All human relationships are complex, but sentimental relationships are top on the list. Few are the people who can define in a precise manner what it means to them to be unfaithful. Each head is a world of its own; and definitions of the word vary for everyone. For some it can begin by discovering that your mate gets food through someone else’s app; and there are those who feel they are not unfaithful, despite having their profiles in more than one dating application. It all depends on the optics of each individual.
What does psychology, and other disciplines like Neurology say about infidelity? Can they help us to move aside all the myths and stick to the reality of the subject? A subject so real but at the same time so complex in our relationships.
The psychotherapist “Esther Perel” (1) once suggested that infidelity has always been seen by society as a sign of a bad relationship; but in her book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity (2); she describes how after 33 years of working with all sorts of unfaithful couples; that many stray “not because they want to find someone else, but because they want to connect with another version of themselves”. Thanks to Esther we now have one more thing to worry about. Do we not have enough by having to decipher our partner´s head in trying to discover how happy he/she is at our side? Now we must also worry about them having to “re-discover” themselves hoping they don´t go out looking for an adventure.
Just how predictable is infidelity?
A recent study published in “The Journal of Sex Research” (3) by Laura M. Vowels; Mathew J. Vowels & Kristen P. Mark; tries to find the answer to the question of, How Predictable can Infidelity be, whether it be physical-sexual or on-line? The first study included 891 persons including multiple types of sexual preferences (straight, lesbian, homosexual, bi, etc.). Data collected included not only their sex lives, but also demographics (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, relationship status, mental and physical health and more); but having had at least one monogamous relationship. A second study included 202 mixed-sex couples with a monogamous relationship; that was at least 3 years old and continued to live with the same partner. This second study was based on similar questionnaire as in the first study.
The results in the first study indicated that 43.4% of men, and 25:7% of women had participated in in-person infidelity, while on-line infidelity showed a similar number for men (41.6%) but much lower for women (18.5%). The second study reflected a significant difference with results showing in-person sex for males of 18.8% and 15.9% for women. On-line infidelity was still lower with 16.8% for men and 11.4% for women. We now conclude there are several variables that point to likelihood of infidelity. Though not conclusive, these signals could be used to predict the possibility of infidelity. Review complete and complex details for these studies in:
If lack of satisfaction, or unhappiness with a relationship can increase the thought of infidelity, these factors will not necessarily result in such behavior.
Infidelity is Emotional
Finally, Colombian neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinas (4)affirms that the structure of the intellect is centered in the emotional. This is to say that the emotional will dominate any sense of logic.
Love is one most important manifestations of emotion, and his studies reflect that the higher the intellectual capacity, there exists a lower possibility of infidelity. This happens because as we occupy our minds in more complex situations, it is less likely to think on things that waste emotional energy such as infidelities.
Rodolfo also mentions that the freer time we have, the more that a large door opens to allow the possibility of infidelities. To avoid discovery the Infidelity will require time and effort in crafting strategies and activities. It takes time and effort to hide things, to invent timelines, histories etc., all to be able to keep two lives going on simultaneously. People who are very occupied don´t see much sense in submitting to this type of wear and tear resulting from the emotional stress of the infidelity.
But whether you have been unfaithful, or not a Gallup Poll (5) shows that while 90% of Americans indicate that birth control is morally acceptable, only 9% of married men and women say that having an affair is morally acceptable. The trend on infidelity has remained at low levels for the past 20 years, reality of other studies previously presented indicate that infidelity has a much greater index of reality than the thought of it being moral or not.
Studies that shoe infidelity rates, clearly suggest that the “social” perception of it, is not a significant deterrent from doing it. Conclusion: there is a “double sense of morality, depending on who is asked.
While there is no single cause for infidelity, there are many excuses/reasons given for it. Some have even blamed technology. Excuses given have not been demonstrated as causes of infidelity. While technology can certainly facilitate it, in the end, it is.
the person who decides. But as there exists technology that may facilitate infidelity, there is also growing technology to put a check to it.
In the end, and having considered psychology, technology, or polls where to look for the answers, there is none that are specific and precise.
The only thing we think is true, is that emotions will triumph over logic.
The chaos brought on by a discovered infidelity, will not allow relationship to survive.
- Esther Perel: “Why People Cheat: The psychology of Infidelity”https://bigthink.com/health/esther-perel-why-people-cheat-the-psychology-of-infidelity/
- Esther Perel: “The state of affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/books/review-state-of-affairs-rethinking-infidelity-esther-perel.html
- The Journal Sex of Research
- Rodolfo Llinas https://en.psychologyinstructor.com/loyalty-is-unique-to-the-most-intelligent-people/
- Gallup https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/313112/understanding-increase-moral-acceptability-polygamy.aspx