Infidelity in Relationships

The Ashley Madison hack has been all over the news lately and I decided to write a blog post about infidelity. Infidelity doesn’t always just mean sex, it can also be infidelity with an emotional connection, long term relationship, one night stands, or philandering.  I hear some people say “I rather my partner have a one night stand than have a relationship with someone else.”  Infidelity or cheating is not a sign of a healthy relationship.

We all know someone who has been a victim or a perpetrator of infidelity.  I feel society has become desensitized to the idea of infidelity with the divorce rate being nearly 50% of all marriages.  Most people don’t want to assume cheating will be an issue in their relationship, and so most people don’t spend much time thinking about what they’d do if it happened.  Researcher, Beaulieu-Pelletier (2008) found in her study on relationships that the odds of someone cheating while in a committed relationship range from 46% to 76%.  Eeek! That’s scary right?  Beaulieu-Pelletier (2008) also found no gender differences so women are just as likely to cheat despite usual stereotypes of the philandering man.

After infidelity, many relationships fall apart.  They are unable to repair after such a devastating act.  I like to think I am an optimist and I personally believe relationships can grow after infidelity.  Yes, it is completely understandable if a couple chooses not to stay together.  But if couples are willing to put in the commitment and work into their relationship, I believe the relationship can be repaired and even stronger.  For some, it is a complete deal breaker and I get that.  Do you know what you would do?  It might be something to think or talk about with your partner.  I hear some couples say “My partner can do whatever he/she wants as long as I don’t hear about it!”  or “I would want my partner to tell me before something happens.”

What leads to infidelity?

Infidelity is one of the most complex areas of  relationship research.  Most people don’t want to admit they’ve been unfaithful in some way!  Also, there is so many factors interacting with each other as to why someone may decide to cheat.  Everyone has a different concept of what infidelity looks like.  Each relationship is different and so each relationship will have differing rules.  Generally, you know when you’ve crossed a line.

Relationship Dissatisfaction is a major factor leading to infidelity in a relationship.  Individuals who are satisfied in their relationship are less likely to cheat, because why go else where.  It is easy for relationship satisfaction to slip.  All relationships whether it be a friendship, romantic relationship etc. require work and they are a two way street.  It requires active participation from both parties.  So what does this mean? Communication! Communication, or lack thereof can be the root of all problems in relationships.  If you are feeling dissatisfied or even satisfied in your relationship, communicate this to your partner!

To keep track of your own and partner’s relationship satisfaction, you can implement this communication tool.  Each week you sit down and ask each other the following questions:

  1. How was your week? What are your plans for the upcoming week?  Is there anything I can do to help you with this week?
  2. An example of when you felt loved.
  3. Are there any conflicts or conversations that you feel are still not resolved?  Let’s talk about it more.
  4. Has there been a time where I hurt you this week?

This exercise can take 10 minutes to maybe an hour depending on what comes up during these conversations.  These conversations will strengthen your emotional connection and will help guide you in where your relationship may need improvement.

Recommendations

I always suggest a couple get counseling whether their relationship is in a bad or good spot!  Going to counselor before there is any trouble in the relationship is preventative.  I really like when couples go to marriage counseling before they get married because counseling can be a great place to have difficult conversations: what are my goals for 5, 10, 15 years?  How many children do I want? Where will we live? If our relationship does get into trouble, will you be willing to go to therapy?

Long-term relationships may lose their spark that they once hand, I like to refer to it as the honeymoon stage.  The honeymoon stage is the beginning of a relationship where we are infatuated and completely in love with our partner.  Sometimes long term relationships may lose their spark because the couple has grown apart emotionally. This can be fixed by implementing weekly date nights, allocating a time each night to unwind from the day and talk kids free, cell phones free!  It can even just be a nice touch on the shoulder as you walk past.  It’s the little things that add up!

References

Beaulieu-Pelletier, G. (2008). Infidelity dissected: New research on why people cheat

Grohol, J. (2013). How Common is Cheating & Infidelity Really?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/03/22/how-common-is-cheating-infidelity-really/

Whisman, M.A. & Snyder, D.K. (2007). Sexual infidelity in a national survey of American women: Differences in prevalence and correlates as a function of method of assessment. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 147-154.

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