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Infidelity and Coping Mechanisms

Author: Qinghao Ma

Editor: Viola Chen

Artist: Susan Wu

Amidst tissues and tears, screaming and crying, and arguments and yelling, the question looms: what is the real reason why people cheat in relationships? Infidelity, the betrayal and breaking of one’s commitment to a partner in a romantic relationship, has affected numerous couples for several reasons. According to a 2021 survey held by Health Testing Centers that included 441 participants, a little over 46% of the population reported having affairs. Why do people cheat? Are there obvious signs? And how could couples possibly recover afterward?

First, let’s dive into the five main types of infidelity: opportunistic infidelity, obligatory infidelity, romantic infidelity, conflicted romantic infidelity, and commemorative infidelity. Opportunistic infidelity refers to someone who is in love and attached to their partner yet succumbs to their sexual desire for another person. Obligatory infidelity involves cheating in order to gain attention and the approval of others. Romantic infidelity stems from the lack of emotional attachment to their partner, which leads to the desire to cheat because they long for an intimate and loving connection with someone else. Conflicted romantic infidelity refers to the infidelity that occurs when a person experiences love and sexual desire for multiple people simultaneously. Even though idealistic notions make us believe that there is only one true love, some people do experience immense romantic love for more than one person at the same time. Last but not least, commemorative infidelity occurs when the person has no love or sexual desire for their partner and is only in a relationship due to a sense of obligation to keep the relationship intact. All five types of infidelity have their similarities as well as their differences. Nevertheless, all types will result in some degree of heartbreak between the people involved.

Moving on, people cheat for a variety of reasons. Infidelity could feel extremely exciting and seductive to someone. It could confer feelings of renewal, rejuvenation, and joy. Surveys of cheaters indicate that falling out of love, seeking variety, along with feeling neglected are the most recurring reasons why people cheat. Less known reasons include situational forces, a desire to raise self-esteem, as well as an evolving amount of anger problems with their partner. Most people are aware of the costs of cheating, yet they still do it, especially in marriages. Infidelity could lead to divorce, parental disruption, depression, anxiety, or even domestic abuse. According to Psychology Today, 16% of adults, around 20% of men and 13% of women, have reported that they have had sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse while in a marriage. 

Detecting cheating isn’t always easy, but there are some obvious clues that can hint at what could potentially be happening. Some particular signs from the partner who is cheating include a lack of sleep, heightened protection of electronic devices, hypercriticism, reduced interest in sexual intercourse, constant distraction and stress, increased difficulty in connecting with others, and heightened demand for privacy. 

Is there a way to fix this? According to a survey conducted by Ladders, 57% of cheaters were ultimately forgiven by their partner. Of that, 21% were forgiven immediately, and 36% were forgiven after a period of  time, which means that there are ways to fix what has been broken. At first, when an affair is revealed or discovered, powerful emotions are let out by both partners. The partner who cheated could potentially fear that they will never be forgiven. On the other hand, the partner who got cheated on might feel traumatized, betrayed, stressed, as well as depressed. In order to attempt to rebuild the relationship, it is recommended to make rational decisions, give each other space, seek professional support, and take your time. Recovering from an affair is an extremely challenging time within a relationship. However, if the couples rebuild their trust, take responsibility for their actions, resolve conflict, forgive mistakes, and continue to show unconditional love, the process could potentially deepen the love and affection within the relationship.

Infidelity undoubtedly hurts relationships, but with proper care and love, relationships could turn out stronger than before. Does that mean people should cheat in hopes of strengthening a relationship? Obviously not, because it will inevitably cause permanent damage that not even time could fix. Nevertheless, things could possibly work out if both partners decide that what they have is special and they will not let an affair break them apart. 



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