'I Work With Married Couples, These are the 4 Types of Cheating I See'

Sometimes, a couple will come to see me and I can tell that they've been fighting in the car. Their body language almost mirrors each other—if they could sit back to back, they would. My job is to get them to communicate.

I have been a relationships counselor for 14 years and I have seen all sorts of couples with all sorts of issues. Some have stopped having sex, others think they're having too much sex. Sometimes they clash on parenting styles, other times they've been together for decades and don't talk to each other anymore.

My job is hugely empowering because I am able to make a difference. You don't often hear what your partner says to you when they're talking directly to you. So in my sessions, I become like a whiteboard. Couples write on me—meaning they speak to me—and for the first time in many years, a client can hear what their partner is actually saying.

Clare Francis
Clare Francis is a relationships counselor, based in the U.K. She has seen many cases of infidelity during her career.

Of course, sometimes the problem is not simply about communication. Many couples have come to me because they or their partner have had an affair.

Infidelity isn't just about someone having a physical relationship with someone else. From my experience, there are four different categories of cheating.

1. Phantom love affair

I have had clients who have felt terrible about having feelings towards their colleague—and it is usually a work colleague. They love their partner but this new person is saying, "Hello sexy, you look beautiful today," and giving them compliments, which their partner doesn't do anymore. It's a positive kick for their ego.

They won't have a physical relationship with them, it's purely emotional. It's almost a phantom love affair—it's never going to be real, and my client doesn't want it to be real. They might say, "I wish we could be together," to this person, but in reality they don't want that. They still love their partner. Plus, what would they do about their children? And how would they split their beautiful house?

They often just want somebody to fancy them, and to understand them. They can talk to their colleague about their lives, in a way that they used to talk to their partner. In a long-term relationship, we tend to stop having those sorts of conversations because we don't think we're being listened to, or because we think we've said it all before and someone should remember. There are massive assumptions at play.

2. Swiping on Tinder

A lot of my clients visit dating sites, even though they have a partner. The main reason is often sex.

One of my clients had a partner he loved very much, but he couldn't keep off Tinder and Bumble. Typically, he would be "sexting" people and they would masturbate together. More rarely, he would meet up with them for sex. It was just physical to him. He didn't need to know their names or anything about them—in fact, the less he knew, the better it was for him.

His partner found out about it and said, "why do you do it?" and he could never really explain why. He and his partner still had an active sex life, but she couldn't give him as much sex as he wanted, so he found a way to get it. He felt terrible about it. It was almost an addiction.

I believe these apps are a way for people to feel external validation outside of their relationships. I talked to this client about his young life, where he didn't think he was a particularly beautiful person, and how he had become more attractive as an adult. I believe he found Bumble and Tinder to be great tools for flattering his ego.

3. Sex without feelings

I've seen cases where someone hasn't had sex with their partner for the past five years, then they suddenly feel attracted to somebody else. I had a client, for instance, who came to me and said he had a "friends with benefits" situation, which his partner had found out about. He described this other woman as being just a "one night stand."

His partner was there and said, "You had sex with this person for six months—how can you call it a one night stand?"

He said, "It was a one night stand because it meant nothing." To him, it was just a physical outlet, nothing but sex.

Stock Image of Unfaithful Partner
Stock image of an unfaithful partner. Infidelity often doesn't involve physical relations and can instead be emotional, according to relationships counselor Clare Francis.

I see that a lot. Physical cheating often starts out as being purely about sex, not emotion, but it rarely stays that way. Often, the second partner starts to feel more involved and they want the emotion. I've seen times where this person will then write to the husband or wife and say, "Your partner is having an affair with me. They don't love you, they love me." This has become more common with the advent of social media.

4. Searching for lost youth

I've seen men who are attracted to much younger women. I had a 50-something client who would go on holiday for two weeks a year and have sex with younger women, then he would return to the U.K. His partner found out about it when he bought a house in Thailand. They came to see me together.

Even in less extreme cases, there is a pattern of people cheating with younger partners as a way of searching for their lost youth. We always assume it's just men who do this, but I've seen women leaving their partners for younger men, too.

Clare Francis is a member of Counselling Directory, based in the U.K. She specializes in relationship issues.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Katie Russell.