Have you ever been a victim of infidelity, or are you someone who has indulged in it? Have you ever thought about the reasons for infidelity?
So much occurs during our development from infancy through adolescence, and it all contributes to how we eventually act in adult romantic relationships. In particular, early “implicit” and “explicit” memories impact future behavior.
Implicit memory guides or behavior outside of our awareness. These are the memories we cannot consciously remember.
Alternatively, explicit memory is that which we can recall and use to make insightful connections about how they impact our behavior.
When something we do is not within our awareness, we may have trouble figuring out why we behaved the way we did. This includes infidelity and cheating behavior.
Here are five reasons for infidelity and the implicit, unconscious processes that drive us to cheat:
1. “I got bored.”
Boredom is often cited as a reason for infidelity. Extensive evidence indicates that novelty erodes after a period of cohabitation or marriage. Relationship length is a reliable predictor of infidelity: the longer the relationship, the more likely one partner will cheat. Furthermore, married couples consistently reported a decline in marital satisfaction over time. This phenomenon leads us to the concept of “habituation.”
The habituation process is the way in which we pay attention to a stimulus. In general, after a certain period, you get used to the stimulus, as well as similar stimuli, and no longer pay attention. For example, a loud beeping sound might at first startle you, but after hearing it over and over, you start to tune it out. Over the course of habituation, there is a shift from preferring the familiar to preferring the novel. In a sense, we habituate to our partners, and novelty is found in another person.
Want to know more about why people cheat in relationships? Read Why Do People Cheat Even In Happy Relationships? 4 Myths About Infidelity and Affairs
2. “It just happened.”
When we have conflicting desires (for example, your partner vs. the attractive person flirting with you), we tend to choose alternatives that seem most relevant in that particular context at that precise moment in time. Both human (and nonhuman) animals temporarily prefer options that pay off immediately, rather than the better (but slower) option.
Infidelity studies show that being apart from a partner facilitates opportunities for extra-marital involvement, especially in the workplace. Couple this with someone who has impulsive personality traits, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Looking to know more reasons for infidelity? Read The Unedited Truth About Why Couples Cheat
3. “It was only for physical gratification.”
Having “perceptive competence,” or the ability to “read” other people and situations, is strongest in adulthood. This ability is learned in infancy and is a necessary survival tactic to help us become efficient at gauging our environment and the opportunities for action that are available. It allows for a quick assessment of situations that offer a reward or ability to meet a goal.
Opportunities that help us meet our needs (including sexual satisfaction) are called “affordances.” However, the consequences are severe when the “affordance” you pounce on is someone other than your spouse!
4. “My spouse wasn’t meeting my emotional needs.”
Affairs are often pursued to help alleviate, albeit unsuccessfully, unmet intimacy needs or a sense of growing apart. These adults are seemingly in a constant state of disequilibrium, feeling intense anxiety over abandonment and other times an avoidance of closeness.
These “insecurely attached” individuals tend to engage in short-term strategies to self-soothe. Cheating is one such unhealthy self-soothing strategy. Conversely, couples who achieve security through their relationship, improve interpersonally on many levels resulting in decreased susceptibility to infidelity.
Want to know more about emotional affairs? Read 6 Warning Signs Of An Emotional Affair
5. “I had a dysfunctional childhood.”
Everyone is susceptible to bringing their family dysfunction into their marriage. Dysfunction is primarily about how securely attached we were to a primary caretaker in childhood. Historically, attachment maximized the survival of the child in terms of access to food, learning opportunities, socialization, and protection from predators. The child also had the means to explore his/her environment knowing that a secure base (their caretaker) was always there when needed.
The attachment-exploration system imprints in childhood and continues into adulthood, transferring to our romantic partners. Equilibrium of the two systems defines a “secure attachment style.” We are continually trying to reach our attachment goals by balancing our need for closeness or distance with our partner. If you were raised with an unavailable or abusive caretaker, it might leave you with no template for security or dependency with another person. Furthermore, it may have lessened the ability to respond to a partner empathically. These factors leave a person more susceptible to affairs.
Cheating on your spouse is ultimately a volitional act and an intentional choice. Perpetrators add insult to injury when they are unable to articulate the reasons why they decided to cheat, as opposed to other means of solving marital issues. We must not discount unconscious processes that may underlie such choices or put someone at risk for such behavior in the first place. Infidelity is one of the most challenging issues couples present within therapy. Being armed with any knowledge of what caused the affair, along with ways to heal, are necessary components of treatment.
Bravo, I., & Lumpkin, P. (2010). The complex case of marital infidelity: An explanatory model of contributory processes to facilitate psychotherapy. The American Journal of Family Therapy,38:421–432.
Infidelity has always been a tough thing to come to terms with if you are someone who has experienced this. And if you are someone who has cheated on their spouse, then it is important for you to know and understand the reasons for your infidelity. This will help you resolve things with your partner and slowly go back to the happy place your relationship was initially.
If you want to know more about the reasons for infidelity, then check this video out below:
Written By Dr. Marni Feuerman
Originally Appeared In The Talking Solution