Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York–Presbyterian Hospital, and the author of Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie, contributed to Oprah.com with an article focusing on the hurtful effects of emotional infidelity.
Some think, “I haven’t had any physical contact with anyone else, so it’s not cheating.” Wrong. According to Saltz, “Emotional cheating (with an ‘office husband,’ a chat room lover, or a newly appealing ex) steers clear of physical intimacy, but it does involve secrecy, deception, and therefore betrayal. People enmeshed in nonsexual affairs preserve their ‘deniability,’ convincing themselves they don’t have to change anything. That’s where they’re wrong. If you think about it, it’s the breach of trust, more than the sex, that’s the most painful aspect of an affair and, I can tell you from my work as a psychiatrist, the most difficult to recover from.”
Maybe your spouse is feeling mundane in the relationship, bored, frustrated, isolated, etc. There comes a time when some people decide that “it is what it is” and steer clear of attempting to improve their marriage. This opens up the door to trouble, and according to Saltz, “while they aren’t consciously in the market, they are ripe for an affair of the heart: hungry for attention, craving excitement, and eager for someone to fill the emptiness they feel inside.”
Your spouse may rely on another person for the emotional satisfaction that is no longer provided to them. Saltz is finding that this type of infidelity is becoming alarmingly common. And with today’s technology and an abundance of ways to privately connect with other individuals, emotional affairs (with can and do turn into sexual ones) are taking a toll on marriages everywhere.
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Biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher, explains that love is one of three brain systems related to mating and reproduction. The other two brain systems however, explain why humans are capable of infidelity even though we place high value on love. Since we could never put this in laymen’s terms, here is Fisher’s explanation, posted by www.ideas.ted.com, of why cheating occurs, how common cheating is, and how it may relate to a gene.
1. “Pairbonding is a hallmark of humanity. Data from the Demographic Yearbooks of the United Nations on 97 societies between 1947 and 1992 indicate that approximately 93.1% of women and 91.8% of men marry by age 49. More recent data indicates that some 85% of Americans will eventually marry.”
2. “However, monogamy is only part of the human reproductive strategy. Infidelity is also widespread. Current studies of American couples indicate that 20 to 40% of heterosexual married men and 20 to 25% of heterosexual married women will also have an extramarital affair during their lifetime.”
3. “Brain architecture may contribute to infidelity. Human beings have three primary brain systems related to love. 1) The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek copulation with a range of partners; 2) romantic love evolved to motivate individuals to focus their mating energy on specific partners, thereby conserving courtship time and metabolic energy; 3) partner attachment evolved to motivate mating individuals to remain together at least long enough to rear a single child through infancy together. These three basic neural systems interact with one another and other brain systems in myriad flexible, combinatorial patterns to provide the range of motivations, emotions and behaviors necessary to orchestrate our complex human reproductive strategy. But this brain architecture makes it biologically possible to express deep feelings of attachment for one partner, while one feels intense romantic love for another individual, while one feels the sex drive for even more extra-dyadic partners.”
4. “Infidelity has been a reality across cultures. It was also common among the classical Greeks and Romans, pre-industrial Europeans, historical Japanese, Chinese and Hindus and among the traditional Inuit of the arctic, Kuikuru of the jungles of Brazil, Kofyar of Nigeria, Turu of Tanzania and many other tribal societies.”
5. “There are different types of infidelity. Researchers have broadened the definition of infidelity to include sexual infidelity (sexual exchange with no romantic involvement), romantic infidelity (romantic exchanges with no sexual involvement) and sexual and romantic involvement.”
6. “Myriad psychological, cultural and economic variables play a role in the frequency and expression of infidelity. But one thing is clear: infidelity is a worldwide phenomenon that occurs with remarkable regularity, despite near universal disapproval of this behavior.”
7. “Mate poaching is a pronounced trend. In a recent survey of single American men and women, 60% of men and 53% of women admitted to “mate poaching,” trying to woo an individual away from a committed relationship to begin a relationship with them instead. Mate poaching is also common in 30 other cultures.”
