People cheat on their spouses everyday. Maybe you’ve been cheated on. Maybe you’ve cheated.
Why do people do it?
It’s easy to just respond to the question with a slew of expletives, shouting at your computer or your cell phone as you read this. But let’s dive a little deeper and discuss what the real reasons might be.
When you hear that someone’s been cheated on, where does your mind take you? To a motel room with questionable bedding and two terrible people having sex while they’re faithful spouses wait for them at home? Not to say that most take it to such a specific level, but many people often section infidelity into a physical realm; one that only includes sexual contact with someone other than the person they’re married to.
The truth is that an affair can be physical, emotional, or both. Putting it into a box labeled “sex” makes it easy for someone to say “I didn’t cheat on you, we’re just really close friends. I’ve never touched her!” It can be dangerous and irresponsible. Cheating can be a purely sexual act or one of love. In either case, someone who is participating in an affair is giving something away that they vowed to reserve only for their spouse.
Now that we’ve dispelled the ignorance of infidelity being purely sexual, let’s get down to why these affairs keep happening.
Everyone knows the cliched concept of your sexual life waning after you exchange vows and finalize your marriage to your spouse. Often cliches have some speck of truth to them, which is why they become cliches in the first place. This one, unfortunately, is no different.
Some couples experience incredible sex lives well after the honeymoon phase has faded, but other couples do not. This lack of sexual contact is cited as one of the major reasons that people decide to cheat, but I don’t think it’s as simple as less sex equals more cheating.
In many strong and loving marriages, sexual intimacy ebbs and flows but the connection between the two people remains consistent. This is because marriage and love itself are far more than just sex. There’s communication and meaningful conversation, deep adoration, and compassion to name a few.
If someone claims that they cheated because they weren’t having enough sex with their partner, I’d be willing to guess that the relationship lacked the other elements necessary to a lifelong marriage. One built purely on sex is built on a poor foundation. Once that is taken away, then the relationship’s dynamic changes, opening up a need that needs to be filled. Once that sexual void inevitably occurs, without anything else for the marriage to fall back on, it’s no wonder that people cheat on their spouse.
Instead of focusing your attention on the lack of physical intimacy, widen your view and look at the big picture. If you or your spouse have cheated because there was a lack of physicality between you, it is probably has more to do with the absence of other foundational aspects of a strong marriage.
Like a lack of physical intimacy, a lack of emotional intimacy can lead to a disconnect in a marriage powerful enough to lead one or both parties astray. As explained above, I think that the disconnect in physical nature isn’t exactly what it seems to be. With emotional distance and disconnection, I feel that it is a legitimate cause for concern.
Humans are emotional beings. It’s in our nature. Some may some monogamy isn’t natural, but a sense of connection absolutely is. If someone chooses to marry the person they love, they expect that that person will be their source of human connection and intimacy for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, just as we are creatures of connection, us humans are also creatures of habit. Once we get used to something–be it a person, a task, or an environment–we take it for granted, forgetting the conscious moments we enjoyed as we were first introduced to it. When a relationship or a marriage begins, there’s a freshness about it. Everything is new, so we appreciate it’s novelty and how it affects how we feel.
As time passes, novelty loses it’s nuance. That cute smile that your wife makes when she sees you is taken for granted. Your husbands good morning message gets shorter and shorter, until it ultimately stops coming. Marriage becomes a habit, and as we know habits are hard to break.
As the habitual nature of the relationship cements many of our actions, we lose touch with what made the relationship meaningful in the first place. We talk less. We hardly listen. We assume that the person will just continue to be there day after day because our habits tell us that they will.
But they won’t.
At some point that emotional distance will leave a void that only another human can fill. This is where infidelity will sneak in and snatch what was left of a marriage’s happiness.
In order to avoid this lack of emotional intimacy and protect your marriage from an affair or infidelity that may come of it, break the habitual nature of your marriage. Be more conscious and intentional with the person you lay next to each night. Tell them you love them…and mean it. Show them your appreciation. Be active in rekindling the emotional fire that has dimmed.
Infidelity is one of the scariest things that could happen to a relationship or marriage, but know that it can be prevented. In order to prevent it, though, you’re going to need to take a hard and honest look at the current state of your relationship. Look for the cracks that could widen over time and lead to emotional and physical disconnection. Once the voids grow large enough, infidelity will lurk in the shadows. Be more intentional with your connection to your partner. We all need an honest and loving connection. Start with the person right in front of you.