If infidelity has already occurred, it is possible to still save your marriage if you so desire, but it is a long road to healing and should be facilitated by a pastor or professional counselor who is familiar with this kind of work.
What is infidelity?
While some would suggest that this definition differs for each couple, the core definition of infidelity is when a spouse or partner chooses to engage in an emotional or sexual relationship with someone who is not his or her marriage partner.
Many would also consider the viewing of pornography as a form of infidelity, but there are many opinions about that. This relationship may involve falling in love, but often it does not. It leads to a loss of trust and stability in the relationship.
What are the causes of infidelity?
Though never justified (because if one is that unhappy, he or she can choose another route), the following are some of the most common causes of infidelity and reasons why someone chooses to commit adultery in a marriage:
One’s partner has already cheated
Many whose spouses have cheated on them feel justified in cheating, too. This usually starts a cycle of constant deceit and trying to see how much one can hurt the other, like a competition of who will win. This is childish and immature and is not a healthy way to manage the pain of an affair. Not to mention the fact that the second partner’s infidelity is just as sinfully offensive to God as the first partner’s was.
Unhappiness in the marriagePeople often enter marriage with the expectation that his or her spouse will fulfill all their needs or “make them happy.” When they (quickly) begin to see that the spouse cannot live up to an expectation so high, they start to seek it elsewhere, often starting a series of serial unhealthy relationships.
There are inevitable seasons and days when you will not feel fulfilled or happy in your marriage. One sinful human being cannot meet all the needs of another sinful human being, and it is unrealistic to expect them to. When you realize that not every day will be fun and happy with your spouse, you will be able to weather through the hard days and able to anticipate better days.
Physical or emotional distance
Maybe a spouse works long hours and is rarely home or travels often, and the other feels neglected. Or, the spouse may be physically present, but emotionally unavailable. The other tries to connect and keep “the love alive,” but the spouse has emotionally withdrawn. This often leads to the other attempting to find someone who is emotionally and physically present.
It has been found that men are more likely to cheat on their spouses when they have a milestone birthday coming up. It could be that they are trying to find meaning in their lives or feel young again. There is a similar effect among women, though it is less frequent than with men.
According to Business Insider, “if you are economically dependent on your spouse, you’re more likely to cheat on them,” especially if you are a man. However, if men make 70% of the household income, they are more likely to cheat. Women, on the other hand, are less likely to cheat, the more money they make. (Reference below)
Falling out of love
This is a common idea that people use to justify infidelity. They feel like they deserve love and if they don’t get it, they seek it out elsewhere. “Being in love” is a feeling that comes and goes throughout long-lasting marriages, but it is not a feeling that is present every day. This is because love is a commitment rather than a feeling.
Though there will be times when you just don’t feel like it, you can choose to love your spouse, anyway. That is not “being in love,” but rather love, itself. Good marriages have both, but love remains even when the “in love” feeling fades. Modern culture confuses the two and does not understand the daily choice to love someone, even when it is difficult. People go into marriage confused about the nature of love so that when it does not feel like it did at first, they bail.
Men tend to be more distressed when their partners have a sexual affair. Women are more distressed by emotional infidelity. They will report that it feels so much worse when what they fear happens: a man finds another woman more attractive and desirable and falls in love with her.
Or a woman is not sexually satisfied with her husband. However, often sexual dissatisfaction in one’s relationship tempts people to try to find satisfaction elsewhere instead of trying to work through any sexual discontent together with their spouse.
What are the different types of infidelity?
Besides different causes of infidelity, there are also different types of affairs.
Physical (Sexual) Affair
When one spouse in a marriage begins to have sexual intercourse or engage in sexual activity with someone outside the marriage covenant. It can start with less physical engagement, like kissing or holding hands or hugs that go on for too long. Some would place viewing forms of pornography in this category, even if no physical contact with another person has occurred.
More common than physical affairs, this is when one partner makes a deep, emotional connection with someone else, which dishonors their marriage vows. It goes beyond friendship, and it often turns to love.
It may start with confiding in someone such as a business partner or friend, then talking about personal things, and even talking about one’s problems with his or her spouse. The other begins someone the spouse can lean on when he or she should be able to lean on his or her spouse.
This describes infidelity that, because it is typically physical and emotional, continues for a long time. Often a spouse will leave their partner for the lover.
This usually is a physical, sexual encounter that happens once and then it is over.
How to protect your marriage from common causes of infidelityEvery couple will put different parameters in place, but there need to be some “ground rules” in place when a couple gets married to protect them from common causes of infidelity and potential affairs. Beware of thinking that you are immune – no couple is ever immune and if you think that you are, you are deluding yourself.
If your spouse has struggled with pornography in the past, installing a safety app to track any viewing and hold him/her accountable is appropriate. Perhaps he or she needs other forms of help, such as therapy, to keep it out of your marriage.
As a couple, you may choose to never be in a room or car alone with a person of the opposite sex, or with someone that seems to be into you in a way that is not appropriate. You may decide to always talk through any dissatisfaction regarding time spent together, sex, or emotional connection.
Maybe you put protective barriers in place about working hours and time away. The point is to put safeguards in place that protect your marriage at all costs. A premarital counselor can help you with this before you are married so that you get off on the right foot.
How do you know if a relationship is worth saving?
If your spouse is physically, emotionally, or even sexually abusive and/or dealing with a serious issue (like addiction) and not willing to change, you may be unsure if your relationship is worth saving. An affair, however, does not have to end a relationship.
If you choose to end the marriage after an affair, you are justified in that decision, but healing is possible. If you love your spouse and you see that he or she is willing to change and work on the issues present and is genuinely remorseful for the affair, it is a good sign that your relationship is worth fighting for.
It may not be worth it to you if you have tried for years and your spouse continues to cheat, even after promising to change. This is something to discuss with your counselor or spiritual advisor to help you gain clarity on what you should do.
How to heal from an affair
If you or your spouse have had an affair, it is imperative to seek counseling as soon as possible. Find a therapist with experience handling extramarital affairs, and make sure your spouse is on board. Your therapist will help guide you through the tough road ahead, but many couples come out on the other side stronger than before.
There are many different types of material and therapeutic techniques that a counselor could choose to do with you, so that is not as important as finding a good counselor. They will give you a safe space to work through the hurt, so be completely open and honest with your spouse, and move toward healing. Do not wait. If you believe this is a relationship worth saving, seek help today.