Sexual infidelity generally creates a significant amount of relationship damage regardless of whether it is a one-time event or an ongoing affair with someone outside of the primary partnership. When most people take a marriage oath or make a decision to live in a common-law situation, being faithful typically places sexual fidelity at the top of the list as it relates to this commitment. There are many who debate the legitimacy of taking such an oath or making such a commitment and the human condition for lifelong mating; this forum does not provide the space to address such a debate. Instead, we will focus on the decision that people make in taking an oath of faithfulness and then breaching said commitment. Sexual infidelity has a broad spectrum of definition; a prime example of this was the infamous statement by past president Bill Clinton who made the now famous comment of “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”…which at the time was meant to mean that there was not sexual intercourse and simply was used as a spin on words. For anyone unclear on this topic, physical/sexual infidelity ranges from hand-holding, kissing, sexual body massages, oral stimulation, to intercourse. If you believe that it is not infidelity unless you have sexual intercourse, you would be sorely mistaken in that belief.
There are numerous rationales for infidelities to occur, some of the reasons that physical/sexual infidelities occur include:
- A consummation of an already present emotional affair
- Seeking unmet sexual needs outside the primary relationship
- As a response to “sexual bargaining” within a relationship
- As a means to meet unresolved ego needs
- As a “one-night stand” in an inebriated state
- As a passive/aggressive response to the primary relationship
The vast majority of long-term affairs have little to do with the sexual components; most long-term affairs are emotionally driven and thus more of a danger to the primary relationship. There are some who have “affairs” that last longer than their primary relationships—they may go through a couple of marriages all the while maintaining their infidelity. No matter the rationale for the infidelity, it is a breach to the foundation of a relationship and may cause irreparable damage. It is equally important to note that a sexual/physical affair is NEVER an appropriate response or action regardless of the rationale; there are always other options available to address the issues of a relationship.
Historically, the “cheater” was ostracized by the partner, family, friends, society, and even clinicians. Over the past 20 years, significant research has been conducted to show that most infidelities are resultant and signs of dysfunctional relationships as a whole versus solely an individual issue. This statement is not to imply an equitable responsibility for the infidelity but that without exploration both sides run the risks of repetitive patterning. Primary responsibility for the infidelity clearly rests with the person who decided to take such action—for without the infidelity we are simply at individual and/or relationship problems which are less complicated than dealing with the hurts/ pains/ embarrassments etc that additionally go with having been cheated upon.
A few points about infidelities that is important to make…
- Someone always gets hurt
- These are a fantasy world and a non-reality
- Affairs create significant emotional damages and for some spiritual distancing
- Besides a partner, where children are affected there is major familial and developmental damages
We have explored the different types of infidelities (Emotional, Sexual, or Combined) and some of the rationales why each of these occur. Next time we will look at “what would be required if two people choose to rebuild after an affair” and then finally “what are the chances of an affair becoming a successful relationship”.
TODAY HAS STARTED—HAVE A GREAT ONE!