This is not a justification for cheating. It’s a new way of looking at and understanding infidelity.
I know you’re happily married. I also know that morally you, like the majority of people globally, are opposed to infidelity. I also know that you have been impacted by infidelity either as a witness, child, confidant, friend. And so you know there is just nothing that hurts quite as badly as infidelity.
However, perhaps your relationship is in need of a little drama. Maybe domesticity and daily drudgery are dragging you down. A little private adult time would work nicely, thank you. Passion and purpose seem like a long-forgotten dream. You yearn for something, but can’t quite put your finger on what it is.
So when your best friend’s partner begins to seriously hit on you, when you not only create a fake profile on a dating site, but actually make the commitment to go offline and meet “in real life” [IRL], you suddenly feel alive, and life has a purpose and you throb with passion. Those sacred vows and commitments of monogamy and sexual fidelity get set aside for the transcendent feelings you experience. You re-meet your sexual self. You create a new sexuality that you never knew was there. You’re funny, articulate and begin to gym, groom and groove.
This is not a justification for cheating. It’s a new way of looking at and understanding infidelity. It’s admitting that it feels so good, that the idea of giving it up leaves you depressed, distressed and confused.
In a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, 495 adults (average age of 20) were recruited through a university and online to complete a 77-item questionnaire about their motivations for engaging in infidelity.
These eight themes emerged:
This included cheating out of a desire to get back at a partner who had cheated or was suspected of having done so. It also included the desire to get back at a partner who had done something else upsetting (something that wasn’t an act of infidelity).
2. Sexual desire
This included a desire to try certain sex acts that one’s partner wasn’t interested in, a desire for more frequent sex, as well as confusion about one’s sexual orientation.
3. Lack of love
This included uncertainty about being with the “right” person, falling out of love with a partner, and growing bored with the relationship.
This included not spending enough time with one’s partner, frequent conflict or trouble in the relationship, as well as feeling that one’s partner had been neglectful.
5. Lack of commitment
This included not having communicated about relationship rules and labels, not wanting to get too close to someone, and wanting to have children with somebody else.
6. Situational factors
This included being on vacation, being drunk, being friends with other people who had affairs, and feeling like you couldn’t resist a person who was making moves on you.
This included wanting to assert one’s independence, boost one’s self-esteem, a desire to reignite the spark with one’s primary partner, as well as a desire to prove to a partner that others find you attractive.
This included wanting more variety in sexual partners, being confident that one’s partner wouldn’t find out about the affair, and wanting to take advantages of sexual opportunities before marriage.
Okay, so you all get this; you can relate to this as motivations for cheating. This is “Cheating Reasons #101”.
But we are “woke” and want to be honest, so let’s shift gears a little and include in this traditional conversation talk about the person who is happily married with none of the above motivations.
As a couple and sex therapist working with cyber infidelity and IRL infidelity, I have been made aware of the political incorrectness of infidelity.
What I mean by this is that infidelity can bring back life to a dead marriage, passion to a sexless couple, honesty to a complacent couple and actually elevate that relationship to heights not ever dreamed of, with extreme seriousness, although this does not remove the pain and trauma of infidelity. Nothing erases that.
As you accept pain will ensue, as well as the fact that you will most probably get caught out, I invite you to stretch yourself and consider that infidelity can be and might be a trauma-inducing experience for you personally and your relationship. Do you agree or disagree with my statement?
Here is my list of positive outcomes of nonconsensual nonmonogamy:
1. Personal growth – through intimacy with another adult you discover parts of yourself that are unable to be expressed freely in your relationship; emotionally, intellectually, sexually.
2. It is an alternative to divorce, a way of staying happily married without hurting anyone.
3. Raw honesty forces a couple to examine the problems that made one vulnerable to an affair. This brings a much-needed higher consciousness to a relationship.
4. Jealousy revitalises passion, even a new kind of passion. Experiencing the harsh stabbings of jealousy on the discovery of infidelity stirs eroticism. With therapy, this can be sustained long-term.
5. It allows you to realise what you really desire in a relationship. To your surprise, you may find via infidelity that you are attracted to a certain lifestyle, sexual expression. Relating this to a partner has potential to either benefit a long-term relationship, or bring it to a gentle close.
6. It is a foolish way to end a relationship – but it’s a way to exit an unhappy or unhealthy relationship.
Read Esther Perel’s new book “The State of Affairs“. I did. Recently I even attended her workshop at a conference in Washington, D.C. She makes infidelity positively possible while warning of consequences.
My opinion? There is nothing quite like the exquisite ecstasy of infidelity, especially cyber infidelity. And there is nothing quite like the exquisite pain it brings. Let’s acknowledge both positions without judgment. And then lean in for a more rational discussion on how to structure your relationship to be able to live and love more openly and honestly, either as a dyad or in an open relationship.