Thursday, September 04, 2008

Research on Extramarital Affairs

Posted on Sep 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Mishlove
The graph above shows the percentage of people in different countries who report having engaged in extramarital affairs -- ranging from 7% (Israel) to over 50% (Turkey). The United States is somewhere in the middle. Below are some research findings on this relatively common phenomena:
Interestingly, logistic regressions using currently married participants (N = 1,439) demonstrated that attendance, but not faith, nearness to God, prayer, and other religious attributes, was related to infidelity.[1]

It was found that married and single men and women currently having an affair or who have had an affair in the past, reported higher levels of arousal when thinking about their secret partner than when thinking about partners from other previous non-secret relationships. Greater pre-occupation with secret lovers was also found for both groups. However, single people involved with married partners were less likely to be aroused by thoughts of their lover or consumed with thoughts of the affair than married partners involved in affairs. This difference was primarily attributed to the fact that married people involved in affairs live with the person they are deceiving, therefore, increasing the amount of time spent suppressing thoughts of the secret lover. Differences in outcome between groups are consistent with the hypothesis that prolonged thought suppression of a positive thought will result in increased level of arousal and obsessive pre-occupation with the very thought that a person is attempting to suppress. Disclosure of the secret was found to be correlated with reduced pre-occupation and decreased arousal.[2]

One of the most stressful events for a helping professional who has been involved in sexual misconduct is disclosure of that misconduct to his or her spouse. Threats by the partner to leave are common, and fear of such threats may prevent disclosure. To determine whether fear of threats to leave is justified, this qualitative study examined the outcome of such threats following disclosure of extramarital sexual behaviors by a subpopulation of persons with a compulsive sexual disorder. An anonymous survey was returned by 102 such persons (aged 26-70 yrs) (89% male) and by 94 spouses, partners, or former partners (94.77% female). A majority of the partners threatened to leave at the time of disclosure. Among persons who were still married when surveyed, only 23.4% of those who threatened actually separated for a time period. Based on their experience, the majority of both sexually compulsive persons and partners recommended disclosure. Threats to leave are seen as part of a process of coping with disclosure by partners rather than a realistic outcome for most couples in this population.[3]

[1] Atkins, David C.; Kessel, Deborah E. Religiousness and infidelity: Attendance, but not faith and prayer, predict marital fidelity. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2008, May, Vol 70(2), 407-418.

[2] Layton-Tholl, Debbie. Extramarital affairs: The link between thought suppression and level of arousal. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering. 60(5-B), Nov 1999, 2348.

[3] Schneider, Jennifer P.; Irons, Richard R.; Corley, M. Deborah. Disclosure of extramarital sexual activities by sexually exploitative professionals and other persons with addictive or compulsive sexual disorders. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy. 1999, Vol 24(4), 277-287.

With the tendency for infidelity in many marriages, do you think expecting marriages to be a life time commitment is realistic? I have started to wonder about this. It seems martial affairs and the divorce rate keeps going up.
Hi Lea -

I don't know. Maybe it's realistic for some people and not others...When I met who is now my husband I was compelled, I knew it was 'right' for me since it was the last thing I wanted (a man), and yet I love him so much and really knew we would be married for a long time..It's been more than 15 years now and I don't see us splitting up...

In theory though I agree that generally speaking, life time commitment isn't realistic for a lot of people...

Thank you for your comment and All Good Things to You,
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