Infidelity means “lack of faith”. As a woman, if we experience betrayal, even with a female platonic friend, we feel horrible. In a relationship however, that cut is deeper; we feel intense rejection, feel “less than” and that we are not of value.
Women ask themselves:
- “Was I not good enough in bed?”
- “Should I have been more sexual?”
- “Am I too old?”
- “I knew I wasn't attractive enough.”
The list of insecurities goes on and on.
“Should I leave my cheating husband?”, is a phrase I hear quite a bit in the therapy office. While painful to experience betrayal, it is often an intimacy-producing turning point in a marriage.
Before I go further, it is important to note, that often when I ask women about their relationships and pasts, many have also cheated or felt the urge to cheat in their relationship. Most of the women have also known about the affair but did not want to face it, so they lived in denial, because they had hoped that they were “imagining” it.
Secondly, I am using the term “he” as the cheater, only because I specialize in women. Cheating also happens in same-sex couples. There is no hierarchy when it comes to who cheats most.
Here are a few myths about infidelity.
- Men are the ones who initiate affairs
- Affairs destroy marriages
- Infidelity is a sign that sex is missing at home
- Infidelity is a sign that “something” is missing from the partner at home
- Telling all of the details of an affair will help to heal the marriage
- Affairs should always be disclosed
A few myths for the “other woman”
- If he is having an affair with you, it's because his wife isn't having sex with him
- If he is having an affair with you, he wants to leave his wife.
- He's never done this before. You are special.
- He is open and sensitive with you; he is not like this at home
Why are these myths important to be aware of? Because they are not factual.
Here are some facts that might help you weigh your options when it comes to romantic or sexual betrayal in a relationship.
- Most couples survive affairs rather than divorce
- Most of our society, while it “says” that monogamy is celebrated, actually shows the opposite in most movies, media and advertisements.
- Infidelity is not choosy; it cuts against gender, age, religions, and any other box you might want to put yourself in that you feel keeps you more protected.
- There are many forms of infidelity. One person might have a sexual affair, while another holds an ex-boyfriend or “friend” on an intimacy pedestal by keeping photos of that person out in the open as a reminder of the past, thus blocking any present or future intimacy with the present partner.
- Jealousy, though biologically wired to an extent, is also socially constructed; jealous “rage” is often taught.
- Narcissistic individuals are more prone to having affairs.
- People tend to rationalize affairs, regardless of the threat of STD's or the high risk of negative outcomes.
- There has been no actual study that has proven that unhappy marriages have more infidelity; in fact, the opposite might be true – as many as 56% of men who have had affairs, claim that they were happily married at the time.
- Less than half of the people who have affairs, use condoms.
So, what to do?
I always tell my clients to think about three factors.
- Do you feel your partner is your friend?
- Do you feel ready to commit to not only allowing them to work through their struggle (even if you feel they were 100% in the wrong) but, are you willing to work on yourself, to increase intimacy with your partner?
- Are you willing to continue to respect your partner, even though you are hurt and angry? Do you love them still, on some level?
If you answered “Yes” to these questions, AND your partner did answer “Yes” as well; even if it was a struggle, your marriage, barring abuse, can certainly survive.
To answer your question – “Should I leave my cheating husband?”, the answer is, “Not until you both have worked through individual and mutual struggles, and at the point where you can forgive, if you still want to separate, then you should. However, most of the time, once both partners calm down, see it isn't about “them” and work on the individual and mutual struggles, the marriage is often in a better place.
You would be surprised how an affair will bring up nuances that both partners were tip-toeing around, and find that these challenges, now solutions, bring them closer.
It is not you; you are a beautiful spirit and regardless of how you feel, you are a sensual being. You are not the cause of the affair. You are not the cause of his issues.