Why is someone unfaithful? When people speak of infidelity, we usually look at the affects and aftermath of the deed. We assume that all infidelity is created equally. Men are pigs. Women are whores. Men have needs. Women are frigid. Men are overworked. Women need sex, too! All of these have been bandied about like one-size fits all explanations. However, all of these things are just societal labels that aren’t actual etiologies but just pigeon-holes. Now, to be clear, what we will be outlining here are not excuses for behaviors but starting points from which to start the healing.
Attachment Theory: This theory proposes that people create an understanding regarding relationships and attachments from their family of origin. If, when we are babies, we fail to attach to our care-givers because they are not present or ill or they do not feel comfortable with attachment, then we develop these cognitive and behavioral patterns where we fail to attach or attach in an unhealthy manner when we get older. People who develop insecure attachment styles, either anxious about attachment (clingy) or they avoid attachment (loner), they tend to have a hard time being faithful. Commitment is not a concept that makes sense to an individual who has very little permanence in their lives. Maybe Daddy or Mommy left them? Maybe they were cold and indifferent? Whatever the origin of their issues, this is something that can be addressed in therapy. Also, it has been found that individuals with attachment issues have a higher propensity for infidelity.
Depression: Sometimes people want to feel better about themselves. However, when an individual is depressed, they tend to make poor decisions with little thought as to the consequences. Infidelity is like a quick fix. It is like a drug. For a brief amount of time, the person feels good. They feel wanted and sexy. Of course, like all drugs, after the high is gone, the depression worsens. This creates that sick cycle of looking for the high again. Like we mentioned on Monday, that first high becomes this unreachable goal. The more they try to recreate it, the worse they feel about themselves which makes them want to feel that high even more.
Research has shown that infidelity is trivialized by those who commit it. This behavior is considered bad by society. People who commit adultery are not sociopaths and tend to feel guilty and are saddened by their behavior. It affects their self-concept. So, that cavalier attitude towards this behavior is really cognitive dissonance in full force.
What to do? Get help. Sex feels good now but the effects of infidelity are long lasting and more painful than being lonely or depressed.