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Why do people have affairs? The 6 main types of cheating revealed

Psychotherapist Philippa Perry looks at the six most common reasons for cheating and the chances for recovery

But when a man or woman strays, it's rarely just because they've met someone they can't resist - there's often a hidden meaning lurking behind an infidelity.

Here psychotherapist Philippa Perry looks at the six most common reasons for cheating and the chances for recovery.

1. A fear of difference affair

This is a situation when one or both partners won't argue. They skirt around differences rather than work through them.

As they are not sharing everything, they won't feel as close, which leads to loneliness so they seek out closeness elsewhere.

Often, in these cases, the straying partner is careless, almost as if unconsciously they want to get found out as this will force them to look at their relationship to see where they've been missing each other.

When both parties take responsibility for their role in avoiding confrontation, there is a good chance they can learn to be real with each other and save their relationship.

Prospects for recovery: Good

2. Too scared to be soft affair

Some couples are frightened of opening up to each other, of showing their vulnerabilities, and admitting their dependence and needs, so instead they prefer to argue.

A dynamic of having to be right and making the other one wrong, prevails.

This leads to the belief their partner does not care about them, which can lead to infidelity, even escalating into tit-for-tat affairs.

By the time they get to see a couple’s therapist they are usually on the brink of splitting up.

If both partners can learn to see there are better ways of connecting than through conflict, there's a chance they can turn their relationship around.

Prospects for recovery: Fair/good

3. Incapable of intimacy affair

In this case, the straying partner finds the reality of a relationship, after the novelty stage, too complicated.

A new partner seems so much more straightforward, until they get to know them too and then the whole cycle starts again.

They go through this cycle several times before they realise that it might not always be the other person's issues leading to their affairs and subsequent break-ups.

Prospects for recovery: Fair/Poor

4. The sex addict affair

The meaning of an affair when one partner is a sex addict is less to do with the original partnership than other types of affairs.

Being addicted to sex is not unlike other addictions, for example gambling.

You feel 'empty' and use the addiction to feel temporarily full, but it never lasts.

This can continue indefinitely unless the addict is prepared to undertake rigorous personal development work.

The straying partner finds the permanent partner useful as an excuse not to get involved with conquests.

Prospects for recovery: The addict is unlikely to change so this depends on the tolerance of their partner.

5. The exit affair

The purpose of an exit affair is to try to force the non-straying partner into ending the relationship. Or it starts as a distraction from the pain of separation.

In this instance, the purpose of the affair is to say: "It's over" because open and honest communication has not been happening for a long time.

Such an affair can be seen as the cause of the split but it's often a way out after the straying partner has made a decision to end the relationship.

When a couple called Aban* and Shiza* came to see me, I could see she was devastated and wanted to know how to repair their relationship after she found out about Aban's one-night stand.

Aban did not want to engage in the counseling process at all. I got the impression he had only agreed to come so that a therapist could look after his wife to make his exit from their partnership easier, which happened soon afterwards.

Prospects for recovery: Hopeless

6. Split in two affair

This is when the straying partner wants it all. He (and it usually it is a he) wants his wife and family but wants a mistress as well.

One client, Peter*, came to see me for individual therapy. He wanted his family and spouse, Lucy*. But, he also wanted his lover, Clare*.

His self-image as a good husband and parent was important to him.

He chose Lucy as he thought she was 'perfect'. She was someone he thought he ought to love, rather than someone he actually loved.

After quite a few years, he was knocked off his feet by an infatuation. "It just happened," he claimed.

The trouble was, he was still wedded to the idea of himself as part of the perfect family. He felt split in two.

This situation had been continuing for four years.

It is often a mistress who contacts a wife in an attempt to get things moving.

And it was such a crisis that had brought him to therapy.

He was reluctant to move in with his mistress and said he would probably only do so if Lucy threw him out.

He wanted to know how he could maintain his situation.

He was not interested in gaining more self-understanding and did not return to therapy.

Prospects for recovery: Poor