Moving to another country can result in missing all that has been familiar, while facing the challenges of adapting to a new environment. Sharing the experience and feelings with someone new can create intimacy that often leads to emotional and physical infidelity. Why does this happen and what are the consequences?

With over twenty-five years experience as a registered marriage and family therapist, I have worked with individuals and couples where a relationship outside the confines of a monogamous committed relationship has been an issue causing great pain. Trust is shattered and what started out as something quite innocent ends in emotional and financial devastation.

“I never thought it would all become public.”

The availability of global communication in an instant means news anywhere can travel everywhere.

“I never dreamed it could ruin my career.”

Some companies have policies forbidding office romances and demanding honesty, integrity and reliability of it’s employees. Infidelity is seen as a breach of judgment, a betrayal of trust and a black mark on the employee. Know your company policy.

“It was so far away, how did everyone ever find out?”

People who are angry and feel betrayed usually want to strike out and want to hurt the person who is behind their pain. Emotions often over ride judgment. Without ever suspecting their angry outburst could result in a job loss and financial ruin for everyone involved. Some people even try to get a person fired for infidelity. It is seen as a weakness in character for many.

Relocation of One Partner for Short Term Work

When a contract position or assignment to another country is such that relocation of the couple or family is not realistic there can be dangers of marital infidelity.

Many people who face living alone try to cope by putting on a happy front and playing the role expected in the new country. This can result in emotional exhaustion. Keeping up one’s guard is tiring. Once in the privacy of their own living space when they can let down their guard, loneliness and fear of fitting in can be overwhelming. Tears may be common for some. This is normal and part of relieving stress. It also creates a sense of desire to be held, comforted and consoled. It can lead to finding a willing stranger to ease the pain.

“I thought a sexual encounter would help me feel less lonely. Now the guilt is killing me.”

The more a person is used to sharing their life with significant others the more the loneliness and insecurity will be prevalent. Questions about what to wear, where to shop, challenges with a new language and colloquial phrases can be a constant nagging concern that somehow they just aren’t good enough. Insecurity can lead to self doubt and stress. Constantly comparing how things are in the new location to what they are used to at home, keeps the stress level high and fuels the fear of not adapting. This type of reaction tends to overtake people who were insecure, have difficulty adapting to change and need personal reassurance. This can also make them vulnerable to a romantic encounter that they would never consider at home.

Finding someone who is empathetic, understanding and with whom they can share their feelings can start out as something innocent. There is something special about someone with whom we shared our selves. It can however soon turn into an emotional dependence and eventually become sexualized.

“I thought we were just friends until we touched. The chemistry was just so strong.”

Lust feels like chemistry. It grows in our gut and spreads to our genitals and drains both the blood and common sense from our brains. It is not a sign of true love, finding our soul mate or fate. It is a chemical reaction within that can lead to poor decisions. Adding alcohol and or drugs can make the ability to form a good judgment worse.

There are people who frequent places particularly to target the people who are obviously new and insecure and who will build a sense of trust just to enjoy a short romantic and sexual relationship. These people will make promises and build fantasies but are often already married, passing through or on time limited assignments.

I have worked with couples where it has obviously been an opportunity for the pursuer who took advantage of the vulnerable new person in town. Healing the humiliation for the victim and finding the sympathy and empathy in their spouse can be a long and difficult journey. Rebuilding trust is challenging. For many couples it can be done. Professional assistance can help the healing.

Sometimes it’s the spouse of the person working in a foreign land who has difficulty adjusting. The usual routines of life can be boring. Trying to understand the turmoil and anxiety in phone calls from far away and emails can be difficult. With too much time on their hand they can find their thoughts taking them places that lead to temptations.

Good listening skills are important to help the travelling spouse protect themselves. Sometimes the concerns can sound petty. Often the spouse at home cannot understand their partners frustrations as they feel the new adventure is glamorous and much more exciting than their mundane home responsibilities. It can also be a time of jealousy and resentment, fear and insecurity for the one at home. This can leave this person vulnerable to an emotional connection with a friend, co-worker, neighbour or new acquaintance.

Good communication and recognition of the long range commitment this couple has made to each other is vital to keep their connection as lovers and life partners. Honesty is also important to maintain trust.

Another occasion where there is the opportunity to meet people is on trips to and from home. Sharing feelings, including the sense of boredom and isolation that can occur with relocation, can result in the beginnings of an intimate relationship. It is the sense of feeling understood that starts the connection. I have had many clients who started infidelities with people they met on planes and at airports. Some predators seek potential individuals for illicit affairs and being pursued can be seductive and exciting. It can also have devastating consequences.

Relocation of the Couple or Family

If both members of the couple or the entire family has moved, and family members can share the new experiences and insecurities through discussions, mutual support can be given. This increases intimacy within the couple or family and acts like a blockade to infidelities.

When one spouse is working long hours and trying to adapt in the business environment and the other is left to create the home and adjust to new surroundings, their challenges can be quite different. The greater their ability to share and really understand and support the other the higher their intimacy and the less likely their relationship will be threatened.

With relocation some people dive into the new culture wanting to dress and live as if they have always belonged to the new society. Some jobs demand this. This can also happen if the working spouse has made many trips to the new location so feels more acclimatized to the culture or knows the language well. These people can appear overconfident focusing on the challenges and uniqueness of the experience offered and there is no experience of missing home. If their spouse is insecure, homesick and having difficulty adjusting the chance of finding an empathetic connection with a new acquaintance increases. Like minded people often are attracted to each other as if by some magical force.

A man who travels with his wife and chooses to be the primary child care giver can associate with wives and mothers at the park, school activities and in conversation over the children that can lead to intimate relationships while their spouse is distracted with work.

Some Signs of Potential Danger

1. A change in the level or absence of sharing daily activities and feelings.
2. Long periods of time that are unexplained or avoided.
3. Introduction of a new name or too often mentioning of a new friend.
4. Broken promises about meeting, calling or emailing.
5. Terms of endearment are changed or missing.
6. Talk of new activities and interests that seem unusual.
7. A gut reaction that something has changed.

What Can Be Done

1. Commit to being faithful and keep communication with your spouse open.
2. Share temptations with your spouse so issues of loneliness and isolation can be addressed.
3. Become involved in community activities to keep associations with other adults where the focus is on an activity.
4. Avoid activities that promote romantic fantasies like singles bars.
5. Block flirtations and don’t flirt.
6. Stay aware of feelings and personal reactions.
7. Share temptations with a trusted other and ask them to help with situations where you might be vulnerable.
8. Relieve your own sexual frustrations.
9. Look at the BIG picture so long range goals are kept in focus.
10. Renew your commitment to be monogamous with your spouse.
11. Get professional help if temptations threaten.
12. Be aware that adultery, emotional and physical infidelity, will drastically change your self view and your life.

Building a loving trusting relationship takes work but the rewards can last a lifetime.

Author's Bio: 

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed., is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist who consults to families in business on issues related to workplace relationships. She is the author of books on personal growth through travel. Questing Marilyn: In Search of My Holy Grail takes the reader through sacred and historic sites in England and Ireland and involves the search for the authentic adult Self. It explores: “Who can I be when I am free to be my Self?” Questing France: Deepening the Search for My Holy Grail is the process of holding onto the Self when in a marriage relationship. It explores flirtations, infidelity, qualities of a functional marriage as well as parenting children through marital conflict. Questing France explores the questions: “Can I be me when I am with you?” and "Why do people stay in a marriage after an affair?"