The HuffPost article, ‘This Science-Backed Trick Could Help Prevent Infidelity In A Relationship’ by Brittany Wong, on February 14th, caught my attention. The post begins by asking if there’s a way to reduce the temptation of cheating and suggests that a study by the Journal of Sex Research tells us how. The proposed answer is simple: just put yourself in your partner’s shoes and think about how your cheating may affect them. The scientists coined the term ‘perspective-taking.’
Most of what’s written about infidelity – including this article – focuses on the individuals within the relationship. The usual idea is that if the individual in a committed relationship did the right thing when faced with a cheating opportunity, all would be well. And it follows that those who do the right thing are honorable partners, and those who do not are dishonorable or worse. The main point is that the focus is on the individual, not the couple and their relationship. This individualistic perspective needs revision to obtain meaningful insights into understanding infidelity.
INFIDELITY IS A RELATIONAL MATTER, NOT INDIVIDUALISTIC
Infidelity is, in fact, a relational matter. The primary function of a committed relationship or marriage is intimacy. Intimacy is the outgrowth of emotional and sexual connection. When the couple creates and nurtures intimacy through emotional and sexual engagement, the couple bonds with one another. The aim of every couple should be to make their bond as strong as possible, as this is the best assurance against infidelity.
A powerful attachment bond – built on trust and safety – is crucial to the relationship as the bond serves a protective function. A close and connected couple continuously turns toward one another for their emotional and sexual needs; in effect, the spouse or partner occupies the ‘intimate, sexy, flirty, romantic’ part of the mind.
Individuals who are part of a powerfully bonded union are unlikely to succumb to the advances of another should they find themselves in a precarious situation. There is a natural and automatic inclination to protect your partner and your relationship when the emotional and sexual union is strong. Situations that pose a risk or a threat to the union would naturally make individuals in powerful unions uneasy, and so ‘perspective taking’ occurs naturally. Remember, bonds serve a protective function. They help to keep loved ones safe. Think about how the maternal bond between a mother and her infant naturally assures safety. It’s automatic and instinctive, not a conscious thought.
RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION AND INFIDELITY: THE TRUTH
The HuffPost article continues, stating, “People may be satisfied with their relationship and still cheat on their partners…”; although this concept is commonly accepted, it is misleading.
To begin with, the notion of ‘satisfied’ is misleading. The absence of conflict and simply ‘getting along’ or ‘enjoying’ one another are usual indicators of relationship satisfaction. But satisfaction is not the goal here; a strong bond is. So, people who are superficially ‘satisfied’ can and do stray. Superficial niceties, agreement, and running the household make for smooth sailing but do not form the protective intimacy bond needed for infidelity protection. For this, a couple must go deeper.
It is erroneous to think that simply getting along, not fighting, and running a household is enough. It is not. Couples must go deeper in the emotional and sexual arena to foster that protective bond — deeper than most realize. When couples engage in deeper emotional intimacy and treat one another like lovers keeping those ‘sexy, flirty, romantic’ elements alive, they have built a powerful wall of protection from infidelity. It does not depend on the individual’s goodness, honor, or morality but on the depth of emotional and sexual intimacy between the pair. A deep intimate bond is an infidelity repellent.