Infidelity is About Individual Therapy, Affairs Are Based on Internal Issues, Not Couple Issues
As an expert with 26 years clinical experience in sexual misbehavior, I, rather than see cheating as revealing a problem in a marriage, my way to understand the origin of cheating, is to see cheating as revealing an internal, often very subjective experience issue in one individual, of the two, in that partnership.
Individuals cheating, or even in a “full blown” affair, are typically not “falling in love” with that new outside their marriage person, they are not wanting a new life with that new person, or even having much of a plan at all, for that other person. The more you speak to a person who was cheating, often the more clear it is that they don’t really know what they were trying to achieve.
If we are speaking of very functional, rational, otherwise responsible persons, the and person taking these big risks cheating…this is often them trying to escape some internal struggle, or issue they are feeling.
They are trying to avoid that struggle or feeling, rather than face that internal conflict, by using this behavior as a vehicle, using this behavior as a method to escape their internal world in that moment.
A very important point to keep in mind in cases of very high functioning, very bright men, with amazing jobs or business’s, with lives arranged very well, engaging in this cheating done for escapism, is these men engaging in escapism don’t actually have lives one would ever want to escape from.
The paradox here, and it should be looked at, is these men engaging in this escapism often have lives of abundance, both emotional abundance, and material abundance, meaning these men have partners there for them, have children who they are proud of, and these men have the means to live comfortably, and do live comfortably, but they have something internally that needs solving.
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Because these men don’t know how to solve that internal issue, or even how to start to solve that internal issue, they then just seek a break from what is going on internally, in them, through this behavior.
Of course the men in question know they are being unfaithful, and they know it carries consequences should they be caught.
But this internal matter has been brewing, and it needed to be addressed some time ago, and it was not, and now it is crisis time, a silent crisis, but a crisis. This internally driven need for escapism, that drove the affair, is often related to mental or emotional adaptations made, and or styles arrived at, in that persons very distant past, but those adaptations made then, under those specific conditions then, are not now working.
The adaptations or styles are creating problems today.
Some style or method this man has been using is now having to be abandoned, and he has to replace it with a new skill or skills, and he does not know how.
Sorry if this sounds complicated, but I’ll give an example.
Let’s say the man in question came from poverty, or lets say he came from a family of some type of dysfunctional dynamics, or maybe instead he had to grow up with a depressed mother, or lets say he had a drunk or workaholic father, or any one of the almost infinite other tough situations that had one might have to overcome to get to a good life.
To overcome that situation, maybe he was denying his feelings, maybe he was just working very hard, maybe he was ignoring many things that did not, at that time, serve him , or to get by in a dysfunctional family, or get through some other tough situation to a goal.
He at that time avoided whatever feelings or views needed to be avoided, just worked at getting on and getting to his goal, and he did this through decades, and this style may have served him well getting to where he needed to get to.
But now he is at a different life stage. Now he has different demands placed on him. Now his environment and his life are very different from the time and place he created these adaptations in. The situation and its demands have changed, but the emotional strategies and style he had from then remained the same.
The situation he had to make those adaptations for is now long gone.
The stereotype for a functional, put together man cheating because he want’s a “new toy” is not what skilled persons doing the work are actually seeing.
The new toy idea may be the conscious rationalization for that choice but underneath there are other needs trying to be addressed in a dysfunctional way.
In my vast experience, with my caseload, consisting of bright and very high functioning men, often they seem very surprised by their choosing this risky behavior and it’s nearly certain chance of being discovered.
Their puzzlement of why they chose this behavior, combined with their lack of clarity in what they were actually trying to achieve by acting this was is especially telling, being these are bright, often thoughtful, and often articulate men who generally act in a goal directed way.
With this in mind, we can clearly see that this is not a “Couples Issue”.
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