Infidelity and Affairs:
Myth, Realities and Effective Therapies

Infidelity, contrary to the assumption of most people, is neither rare nor exclusively men’s domain, nor does it necessarily mean the end of the marriage. In fact, almost a third of all marriages may need to confront and deal with the aftermath of extramarital affairs and women’s statistics are rapidly catching up to those of men. Infidelity has become an equal opportunity affair. Even more bad news is that the Internet or online affairs have become extremely prevalent and, some claim, pose one of the biggest threats to modern marriages. The good news is that extramarital affairs are survivable and marriages can even grow stronger when members of the couple deal constructively with the affair by facing it, apologizing and ultimately forgiving.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once suggested that monogamy is the hardest of all human marital arrangements. The statistics are there to support her claim. The infidelity of many famous people has been dealt with publicly. These include presidents (e.g., Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson and French President Francois Mitterrand), public figures (e.g., Prince Charles, Marion Barry, Gary Hart, Martin Luther King, Jim Bakker) and actors and actresses (i.e., Spencer Tracy’s life long affair with Katharine Hepburn, Bill Cosby, Sophia Loren). Correspondingly, many movies have dealt with affairs, most notably, The Bridges of Madison County, Out of Africa, The Horse Whisperer, Matchpoint, Icestorm, Closer and, of course, The Graduate.

More innovative online courses for CE credits


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: esearch 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.


Sign up for topical updates and invitations to participate with Dr. Zur