Two people enter an intimate relationship with the desire and intent to nurture it for the long term—a connection built on love, respect, trust, compassion, commitment, honesty and loyalty for each other. For many couples, this connection is achieved and cared for over time, becoming strong enough to weather any storm. For others, however (or for one half of the couple, in most cases), the connection may waver at some point—leading to the emergence of adultery or relationship infidelity.

Adultery is a costly choice

Relationship betrayal—unfaithfulness to your partner—most often comes with dire consequences. A man or a woman who discovers their partner’s infidelity may see it as an earth-shattering signal that their marriage is doomed and about to fail; learning about this betrayal of trust triggers hurt feelings, anger, frustration and unhappiness.

The man or woman who cheated on their partner, on the other hand, may feel guilty or regretful about their actions, but some will say that they were spurred into or willingly participated in infidelity because of certain factors. A survey conducted by psychologist Julia Omarzu and her colleagues at Loras College, which was published in the International Journal of Sexual Health in 2012, revealed eight reasons people cheat on their partners:

  1. Lack of sexual satisfaction in the primary relationship
  2. Desire for additional sexual encounters
  3. Lack of emotional satisfaction in the primary relationship
  4. Wanting emotional validation from another person
  5. Falling out of love with the partner
  6. Falling in love with someone new
  7. Wanting to seek revenge on a partner who is (or is perceived as) cheating
  8. Curious about and wanting new experiences

Engaging in an extramarital affair is rarely entered into without any distress or conflict, both with yourself or with your partner, and can ultimately result in the end of the marriage. It is not something that a wife or husband will want to discover—and it can be especially hurtful if you were to find out about your partner’s infidelity in a controversial way, such as from the recently reported hack of the Ashley Madison website which is designed to enable members to engage in extramarital liaisons.

The website promised users a platform where they can go about with their affairs with discretion, but hackers were allegedly able to obtain and release the members’ personal information (such as email addresses) to the public.

While finding your partner’s information on the Ashley Madison hack list can be devastating, there’s no question that infidelity can take place with or without such an online platform—it has been happening for ages. However, since marriage is a pact that should be able to stand various tests and obstacles, couples will find opportunities to work through the issue of infidelity with the aim of breaking free from pain and rebuilding their future.

How relationship counselling can help

A qualified and experienced relationship counsellor will take the couple through their respective roles in the process of repairing the damage caused by infidelity.

The betrayed partner, for instance, must be able to: express their hurt and anger; learn the details of the infidelity, if they want to; identify techniques that can help them, and ask for them; move beyond the pain; process the traumatic experience and memories; understand that healing can take time, and forgive, at the right time.

The partner who cheated, on the other hand, must be able to: end the affair; examine and address the personal issues that led to the affair; step up and do what it takes to begin the healing process; demonstrate real empathy and remorse, and commit to making a real change and following through on the goal of repairing the marriage.

Relationship counsellors take couples into therapy to identify infidelity issues, make each partner’s views and feelings heard, work through the problems, and build a deeper connection and intimacy.

If you need a relationship or marriage counsellor to help you overcome the impact of relationship infidelity, please search our national directory of counsellors who specialise in relationship and marriage issues.