Causes of Infidelity
Stress and transition are the primary causes of infidelity in a marriage.
Whenever a couple goes through a major transition or period of stress, a marriage can be tested. In fact, studies have shown that infidelities occur most often during times when couples are faced with change or uncertainty in life. These types of situations can lead to disagreement and conflict in what is otherwise a happy and stable relationship. To cope with the anxiety, a vulnerable spouse may seek solace in an extra-marital affair.
Changes in life are inevitable and no couple is immune from troubling times during the course of their relationship. Some changes, such as the birth of a child or a graduation, are anticipated and generally thought of as positive. Others are unexpected. The diagnosis of a serious illness or the loss of a job can in one day destroy a couple's sense of safety and well-being. Some transitions are not about events, but about the loss of hope such as when a woman learns she is unable to conceive. Whether positive or negative, gradual or sudden, any significant transition in life is bound to cause anxiety and a sense of loss that can sometimes lead to an affair.
For some couples, pregnancy or the birth of a child is a shaky time. A new father may feel he is not capable of handling the financial or emotional responsibilities of parenthood. He may feel excluded when his wife focuses almost all her attention on the newborn or resent the drastic changes in their lifestyle that caring for a new baby demands. He may also find himself less sexually attracted to her because of the changes her body has undergone even though these are usually only temporary. A new mother, too, may feel so overwhelmed by round-the-clock responsibilities that she has little energy left for her husband. It is not uncommon for some men to escape the pressures they feel at this time by seeking an extramarital affair.
Finding themselves alone after their last child has flown the nest can be a troubling time for some couples as well. At this point in their marriage the role of parenting has been such a vital part of their lives for so many years, one or both may partners may struggle to find a new role. If the wife's primary responsibilities have been focused on her responsibilities as a mother, she may become particularly stricken with a loss of sense of purpose. Couples who have spent years developing separate interests and activities may not know how to reconnect. Without the common bond of their children and the responsibilities of parenting they may find themselves with little to talk about. If one or both are unwilling to revitalize the relationship, the marriage may be vulnerable to infidelity.
Other pressures on the marriage may also occur at this time of life, such as the death or illness of a parent or a milestone birthday. These events can trigger an emotional transition in men and women between the ages of 40 and 60. This is more commonly referred to as a "midlife crisis". For some, it can be a painful time of introspection as they come to grips with the fact that the first half of their life is over. Disappointed with the routine, they start to question their enthusiasm for a lifestyle that they were once perfectly content with before. They may feel bored with their work and relationships, angry at their mate for tying them down, or confused about who they are and how they wish to live the rest of their lives. Fueled by fantasies of a passionate romance or a more adventurous lifestyle, some, particularly those with low self-esteem, may plunge into an affair rather than struggle with difficult realities.
Other transitions that can unsettle a relationship and lead to infidelity include:
- Job loss or job change
- Buying or selling a house
- Illness or accident
- Death of a parent, child, sibling or friend
- Financial problems, bankruptcy
- Birth, adoption, relative moving in
If you feel as though stress or transition is putting a strain on your marriage, it is always best to seek professional family counseling before the problem gets out of hand. Many times such adversity can actually bring a couple closer together if both partners are willing to face their problems together instead of alone.