From King David to Katharine Hepburn to Bill Clinton to General Petraeus

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


From King David in Jerusalem to Kathryn Hepburn in LA, Prince Charles in England, Bill Clinton in DC, Tiger Woods all over and General Petraeus in Afganistan, infidelity has been a consistent part of “his-story.” Infidelity is much more common than we like to believe. It is also no longer primarily the province of men, as women, statistically, are catching up fast. Equal opportunity, indeed.

The world has long been titillated by the extramarital transgressions of the high and mighty, from emperors, queens and presidents, to evangelists and movie stars, as well as our co-workers, friends and families. The theme has threaded itself throughout history, art, literature and, certainly, through politics and Hollywood. Moving this trend into high gear is none other than the Internet, where couples meet and mingle frequently, anonymously and sometimes perfidiously. The fact that people live longer and are married longer has added significantly to the infidelity statistics.


    Affairs come in all shapes and colors:

  • conflict avoidance
  • intimacy evasion
  • middle-age
  • sexual addiction
  • accidental/brief
  • philandering
  • retribution
  • bad marriage
  • exit
  • consensual
  • parallel lives
  • online/virtual

Infidelity: Myths, Facts and Healing, a free article by Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

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Myths and Facts about Infidelity

Myth: Infidelity is rare in the animal kingdom.
Fact: Only 3% of the 4,000 species of mammals are genetically pre-programmed for monogamy. Humans, doves and swans are not among the faithful 3%: however, the flatworm is.

Myth: An affair inevitably destroys the marriage.
Fact: Many marriages survive affairs and even emerge stronger.

Myth: Affairs are rare and abnormal.
Fact: Approximately 50% of married women and 60% of married men will have an extramarital affair at some time in their marriage. Most marriages in the U.S. involve affairs at some time.

Myth: Infidelity is not normal.
Fact: Men’s infidelity has been recorded in almost all societies, and in quite a few cultures it is the prevailing norm.

Myth: Western culture supports fidelity.
Fact: Western culture gives lip service to fidelity, but actually supports infidelity through its obsession with sexuality in the media and role modeling by celebrities. The Internet culture openly supports and enables affairs. Finding one’s first love from high school on Facebook has resulted in many affairs and divorces. Hugely popular Web sites like openly facilitates infidelity and married dating.

Myth: People’s attitudes toward infidelity are consistent with their behavior.
Fact: A striking paradox is that while 90% disapprove of extramarital relationships, most partners and couples are engaged in such relationships.

Myth: Men initiate almost all affairs.
Fact: Unlike in the past when women could lose everything, including their lives, infidelity has become an equal opportunity venture in the West. Women are catching up rapidly as they are less dependent on men for physical and financial support.

Myth: An affair always means there are serious problems in the marriage.
Fact: Some who engage in affairs report high marital satisfaction. Others report that the affair has actually spiced up their marriage.

Myth: Disclosure of the affair to the betrayed spouse is essential to healing the marriage.
Fact: Therapists must conduct a careful risk-benefit analysis before encouraging or insisting that clients disclose their affairs. Some affairs are best kept secret. Some disclosures, especially by women, can increase the likelihood of domestic violence. Therapists should realize that many couples have an unspoken and workable agreement of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT).

Myth: Full disclosure of all the details of the affair to the betrayed spouse is essential to regaining trust.
Fact: This moralistic-puritanical view of affairs can be very destructive. Giving the partner X-rated details of the affair can be haunting, traumatizing and can fuel obsessions. When appropriate, sharing very general information is often sufficient.

Myth: Extramarital affairs are never consensual.
Fact: Open marriages used to be popular in the 1970s and are still around today. Many couples have an implicit or explicit consensus regarding extramarital relationships or have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement regarding affairs.

Myth: Couples therapy is the best approach to dealing with an infidelity crisis.
Fact: Psychotherapists, MFTs, and counselors often bring rigid, puritanical and moralistic approaches to affairs, which is unhelpful and can be harmful. Many therapists are ill-equipped to deal with the complex issues of sexuality and affairs.


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