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Cheating is one of the few things in the world that people have a general agreement on; that it’s bad. It’s one of the most common reasons for a relationship to terminate. It tears families apart and causes people who were once madly in love to never speak again. Yet infidelity occurs in 20-25% of all marriages, with statistics continuing to rise dramatically.

As the years progress, more and more people are challenging norms that exist in monogamy and in cultural and religious beliefs, yet cheating is still seen as a taboo. The definition of cheating differs across cultures and circumstances. Is watching porn cheating on your partner? Is a woman using a sex toy to explore and get to know her vagina cheating on her husband? Can a virgin lose her virginity to a dildo? Is it still cheating if he/she was drunk and doesn’t remember it? Is a man liking another girl’s picture on Instagram cheating on his girlfriend?

Selfishness

In this modern society self-love is encouraged in books, magazines and online. ’’Satisfy your body!’’, ‘’Go after what you really want!’’ are what we’re being told. The popularity of astrology encourages readers to respond to your energy and give it what it needs. Female masturbation which was once seen as something to keep quiet about is now more freely expressed and encouraged. Sex therapists are prescribing women with vaginismus (a disorder which causes the vagina to tighten and stay dry as a result of trauma) to have a ‘date with your vagina’. It is therefore becoming more acceptable to want your needs filled.

What Predicts Infidelity?

Gender

In the evolutionary view on infidelity men are more likely to be distressed by their partner engaging in sexual infidelity. Women are more distressed by emotional infidelity, as it would cause uncertainty of resources for her family. Research has suggested that men are better able to separate love from sexual activity.

Individual Characteristics

A range of characteristics are positively associated with infidelity including an insecure attachment style, neuroticism, previous history of infidelity and problematic drinking.  If an individual comes from a family that experienced infidelity, they are then twice as likely to engage in cheating. Attitudes towards sex are also factors in predicting infidelity for example individuals who are better able to have sex with another and dissociate it from closeness, love or commitment are more likely to commit infidelity.

The Internet

The internet offers a person seeking an affair a pool of tempting opportunities. With 20-33% of people on the web seeking sexual pleasure. Sites such as AshelyMadison.com exist solely for the purposive of having an affair.

Handling Cheating

Nowadays there’s more openness and discussion in relationships. If a partner cheats, it no longer must be the end of the world. It can open-up a discussion on what the relationship is missing or how can it be improved.

If infidelity is done in secret and behind a partner’s back it still can be harmful. If you feel you have an inability to commit or have all your needs filled by one partner than an open relationship could be the best option.

An open relationship will involve serious discussions, most likely a lot of rules and a resistance of jealously. However, if it works for you and your partner there are several benefits such as: communication improvement, management of mismatched sex drives, less risk of heartbreak and reduction in guilt.

As the rate of infidelity rises so is our ability to talk more openly. Exploring and satisfying your sexual needs while also having your emotional needs met are highly important. Individual opinions on cheating differ globally and each person is free to do whatever they desire however, alternative options such as couple counselling or transitioning to an open relationship are helpful options.

References

Fincham, F. D., & May, R. W. (2016). Infidelity in romantic relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 13, 70–74.

Sharpe, D. I., Walters, A. S., & Goren, M. J. (2013). Effect of Cheating Experience on Attitudes Towards Infidelity. Sexuality & Culture, 17, 643-658.

Turk, V. (2019, March 11). The Problem With Telling Women to Email Like Men. Retrieved from http://www.vice.com

Elaine O’Dwyer is an Applied Psychology graduate from Ireland. She is currently working as in intern at Willingness Hub. Elaine’s main areas of interest are in psychotherapy and holistic therapies.