Infidelity: Why Men and Women Cheat and How to Prevent It

There is nothing more satisfying than finding the love of your life and nothing more painful than finding your loved one has cheated on you. This year I’ll celebrate 50 years working to help men and women live joyful, passionate, lives. Since receiving my graduate degree from U.C. Berkeley in 1968, I have counseled more than 25,000 individuals and couples. I’ve written 15 books including my latest book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound and numerous articles including The 5 Stages of Love and Why Too Many Stop at Stage 3.

When I first got married in 1966 I assumed, like most young people, that there were just two stages of love: Stage 1—Fall in love and Stage 2—Form a loving family and living happily ever after. I soon learned that things were more complicated than that. My first marriage ended after ten years and my second lasted less than three. I wondered what kind of counselor I was. I couldn’t figure out how to have real, lasting love in my own life. Before trying again, I found a therapist and did a great deal of healing work on myself. It has paid off. My wife, Carlin, and I have now been together for nearly 40 years.

The most important thing we learned was that there is a third stage that no one told us about. It’s called Disillusionment. We all have experienced the symptoms:

  • Our relationship begins to feel strained.
  • The ease and joy we had once experienced disappears.
  • We begin to feel more distant from our partner.
  • We blame ourselves, thinking there must be something wrong with me.
  • We blame our partner and think they’ve changed. This isn’t the same person I fell in love with.
  • Resentment, irritation, and anger become more prevalent.
  • We think we may have made the wrong choice and think of leaving.
  • We begin to get drawn to others and infidelity becomes a real danger.

When I first started seeing couples in 1968, infidelity was painful, but it was simple. If the wife or husband had intercourse with someone else, they had broken the relationship contract, a great deal of pain resulted, and people would come to see me either as an attempt to work things out or seeking help to exit the relationship with a minimum amount of pain and suffering.

Now when I see men and women things are much more complicated. Here are some of the things people tell me on an initial visit.

  • “She thinks I cheated, but I didn’t,” a man tells me. “Marcia and I work together. There’s nothing going on. My wife is over-reacting.”
  • “He says I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore,” a woman tells me through her tears. “He says he needs time away to sort things out. I don’t want our marriage to end, what do I do?”
  • “I’ve accepted that men watch pornography,” a woman says, “But its become obsessive and our sex life is suffering. I think he’s got a problem, but he denies it.”
  • “I found emails that my wife sent to another guy,” a man confides. “There is clearly something going on between them, but I don’t know whether I should confront her or not.”
  • “I think my wife is having an emotional affair with her ex-boyfriend,” a man tells me. “She says ‘we’re just friends,’ but I know it’s more than that.”
  • “I found text messages on my husband’s phone,” a woman tells me in a rage. “I’ve learned he’s been having an affair that’s been going on for more than five years. I feel crushed. Why didn’t I see it? I feel like a fool, but I’m also mad as hell. Should I leave, or should I stay and try and work it out or should I just kill him and get it over with?”

We live at a time where we have more choices, but we also are more vulnerable. Relationships are more complicated and what constitutes cheating and betrayal are undergoing change. The perceptions on infidelity often differ between men and women. We are more dependent on our partners than ever before, but we are also less likely to remain faithful. Men and women often cheat because they don’t recognize the challenges of Stage 3 and learning more can help save your relationship. I’ll be writing more on this topic, so email me your questions and put “infidelity” in the subject line.

I also invite you to sign up to receive more articles like these and to get my free ebook, Not the Beginning of the End, But Your Entrée into Real Lasting Love. I very much appreciate your reading my articles and personally read every comment. They make my day, so keep sending them.

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

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