Natalie asks: "What are infidelity triggers? My boyfriend cheated and I don't know why. He told me that he doesn't know why, so I am really struggling to understand what caused this. Was it me? What did I do wrong?"
Dr. K answers:
Hi Natalie. Thanks so much for reaching out. I am really sorry you're going through this.
First, let me reassure you that it was not you. You didn't do anything wrong. This is not your fault. There's nothing you could have done to justify your boyfriend's choice to step outside of the relationship.
You might have contributed to him being unhappy in the relationship, but that does not give him permission to cheat.
That said, let's look at what the triggers often are for someone to cheat.
Usually I find three things are happening in someone's life just before they start an online or in-person affair:
1. They're not feeling great - they might be struggling with depression, grief, anxiety, or some kind of loss.
2. They are not happy in the relationship - they feel like they've asked for things to change and they're not changing, so they start to give up hope.
3. A recent trauma or loss sinks their mood even lower and they start looking for something, anything to make them feel better. Some people choose drinking, some choose food or drugs, some choose affairs.
We might say that low mood and relationship problems load the gun, and a trauma/loss pulls the trigger.
(I write about this in depth in this blog post - Why People Have Affairs - and I talk about the above as the Bermuda Triangle of affair.)
If this is his first affair, I encourage you two to try to work through it and talk about the above. You certainly don't have to, it's absolutely your decision, but I have seen a lot of people heal from this and I want to give you a loving nudge to try.
If there have been multiple affairs, that's a sign of a deeper issue and I'd encourage you to seek the help of a counselor for yourself so you can talk about whether you should stay or go.
Should you want to start healing, I recommend working through this free download together - 11 Steps To Start Healing From An Affair - and also exploring the details behind the three issues above. I hope that will bring you some answers about why this happened.
Wishing you all the best!
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