To some couples, infidelity may be watching porn or just chatting up someone else, and to others it has to be an actual sexual relationship. Cyber-sex and chat lines are another grey area for relationships. If your partner watching porn has been agreed to be okay, does that mean interaction with an online person is also acceptable? Is one slip okay, but not multiple affairs?
The short answer is that these days the word infidelity means whatever you and your partner want it to mean, in the context of your relationship. The important thing is, you both understand what is meant by the term.
So you both agree what constitutes infidelity but one of you has an affair. Emily M Brown, author of “Patterns of Infidelity and their Treatment”, suggests that there are 6 main reasons for someone to have an affair.
- Conflict avoidance in the relationship where neither couple can stand up to each other
- Intimacy avoidance in which they fight constantly
- Sexual addiction
- Split self where both partners have neglected their own needs to tend to another’s
- Exit affair, in which one has decided to leave the relationship
- Entitlement affair, in which one partner has devoted so much time to success that they think they are entitled to ‘reward’ themselves with an affair
All infidelity is serious because it severely impacts the betrayed partner. They may have had a role to play in the breakdown of the relationship, but they didn’t expect or want their partner to handle the situation in that way. It is probably the most damaging thing you can do to a relationship but the good news is, couples can survive infidelity and healing is possible in time. However, unless the affair has ended before counselling commences, it is unlikely that the partnership will survive.
Once the affair has ended, it is even possible that the relationship can be stronger and healthier than prior to the indiscretion, but a lot of work will need to be done with your therapist, to reach that place.
In the next LoveBites newsletter, I will look at how couples can survive this challenge, to find a closer and more loving relationship.