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‘Infidelity: the pitfall of relationships’ (Pt1)

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The euphoria of love has become quite fleeting. It appears to be but for just a moment in time; then we start hearing of all the wrongs and ills. Due to a lack of understanding of what ‘love’ entails, we find ourselves always falling short of the mark and coming face to face with the dreaded hurts and pains, of broken relationships. One of the biggest contributors of brokenness of relationships is the selfishness of persons, who disregard the feelings and desires of the other person and focus only on self-gratification.{{more}} So love is replaced by lust, which in itself opens the door to issues such as infidelity, as persons no longer feel the need to protect their relationships and partners; they more so adapt a belief that the ‘more partners the merrier and would justify having multiple partners as an unwritten rule and understanding.

Infidelity has become a global phenomenon. It appears as if ‘infidelity or (cheating, butt, side piece, affair)’ as the phenomenon is commonly referred to, has become the norm, while anyone choosing to subscribe to a lifestyle of faithfulness and commitment in relationships is seemingly left in the minority and even in some cases ridiculed for such a positive demonstration. The prevalence of infidelity in many cultures is breathtaking; just as we are hearing of many marriages, we are equally hearing of twice as many divorces at the same time. But have we ever truly examined the issue of infidelity, looking deeply at the ramifications?

Infidelity defined:

Infidelity is defined as unfaithfulness by virtue of being unreliable and the cheating on a relationship partner that takes place despite a commitment to exclusiveness. Sexual infidelity by a marriage partner is commonly called adultery or an affair. What constitutes an act of infidelity varies within cultures and depends on the type of relationship that exists between people. Even within an open relationship, infidelity may arise if a partner in the relationship acts outside of the understood boundaries of that relationship.

Different types of infidelity

One group of studies on infidelity emphasizes different types of infidelity including: one-night stands, those interactions which foster emotional connections, having an affair or extramarital relationship, cheating, sexual intercourse, oral sex, kissing, fondling, friendships, Internet relationships and pornography use (Blow and Hartnett, 2005). However, most of the literature divided infidelity to more specific categories including sexual infidelity, emotional infidelity, combined sexual and emotional infidelity and internet infidelity (Glass, 1985). Within each general category there are different subgroups. For example emotional infidelity is a situation where an intimate non-sexual relationship is developed with someone that the person is not in a committed relationship with. It could consist of a work relationship or a long-distance phone relationship or even a relationship developed on face book. Sexual infidelity could consist of sex with prostitutes, same sex (homosexual) encounters and different types of sexual activities.

Beatriz (2007) investigated another type of infidelity: online infidelity, which is defined as a process whereby individuals involved in a long-term committed relationship seek interactive contact with opposite sex members using the social media as a medium. These persons will engage also in ‘sexting’ (sending sexual text) or sending pornographic pictures via Facebook, whatsapp etc. It is understood therefore, sexual infidelity, according to Mackenzie (2011), wasn’t limited to sexual intercourse and it contains any sexual activity that breaks the trust of sexual exclusivity within a marriage or relationship, such as sexual kissing and heavy petting. It also includes activities where there is no physical contact at all, such as telephone or online sex, due to the fact that the offender is investing in sexuality outside of the marriage.

To be continued

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital