Running head: MARITAL INFIDELITY
The risks and rewards of infidelity in marriages
University of Kentucky
Infidelity, whether people are aware they are doing it or not, is widespread in our society. There
are many types of
infidelity and the kind I am focusing on for this paper is marital infidelity. I
researched what factors and why married couples commit either emotional or sexual infidelity
and what preventative and restorative measures couples use to mend their relation
Longitudinal studies were performed on couples from the premarital stages through the first few
years of marriage (Allen, Rhoades, Stanley, Markman, Williams, Melton, & Clements, 2008).
The studies showed males committed infidelity because of high
female invalidation, low positive
male communication, and low male sexual fulfillment. Females committed infidelity because of
low positive female communication and high levels of male and female invalidation and negative
communication. However, problem
s can be resolved if both partners are willing. When treating
marital infidelity, personality factors should be taken into consideration for determining the
targets, path, and outcome of therapy (Bagarozzi, 2008).
: Marital infidelity, emotional,
sexual, relationships, therapy
Marital Infidelity: The risks and rewards of infidelity in marriages
I can honestly say there are so many concepts that I did not even know existed if it were
not for this course. Infidelity is one of them, especially emo
tional infidelity. I started a new
internship last fall and met so many great people. I have become especially close to one of the
guys. Our friendship started out by him thinking I hated him, which is not true; I just do not put
forth effort into talki
ng to people who do not respond back (he is really shy). We started
spending a lot more time together and got to know each other well. He had a girlfriend, which I
did not think anything of at first
until we covered infidelity in this course. We did n
anything physical and our conversations were always neutral, meaning nothing was ever sexual
about our relationship. As we started discussing emotional infidelity, I noticed everything we
talked about could relate to my relationship with this guy.
We were really close, spent a lot of
time together, and even talked about personal and family issues. Even though I did not realize it
and we were not doing anything physical, if his girlfriend knew the extent of our close
relationship I do not think she
would have been particularly happy about it. (They are broken up
now, by the way). This got me thinking about how often infidelity occurs in marriages. Not just
emotional, but also sexual infidelity and any other category I had not yet discovered. The
purpose of this paper is to evaluate research constructed around infidelity in marriages and
translate it to pertinent advice for those seeking it.
The common population in the United States grows up in a monogamous household and
extramarital affairs are usually frowned upon. However, as painful and shameful as it is,
infidelity exists in the world. My question is
does it exist? A longitudinal
by Allen, Rhoades, Stanley, Markman, Williams, Melton, & Clements (2008) studied the
infidelity rates of 72 heterosexual couples engaged in premarital relationships through the first
few years of their marriages. According to Allen et al.
(2008), many theoretical models have
been related to infidelity such as attachment theory, investment model, and social constructionist
theory. These theories have been linked to infidelity because they pertain to intrapersonal
factors; satisfaction, comm
itment, and investment; and cultural socialization, respectively (Allen
et al., 2008).
During this study, men and women’s infidelity was studied separately. Tsapelas, Fisher,
& Aron (2011) attested that, “American women are more disapproving of sexual in
premarital committed relationships than are men.” The studies presented that females committed
infidelity because of low positive female communication and high levels of male and female
invalidation and negative communication. Males committed
infidelity because of high female
invalidation, low positive male communication, and low male sexual fulfillment. Allen et al.
(2008) summarized that, “
sectional research suggests that general relationship
dissatisfaction may be more of a fac
tor in women’s infidelity whereas sexual dissatisfaction may
be more of a factor in men’s infidelity.” Premarital training programs are suggested as a possible
preventative measure to help couples fight infidelity before they decide to get married.