8. “Infidelity doesn’t necessarily signal an unhappy relationship. Regardless of the correlation between relationship dissatisfaction and adultery, among individuals engaging in infidelity in one study, 56% of men and 34% of women rated their marriage as ‘happy’ or ‘very happy,’ suggesting that genetics may also play a role in philandering.”
9. “Studies show the possibility of a gene that correlates to infidelity. In 2008, Walum and colleagues investigated whether the various genes affect pair-bonding behavior in humans; 552 couples were examined; all had been married or co-habiting for at least five years. Men carrying the 334 vasopressin allele in a specific region of the vasopressin system scored significantly lower on the Partner Bonding Scale, indicating less feelings of attachment to their spouse. Moreover, their scores were dose dependent: those carrying two of these genes showed the lowest scores, followed by those carrying only one allele. Men carrying the 334 gene also experienced more marital crisis (including threat of divorce) during the past year, and men with two copies of this gene were approximately twice as likely to have had a marital crisis than those who had inherited either one or no copies of this allele. Last, the partners of men with one or two copies of this gene scored significantly lower on questionnaires measuring marital satisfaction. This study did not measure infidelity directly, but it did measure several factors likely to contribute to infidelity.”
10. “Several scientists have offered theories for the evolution of human adultery. I have proposed that during prehistory, philandering males disproportionately reproduced, selecting for the biological underpinnings of the roving eye in contemporary men. Unfaithful females reaped economic resources from their extra-dyadic partnerships, as well as additional males to help with parenting duties if their primary partner died or deserted them. Moreover, if an ancestral woman bore a child with this extra-marital partner, she also increased genetic variety in her descendants. Infidelity had unconscious biological payoffs for both males and females throughout prehistory, thus perpetuating the biological underpinnings and taste for infidelity in both sexes today.”
Huffington Post Divorce posted the findings of a study conducted by Texas A&M University which concluded that a male’s stronger sexual impulses could be to blame for his cheating habits, not his lack of self-control.
The first of two studies asked 70 males and 149 females how they responded to past sexual temptations.
The authors of the study, Natasha Tidwell and Paul Eastwick, concluded that men and women have no evident differences in self-control. However…
According to Tidwell, “When men reflected on their past sexual behavior, they reported experiencing relatively stronger impulses and acting on those impulses more than women did.”
Eastwick pointed out that men cheat most often because they give in to their sexual impulses. “Men have plenty of self-control — just as much as women. However, if men fail to use self-control, their sexual impulses can be quite strong. This is often the situation when cheating occurs,” Eastwick explained.
The second study consisted of 326 men and 274 women given a rapid-response test. During the test, researchers showed participants photos of generally attractive/desirable potential romantic partners, as well as generally unattractive/undesirable potential romantic partners. Each photo was also accompanied by computer-generated compatibility information. The participants were asked whether or not they’d like to enter into a romantic relationship with that person.
The study found that, “men were more likely to accept attractive people, regardless of whether the computer deemed them a good or bad match. According to the researchers, this indicates that men have a stronger impulse to become romantically involved with desirable individuals even if the relationship would be bad — like an affair would be.”
Check out this infographic posted by Richard Johnson of the National Post demonstrating the
demographics of adultery according to a 2011 survey of 918 US adults by the Kinsey Institute
for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
23.2% of men and 19.2% of women featured below said they had cheating in their current relationship!
GQ featured an article referring new data compiled from the most popular dating site for people looking for extramarital affairs, AshleyMadison.com.
According to GQ…cheaters cheat for disappointingly predictable and unentertaining reasons, such as…”because they’re rich and they just want to, okay?”
AshleyMadison surveyed 53,000 members and revealed that “80.3 percent of male cheaters and 72.3 percent of females out-earn their spouses, and 81% of males and 77 percent of females spend more than $500 on their cheating partners. By comparison, only 47 percent of men surveyed and 40% of women spend as much on their spouses.”
AshleyMadison’s founder and CEO, Noel Biderman, says, “We were not entirely surprised by the findings since cheaters are often the well-connected earners who have the means to do what they want.”
Another interesting tidbit. Over 50% of the cheaters have 300+ LinkedIn connections. And according to GQ, it’s “because that’s the kind of people they are. People who really enjoy spending time on the website LinkedIn. You know, super exciting people.”