Infidelity: Why it happens and what to do next
We are humans, and we can engage in messy behavior. One area where we can hurt our romantic partner is through infidelity. Betraying one’s romantic partner sexually is not just a violation of trust, but in some cases, results in permanent consequences for all involved, including the non-cheating partner, their children, and, by extension, their couples’ community.
As a life coach for entrepreneurs, infidelity is a topic I discuss with clients. This is important because this issue doesn’t discriminate based on age, sexual orientation, religion, or cultural background.
Sexual immorality is an enormous issue that belongs in a book, to be frank. However, I won’t even try to cover all the components of this issue. For the purposes of brevity, we will discuss the reasons for infidelity and what to do if you have cheated or been cheated on.
Before you begin reading this message, it’s important to understand something: I am a Christian and a Stoic, but I am not a moralist. This means I won’t try to force you to believe something you’re not ready to believe. I have my own thoughts, but this message is purely from a psychological and scientific viewpoint. All I will do is provide you with some explanations that you may have never heard before.
First, let’s gets some more statistical information regarding this sensitive issue.
To be frank, the reason why so many of us suffer in silence is that we think we are the only ones who have, do, or will suffer from painful situations. That is why I want to share with you some recent statistics (as of 2023 from the General Social Survey (GSS)) and other sources like this one regarding the betrayal of sexual trust between partners.
Who is most likely to be unfaithful, women or men?
Despite changing gender norms in our society, men are still more likely to cheat than women. According to GSS data, 20% of married men and 13% of married women admit to having sex with someone other than their spouse.
Women are closing the cheating gap.
Although men cheat more, infidelity rates among women are on the rise- having increased by 40% in the last 20 years. Younger married women (ages 18 to 29) are slightly more likely to cheat. The reasons for women cheat differ from their male counterparts. However, among adults 30 years and older, however, men are always more likely to cheat.
By age, who is most likely to be unfaithful?
Older adults (especially men aged 50-60s) need a little extra loving. The highest rate of infidelity is in men 60-69 years of age, though just a decade ago, the highest infidelity was among men in their 50s. For women, their highest infidelity rates happen at 50-59 years, whereas a decade ago, the same was true of women in their 40s.
This makes sense when you think about it. Postmenopausal women and postandropausal men both experience hormonal and lifestyle changes, such as retirement, and may need more support than their current partner can provide for them. Also, they may feel a lack of connection with their spouse because their children have left their home and there are no common bonds for discussing childcare-related issues. Empty-Nest syndrome is a common cause of infidelity.
Who is more unfaithful: a married or an unmarried person?
Around 40% of unmarried relationships and 25% of marriages have at least one incident of infidelity. Statistics demonstrate that those who grew up in intact families, with both biological or adoptive parents, cheat less frequently, at 15%, than those whose parents got divorced, at 18%.
Yet, statistics also show that 70% of all Americans engage in some extramarital affair at some time during their marital life, depending on how one defines cheating, as it is not always about sex.
What if your partner wasn’t sexual with another person, but shared a close intimate bond? This is called emotional infidelity.
Despite women are more upset by it than men (73% of women stating that they would be very upset by it, compared to 56% of men), they are most likely to have an emotional affair.
According to a 2019 Fatherly report, where over 90,000 participants were studied, it was revealed that 78.6% of men and 91.6% of women admitted to having an emotional affair.
Other reasons for infidelity
The power of pheromones
Sufficient chemistry or pheromones can result in inevitable sexual attraction, and it may take up to three minutes to decide whether someone is a potential partner (“The Evolution of Desire” by David Buss). For instance, in church, a man and a woman could sit separately and arouse one another.
What are pheromones?
Pheromones are odorless hormones secreted by bodily fluids such as urine, semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk, and potentially saliva and breath. However, most attention has been directed towards axillary sweat.
Can pheromones keep a relationship indefinitely?
Sorry, but no. Attraction based solely on sexual desire tends to last only about three years, as stated in ‘The Psychology of Human Sexuality’ by Justin J. Lehmiller. For instance, many celebrities like Halle Berry and Britney Spears have had brief relationships, indicating that a foundation of sexual attraction is not a recipe for success.
Low self-worth is not the only reason for infidelity
People say, “That woman does not love herself enough to get a man of her own.” However, there are other reasons, including financial security, cross-addictions (substance abuse addicts are infamous for doing this during the apex of their addiction, as exemplified by Hunter Biden), and mutual agreement of infidelity, as in the case of Mrs. and Mr. Bill Clinton.
Miscommunication or cultural issues
Often, before cheating occurs, there is deep miscommunication between spouses, where one feels emotionally or sexually unfulfilled, and the other withholds the needed affection as a form of retaliation for “bad behavior.” This can lead to one or both partners seeking satisfaction outside the relationship.
Moreover, cultures have varying beliefs about infidelity. Although no one would approve of infidelity, this study of varying cultures revealed different beliefs concerning the seriousness of sexual betrayal. Some people may argue that western culture tacitly approves of infidelity.
In the next section, I will present a general message relating to sexual infidelity for partners.
Message for both partners
For the cheater
Nobody made you cheat on your spouse/partner. Let’s just clear that up. Yes, he or she may not have provided you with the emotional or sexual support you desire.
Maybe you feel unsatisfied with your life and are looking for some excitement from another partner. However, trying to juggle multiple relationships is stressful.
Your spouse and lover have limited time to spend with you. Perhaps you like it that way. No particular person truly knows you, your fears, or issues. If so, now is the time to understand the emotional reasons behind your infidelity.
For the spouse/partner of the cheater
There is no innocent party with respect to an extramarital affair. I understand that your trust was violated, and you may fear having a sexually transmitted disease.
In some cases, a child is a product of an illicit affair. All of these things are true. However, now is the time for you to examine what part, if any, you contributed to the relationship breakdown.
Did you withdraw your sexual or emotional affection? Perhaps you were so busy with the children or other projects that you didn’t notice your spouse distancing themselves from you.
Is this behavior considered “normal” in your culture, leading you to conclude that it is just “men being men”? All of these issues must be addressed if you want to heal.
Clients I have worked with have often suffered from codependency issues, thinking that if they can enable their spouse’s bad behavior, they can get them to love them better. This leads to a sea of self-pity and embarrassment. However, you don’t have to stand by your man (or woman) no matter what.
Despite what you saw in your parents’ relationship, you have a choice. Decide for yourself, and for the sake of your kids (if applicable), what you need to do to preserve your dignity and self-worth.
For both partners
Pain is a great teacher. It tells us what we want and need. That being said, stay in the relationship as long as you can. Learn more about yourself and what you want.
You know when the relationship is over when you feel apathetic yet loving towards the other person. This is when you are able to see them as an imperfect human being like yourself, yet feel no need to continue the romantic relationship.
Final thoughts regarding infidelity
Cheating is not a simple issue of “losing control” or lack of boundaries or moral scruples. It is a complex issue that intersects religious, cultural and family background.
Regardless of whether you committed infidelity or are the partner of an unfaithful partner, you owe it to yourself to examine how you relate to yourself and your partner going forward. The decision to end or maintain a relationship should come from a place of clarity, not a place of fear, regret, shame or anger.
If you need more help, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Questions for you if you were or are in an extramarital affair:
- What was your experience?
- How did the affair end?
- How do you feel about yourself before, during, or after?
- How did your experience impact your love life?
Let me know via Twitter/X at @deniseglee. I would like to include your opinion when I update this article.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE
The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.
Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat you or anyone with a suspected mental health illness. Please, if you need help, seek appropriate help from a lawyer, health care provider or law enforcement officer