It’s not hard to believe that how we are raised greatly impacts our adult relationships. But could our upbringing actually lead us to become unfaithful spouses?
Research says yes it can. How we are raised can cause us to be more likely to be unfaithful in our marriage.
If you ever wondered why your dad was so much harder on some boyfriends more than others…well this could be the reason! Your upbringing says a lot about what kind of spouse you’ll be and if your marriage will be at risk for later betrayal.
Before we dive into these marriage counseling secrets….DISCLAIMER: please understand no person’s bad childhood is justification for extremely hurtful behaviors, like infidelity. A person’s childhood doesn’t explain EVERY choice they make as an adult.
We will unpack who is most likely to cheat, based on our decades of marriage counseling discoveries, and we discuss what you can do about it. You’ll want to know if you or your spouse is at risk of being an unfaithful partner.
Spoiler Alert…you don’t have to divorce if you’ve married a potential cheater (or actual cheater for that matter)….you can heal and prevent it from ever happening again. Let the marriage experts show you how.
“But Their Childhood Was Great…And They Still Had An Affair?”
Sometimes the one who was unfaithful will say their childhood was, “roses and sunshine” but typically with a little digging it’s obvious they lived in a home that was lacking in sufficient emotional support and comfort.
Emotions were never discussed in their family. There was an emphasis on being self-reliant instead of vulnerable. If they were hurt or sad or scared and then showed those feelings they were at best dismissed or at worse belittled for how they felt.
They may have been told to “suck it up” or “go sit down” or “don’t come to me unless your arm is broken and gushing with blood”. They learned to shut down or hide their deeper more vulnerable needs.
It hurts not having someone to go to in a time of need…even if it was a need that seemed small. That is the model they learned to copy.
Fast forward…that same view of emotion is what they bring with them into your relationship today.
Your Past Doesn’t Have To Define You…So Why Even Talk About This?
Your past isn't your destiny, but if we don't really work on our issues, and heal wounds, we will end up hurting other people. You’ve probably heard the statement…”hurt people, hurt people”.
Our childhood experiences influence us. Subconsciously the lack of emotional support impacts us…AND it can make us unfaithful to our spouses later in life.
When we aren’t able to respond to our spouse in an emotionally vulnerable way our spouse thinks they don’t matter to us. They get the impression that their feelings aren’t important. They believe they should stop coming to us for support and comfort.
The Truth Is We All Need Emotional Connection…Not A Huge Surprise (Maybe)
Some of you may be sitting their thinking to yourself “my spouse is an emotional blob…they couldn’t emote their way out of a paper bag”….
But babies aren’t born lacking emotion. They cry and they fuss to get their needs met. They learn over time that no one will respond. No one is coming for them…either physically or emotionally.
For those of us who were taught to shut down those emotions…shutting the emotions off doesn’t mean they go away.
If we deny our needs for emotional connection, and we don’t seek it out like we should, then we subconsciously seek out the satisfaction for those needs somewhere else.
Why Did They Cheat On Me?
Here’s where we answer that question…at least in part.
There’s many types of betrayals….and 10 different types of affairs. But with every type of affair there are tell tale indicators that were present when a person is young that cheating is in their future.
These indicators tell us about their mindset and what goes on in their mind to give them “permission” for their behavior.
Asking what goes on in the mind of the betrayer helps, not just to get closure, but also to make sure we heal the deeper wound AND prevent it from happening again.
Knowing what happened in their childhood that led to today will help us prevent this from happening in the future.
Why Do Some Become Unfaithful And Cheat On Their Spouse When Their Sibling, Had An Equally Terrible Childhood Turned Out To Be A Saint?
I'm in a unique situation where I get to meet people every day who've experienced infidelity, who've betrayed their spouse, so I'm one of the few people on the planet who kind of knows what kind of past they have, what kind of background they have.
I think part of that really depends on the type of emotional or relational resilience they develop with their attachment figures growing up. A lot of people have a very unhappy childhood, but they don't always make terrible life choices.
Some people have a good childhood and they make terrible life choices, so it's not always predictive. But what really helps people is the amount of emotional support they had.
It doesn't matter that you went through terrible things as a child, you immigrated from a different country, you're a refugee, or you were a victim of violence as a child, or a parent died as a child.
Those things don't have to predict later behavior but oftentimes they do.
The Real Factor…
The real factor is, did you have somebody there for you emotionally? If you did, it makes you more resilient and empathic towards other people.
Having someone there for you as a child in difficult times helps us later as adults understand our own emotions and have empathy for others and be able to be there for our loved ones when they are going through a difficult time.
Difficult times aren’t always causes, but they can be if we don’t have someone to lean on during those times.
Why do some people cheat or why are some people unfaithful and others are not when they have similar pasts that are bad?
