Why affairs happen, how to survive them (and stop them happening again)

home articles

Why Do Married Men Cheat?

Why your husband had an affair, "The Infidelity Trap" revealed, and what to do about it.

There were likely several contributing factors that lead to, and explain, his affair.

My mission here is to help you become more aware of the wide-range of possible causes of infidelity, some of which are not commonly known … so you'll be better able to understand what went wrong (and therefore better able to put things right if that is desirable.)

This is by no means a complete guide to why men have affairs. As you'll see, an entire book could be written on this. Instead, I'm highlighting the main considerations for you to reflect on, with some examples.

Childhood factors that influenced him

The explanation for why we do the things we do is rarely simple. In fact it can be a bit overwhelming — if you dare to go deep enough. To the root …

Let's talk a little about that now.

Root cause investigation may involve (as an example,) examining the roles that family and upbringing had on your husband (which contributed to his capacity to have an affair.)

You see, our personality, belief-system, tendencies and habits … are largely formed during our childhood. This became the base from which we engage, react, and judge the world around us. Right through our entire adult life …

The primary experiences we had when we were young, both good and bad, helped form our sense of who we are. Our very identity. All during a time when we had little or no reference point for how things could be, or should be.

Children do not possess the mental tools to effectively filter the information around them into "keep" or "discard" piles …

Anyway.

These experiences and events from our childhood formed a comfort zone (of sorts.) That is, the experiences we had during our childhood feel comfortable (and familiar) to us now because it is what we know. It is part of our identity. Reliving those same experiences (the feelings more so than the specifics) is desirable to us because it confirms who we see ourselves to be.

We are drawn to the familiar.

The crazy thing is, this includes the bad feelings as much as the good …

And so people will be drawn to relive — often negative — experiences, because that is familiar to them …

And yes, this is very much happening on an unconscious level.

See how deep this can go?

Anyway. The point here is that it is very possible to identify from your husbands past, aspects that helped make him a higher risk for infidelity …

Let's look at a couple simplified examples:

If he grew up in a somewhat stifled environment with strict boundaries, an affair might be sought out of sheer rebellion. A history of control can cause someone to interpret the actions of those around them as controlling. Effectively running their life through a "everyone is trying to control me" filter. In this example, that could mean him interpreting you as controlling and suffocating … which resurfaced his childhood feelings, leading him to "break free" into the arms of another …

That's an example of course. Real life is always more complex. But the mechanics are sound.

Here's another:

Some people do not get the emotional support or love that they ached for growing up. If this is not resolved, it can leave them with a deep sense of lack running in their core. This lack can lead to them being an easier target of another's affections.

Upbringing and background provide many clues …

It's not a surprise to know that you are more likely to have an affair if your parent did.

Sometimes, after witnessing how devastated their parent was after the affair, the child may develop a fear of the same happening to them later in life (naturally.) And growing up around the affair, "affairs" become part of life for them …

Later in life, if they fear that an affair may happen to them (possibly on an unconscious level,) it's possible they'd rather be the one having the affair (be in control) than be the one who is the victim (not in control.)

They feel safer being the cheater than being cheated …

As I say, this will be mostly unconscious.

The above examples can help explain the basis for his actions (where applicable.) But we should also consider any recent events in your life that may have influenced his actions.

Life events that trigger an affair

Major life events can be a catalyst for affairs. They can flare up the kind of vulnerabilities in one or both partners that make an affair more likely to occur.

You might want to quickly think back over recent life events to see how they may have contributed to what he did.

Let me give you an overview of what I'm talking about.

The death of someone close can play havoc with our state of mind, and even shift our perspective on life …

The more influential / important / pivotal the person was, the greater the effect.

Priorities can change …

Here's one example:

If John lost someone whose opinions was greatly respected, or perhaps whose judgement was feared

After they've passed on, John no longer has to worry about what that person thinks of him anymore. And maybe that will liberate him a little? Because it frees him from their judgement. He doesn't have to consider their input anymore.

And maybe John goes a step too far when adjusting to this new sense of freedom he has …

You get the idea.

Losing someone close can affect us in many ways. For some, the death of someone close can flare up their fear of abandonment, or a feeling of hopelessness.

Another life event that can shake things up is a serious illness or accident.

Whether you, him, or someone close …

Anything that causes us to face our own mortality has the power to make us question whether or not we are making the most of our precious life.

The fear of not experiencing all that you want to experience in life is a big driver for change of character.

And not achieving your goals doesn't make you feel good …

What might you do to feel like you're in control of your life, that you are successful?

Winning the affections of another is not the answer, but it is one way to feel important and valuable again. It's a boost for your self-esteem.

Anything that causes someone to take stock of their life can dredge up any lack feelings, or feelings of failure. And sometimes this creates enough vulnerability or desire for control, respect and a sense of worthiness to seek the affections of another (or be more likely to succumb to another's play on us.)