though, “marriage is more unstable than ever,” Americans are still getting married
in large numbers, according to Campbell & Wright (2010). This study showed that marriages in
the United States are generally based on satisfaction and love. However, as we
have come to
know, this is not always the case in marriages. In 2008, Campbell and Wright conducted an
Internet survey asking newlywed couples across the United States what they thought their
chances were of infidelity and divorce. Approximately half of
the couples thought there was
some chance (greater than zero) of experiencing infidelity and a whopping 72% believed there
was a possibility of divorce. Interestingly, “90% of American husbands and wives who had
engaged in some form of infidelity felt th
ere were conditions under which this behavior was
acceptable” (Tsapelas, Fisher, & Aron, 2011). The main factors this study revealed that trigger
people to commit infidelity are anger, career advances, jealousy, social status, and depression
(Campbell & W
right, 2010). People marrying for love, rather than political, social, and
economic status (as we used to see more frequently), is part of the reason we are seeing infidelity
and high divorce rates. “
This shift has made marriage more unstable because whe
n love fades,
as it inevitably does, individuals often seek out new partners” (Campbell & Wright, 2010).
Differing from the views of Campbell & Wright, I came across a study performed by
Greeley (1994). According to Greeley, infidelity “does not correlat
e with education, religious
affiliation, or geographic region.” Instead, gender is the most consistent foreteller of infidelity
rates. Greeley found that women in the workplace had higher risks of infidelity. He also found
that women are more likely to
commit infidelity at an earlier age and at more of a consistent rate
through the marriage. Infidelity gradually increases with time for men. Only at around age 50
do we see a decline in infidelity amongst both genders.
Another possible element of marita
l infidelity comes from Shackelford, Besser, & Goetz
(2008). Shackelford et al. collected data from 107 married couples and concluded that marital
satisfaction and personality account for why couples engage in infidelity. Shackelford et al.
“Five Factor Model” (FFM) of personality as being a pertinent “lexical approach”
in the way we interact and get along with each other. “A lexical approach holds that the most
important variation in human cognition, affect, and behavior will have been enc
oded into the
language” (Shackelford et al., 2008). The five factors include: surgency, agreeableness,
conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness/experience/intellect/culture. Two
personalities can be compatibly equated using this Five Factor M
Thus personality is a key factor in determining whether a partner will commit infidelity in
a relationship, according to Shackelford et al. Low agreeableness and conscientiousness were
the two factors from the model most associated with marital inf
idelity. Meaning if agreeableness
and conscientiousness were highly compatible, then couples proved to have a strong relationship.
Dissatisfaction in the relationship also proved to increase the longing for participation in extra
dyadic relationships. I
nterestingly, although kind of obviously, Shackelford et al. also reported
that, “men and women who are involved in both sexual and emotional infidelities are even more
dissatisfied with their marriages than are those engaged in either sexual
only or emoti
Sexual and emotional infidelity, however, are not the only types found in marriages. An
increase in online infidelity has recently posed challenges for married couples. Mao & Raguram
(2009) report that, “With the development of
the Internet, the definition of infidelity now
includes a romantic and/or sexual relationship with someone other than the spouse, which begins
with an online contact and is maintained mainly through electronic conversations that occur
mail and ch
at rooms.” Online relationships constitute as actual infidelity because like
sexual or emotional infidelity scenarios, the perpetrator is already in a committed relationship as
he or she begins an online romance and it is kept a secret from the partner.
Similar to people
dealing with sexual or emotional infidelity, people who committed online infidelity showed
dissatisfaction and disappointment with their current relationships (Mao & Raguram, 2009).
Mao & Raguram assisted couples dealing with online infi
delity by issuing marital
therapy. First, the offender was instructed to vent his or her frustrations and distress. At the
same time, the therapist educated the other spouse about online infidelity. Then, the couple
focused on increasing intimacy and ti
me spent together. Any other concerns about the couple’s
intimacy were discussed and clarified. Fortunately, both partners agreed to marital therapy and it
proved to be a successful treatment option (Mao & Raguram, 2009).
Marital therapy can be a good i
dea for most couples when managing infidelity.
