If you’re currently coping with infidelity, you probably have a lot of questions for your spouse as to “why.” Cheaters can’t always say why they stepped outside of their marriage and had an affair. They’re probably not very sure themselves of the “reason” why.

When it comes to cheating, there is no clear reason that can ever make it okay to cheat. But victims of affairs always have a justification for why the affair happened, and it usually hinges on needs.

In this blog, we’re going to look at just 2 needs found within a marriage, and I’ll provide you with conversation starters to begin exploring these particular needs as you work to save your marriage.

Unfulfilled Needs No Excuse for Cheating

It doesn’t matter what occurred in your marriage prior to the infidelity—whatever the problems were, they are never an excuse to cheat. Many cheaters believe they can solve their problems outside of the marriage.

They couldn’t be more mistaken. When you think of the devastation and heartbreak that affairs cause, how can anyone justify cheating? You stick your spouse with coping with infidelity and all of the attendant negative emotions. It’s an awful thing to do to someone.

When victims of an affair ask their husband or wife why he or she cheated, they will generally hear something about the cheater’s needs not being met. Whether their needs were met or not is not a justification. The cheater has made a huge error in judgment to seek fulfillment of their needs outside of their marriage.


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No matter what is given for the “reason” behind an affair, you can’t fix yesterday.  Instead of focusing precious energy on why the affair happened, in hopes it will help prevent one from happening again, a more productive question would be, “What are my needs, and my spouse’s needs, that we can both work on fulfilling today?” Coping with infidelity begins with this type of thinking.

Exploring Need within Your Marriage

The basis of every relationship is need: the need for love, the need for companionship, the need for close intimacy. Within the relationship, there are a range of needs: “I need you to have dinner on the stove when I get home,” to “I need you to help with the yard work,” to “I need you to take care of me when I’m ill.”

There are also deep-seated needs that we expect from our spouse, such as the need for them to communicate with us regularly, and to be honest in those communications.

Any of these needs can be subject to neglect by one or both spouses. The neglect creeps in through familiarity with the other person, and without a concerted effort, spouses can begin to take one another—and one another’s needs—for granted. You get busy with life, and you begin to cut corners in order to make time for it all.

And it’s not just your partner’s needs you can neglect. Often, our own needs get tamped down, backburnered or otherwise just plain ignored. Then, ignoring these needs just becomes a bad habit, with each partner feeling unfulfilled in the relationship.

Or, maybe you and your spouse aren’t fully in touch with what your needs are in the relationship. You’re missing that emotional connection, but you don’t know what the root cause is. More than likely, it’s because you and your spouse haven’t been communicating what your needs are to one another—the ones that go beyond just trimming the lawn or making coffee in the morning.

So let’s get the conversation started. Here are two conversation starters that you and your spouse will want to explore separately as well as together to uncover your needs. These will take some time and thought to fully understand where you are coming from, and where your spouse is coming from, in terms of these types of needs and how you can each feel fulfilled, while also fulfilling each other.

Conversation Starter 1: Emotional Needs

The most wide-ranging, challenging dimension to define in a relationship—and also the most important—is emotional need.

One aspect of emotional need is in knowing we have the support of our spouse. All of us want to feel we have someone firmly in our corner—most notably our own spouse. This is a dimension of the relationship that should be reviewed, and it may be something you’ve never openly discussed before.

Do you feel that your spouse provides affirmation and support? Do you provide it to your spouse? In what ways does your spouse provide it to you? In what ways, if your spouse isn’t providing it, could they show it? How does your spouse want you to show support to them?

Conversation Starter 2: Romantic Needs

Romance is about more than just a dozen roses. It’s making the effort to make your spouse feel special, which can be done with just a word, a look, or a touch. After an affair, romance can be challenging. Wounds are raw, and it’s difficult to feel romantic amidst so much pain. Take your time. In the meantime, explore this dimension of need to understand what will fulfill you, and what fulfills your spouse.

Has your spouse made romantic gestures in the past? What were those gestures? Have you made romantic gestures for your spouse? What were they? How did it feel to give—and receive—these softer moments between you? What can your spouse do to be more romantic? What can you do to infuse romance into your relationship?

There are many more aspects to these conversation starters, not to mention a lot more dimensions of need found within a relationship that go beyond emotional need and romance. But these will get you started as you work to save your marriage.

My best wishes for you as you explore your needs and your spouse’s needs, survive the affair and rebuild your marriage.

Have you and your spouse ever discussed “needs” in your marriage? Was it during a fight, or did you have a sit-down discussion?


How much has neglect played a part in chipping away at your relationship?


After reviewing these conversations starters, have you ever analyzed your needs to this degree, or your spouse’s needs?

Please share your thoughts and experiences regarding this critical issue of trust.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

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