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Is it really your fault if your husband cheats?

That's the message from a relationship counsellor in the US but, as Nel Stavely finds out, the reasons behind an affair are often far from clear-cut

That's the message from a relationship counsellor in the US but, as Nel Stavely finds out, the reasons behind an affair are often far from clear-cut.

As anybody who's experienced it will know – and most people can imagine – discovering that the person you love has cheated on you is utterly heartbreaking.

As well as the possible shock, pain, sense of betrayal and disgust, there's also the agonising question: why?

Well, for anybody currently wallowing in these depths of despair, a 'life coach' from America would like to kick you while you're very down – because, according to her, you only have yourself to blame.

Yes, among such other empowering and forward-thinking gems of relationship advice as "[women] want [men] to be emotional but they just can't be", Linda Joyce believes that a man will only stray "because women don't make him feel like a man. Women try and over-feminise their men, so they cheat."

She doesn't stop there.

Apparently, wronged partners haven't only brought their heartbreak on themselves, these poor cheating men are simply seeking some much-needed escapism.

"Men are very good at compartmentalisation," Joyce 'explained' in an interview. "They can have their wife and family in one box and their lover in another. Extra-marital sex is a release for men, not a betrayal."

So there you have it, neatly summed up; needy, meddling women force men to cheat, and when they do, it's actually okay – because they're not intentionally being mean.

Or, er, maybe not.

Thankfully, other experts have different views on the subject of infidelity ...

Not a battle of the sexes

Joyce might be trying to paint men as the feeble victims, but Anna Teigle, a relationship expert at EliteSingles (www.elitesingles.co.uk), is not buying it.

"It is not scientifically accurate to simply attribute the behaviour of the cheater on the behaviour of the other party, nor on one gender over the other. Infidelity is instigated by both men and women and in both in new and old relationships."

It's (often) nothing to do with their relationship

"People cheat in relationships for a variety of reasons," says Relate counsellor, Christine Northam (www.relate.org.uk). And while she accepts that it "can be a reaction to dissatisfaction within a relationship", she also points out that it might well be "a problem that people feel they cannot address".

Perhaps a concern about money, illness, work – any number of life's issues that can knock someone off course and, rather than facing their troubles, they look for trouble elsewhere.

Feeling alone

"Generally speaking, people cheat because they feel either physically or emotionally disconnected from their partner," says Teigle.

"Partners that stray due to physical disconnection tend to do so because they feel a lack of affection in their primary relationship. Partners that stray due to emotional disconnection tend to do so because they feel misunderstood, unheard, unappreciated or neglected."

Note: this is not an excuse, just a gentle reminder to both sexes that it's crucial to always keep lines of communication open.

Struggling with change

As any new parent will know, having a newborn (or indeed, a child of any age) is all-consuming and exhausting. "Sometimes, the arrival of a child can be incredibly taxing, both emotionally and physically," notes Teigle.

"Sometimes, dads simply can't get used to the changes that occur in a marriage following the birth of a child, and look to regain the spark they once had [elsewhere]."

Fleeting error of judgement

We're not going down Joyce's 'cheating is just a release' route here, but a new survey from vouchercloud.com reveals that a third of hens or stags have cheated on their 'dos', and the top reason for this (76%) is 'I was drunk and things got out of control'. It's not big and it's not clever, but sometimes, this simple reason for cheating can ring true.

'Ben' got married two years ago, and still feels guilty that he kissed another girl on his stag do: "As with many things alcohol-related, it was a 100% lapse of morals. It really was no sane or sober reflection on our relationship."

Certainly, the poll showed that 88% of those who'd cheated felt an 'overwhelming fear' it would break up their relationship. 'Quite right', you might say, or you might accept that sometimes people stumble, but it doesn't always mean they want the relationship to fail.

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