Infidelity is common in romantic relationships, with researchers estimating the infidelity occurs in at least a quarter of all marriages. Despite its prevalence, 90% of people categorize it as an immoral act and more than half of people view it as unforgivable. Not surprisingly, infidelity is also associated with an increased rate of divorce. Infidelity is associated with a number of other negative outcomes, including family disruption, conflict, violence, and psychological distress.
Types of Infidelity
As psychologists, we usually distinguish between two types of infidelity: emotional and physical. They can occur at the same time or separately. Women are often more distressed by a partner’s emotional infidelity, whereas men are usually more upset by a partner’s physical infidelity. The definition of infidelity can vary greatly between couples and sometimes even partners are not on the same page in regards to what constitutes cheating. Making sure these boundaries are clear is an important part of navigating a romantic relationship.
Infidelity may also include varying degrees of secrecy. This can have a large impact on how infidelity changes a relationship. For some couples, this is more troublesome than the actual act of infidelity itself.
Effects of Infidelity on Children
Children should be protected from knowledge of parental infidelity in almost all cases. However, this is not always possible and research shows that many children who have been exposed to parental infidelity show trauma and grief-like symptoms. Family or individual therapy may be needed in cases in which children are impacted by parental infidelity. Similarly, as adults, these children show changes in their attitudes toward love and relationships and this may need to be addressed.
Treatment
Infidelity is a breach of trust in the relationship. In order to move forward, trust has to be rebuilt. This takes time and an openness from each partner. Fortunately, infidelity can be overcome and relationships do survive it. The nature, duration, and intensity of the infidelity is also relevant in treatment planning.
Treatment for infidelity often involves three phrases. The first priority is to repair the relationship after infidelity. Next, treatment focuses on understanding how the events surrounding the infidelity came about. And the final phase includes looking at ways to prevent future relationship problems. This may mean increasing emotional and/or physical intimacy between partners, addressing sexual concerns, or teaching each partner how to prioritize the relationship. A treatment plan that is customized to your individual relationship is important for helping your relationship move forward from infidelity.
In some situations, couples may decide to terminate the relationship due to infidelity. One partner may want to continue in an extramarital relationship or they may conclude they would both be happier ending the relationship. Couples therapy can help couples make this decision and better negotiate the ending of the relationship.
If you would like more information on how infidelity affects relationships or are interested in speaking to a psychologist about scheduling an appointment, please call us at 612-470-4099 or email us at andrea@dendrinospsychology.com.

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