Bagarozzi (2008) explains that it is important to keep in mind, “
Marital dynamics, especially
how spouses perceive the voluntary/non
voluntary nature of their marriage, is shown to be
another important factor
in determining the course, goals and outcome of therapy when infidelity
is the presenting problem.” Bagarozzi studied the seven most common types of extramarital
relationships: brief encounters, periodic sexual encounters, instrumental and utilitarian af
term affairs triggered by developmental challenges or changing life circumstances,
paraphiliac affairs, cathartic affairs, and more complex and enduring relationships. However,
Bagarozzi noted that it is important to assess couples before adm
A methodical assessment of the couples’ marriage is performed before treatment is
In order to help couples that present with this concern, a therapist must be able to
assess a number of inter
related factors” (Bagarozzi, 20
A trust scale, justification of
extramarital involvement questionnaire, marital disaffection scale, spousal inventory of desired
changes and relationship barriers, and a forgiveness test are administered before therapy. The
therapist must take into
consideration marital structure, the personality of the spouses, and the
couples’ dynamics before deciding which therapy strategy to implement (Bagarozzi, 2008).
Hopefully, couples would be able to heal and grow past infidelity through the aid of marital
therapy. Unfortunately, we do see some couples not willing to forgive and reconcile after an
admission of marital infidelity.
Based on this research, my advice would be to definitely engage in marital therapy if you
find yourself in
an infidelity situation. If you are willing to forgive the person who wronged you
(who has meant the most to you in the past), then it would be beneficial to try to fix your
marriage. It would be miserable for a marriage to end when a couple could attemp
t to repair
their relationship through therapy.
Talking your problems out with your partner could save your marriage. Communication
is key is any relationship and if you are feeling frustrated, neglected, disappointed, angry
, then you should d
iscuss it with your spouse. Expressing your concerns with your
partner could even prevent infidelity from happening in the first place, which would be ideal. A
solid relationship needs closeness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, all qualities that t
research also revealed.
There are many resources available for advice or therapy options.
more about the origins, prevalence, and mistakes made after infidelity. This website also
provides healing options and advice for therapy and dealing with marital infidelity. This
article and video is fascinating because Caroline Modarressy
how she committed the “trifecta” of infidelity. Modarressy
Tehrani was the child of an affair,
her husband cheated on her, and s
he slept with a married man. The video/article explains how
infidelity affects relationships differently.
Hopefully, if you or your spouse commits marital infidelity you now know how to deal
with and overcome it. Any discontent toward your partner or re
lationship can lead to damaging
actions that could jeopardize your relationship. Communicating is essential, as well as
expressing any concerns of rough patches in your relationship. There is no reason for a
relationship to fall apart if preventative mea
sures can be taken.
Allen, E. S., Rhoades, G., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., Williams, T., Melton, J., & Clements,
M. L. (2008). Premarital Precursors of Marital Infidelity.
Family Process, 47
Bagarozzi, D. A. (2008). Understanding and Treating Marital Infidelity: A Multidimensional
American Journal Of Family Therapy
Campbell, K., &
Wright, D. W. (2010). Marriage Today: Exploring the Incongruence Between
Americans' Beliefs and Practices.
Journal Of Comparative Family Studies, 41
Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2005). Marital infidelity. Retrieved from:
Greeley, A. (1994). Marital Infidelity.
HuffPost Live (2012, November 20). The Mistress Trifecta: how one woman experienced
infidelity from every side. Retrieved from:
Mao, A., & Raguram, A. (2009). O
nline infidelity: The new challenge to marriages.
Journal Of Psychiatry, 51
Shackelford, T. K., Besser, A., & Goetz, A. T. (2008). Personality, Marital Satisfaction, and
Probability of Marital Infidelity.
ividual Differences Research, 6
Tsapelas, I., Fisher, H. E., & Aron, A. (2011). Infidelity: when, where, why. In W. Cupach & B.
The dark side of close relationships II
189). New York, NY:
Taylor and Francis.