- Did you have emotional support?
- Did you have someone you could lean on emotionally?
- Did you have warm parents?
- Were both of your parents warm?
If you have just one parent you could count on, I’d argue they’d have to be really great. Nature designed the system so we’d have two parents.
If both aren’t involved emotionally I believe children suffer. I recently read a long term study of how children who are thriving in their early 20s had dad’s who were actively involved all throughout their childhoods.
You need to have both warm parents, and both parents be involved, and both parents be attentive. Fifty years ago we had a tighter family unit.
Grandparents were more involved throughout the whole upbringing of the children and families lived physically closer to one another. Today parents are usually relying on themselves, you don't always have close family units.
What Is The #1 Thing That Prevents Our Childhood From Causing Us To Cheat Later?
The big thing is really resiliency. If you've have emotional support and you had people there for you in tough times as a child you're going to do better relationally.
An example, let’s say the dad is abusive, or they are emotionally hurtful. The mom comforts the younger 10 year old sibling because they’re the baby.
But the older 13 year old seems more independent so mom doesn’t take as much time to comfort them. Mom gives the younger more attention and consideration.
Both kids are experiencing the same stressful abuse. Because the younger is getting more attention, more warmth, they are learning that they're still valuable, that they're still loved.
The 13 year old who wants to be independent is still going through hell. But they're not getting the same attention and support from their mom. Their learning different coping mechanisms that they will take with them into their future relationships.
The Typical Childhood Boils Down To Really A Couple Things…
The theme is a childhood with cold, emotionally detached parents. Inattentive parents. Parents who are not just inattentive but maybe even rejecting. They are distant themselves and preoccupied with their own issues and problems.
These parents love their kids just as much as I love my kids.
They would give anything in the world for their children but they don't really know how to connect emotionally themselves. So you can't give a child something that you don't have yourself.
Sometimes there's just this void, lack of emotional connection, this distance. This creates somebody who is out of touch with their own emotions and feelings. They feel uncomfortable feeling vulnerable. They feel weak being vulnerable.
They don't ever want to share that part of themselves with anybody and so they don’t share it with their spouse.
The unfaithful love their spouse more than anything. (do you see the trend yet?)
They really cherish their spouse. I think this is true for almost everybody who cheats. There's very few people who really don't care for their spouse at all.
But here's the thing…They feel uncomfortable being vulnerable, and expressing emotions, and vulnerability, and needs.
So when they get unhappy in a relationship they don't go to their spouse and say, "I'm really unhappy, this is really unfair," because they hate conflict.
So How Does This Lead To Infidelity?
So what they do is they just bury it, they keep it to themselves. What ends up happening is is they resent the heck out of their spouse and that's the justification for being unfaithful later.
Since their parents really do love them that can't be 100% of the time that they're inattentive or distant, it might be inattentiveness or distance surrounding certain things in life or moments in life when they need their mom or dad, but their parent wasn't able to respond and maybe in a moment of crisis.
Which can create attachment injuries for children.
What Are These Injuries?
The biggest wounds people development are wounds of abandonment and betrayal by close loved ones.
If I am betrayed by somebody that I'm not emotionally close to that hurts. I might hold resentment towards them.
But if you’re betrayed by someone who is your emotional world…. that will keep you up at night. That will make you obsessed.
If a colleague hurts you you won't have a life long chip on your shoulder. That will bother you and it may even bother you for a while.
But if the betrayal is from your own safe haven, the person that's supposed to be there for you, if they betray you, and honestly, if you've never had anybody there before, a parent, a grandparent, mom, dad, any siblings, if you never had anybody there for you emotionally and then you’re betrayed it's a lot harder. It’s so much harder to ever trust another person again.
This is how the person who has an affair thinks.
This is typical because usually the one who had an affair is the one in the relationship who's more of the avoider. Not to be confused with someone who is quiet and shy….sometimes the most loud outgoing person still avoids. They are still keeping people at a distance.
Look at this person as the one who shares the least emotionally. The person who is the least vulnerable. They tend to be more independent. They can be the “fixer” in the relationship.
Women can fit that mold. You see a lot of guys with that. Usually a pursuer in the relationship will have an affair when they've been trying for a long time and they feel like they're not getting through to their spouse. They'll have an affair when they start giving up on the relationship.
To be continued….
Earlier we said you don’t have to divorce if you’ve married a cheater. You can heal your current relationship and prevent it from ever happening again.
We have several ways to help you do that if you’re interested in getting extra help. We offer weekly therapy, virtual coaching, and private 1-on-1 intensives with just you and your mate over 1 to 3 days. We also offer extended sessions.
Call 918-281-6060 to start removing the blocks to your happiness.