If you’re like most people you believe in a lot of myths about infidelity and affairs. Unless you bust these myths, you’ll have a harder time dealing with an affair in your relationship. Read on to learn the top 10 myths about affairs and the myth-busting truth for each one.
- Myth: Infidelity always destroys relationships.
Fact: Most long-term, committed relationships survive affairs. You and your partner should talk about the affair a lot, especially in the weeks after discovery. If you each take responsibility for your behaviors, try to understand and correct the factors that supported the affair, and move through a heartfelt process of apology and forgiveness, you have a very good chance of emerging from the crisis with a stronger relationship.
- Myth: Monogamy is an ideal and is supported by our culture.
Fact: Our culture expects monogamy, but actually promotes affairs. The media deliver sordid details of the affairs of politicians, actors, and sports figures. Infidelity is made to seem glamorous. The tacit approval of cheating websites, such as Ashley Madison and AdultFriendFinder, make it quick, private, and easy to find affair partners.
- Myth: Men initiate almost all affairs.
Fact: If you’re between 18 and 29 years old, you’re more likely to start an affair if you’re a woman. If you’re older, however, you’re more likely to have an affair if you’re male. The gender gap widens as you get older, peaking when you’re in your 70s and 80s.
- Myth: Infidelity is caused by serious problems in the relationship.
Fact: Research has shown that even when you’re happy with your relationship you can still have an affair. Having a perfect relationship or being a perfect partner doesn’t protect you from infidelity. People cheat for many reasons, including disillusionment with life in general, problems at work, or a serious health crisis. Or, they cheat just because an opportunity comes a long and it will be exciting to take it.
- Myth: Infidelity is a sign that sex is a problem at home.
Fact: No matter what is happening in a marriage sexually, having an affair is a decision made by one person. Many people are unhappy with their sex life and don’t have an affair. If you are unhappy sexually, you should deal with it head on, and be persistent in asking your partner for change.
- Myth: It’s better to keep an affair secret than to tell your partner about it.
Fact: It’s always worse for your partner to find out by accident than for you to step up and come clean. If you’re in an affair or had one in the past, telling your partner about it is the best way to start the healing process. Your partner is much more likely to eventually trust you again and see the affair as a mistake. If you hide the affair and your partner finds out, you and your partner will suffer much more and it will take longer to heal.
- Myth: You have to tell your partner all the details of the affair.
Fact: First, you should give your partner an honest account of what happened. Sharing the who, what, when, and where of your secret relationship will help your partner heal. That said, it can be harmful to your partner to have too many graphic details. Some information is best not shared, especially specifics about the sexual activities you engaged in, and comparisons of sex with your partner and sex in the affair. Bear in mind that different people who feel betrayed need different amounts of information to heal. You can describe many, many details of the affair that are much more relevant than the sexual details.
- Myth: Open relationships do less harm than affairs.
Fact: Open relationships, in which you have permission to have sex outside the relationship, sound good on paper. While these relationships are increasingly popular, they often have unintended consequences. Even when both partners are free to see others, jealousy and insecurity tend to creep in over time. The damage to the primary relationship can be long-lasting and difficult to heal. If you think you want an open relationship, it’s best to discuss this before your relationship gets serious, and certainly before marriage. When you ask for an open relationship later, your partner can feel coerced into agreeing.
- Myth: You should accept your partner’s punishment and abusive behaviors after an affair because you caused the problem.
Fact: While you should be patient and tolerant of your partner’s need to talk about the affair and let you know how much hurt it has caused, you shouldn’t allow your partner to be abusive. You should draw a line and let your partner know that emotional abuse, threats, or retaliations are not acceptable and will stall the healing process. Offer to be supportive and let your partner talk as much as needed. But if the conversation turns abusive, take a time out until you’re both cooled down. If your partner insists on punishing you with abusive behaviors, get help from a marriage counselor, friend, family member, or a religious figure you can trust.
- Myth: Forgiveness is not a realistic goal and your partner will always resent you.
Fact: Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Forgiveness is something that can happen after you and your partner have grieved the losses the affair brought and have an understanding how the affair happened. Forgiveness is a willingness to accept what happened and commit to rebuilding trust. The saccharine form of forgiveness, in which everything is okay just because you want to believe that, never lasts. There are well-researched processes to help you move from chronic mistrust and resentment to a place of peace. You should work with therapist schooled in forgiveness therapy to guide you through the process.