Infidelity Early In A Marriage: Why Does It Happen? Can It Be Overcome?

There is a stereotype of the middle aged man in a long term marriage who cheats with a much younger woman.  We’ve all been conditioned to believe that the younger woman wants money and status while the middle aged man wants sex.  This is certainly sometimes the case.  But you can also see young, newly married men cheating with women of the same age or even with older women.  Wives in this situation are often extremely confused.  They believe that they were in the “honeymoon phase” or that their relationship was in the early stages of wedded bliss.  They haven’t aged or gained weight.  Their marriage hasn’t gone through tons of stressors yet, but their young husband has been caught cheating.  Understandably, they can struggle to understand why.

Someone might say: “my husband and I were deeply in love on our wedding day.  I know that this is not just my own imagination.  Everyone could see this. We also dated for years before we got married, so it is not as if my husband did not know what he was getting with me.  Also, I can’t look back and see any snags in our marriage.  We were happy.  We both had jobs.  We didn’t have serious money issues.  Sure, we were just starting out, but we both had hope for the future.  Our sex life was really good.  But 18 months into our marriage, I found out that my husband had an affair with an older woman who was supposed to be mentoring him at work.  When I found out, he told me that it meant nothing.  He swore that he didn’t want a divorce and that he would do whatever he needed to do to make things work with me.  I’m just confused about this.  We are nowhere close to the 7 year itch.  Our marriage was good and we were happy, so I don’t want to let go of my marriage.  At the same time, if this man would cheat on me so early when I am young and beautiful, what does our future hold?  Will he cheat again when the going really gets rough?  And why would he cheat with an aging woman who is not nearly as attractive as I am?  This has hurt me more than I can express.  I don’t want to throw away my marriage, but I am not sure that I can ever recover from this.”

I understand your shock and pain.  Most people assume that infidelity rarely happens in young marriages.  However, the statistics show us something else entirely.  Clinical studies have shown that infidelity is on the rise in couples under 35.  Some experts believe that part of this trend is due to a couple of things that are happening in our society.  First, we have become sort of an “anything goes” society.  We see celebrities, politicians, sports stars, and other public figures cheat on their spouses with very little consequences.  So it can begin to feel as if “everyone is doing it” or that it is a socially acceptable and an almost expected thing to do.  Second, technology has made it so much easier to cheat.  Unfortunately, apps and sites that encourage cheating are just a click away on your smart phone.   Finally, employers expect so much out of their employees these days that many people spend more time with their coworkers than with their spouse.  That may be part of the reason for the rise in workplace affairs.   Also, many young people who cheat will tell you that they suddenly felt the reality of being an adult.  They were suddenly in a position where someone else was depending on them and this caused stress.

I believe that people grossly underestimate the role that stress plays in infidelity.  People often assume that it is all about sex or power.  But often, it is just about wanting to feel a release from stress.  It’s no coincidence that people cheat when they’ve suddenly faced a life struggle – unemployment, aging, the loss of a parent, or have taken on a large responsibility like parenting or marriage.  I do not tell you this to excuse your husband.  He still made a choice.  I mention this to show you that you are by no means alone and that your husband is more a statistic than you might have thought.  People assume that it is rare for young or newly-marriaged people to cheat.  It isn’t.

I believe that healing is always possible.  Regardless of whether your husband is very young or very old, vulnerabilities need to be identified and removed.  Your husband must learn to recognize when he is vulnerable and then learn to remove himself from that situation so that he will not cheat again.  You will both have to work to restore the intimacy and trust.  I can tell you that your marriage can recover, at least that was true in my case.  You can be happy again.  But it is not easy. It hurts for quite a while.  Many people ultimately believe that it is worth the effort, once they are successful.  But others just are not willing to even try to get past the cheating.  Some just feel that it is a deal breaker and it’s better to get out while you can.  Ultimately, you will have to make that decision for yourself.  I have never regretted saving my marriage and my husband never cheated for a second time.  (There’s more about that here: But everyone’s situation is different.  If you do decide to save your marriage, I’d strongly recommend counseling or self help. Having professional guidance increases the chances that you will heal and not have to deal with this again.

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