Why Is Infidelity So Painful? Part I

This is Part I of a 2-Part blog article.

Here I will address the factors that contribute to the level of pain in infidelity and how “hurt partners” react to infidelity when discovered.

Infidelity has always been a part of the human life experience. Nevertheless, betrayal is painful for the hurt partner and can also be aggravating to the unfaithful partner. Infidelity hurts and that deep pain can burn deep and for a long time.

Factors that Determine the Level of Pain

The level of emotional pain and behavioral reaction of the partners depends on a number of factors in the relationship.

Consider these relationship factors to understand partner reactions to infidelity:

  • Length of the partner’s marriage/relationship before the affair is exposed
  • Depth of their love for one another
  • Level of commitment and trust
  • Level of security and openness
  • Level of gratification with intimacy, affection and sexuality
  • Amount of sharing and communication
  • How the affair was discovered
  • Extent of deceit, lying and secrecy in the affair
  • The extent of intimacy and sexuality in the affair
  • Level of knowledge about the affair
  • Closeness of the hurt partner to the affair person
  • Family history of affairs and monogamy of each partner
  • Psychological health and resilience of the partners
  • Time length of the affair
  • Type of affair
  • Amount of attraction and love for the affair person
  • Level of dependency and vulnerability of the partners
  • Level of drug dependency and abuse of the partners
  • Impact on the children
  • Age and number of children
  • Financial status of the couple
  • Impact on the partners’ reputations
  • Impact on the partner’s employment and income
  • Impact on other extended family members
  • Impact on friends
  • Ability of the hurt partner to accept the reality of the affair
  • Impact on future dreams and plans
  • Impact on existing commitments
  • Impact on the personal health of the partners

All of these factors outlined above can contribute to the level of pain experienced by the couple. For many partners, discovery of an affair is the most profound challenge they have faced in their relationship and/or their life.

 How Do “Hurt Partners” React?

Most partners in the USA, married or not, believe in commitment, loyalty and monogamy and they view affairs as a major relationship violation. Although each partner knows that other adults betray and have affairs, they usually believe that it will not happen to them. They then assume and expect that their relationship won’t be violated by their partner. The more they believe in this and feel secure in their partnership, the more shattering, disturbing and painful their reaction is upon discovery of the betrayal.

In many hurt men and women, an affair is experienced as a sudden traumatizing event. For them, it can be a nightmare and a crisis of identity and security. They feel totally broad-sided and taken by surprise. They definitely believe that their partner has crossed a moral line and put their relationship and lives in peril.

Hurt partners feel it pierce their gut and heart. Often, they believe that they have been stripped of their personal security and trust in life itself. To them, the entire world may feel as if it has lost its predictability and reliability. They become volatile and feel devalued and unimportant. And they hate being deceived and lied to.

The exposure of an affair can be emotionally, mentally and physically overwhelming and it can overtake them for months or years. They may exhibit symptoms associated to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) including: flashbacks, altered worldview, nightmares, panic attacks, cycles of re-living the experience, recurrent and intrusive memories and dreams, prolonged distress and avoidance, irritability and hyper-vigilance.

The discovery of infidelity can generate intense negative emotions. A broad spectrum of painful emotions can be unleashed, such as: anger, rage, fear, anguish, abandonment, dejection, anxiety, shame, despair, loneliness, misery, outrage, rejection, repulsion, resentment, sadness, grief and torment. Extreme emotional flooding and stress can cause fatigue and illness or exacerbate chronic illness.

Mentally, hurt men and women may become obsessed to find out what happened and incessantly demand facts and detailed information about the affair. Some decide to separate and/or get a divorce. Others might confront the affair person by phone, email, text or in-person. Thoughts of revenge are not uncommon. They may severely judge their partner as self-centered and horrid. And, they may judge themselves as stupid and gullible.

Behaviorally, hurt partners may become demanding, hostile, violent, threatening, accusatory. They may blame their partner and shout and cry. Some leave the home or drive their partner out. Hurt ones may withdraw socially, stop going to work or fulfilling their duties. One partner may demand that they engage in couple therapy. Often, the hurt one may push away or withdraw from their unfaithful partner because they feel so outraged, repulsed and out of control.

As you can see, an affair can trigger intense emotions, ignite disturbing thoughts and drive extreme behaviors. Most hurt partners feel deeply wounded and heart-broken. Their sense of security and normalcy can be shattered. Although their pain may feel permanent, over time the intensity will subside.


This is the end of Part I of this 2-part article on Why Is Infidelity So Painful? Part II addresses the pain of the “unfaithful partner” and how therapy for infidelity can help couples overcome this crisis. Click this link below to go to Part II: http://www.drrevelmiller.com/2020/05/why-is-infidelity-so-painful-part-ii/



To see my other blog articles on Infidelity, click on the link below: 


To find out more about my Therapy for Infidelity, click on the link below: 



Let me help you through this crisis. Call me for a brief consultation to determine if you want to engage in therapy for infidelity. Call 805-448-5053.

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