Marital Infidelity - The Facts
The facts about marital infidelity (sexual unfaithfulness to a spouse) are astounding. Polls show that although 90% of married people disapprove of extramarital relationships, statistics from a national survey indicate that 15% of wives and 25% of husbands have experienced extramarital intercourse. These numbers increase by 20% when emotional affairs and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. Another source, The Monogamy Myth, authored by Peggy Vaughan, approximates that 60% of husbands and 40% of wives will have an affair at some time in their marriage.
Marital Infidelity - The Truth
Another term for marital infidelity is adultery. The New Encyclopedia Britannica reports that, "adultery seems to be as universal and, in some instances, as common as marriage." In fact, marriage researcher, Zelda West-meads, states that although much adultery is never discovered, "all the evidence points to affairs being on the increase."
These statistics are shocking, but what is even more alarming is that they do not even come close to exposing the strong emotional impact that marital infidelity has on people's lives. Imagine the inconsolable grief and pain, not to mention the confusion, anxiety, and sleepless nights that are all wrapped up in these percentages. When all is out in the open, the faithful spouse may survive the nightmare, but his or her scars will not easily heal, and the damage done to the marriage may never be completely repaired. Extra marital affairs can also take its toll in some long-term consequences that both spouses will have to deal with for many years, such as sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
Marital Infidelity - Why it Happens
The reasons for marital infidelity are as many and as varied as the people involved. Emily M. Brown, LCSW, Director of Key Bridge Therapy and Mediation Center, has categorized the reasons for extramarital affairs as follows: conflict avoidance, intimacy avoidance, sexual addiction, split self, and exit. Many of the reasons outlined here fit into one or more of these categories.
Interestingly, marital affairs are not always a sign of a troubled marriage. Some spouses succumb to the lure of an extramarital relationship as the result of experiencing abnormal stress over a normal lifestyle change, such as becoming a parent or an empty nester. So adultery can occur in happy marriages as well as unhappy ones. In some cases, the marriage partners may appear contented to outsiders, but the husband or wife begins an affair because of their own low self-esteem, habitual conflict avoidance, or fear of intimacy. The faithful spouse has worked hard for the marriage; but no matter how hard they work, the unfaithful spouse is going to have an affair because of their own deficiencies. Other reasons for marital infidelity are typically symptomatic of an unhealthy, and often, failing marriage. These are things like the lack of affection between the marriage partners, the sexual addiction of one or both spouses, the feelings of sexual entitlement based on gender or status, and the means of exiting from an unhappy marriage.
Marital Infidelity - How to Treat it
No matter how marital infidelity is categorized, all of the reasons are like a disease that eats away at the roots of a healthy plant to eventually kill it. Marital infidelity can never be the cure for that disease. Instead, extramarital affairs cause the disease to metastasize like cancer, and soon the entire marriage is infected and extreme measures must be taken to save it.