations. When you feel like you are being neglected by your partner, it could be one of the indicators of your partner engaging in a sexual or emotional affair.
Devaleena says, “A cheater will suddenly become secretive. You knew their phone password once but they have changed it now. Lying might seem like a small thing. But one lie leads to many other lies. This is a major red flag as it points to dishonesty in a relationship.”
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4. Indifference toward everything related to their marriage
Apathy is another way your spouse may hurt you when they are sexually involved with or emotionally invested in someone else. Their indifference and apathy will become apparent in the little things they don’t do anymore. Perhaps, they loved cooking with you before but now they barely walk into the kitchen. They loved playing board games with you but now they are too busy to even have a cup of coffee with you.
Some other signs your spouse is taking you for granted are:
- An unfaithful partner doesn’t come to sort things out when the two of you have had a fight
- They don’t care about date nights, anniversary celebrations, and birthdays
- They aren’t jealous when someone else approaches their significant other
5. Changes in sex life
Devaleena says, “A cheating husband or cheating wife won’t be interested in being intimate with their partners. Physical intimacy will take a hit when a partner is indulging in marital infidelity.” Some other changes in their sex lives include:
- New moves in bed that may surprise you and leave you wondering where they learned it from
- Feeling that your partner is somewhat distant in your most intimate moments and the sex feels boring and mechanical
- Your partner being diagnosed with STIs or STDs even though they have no history of it and you have been in a monogamous relationship for a long time
5 Reasons Why Your Spouse Is Cheating On You
No marriage is immune to cheating. Even the happiest marriages can get dented for various reasons. From past emotional traumas to mood disorders, being intoxicated, and an inability to deal with everyday stresses, a lot of factors can push a person to breach the lines of fidelity.
Speaking of reasons behind cheating in a marriage, counseling psychologist Nandita Rambhia, (MSc Psychology), who specializes in compatibility issues, parenting issues, and marriage counseling, says, “From the get-go, a person who cheats in a committed relationship is considered to have loose moral standards. They are termed adulterers and their actions are directly linked to their moral compass. Nobody ever considers that they may have underlying mental health issues.
“They could be carrying emotional baggage that they don’t know how to deal with, may be struggling with conditions like bipolar disorder, may be frustrated, facing stress at work, or dealing with the loss of a loved one. None of these reasons, however, justify cheating, except not having a sound mind (intoxicated because of drug usage) when they cheated.”
Based on this understanding, let’s try to understand the reasons why people cheat in a marriage from a fresh perspective:
1. Marital infidelity happens when one partner falls out of love
Devaleena says, “People often talk about falling in love. But they often forget that there is an equal chance of falling out of love as well. This is one of the major reasons that cause relationship problems.” Some of the signs of your spouse falling out of love with you are:
- Less affectionate with you
- No longer makes romantic and sweet gestures
- Less physical touch like hand holding and cuddling
2. Unmet sexual needs
If a person’s sexual needs are being met in the marriage, they may look for gratification outside. Perhaps, the cheating partner is trying to fill the gaping hole formed by their unmet need. A person’s sense of right and wrong goes for a toss when they have to grapple with sexual frustration day in and day out. In such a situation, if they meet someone new and click with them, things can escalate.
Maybe they want to experiment with new things in bed and their spouse isn’t ready for it. Maybe an unfaithful partner wanted to have an intimate relationship with someone whose physical appearance is different from their spouse.
Related Reading: Expert Tips On How To Forgive Emotional Cheating
3. Unmet emotional needs
Devaleena says, “Sometimes we overlook our partner’s emotional needs. This is especially true in marriages and long-term relationships. As a result, they may be left feeling unwanted in a relationship. We may do everything in our ability to keep them happy. We may cook for them, take them on expensive holidays, and even do everything to satisfy their sexual needs but the emotional connection could still be lacking. So, what happens when there is no emotional connection? They stray and look for it with someone else.”
Marriage counseling becomes very crucial when emotional needs are neglected in a marriage. Some of the emotional needs in a relationship include:
4. Low self-esteem can lead to cheating in a marriage
Devaleena adds, “It’s no revelation that low self-esteem is a primary factor in infidelity. They need validation and love from more than one person to uplift their sense of self. Men and women can both have this need to feel significant and desired. And they look for romantic connections outside their primary relationship to fulfill this need.”
Some signs of low-esteem in a spouse are:
- Low self-confidence
- Being a perfectionist
- Self-doubts and constantly avoiding their insecurities
- Fear of failure
- Always trying to go out of their way to please others
5. Mental health issues
No marriage is immune to cheating. Even if a couple shares a healthy, holistic connection, the onset of mental health issues can make them susceptible to infidelity. For example, a partner could, unfortunately, develop mood disorders like bipolar disorder. According to studies, anywhere from 25 to 80% of all people with bipolar disorder have what’s called hypersexuality.
Bipolar mania causes uncontrollable sexual desires, resulting in overindulgence and compulsive obsession with sexual content and interactions.
Effects Of Infidelity And 5 Tips To Cope
It is painful to be cheated on. In fact, pain is a small word. It’s agony, anger, and a hundred different emotions hitting you at once. No revelation of cheating in marriage is easy. The betrayed spouse cycle includes a person either fighting the adulterer or avoiding them. It is the toughest time for the betrayed spouse and it takes a lot for them to heal.
This is because of the gamut of emotions that the uninvolved partners go through when they discover that the marriage has hit the rocks. From being in denial to being depressed to blaming themselves, they go through a lot of torment before finally accepting the truth. Dealing with the aftermath of infidelity is no different from navigating the five stages of grief. If you find yourself in the throes of such an emotional upheaval, the following tips on how to cope with depression and infidelity can help:
1. Seek therapy
Devaleena says, “When you find out that you have been cheated on, seek professional help. This isn’t the kind of trauma that heals on its own. Your feelings may turn negative and hostile. This needs to be handled by a family therapist or a marriage counselor.” If you’re looking for professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is only a click away.
2. Don’t seek revenge
If you have been cheated on, then cheating on your partner and forming a new relationship with someone isn’t the right way to go about it. You don’t have to become a cheater after being cheated on. It will only create more problems in your marriage.
3. Understand that this is not your fault
An affair occurred between your spouse and someone else. This has nothing to do with you. It’s not your fault. It’s common to fall into a labyrinth of self-doubts and insecurities. But don’t do that to yourself. Devaleena says, “Even if you choose to leave a marriage peacefully, always know that this union broke because of your unfaithful spouse. You don’t have to feel guilty about anything.”
4. Take some time away from your partner
If you want to survive infidelity and not go for legal separation, then this is how you can do it. Give each other space. The healing process will be easier when you aren’t reminded of your spouse’s adultery. This will give you a clearer perspective on whether or not you want to continue this marriage.
5. Identify what needs to be done to avoid legal separation
Devaleena says, “If you have kids and don’t want to head for a divorce, then you need to identify what needs to be done to save this marriage.” Cut out the other person involved in this infidelity and learn how to rebuild trust.
- One of the signs of cheating in committed relationships is a change in their behavior and attitude
- Placing unrealistic expectations on your partner can make them feel burdened and this may cause them to develop an emotional affair with someone new
- A partner being unfaithful is their conscious choice. It has nothing to do with you
Humans are inherently good. They just choose to do bad things out of indifference, apathy, ego, lovelessness, and low self-esteem. Don’t be of the mindset that once a cheater is always a cheater. People may change. They may admit guilt and take accountability for what they did. If this marriage is worth saving and you want to stay married to them, then seek understanding and talk to a licensed therapist on how to restore trust.