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Why do People Have an Affair?

Why does infidelity occur? Is it simply a selfish act that fulfills the one person's needs? In some instances the answer is yes.

Why does infidelity occur? Is it simply a selfish act that fulfills the one person’s needs? In some instances the answer is yes. However, this not the norm, infidelity is rarely just about lust. It cannot be explained away as a complete disregard for the broken trust and pain it has caused their partner. For the person on the receiving end, this is what it could feel like. It is difficult to comprehend how their partner could have such disregard for them and their relationship. They may ask themselves “How could I have been so wrong about who you are”, “How could I have misjudged you character to be so selfish and uncaring?’

My experience with couples is that frequently the offending party does experience genuine remorse and guilt. Historically men have been the offender, more recent data suggest the gender gap is closing and women are comprising close to 50% of the initiators of affairs. Another surprising statistic reports that almost 50 % of couples repair and recover from an affair (Gottman et al).

Dissatisfaction with the relationship is the precursor to disconnection and withdrawal from each other. Dissatisfaction may involve lack of affection, financial pressures, parenting differences and or historical individual issues that surface in the relationship. Whatever the source of the disconnection it most likely that the couples ability to communicate and handle the challenge has failed. Some couples ignore the problem and just hope it will go away. Many others try to solve the problems on their own. This approach is understandable and a good first step. The problem with this is that often relief will occur but it might be temporary. Why? Because couples may have learned what to do or what not to do that is causing the distress and they put this knowledge in to practice. This results in an increase in positive regard for each other. The parties could then believe that the problems are solved. However, without awareness of the underlying emotional charges, i.e. insecurity, past hurt, individual trauma, etc., what frequently happens is relapse to the old patterns. This is due to the breakdown of the new behaviors not working as well as in the beginning. Couple could then fell discouraged and then retreat. This pattern could cycle over years without seeking professional help until emptiness drives the person to seek comfort or value outside of the relationship.