Understanding the Many Causes of Repeated, Complex Sexual Deception

Chronic or massive sexual infidelity is one of the most painful experiences in a person's life, with long-lasting consequences in the category of "my life will never be the same."  On this page I write about the many reasons some people repeatedly engage in sexual deception.  I see examples of all types in my Atlanta counseling practice and I've seen healing and even inspiring transformation in people affected by the destruction of repeated, massive and/or complex sexual secret-keeping.  At the bottom of the page are links to other parts of this site focusing on how partners and relationships are impacted by long-term sexual infidelity and sex addiction.  I'm always ready to set up a personal appointment when you are ready for a highly confidential professional consultation tailored to your specific needs.

There Are Several Possible Causes of Repeated Infidelity.  Counseling Can Address Them All.

Statistics about sexual infidelity are hard to prove because of the secrecy involved, but several studies suggest that about 20% of men and 15% of women will be sexually unfaithful at some point in life.  Of course, statistics don't matter much if you are one of the people affected.

Healing from a single incident of infidelity is difficult enough, but what about those who cheat over and over? Why do some people keep engaging in sexual deception despite the potential for great harm this can bring to them and others?  As an experienced professional counselor who specializes in helping people with these issues I know that there are several possible causes of repeated infidelity, and that counseling can address them all.

  • Some folks have never fully considered the consequences.

Just about everybody would agree that lying about sexual infidelity is wrong.  At the same time, some people have never actually truly and consciously considered the full consequences of their behavior. They just haven't let themselves think about it until some crisis point is reached.   A few never received good lessons about sexual integrity to begin with, often because they grew up without sufficiently healthy caretakers to model this behavior.

How counseling helps.   Sometimes you have to face the mirror and change your relationship with the person looking back.  Good counseling helps people explore themselves in ways they may have never considered and consider new and better ways of living.  The right questions and feedback can potentially have lasting impact.  Support and guidance builds greater self-awareness and the consistent ability to make healthy choices about sex and other important aspects of life.  

  • Some people have a psychiatric diagnosis, chemical imbalance or substance abuse issue that reduces resistance to sexual impulses.

Psychiatirc or neurological issues such as an untreated bipolar, anxiety or attention deficit disorder can all negatively influence a person's sexual behavior.  Substance use problems can also severely influence a person's sexual judgement.

How counseling helps.  One goal of counseling is to figure out what's going on, such as determining the possibility that an underlying psychiatric or substance use disorder may be present.  Sexual behavior can sometimes be either a symptom or a way to manage a symptom.  My clients and I figure out together what other issues need to be addressed along with the sexual problem that is driving the change process.  If the benefits of medication or anything like that need further evaluation I can provide referrals and consultations with other professional such as healthcare providers.

  • A (very) few people just don't care much about right and wrong.

Studies show that about 4% of the population doesn't operate with a strong moral code. People with severe narcissistic or antisocial personality disorders can engage in unpricipled sexual behavior from a sense of entitlement or simple opportunity. 4% is a high percentage but the idea that one out of twenty-five people will do what they want if they can get away with it is not a statistic to take lightly.

How counseling helps. Secretive sexual behavior can be both a cause and effect of unchecked narcissism. Regardless of which dysfunctional pattern is driving the other there is usually an interactive loop between the two.  Whether a person is faking remorse, empathy and commitment will be determined over time.  Most anybody is capable of starting out strong after the deception has been discovered.  Most personality disordered individuals are unwilling or incapable of continuing in an active process of personal growth over the lengthy period of time necessary for true healing to occur.  They will avert responsibility by blaming others, minimize the severity of the problem they have causes and try to rush the healing process.  True and full healing from the damage of chronic infidelity demands a deep capacity for patience, responsibility and empathy.  I've worked with clients who started counseling with barely a nub of these qualities who developed great wellsprings of character, conviction and courage.  This is why I say "sometimes a breakdown is a breakthrough".

  • Many people have some type of sexual turn-on they are too ashamed to admit which drives their behavior.

In our society filled with sexual shame this happens a lot more than many people realize. Repressed desires can only be acted on in secret, which can create a never-ending cycle of deception.  Many problems would be avoided if people felt safer to say "this is what excites me sexually".  They can then can direct their efforts toward managingtheir life, relationships and desires truthfully rather than hiding the full nature of their sexual interests and fantasies. 

How counseling helps.   Counseling provides people an opportunity to talk about sexual desires, conflicts and questions they have never had an option to safely discuss before.  Shame and confusion lessen with increased acceptance and understanding about the reasons and meanings of different sexual interests.  Couples counseling can help people communicate their sexual needs and desires more openly, avoiding secret-keeping and helping partners achieve greater sexual satisfaction with each other.

  • Sometimes this behavior is a way of “acting out” some kind of painful early life experience.

Some life traumas can contribute to the development of secret or risky sexual behavior that in some way reflects this past.

How counseling helps.  Counseling can be extremely beneficial in helping people resolve the effects of unfortunate life events that can result in sexual self-control problems.  Having a safe place to heal the effects of childhood traumas can be profoundly important in helping a person break the cycle of unhealthy sexual choices.

  • Sexual secret-keeping can be a symptom of an intimacy disorder. 

The phrase "intimacy disorder" is a term to describe an significant difficulty forming and maintaining a truly intimate emotional connection with a primary partner.  It is one reason why some people only feel strong sexual desire for someone they don't really love. It can be a way of understanding what drives people to create secret separate areas of their lives. Of all the barriers to healthy intimacy, ongoing sexual deception can be the most damaging.  

How counseling helps.  Counseling can help a person address intimacy challenges in order to feel fully comfortable and safe in close relationships and express sexual and loving feelings with the same -- and only -- person. 

  • Finally, some people simply cannot control their sexual behavior, despite their best attempts. In other words, the issue is sex addiction.

Some people have truly lost the ability to effectively manage their sexual thoughts, urges or impulses. For them, sexual obsessions can be as strong as any drug (stronger in some cases).  They are truly not able of consistently controlling their sexual behavior no matter how hard they try. 

What's the solution? As a certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT) I have deep knowledge of the processes people frequently find beneficial to gain sexual self-control and maintain healthy boundaries on their sexual impulses, urges and desires.

In summary, any pattern of repeated deceptive sexual behavior is a serious issue no matter what caused it, what it's called or what other problems are present.  This is why it's so important to have an accurate assessment and adequate appreciation of the unique factors of each particular situation.  This is what you'll get from me. I'm available for confidential consultation to individuals and couples, so I welcome you to contact me if I can be of assistance to you.