What’s the deal with infidelity?
People in an adult-interdependent relationship or marriage (“serious relationships”) expect their spouse to be fully committed to their serious relationship. In simple terms, this means that they have each other’s backs, there is no bad-mouthing each other and absolutely no sexual interactions whatsoever with anyone else outside of the serious relationship.
Spouses that are compatible with each other and have a happy and healthy relationship tend to be faithful. If either person in a relationship is missing something from the relationship, whether emotional or physical, things tend to go sideways if an opportunity to cheat presents itself. An unhappy spouse is vulnerable to temptation.
Sometimes cheating is a deliberate choice or a thrill-seeking behaviour. A serial cheater could be actively looking for their next hookup or an opportunity presented itself and self-satisfaction prioritized integrity. A spouse that feels neglected might be receptive to attention that is offered by another person outside of their serious relationship. At some point the attention that was once harmless could transition into an affair. Regardless of the reason for infidelity: cheating has consequences. Cheating also reveals the integrity or values of the unfaithful spouse.
What happens next?
After cheating in a serious relationship, the unfaithful spouse can confess or try and conceal it. A spouse with selfish characteristics will likely continue to act in a manner that demonstrates their genuine lack of consideration of others. The cheated spouse is often left in the dark about the affair until evidence surfaces, an outsider speaks up or the unfaithful spouse is caught. After evidence surfaces, things become complicated. Men sometimes question if the kids are even his?
The couple must ultimately decide if the relationship is worth fixing or if they should breakup. The person who was cheated on is usually the one to make that call, unless of course, the unfaithful spouse now wants to end it to try and pursue things with their new love interest. Either way, trust is broken and feelings have been hurt.
When cheating is a factor to a relationship breakdown: things can become dramatic.
The mental health of both people usually deteriorates, their stress levels increase, and people are not thinking clearly and make poor decisions. Selfish people fixate on themselves. Genuine kindness is manipulated. Paranoia increases. People lie. Intense emotions can create a toxic environment full of rage, retaliation, and disharmony.
Kids, money and joint property usually lead to court battles. Both people usually end up hiring lawyers and the issues between are intensified by the infidelity.
People should address their mental health before running to court to make a bunch of big decisions influenced primarily by their emotions. Unfortunately, people tend to call their lawyers after heated arguments or when new evidence surfaces, instead of calling a mental health professional to come to terms with the new information before asking for legal advice and giving instructions.
When there are children involved, the rash and emotional decisions are usually about them or directly affect them. These decisions tend to involve access or parenting time, the home the child grew up in and money. A hurt parent may deliberately use the child, their home or money to hurt, punish or deprive the other parent. The child is usually victimized in the process. The needs of the child are usually overlooked when a hurt parent is fixated primarily on getting even with their former spouse.
Mental health professionals – counsellors, psychologists and therapists – play a vital role in deescalating the situation. We recommend hiring a psychologist for damage control and harm reduction strategies in high-conflict situations and litigation. It’s a smart move to keep emotions in check. And let’s face it, when infidelity was involved, emotions run hotter than usual. A strong mind and support system is essential.