Studies suggest that that sexual monogamy is not common in the animal world but is rather a construct of human beings that tends to conflict with an innate desire for multiple sexual partners. Despite this, many people continue to aspire to maintain a monogamous relationship and many cultures throughout the world demand sexual fidelity.
We spoke with Dr Daniela Rossi , a leading psychologist who offers couples therapy via e-Consultation and also face to face at her practice. We decided to discuss the motives for being unfaithful in a relationship, how infidelity impacts people and the ways in which therapy can help overcome some of these challenges.
What are some of the reasons why a person may engage in infidelity?
- Low self-esteem
- Primary relationship dissatisfaction
- Sex addiction
- A lack of emotional intimacy in the primary relationship
- As an exit strategy to end the primary relationship
- Avoidance of personal issues or relationship problems
How does infidelity impact couples?
Following a revelation of infidelity, each partner can be expected to have quite different emotional, cognitive, and behavioural reactions.
The most common experiences reported by injured partner’s experiences are:
- A deep emotional turmoil characterised by confusion, intense thoughts and emotions, frequently: anger, shock and denial. These fellings are then followed by a period of grief due to the disintegration of previous assumptions, expectations and trust in the relationship.
- pessimism and scepticism about the relationship
- loss of sense of self and one’s sense of purpose
- loss of a sense of self-respect and uniqueness
- lower levels of self-esteem
- greater self-doubt, insecurity
- loss of self-confidence
- worries about physical attractiveness and sexuality
How can a therapist help?
One of my main priorities as a therapist is to be a supportive listener as each partner expresses their emotions regarding the infidelity. This can ultimately help the couple determine their future goals for the relationship as well as their needs, whether they choose to continue the relationship or end it.
If the couple wishes to continue their relationship, I assist them by helping each partner discover their own level of commitment. I teach the partners skills for repairing trust and guide the couples through the process of healing.
During the sessions I offer, I encourage couples to have an open evaluation of the relationship's strengths and weaknesses, ultimately helping them to identify the true nature of the relationship. If unhealthy patterns exist (for example, repeated affairs, co-dependency, emotional abuse), I may call these into question. In addition, therapy can also help those people who feel they are to blame for the infidelity of their partners so that they work through those feelings and obtain new perspectives.
When a couple decides to end the relationship, therapy can still assist both parties. The partner who was 'cheated on'/betrayed may find it useful to discuss his or her feelings of betrayal, inadequacy and anger; I also assist in helping people cope with the trauma of the loss of a partner.
Additionally, the involved partner may feel regretful and may wish to pinpoint what caused them to pursue an affair. If the individual had an affair after realising the relationship was not fulfilling, I can help him or her determine ways of communicating feelings of dissatisfaction in an effective way so that he or she doesn't end up repeating the behaviour. A therapist such as myself can help couples embrace the new relationship that they have created and experience a stronger, more genuine bond.