Infidelity is one of the most traumatic experiences a couple can
work through. Even though many people have different definitions of infidelity
acts, one must comprehend the reasoning behind these perception distinctions.
One of the most reliable data on infidelity originates from the General Social
Survey; supported by the National Science Foundation who collects the attitudes
of Americans about social behaviors since 1972. Based on investigative reports,
90% of all divorces involve infidelity (General Social Survey, 2006). As an
outcome, infidelity is a significant issue in psychological academic research;
which invites a lot of responsiveness from scholars. The focal purpose is to
encapsulate these findings in detailed sets and illustrate the complete
classification of investigations on this topic.
According to the International Encyclopedia of Marriage and
Family, infidelity, also recognized as cheating, “is a breach of trust that
signifies a lack of faithfulness to a moral obligation to one’s partner.” As
explained by Blow and Hartnett (2005) infidelity can include actions such as:
“Having an affair, extramarital relationship, cheating, sexual
intercourse, oral sex, kissing, fondling, emotional connections that are beyond
friendships, long-term relationship, philandering, friendships, internet
relationships and pornography use.” Infidelity separated into distinct types
include internet infidelity, emotional infidelity, sexual infidelity and joint
sexual and emotional infidelity (Glass, 1985).
Within each general class, there are diverse subsections. With
sexual infidelity, one can pay for sex workers, take part in different sexual
activities or have same-sex partners. Emotional infidelity can happen at a
workplace with co-workers, or in long-distance relationships over the phone or
internet. Mileham (2007) examined a growing method of infidelity; online
infidelity, which is where individuals who involve themselves in long-term
devoted relationships pursue computer communications with the opposite or
same-sex member. Furthermore, Mackenzie (2011) organized infidelity into 3 main
types: emotional infidelity, sexual infidelity, and complete investment
infidelity. Mackenzie (2011) stated that sexual infidelity focuses purely on
sexual activity with someone outside of a marriage. This insinuates that there
is minimal or no emotional affection within any sexual activity. In Mackenzie’s
(2011) analysis, deep passionate kissing or fondling are sexual activities that
step over the boundaries of sexual gratification.
According to Mackenzie (2011), sexual infidelity is more than
just sexual intercourse. Complete investment infidelity and emotional
infidelity incorporates no physical interaction, like online sex due or phone
sex in which the partner involved in the affair is devoting themselves sexually
independent of their marriage. One group of research focuses on sex differences
in reactions to a partner’s conduct of sexual and emotional infidelity
(Shackelford & Buss,
2002). According to
the article, men were more upset than women when it came to sexual infidelity.
Also, since most marriages have parental responsibilities, women were more
likely upset than men when it came to emotional infidelity because of emotional
investment (Shackelford & Buss, 2002).
Another group of research focuses on sex differences, and the
different rates of couple’s participation with infidelity. Allen and Baucom
(2004) convincingly proclaim that men are more likely to involve themselves in
infidelity than women because they have more sexual companions outside their
main relationship, have non-judgmental positions towards sexual relations
outside of matrimony and have a strong passion to involve themselves in
infidelity. Nonetheless, Oliver and Hyde (1993) state that both women and men’s
frequency of infidelity is becoming similar in numbers and in behavior.
According to Atkins, Baucom, and Jacobson (2001), individuals
who attained a higher education were more likely to engage in sexual activity
with non-marital spouses. Their study determined that there is a relation
between educational attainment and divorce but this finding is only
significantly noteworthy for those couples who divorced. In another study,
Forset and Tanfer (1996) determined that education has an association with
infidelity in women who married and have different educational degrees than
their partner. Even more astonishing is the finding that married women who have
a higher educational degree than their partner are more likely to engage in
extramarital affairs than women who have a lower educational degree than their
partner. Altogether, previous statistics from other studies illustrate that
individuals in general who have high levels of education are more likely to
take part in sexual affairs.
To this day, genetic determinations of infidelity in humans
remain inconclusive. Cherkas, Oelsner, Mak, Valdes, and Spector (2004) stated
that the number of sexual companions and adultery influence genetics mutually.
More particularly, the number of sexual companions (38%) and the act of
infidelity (41%) are hereditary. Further into the study, they also found that
the relation between these two variables bond genetically (47%). Distinct
environmental influences define an individual’s viewpoint of infidelity.