What else?

How about when you start a family

Because some guys can feel that the affection and attention they need or once got has now been diverted to the baby. They feel replaced, and so replace their wife (!) …

Anything that makes him feel less important, less valuable, less "of a man" can definitely be a precursor to an affair. Us guys are quite fragile truth be told.

Of course, these life events are not just affecting him.

Anything that changes in your life or relationship that causes you to be more distant or cold can contribute to him looking elsewhere.

That doesn't make it right of course (having an affair is never the answer.)

But most of this stuff takes place beneath the surface without much or any conscious awareness.

Whenever something happens which makes him feel dejected or unsuccessful is something that may form part of the reason-why.

And the same for you. Because whenever you feel less than, you act from "less than" which can push him away (it is not an attractive quality or force.)

Look back over recent events for anything that could cause feelings of abandonment or less-than in either of you, and anything which put distance between you, or made at least one of you feel less important or worthy.

Did a recent change cause you to close off from your husband, or push him away?

Perhaps your husband became especially vulnerable to temptation after suffering a job loss? Especially if that job was a big part of who he was (we sometimes derive a part of our own identity from the job we have, especially if it was a long term role.)

Anything that creates a void can help create the condition for extra-marital affairs.

You get the idea.

It's not always (or even often) a conscious decision to react to such changes this way. It's usually more subtle than that.

It's also important to realise that these kind of events can show up internal states already present. If he felt a lack of self worth, or felt needy … the event merely highlighted it. The insecurities were likely already present to a degree.

OK.

I would like to quickly talk about the final stages of the betrayal …

Up to now we have covered the deeper background causes, but what about the final pieces of the puzzle?

The infidelity trap

All of the above helps to explain what makes a person more likely to have an affair, but it doesn't address the factors directly at play the moment the affair occurred.

In particular, and this is simplifying things … we can state that the following two ingredients are fundamental requirements for any affair to occur:

  1. Opportunity (for something to happen);
  2. Attraction (at some level.)

Without opportunity, nothing can happen. Without attraction, there is no desire for anything to happen.

But there's a third element I've not yet mentioned that, when introduced into the equation, creates a situation where an affair is much more likely to occur.

Altogether, I call it "the infidelity trap."

Why people have affairs

Here's how that looks with all threes pieces:

  1. Opportunity
  2. Attraction
  3. Intimate or Deep Connection

The 3rd one is optional, but makes for a deadly cocktail

See … opportunity for something to happen, plus attraction between two people is basic. It's the bare minimum. And can be enough for some to commit adultery.

But … throw in some level of intimate connection into the mix, and the chances for an affair increases.

The three together form a trap. And if someone's not careful, they may fall right in it.

The first two parts need no explanation. Opportunity and attraction. They're self-explanatory.

But the third is trickier to explain, though you probably get the gist of it.

Basically an intimate connection is bonding that takes place on a deeper, emotional level.

It can begin with something as innocent as an "inside joke" between two people. Or it might occur through the sharing of a secret, or sharing an experience together … these things will strengthen their connection.

Any intimate details shared between your husband and another woman significantly increased whatever power of attraction already existed between them (which will be physical, mostly.)

It's the classic "just friends" trap, which may quickly spiral out of control.

No intentions to stray, just chemistry at work and lack of awareness of what is happening … until it is too late.

An infidelity trap.

Attraction:Basic requirement! They must find the other attractive on some level.
Opportunity:Time and space to meet, interact and be together, especially "behind closed doors."
Connection:Intimate or deep connection (shared secret, experience, a bond.)

These three ingredients come together to form a slippery slope that, if he is not careful, cause him to "fall from grace" …

See …

Biology takes over if you're not consciously aware of it, and in control of it …

It's possible your husband didn't see the danger signs until chemistry and lack of will power took over.

But then it's too late.

Make sense?

Tell most people about this and they won't believe it is THAT simple. Or that humans are that weak, or … predictable.

And so …

It catches people by surprise.

MOST people are morally against cheating and affairs. They would never deliberately go out and have one. So those that get caught up in the trap not only have cheated their partner, but also THEMSELVES morally speaking

But that does not mean your husband is not at fault. And I'm not excusing his behaviour.

Bottom line: there's that point when someone either makes a play for an affair, or decides not to. If biology is compelling the person to act on their attraction, if their past has programmed them to be weaker in such situations … they can still override these animal-like instincts with pure willpower.

Unfortunately, without awareness of all of this, the chance of that happening is pretty low. The "trap" works best when you don't know it is there.

What next?

Ask an elder for free advice, completely anonymously. It's an unusual service that you might not have heard of before.

Of course you should certainly consider getting the support of your family and friends, and perhaps a professional. Certainly if you are experiencing trauma.