Infidelity hurts. It ruins relationships. It devastates your sense of trust, loyalty and true love. When it happens, you just want to know why. Only your spouse can really answer that, and even he may struggle to tell you exactly why he did it. The best way to heal from infidelity is to see a professional, either together if you are going to stick it out or alone if you have decided to call it quits. A big part of that healing will be coming to an understanding about why it happened. It’s important to know that it was not your fault and that men cheat for any number of reasons, totally unrelated to their partners:
- The Internet made it too easy. A lot of men, who may never have strayed two decades ago, are now finding it just too easy to have an affair. They end up crossing a line without having set out to do so. Before the Internet, someone wanting to cheat had to put forth the effort to meet someone in real life who wanted the same thing. Today they contact people online all the time, and too often these relationships begin platonically and transition to romance.
- He has low self-esteem. Yes, men suffer from this problem too. They often feel unattractive, and when a man is insecure, approval from another woman boosts his self-esteem and makes him feel better about himself.
- He has relationship expectations that are unreasonable. If your spouse cheated and blames it on you for lack of affection or sex that wasn’t interesting, it’s still not your fault. He most likely had unrealistic expectations about what sex in a long-term, committed and monogamous relationship would look like. When a man thinks that a partner should meet every one of his needs without exception (and when he wants them met, too), he is bound to be disappointed and may stray.
- He thinks cheating is OK. Yes, it’s true. Some men think that cheating is acceptable. His context for relationships includes affairs. This may happen when a man learns these behaviors from his peers, a parent or the culture in which he lives and works. For instance, a professional athlete may find it acceptable to cheat because he sees it happen around him so often. The behavior becomes normalized.
- He wanted an out. Although it’s hard to accept why anyone would try to end a relationship this way, sometimes men cheat as a way to get out. He wants out of his current relationship and avoids a direct confrontation by cheating. For some men, this strategy is also a way of avoiding being alone. They line up the next relationship before the previous one has ended.
- He has an addiction. A man who cheats may also be struggling with the illness of addiction. He may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, which impairs his decision-making in every way, including relationship choices. He may also be struggling with a sex addiction. While some men may use this as an excuse, it can be a genuine issue. Sex addiction, like drug or alcohol addiction, is an illness that is tough to beat and can lead to many destructive actions.
If you have a hard time getting your spouse to tell you honestly why he cheated, it will be difficult to experience closure. A therapist trained in working with couples that have struggled with infidelity can help you find answers and, most importantly, the ability to move past cheating to learn to love and trust again.