Cherkas et al., (2004) did a “genome-wide association study” and found three
regions on chromosomes 3, 7 and 20 that indirectly connected between infidelity
and the number of sexual companions. In the end, the heritable findings of this
study open the possibilities for future genetic research particularly with
sexual infidelity and evolutionary philosophies of sexual human behavior.
Many studies examined infidelity and personality types.
According to Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, and Gobhard (1953), 25% of married women
and 50% of married men have participated in sexual behavior outside of their
marriage by the age of 40. Another study, approximately thirty years later, stated
that 40% women similarly participated in sexual activity while 50% of men
participated in more emotional or sexual activity outside of their marriage
(Lawson & Samson, 1988). Furthermore, was the question of how personalities
can hypothetically predict extramarital infidelities. Hoyle, Fejfar, and Miller
(2000) conducted a meta-analysis of 53 studies to assess personality qualities
that are more likely to engage in sexually risky behaviors. Those who have high
meticulousness and high consideration for others correlated to take part in
lower sexual risks. Those who have low meticulousness and low consideration for
others correlated to take part in higher sexual risks and potentially have
multiple sexual partners as well as having unprotected sex.
Buss (1989), designated marital interaction boundaries within
two personalities with what is the Five Factors Model (FFM). These five
personalities include, “Openness to experience, Conscientiousness
(meticulousness), Extraversion, Agreeableness (consideration for others) and
Neuroticism.” Agreeing with this finding, another study by Schmitt and Buss
(2000) established that individuals with considerations for others and
meticulousness were more likely to be entirely in a relationship without the worry
of being in other extramarital relationships. Confirming this theory was
Shackelford and Baser (2008) who centered on the FFM model, searched to
calculate the likelihood of individuals participating in sexual activity
outside their marriage. For this study, 107 legally married couples of one
year, self-reported their personalities. Out of 214 individual people, those
spouses who have low consideration for others and low meticulousness were more
likely to become involved in sexual activity outside of their marriage within
the next year.
Variables considered for unfaithfulness are educational
attainment, income, religion, culture, race, personality, opportunity,
attachment style, employment and marital satisfaction. Drigotas, Safstorm, and
Gentilia (1999) used categories of revenge-hostility, social context, sexuality
satisfaction, emotional satisfaction and attitudes-norms as reasons for
infidelity. Other common reasons for infidelity focuses on the need for sexual
gratification and the need for extra emotional satisfaction from an outside
source (Roscoe, Cavanaugh & Kennedy, 1988). Furthermore, open-minded
opinions toward infidelity also become a reason why a partner might engage in
extramarital sexual activities (Roscoe, Cavanaugh & Kennedy, 1998). Conclusively,
infidelity used as revenge is customarily another shared reason for
extramarital affairs among married couples (Drigotas, Safstorm & Gentilia,
An uncommon variable of power has shown an increase in research
studies. According to Lammers, Stoker, Jordan, Pollmann, and Stapen (2011), the
need of power within a relationship indicates a higher probability for engaging
in extramarital affairs. Within this realm, increased confidence using power
also indicates a high probability of affairs and interactions. Women are not as
likely to engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage for power reasons
as men. This is more likely because of the evolutionary theme of men containing
the dominant image than women and socioeconomic differences between married
couples. One hypothesis is that if women were to earn as much as their
partners, they too will be more likely to engage in extramarital affairs
because of their new financial independence (Lammers et. al, 2011).
Charny and Parnass (1995) stated in their study that married
couples who’ve gone through infidelity only have a small chance of saving their
marriage afterward. With this, not all marriages end in divorce with infidelity
involved. Within this study, some negative consequences for infidelity include
reduced sexual confidence, reduced personal confidence, damage of trust
boundaries, rage, increased reasoning for departing from their partner and
increased fear of abandonment (Charney & Parnass, 1995).
In another study, Horwitz (2001) determined that couples who
chose to end their marriages because of infidelity issues, by divorcing, were
less likely to experience depression than couples who chose to divorce for
other reasons. Also discovered, was that the unfaithful partner who divorced
their faithful partner was more likely to develop depression. This difficult
occurrence always questions whether a partner should either forgive their
partner or end their marriage.
