Infidelity and Affairs

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


Infidelity is much more common than we like to believe. It also is no longer primarily the province of men. Women, statistically, are catching up fast. Equal opportunity, indeed. Moving this trend into high gear is none other than the Internet, where couples meet and mingle anonymously and sometimes perfidiously. Some experts fear that this is the greatest single threat the institution of marriage has ever faced.

The world has long been titillated by the extramarital transgressions of the high and mighty, from emperors to queens and presidents to movie stars. The theme has threaded itself through history, art, literature and, certainly, Hollywood.




Here are some of the most common myths about marital affairs and infidelity followed by the facts.

Myth: An affair inevitably destroys the marriage.
Fact: Many marriages survive affairs. Most marriages, where both partners are committed to the marriage, emerge stronger from the infidelity crisis.

Myth: Infidelity is rare in the animal kingdom.
Fact: Only three percent of the world’s 4,000 species of mammals are pre-programmed for monogamy. According to many scientists, Homo sapiens is not one of the 3%. Monogamy in the animal kingdom is so rare that those romantic Hallmark cards with images of doves, swans or other types of lovebirds should more accurately feature the flatworm.

Myth: Infidelity is not a norm in our, and most other, societies.
Fact: Men’s infidelity has been recorded in most societies according to anthropologists and archeologists.

Myth: Society, as a whole, supports monogamy and fidelity.
Fact: Society gives lip service to monogamy/fidelity, but actually supports affairs (the way they do with violence) through obsession with sex and role modeling by presidents, celebrities of all sorts, especially actors and actresses, and through advertisements, TV, news media, literature and the movies.

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 issue in the West. Women are catching up to men’s infidelity stats rapidly as they are less dependent on men for physical and financial support and, therefore, are willing to risk more by having an affair. Still, sexual infidelity by a woman, either actual or suspected, can increase the likelihood of spousal battering and even spousal homicide.

Myth: An affair always means there are serious problems in the marriage.
Fact:  Research has shown that some of those who engage in affairs reported high marital satisfaction. Others have reported that the secret affair has even spiced up their marriage and sex life. The ground-breaking research by Shirley Glass, Ph.D., ABBP, revealed that 56% of men and 34% of women who were involved in affairs reported that their marriages were happy.

Myth: Infidelity is a sign that sex is missing at home.
Fact: Some unfaithful spouses have reported increased marital sex during the period of their affair.

Myth: Infidelity always has to do with a bad marriage or a withholding partner.
Fact: There are many reasons that people may choose to have an affair and, therefore, many types of affairs. These include: 1. Conflict Avoidance Affairs; 2. Intimacy Avoidance Affairs; 3. Individual (Existential or Developmental) Base Affairs; 4. Sexual Addiction Affairs; 5. Accidental-Brief Affairs; 6. Philandering & Other Individual Tendencies; 7. Retribution Affairs; 8. Bad Marriage Affairs; 9. Exit Affairs; 10. Parallel Lives Affairs; 11. Online Affairs.

Myth: Full disclosure of all the details of the affair to the betrayed spouse is prerequisite to healing the marriage.
Fact: Most authors who advocate full and complete disclosure take the moralistic-puritanical view of affairs. The fact is that giving the uninvolved partner all the X-rated details of the affair can be haunting, traumatizing and can easily fuel obsessions. Sharing general information regarding when, where, with whom, how it started and who else knew, is often sufficient. Therapists must conduct a careful risk-benefit analysis before encouraging or instructing clients to disclose about their affairs. Some affairs are best kept secret, as such disclosures by women can increase the likelihood of domestic violence and even domestic homicide.

Myth: Extramarital affairs are never consensual.
Fact: Open marriages used to be popular in the 1970s and are still around. Some couples have reached a consensus regarding extramarital sexual relationships, as is the case in heterosexual marriage when one partner has decided to pursue gay relationships with the consent of the partner.

Myth: Concerns about AIDS and other STDs will reduce the frequency of affairs.
Fact: Statistics do not support this. Not only did AIDS not reduce infidelity, in fact less than one-half of individuals reporting sex outside the marriage use safe-sex with their primary and secondary sex partners.

Myth: Conducting couple therapy is the best approach to dealing with an infidelity crisis.
Fact: No one approach is the best with any psychological problem or crisis. Therapists must take into consideration the type of affair, the personalities, ages, culture, length of marriage and many other factors when constructing a treatment plan. Sometimes the combination of individual and couple therapy may be effective.


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