Can relationships be mended after cheating?

Men or Women Cheat

When men cheat it is typically about sex. When women cheat it is more likely a trade off-sex in exchange for attention, emotional support and regaining the feeling of being special.

This is not to imply that it’s ALL about sex for men, or that it has nothing to do with sex for women, only that the drivers are usually different for men and women and that sex is more likely for men and emotional factors more likely for women.

Are men just wired to want multiple sexual partners? Does cheating mean there’s a problem with the marriage/relationship?

Intimacy/Attachment Issues

While the evidence is suggestive, it has been my experience dealing with the issue of infidelity for three decades that some people (mostly men) are predisposed to be varietists. They seem to have a harder time than other men staying with the same woman. Is it that they simply have intimacy/attachment issues? It may be, but from a clinical perspective it seems to me that some men may have a “naturally” harder time being with one partner.

The Rationale

Cheating occurs for many reasons consequently, it is difficult to make a blanket statement about infidelity. For example, infidelity may be driven by a need for an ego boost or a distraction to avoid personal issues or sexual curiosity; these are really interpersonal issues, and are not necessarily inter personally driven-although there are serious interpersonal consequences if an affair is discovered-and subtle effects even if not discovered.


Infidelity also may be motivated by hostility toward a partner, to dilute the intensity of intimacy, or to palliate a loss. (Loss comes in many forms-like the last child going off to college, the loss of youth, of career opportunity and the like.) Many of these factors are likely a direct result of relationship issues. I believe a relationship is the place that should be emotionally safe, a place where everything can be talked out-so stepping outside one’s marriage, for whatever reason, is a failure of the relationship.

Breaches Of Trust

What’s more, while sex always makes the headlines, cheating occurs in many forms that fall below the radar. Sexual infidelity is the headline grabber when most people think about betrayals in love relationships. Smaller and less dramatic everyday breaches of trust that slide under the radar can erode even the strongest of relationships over time.

Foundation Of A Relationship

A small lie about a purchase, a slight exaggeration about a job promotion, a cover-up about a forgotten birthday-each takes a bite out of trust and is a form of cheating. Most of us are disappointed by a love partner as a result of an everyday event far more often than we are made angry or jealous by a serious and dramatic betrayal. These issues become like psychological termites taking small bites from the foundation of a relationship until, after some years, the foundation crumbles.