Introduction to Infidelity
Infidelity or adultery can have a truly devastating impact on relationships, families and lives. Rather than live in fear of the possibility that your spouse is committing infidelity or remain paralyzed by a betrayal that has taken place, you can educate yourself on infidelity and empower yourself to prevent infidelity from happening, or move on from the experience and heal.
The following is an overview of the different forms of infidelity, its causes and effects, and steps for preventing and recovering from infidelity.
As explained by Then (1999), regardless of their religious orientation, most people agree and understand that marriage vows implicitly and explicitly include a promise of “forsaking all others” (p. 4). When this promise is broken, infidelity has occurred in a marriage.
While adultery is more concretely defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man or woman with someone other than his or her spouse, experts disagree on precisely what infidelity entails. There is, however, a growing consensus that infidelity is not limited to sexual unfaithfulness, but that it also occurs when a spouse forms a strong emotional attachment outside of marriage.
According to Lusterman (1998), infidelity can take on several different forms. He defines an affair as an extramarital involvement that takes place over time. Affairs can be emotionally intense but non-sexual relationships, purely sexual involvements with no emotional bond, or can include both sexual and emotional involvement.
The bottom line is that upon establishment of a committed relationship, “if there is a secret sexual and/or romantic involvement outside of the relationship, it is experienced as infidelity” (Lusterman, 1998, p. 18).
Statistics on the frequency of adultery or infidelity in the United States are hotly debated and difficult to gauge accurately. Many people provide false responses during studies of infidelity. Also, studies do not tend to take into account a person’s entire life, but focus their questioning only on a person’s current marriage.
So, how many people commit infidelity? According to Peterson (2003), after reviewing 25 studies of infidelity, renowned psychologist and marital researcher Shirley Glass, author of several books on the subject of infidelity, estimates that “25% of wives and 44% of husbands have committed infidelity.” This, however, does not include emotional affairs in which no sexual activity has taken place.