Sexual infidelity receives a great deal of attention as a problem affecting marriages across the board, from “ordinary” people to celebrities. Everyone understands its impact, and that the impact is typically explosive. Of course it is far from “entertaining” when the marriage affected is our own.
More often that not, sexual infidelity hits out of the blue, wreaking instant havoc in a marriage. Trust is completely shattered – in an instant. The impact is just as dramatic when there have been suspicions that a husband or wife has been unfaithful. It is not possible to feel the full range of emotions raised by sexual infidelity until it is a cold hard reality.
However, despite all the negative press, sexual infidelity is not as destructive or widespread as most people suppose. Sexual infidelity statistics are grossly inflated and, compared to other types of infidelity, it is an “easier fix.
What Exactly is Sexual Infidelity?
Just about everyone understands that marriage is synonymous with “sexual exclusivity” – that husbands and wives trust that they are each other’s only sexual partners.
With sexual infidelity, this trust is broken – a husband or wife engages in sexual activity with someone outside of the marriage. This may occur as part of a full blown affair but more often than not there is little or no meaningful emotional connection. The connection is purely or primarily sexual. Or in other words, without sex there would be no “relationship” at all.
“Sexual activity” refers to any form of sexual intimacy outside of the marriage, including heavy petting, kissing and so on.
Today, there is the question of whether telephone or online sex counts as infidelity. The answer is, yes, it does.
Although there is no actual meeting of bodies this is a nicety. A partner is nonetheless “investing elsewhere” – seeking sexual intimacy and gratification outside of the marriage.
The Impact of Sexual Infidelity on a Marriage
To be betrayed in this most personal and intimate of areas is not just hurtful – it is deeply embarrassing, insulting and demeaning, knocking self-confidence to smithereens. The “logical” conclusion is that an unfaithful spouse is dissatisfied with sex within the marriage, that they no longer find their partner attractive or desirable, and so on.
The more self-criticism that can be piled on, the more infidelity “makes sense”. In reality, infidelity is rarely anything to do with a spouse’s sexual attractiveness or performance. More often than not it is a consequence of other factors related to the unfaithful spouse and circumstances. However, it is difficult for a betrayed spouse to understand this, particularly as “other reasons” may appear to be little more than an excuse.
A first response is typically withdrawal – a total shut down of physical and emotional communication. This may involve one of the spouses moving to a separate room, or to another location.
Regardless of the extent to which the unfaithful spouse reassures their partner that it will never happen again, rebuilding trust is a difficult exercise. Not only is there no way to be 100% sure that it will not happen again, but the betrayed spouse will typically be unwilling to take the risk – the consequences are too painful.
This, combined with the lack of communication, makes repairing the damage caused by infidelity difficult.
However, marriage counselors agree that sexual infidelity is in fact one of the easier problems to overcome in a marriage, with a high success rate among those who seek help.
The key reason for this is the lack of serious emotional involvement in most cases of sexual infidelity. That is, despite straying sexually, the betrayed spouse remains unquestionably the most important person in the offender’s life – the person they love.
A betrayed spouse will often realize and come to believe this themselves, as time passes, and certainly plenty of professional help is available to help save a marriage affected by infidelity – with a high chance of success.
Filed under: Infidelity Advice