Why people betray the partner they love
With the endless opportunities for temptation and desire it can be hard to stay faithful in the most committed marriages. For over a decade I’ve seen countless couples where infidelity and betrayal occurred, when the relationship appeared solid. The notion of why people betray the partner they love became a particular interest to me, given that affairs occur when the relationship seems to be going well on the outside. This led me to explore the underlying reasons why people cheat on the spouse they love.
As a relationship therapist, I noticed a pattern occurring that can explain why individuals cheated on those they loved. This inspired me to find the antidote for how a cheating spouse can heal themselves and their relationship after having an affair.
Firstly, I want to uncover a myth. Not all people who cheat are narcissists.There can be something else causing an affair to occur.
So, what causes a person to have an affair when they love their spouse?
In a questionnaire of 495 people it was demonstrated that lack of love, self-esteem, attachment insecurity and neglect were indications for why people cheated.
In most cases, I hear that the person felt as though their emotional needs were not met in the marriage, causing them to feel alone and unable to get their needs met.
Sometimes the cheating partner was too afraid to show how they felt, afraid to be rejected for how they feel, and so they shut down their attachment needs until they eventually distanced from their spouse. Therefore, an enticing proposal from someone else seemed the safest way to get these needs met, with no risk of getting hurt.
Often is was risky to ask for ones emotional needs to be met within the marriage. Often these needs were unmet in childhood and got displaced onto the relationship, creating an empty void, feelings of disappointment or rejection when their partner could never meet these needs.
Lack of connection or intimacy can trigger these earlier longings, creating a deep yearning for love that feels fulfilled in the marriage.
These are the particular ways that couples protect themselves, that leads them feeling deprived in the marriage.
9 Reasons people cheat on someone they love:
- You avoid expressing your feelings to avoid conflict.
Sometimes conflict can be overwhelming or you do not want to say things that could hurt your partner. Expressing your feelings can result in feeling shame, guilt, or rejection. So you avoid expressing yourself and push your feelings down in order to avoid conflict.
Getting close and expressing ones feelings can re-activate attachment stress, so its safer to pull away when you’re afraid of the other person reaction.
2. You distance to protect yourself from feeling hurt or rejected.
If you internalised the belief that your needs do not matter and felt unsafe expressing yourself growing up, this can create an enduring pattern of shutting down and not communicating your feelings.
You may appear cold, aloof and stonewall as a way to protect yourself from feeling rejected for how you feel. This may cause you to turn inwards and distance from your relationship, keeping your feelings locked inside. It can feel unsafe to share how you are feeling with your spouse.
If your feelings become overwhelming you may confide in someone else who may understand your feelings. Then you start to build feelings for this other person who understands you, causing a stronger rift between you and your spouse.
3. You feel lonely and reached despair
The end result is usually a feeling of loneliness and despair in your marriage once you’ve detached yourself.
The desire for a safe connection becomes stronger, so you attempt to get your needs met with someone else.
4. You pretend everything is fine so your needs get ignored
You may have pushed your partner away by not letting them know how you feel. You may be wondering why they do not pick up how you’re feeling, when you’ve brushed over your feelings.
You may secretly resent your spouse when the relationship feels all about them and not you. You can’t hear how they’re feeling when the relationship feels overwhelming for you. It feels like it becomes about the other person needs and not yours, causing you to shut down further and want to run away.
The relationship can feel depriving, causing you to look elsewhere for a safer haven. You may say all the right things in order to avoid conflict and keep the peace, but deep down there is a longing for connection and an emptiness that leaves you feeling unsatisfied with your relationship.
5. You have unmet emotional needs and craving for love.
The affair is often a last resort to get your unmet emotional needs met, when you cannot express yourself or reach your partner.
When deep down you’ve felt unloved and lack self-love, you can end up looking outside yourself to feel loved, hoping to find that special person who will make up for your unmet needs, longings, and yearnings.
When you’ve searched for your perfect soul mate your whole life, you can put everything into your relationship in order to capture the feeling of being loved. You can project your hopes and desires on them, even forgoing your own needs and losing yourself, in order to get the love you always wanted.
6. You lose yourself and negate yourself for the relationship.
Sometimes, it can feel like you’re catering for everyone’s needs, until you feel your own needs do not get met, and fall out of love, hoping to find someone outside your marriage who can meet your needs.
No matter how much you love your partner, you can end up losing yourself for the sake of your marriage or family. You supress your needs or give up yourself, focusing on making everyone else happy in the hope that it will make you happy.
The ways you protect yourself from feeling unloved cause you to negate yourself. You can distance from your ‘self’ and not know what your needs are, or how to express them in your relationship. So you automatically assume your partner will meet your needs, without expressing them or sharing your deepest feelings. So your needs do not get met.
7. You blame your spouse when your needs do not get met.
The truth is, you are not in touch with your actual self and cannot express yourself in order to get your needs met. Instead, you focus on how your partner is not fulfilling your needs, feeling unloved and rejected.
8. You cannot express your yourself or your needs
The more you blame your partner for how you feel, the more you distance yourself from your partner, and do not express yourself, needs or feelings within the relationship. So you look outside your marriage to get your needs met.
9. You want to escape the empty void within yourself.
Sometimes, the anguish and despair of falling out of love is actually the crushing feeling you get when you realise your partner cannot fulfil those unmet needs or longings, but nor can anyone else.
Instead of dealing with the pain, the search for love continues outside your relationship. Nothing ever feels enough to fill that void and emptiness of an inner child who was deprived of love.
What leads a person to have an affair on the spouse they love can be due to various reasons
So what are the ways to heal yourself and your relationship after an affair has occurred?
You can end up destroying your life or family if you do not get in touch with your actual self, and get in touch with your needs or feelings.
The more you hold onto a fantasy of obtaining unmet love and putting this onto your partner to fulfil, you could end up reliving the feeling of depriving yourself by not meeting your own needs within the relationship. This can cause the feeling of rejection or feeling unloved.
The actual truth is, you’re rejecting your ‘self‘, resorting to having an affair in order to escape the emptiness within yourself.
The grass can look greener on the other side, until you go there and find a dishevelled paddock.
Displacing your unmet needs onto others, in the hope they can make up for them, will cause you to repeat the pattern of rejection, until you deal with your feelings.
The real antidote to healing yourself and your relationship is getting in touch with your actual self, as an attempt to get your needs met within your marriage.
Sometimes projecting your unmet needs onto another person by having an affair is an attempt to get someone else to meet those needs. Yet, the truth is, no one can change the way you feel about yourself.
The hidden reason why people cheat on those they love is because they expect others to change how they feel about themselves. They often cannot express their own needs and expect others to make up for those needs. This usually leads to disappointment when the romanticised illusion of an affair comes crushing down, after a marriage has been destroyed.
When you can make yourself vulnerable to take the risk to open yourself up to your spouse in order to express how you feel, you can transform your pain into moments of connection. You can find real satisfaction when your partner responds to your needs and feelings. In couples counselling you can get in touch with your feelings by finding safer ways of expressing how you feel.
As a relationship therapist Nancy Carbone specializes in infidelity, who has a M.Soc Sc (Couns). If you are dealing with an affair you can contact Nancy on her website or sign up on her newsletter for free advice and tips on relationship matters.Back to Blog Home