Shackelford, LeBlanc, and Drass (2000), discovered that women
and men who have experienced different forms and variations of infidelity due
to evolution have different reactions to their spouse’s act infidelity. The
underlying finding is that men have more difficulty forgiving their partners’
sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity and because of this, they will more
likely end their marriage after the occurring sexual infidelity (Shackelford
et. al, 2000).
Treatments for infidelity vary between studies. According to
Atkins et al., (2005) from a clinical perspective, couples understood betrayal
during a longer treatment procedure than a one-time appointment. This clinical
treatment indicated higher improvement for unfaithful couples than faithful
couples. For this study, Atkins et al. (2005) used Traditional Behavioral
Therapy (TBCT) and
Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy to analyze the management of infidelity.
The 19 married participants who experienced infidelity had their levels of
distraught and treatment for infidelity compared to other couples who sought
marriage therapy for other various reasons.
Atkins et al. (2005) determined that at the phase of
pre-treatment, the married couples involved with infidelity were more
distraught than other couples who sought therapy for other reasons but after
the treatment, the couples involved in infidelity were as equal as couples who
did not involve themselves in infidelity. Nevertheless, couples who decided to
keep the infidelity a secret from each other were more likely not to have as much
satisfaction than couples who revealed the infidelity to each other. Also
concluded, was that the faithful partner was not as distraught as the
unfaithful partner, and they both had comparable improvements in the clinical
therapy (Atkins et al., 2005).
Oppositely, Gordon, Baucom, and Snyder (2004), determined that
the partner who did not involve themselves in infidelity was more distraught
during the clinical therapy but achieved more improvements in treatment than
the partner who involved themselves in infidelity. Using past conclusions on
infidelity and treatments, this study and treatment included the effectiveness
of a multiphase forgiveness method to guide married couples to healing after
the infidelity. The first phase of healing was dealing with the inspiration of
the act of infidelity. The second phase of healing was going over the
significance and structure of infidelity and the last phase was supporting the
couple in moving on after the act of infidelity. A positive finding included
the majority of couples who developed a great amount of forgiveness responding
to the infidelity near the end of the clinical treatment (Gordon et al., 2004).
Case (2005) examined a treatment example of infidelity that
concentrated on a multi-phase procedure of forgiveness and apology. This
treatment has the partner achieve a goal was regaining the trust of their
spouse by completing specific tasks. In conclusion, many couples who dealt with
infidelity were more likely to achieve repairing their marriage and find stability
within their relationship.
Examined within scientific studies, through different viewpoints
is infidelity. Like other interpersonal focus research, infidelity also has
many unanswered inquiries. Because of the importance of relationships for
marriage and family counselors, as well as social researchers, more
investigations about infidelity are in need. Understanding what infidelity is
and how avoiding it in marriages or relationships, can potentially help future
couples and therapists appreciate the encouragement to heal those exact issues.
A husband who decides to engage in sexual infidelity may sacrifice his devotion
to another male partner. The husband of the wife who engaged in infidelity may
lose the chance to continue his reproductive lineage for a couple of years due
to the timeline of birthing semesters. Also at risk, is the dedicated time and
revenue spent for other children outside the marriage.
Downsides for marriages dealing with infidelity often include
costs to divorce, marriage therapy, and other expenses. One crucial issue
within infidelity is the difference between couples who experience infidelity
and do not divorce versus those who do divorce. Because of this, more research
studies focused on the difference between married couples can assist in closing
the gaps identified and increase the knowledge of infidelity in the future.
Useful research can include personality characteristics that either
calculate or indicate infidelity and the significance between married couples
experiencing infidelity who are same-sex couples. Nevertheless, research on
these topics needs to be accepted in all aspects before investigating due to
the sensitiveness of societal rules and regulations regarding same-sex couples.
Research into careers that are more likely to engage in extramarital activities
as well as the probability those careers influence infidelity can increase
comprehension of societal acceptance among the workforce.
Even though infidelity is an everyday issue in our American
culture, future married couples regardless of gender orientation can become
aware of the negative effects of infidelity. With marriage workshops or
educational classes, couples can apply tools and methods of preventing the
destructiveness of infidelity. Therapy specifically designed to guide couples
experiencing a turbulent relationship due to infidelity can demonstrate
positive if both spouses have a shared acknowledgment of wanting to change
their relationship and include values that will help their relationship