How common is cheating?
In an excellent survey of the literature, John Grohol, Psy.D., summarized his findings: "Not nearly as common as you would be led to believe." Over the course of married, heterosexual relationships in the U.S., extramarital sex occurs in less than 25 percent of committed relationships (less than 6 percent in any year). He identifies many risk factors, including: significant, ongoing unresolved problems in the marriage; a significant difference in sex drive between partners; great differences in personality; and early childhood sexual abuse. In a 2008 study of infidelity in married couples in Family Process Journal , Elizabeth Allen, et al identified these factors that had a strong influence on affairs by both men and women: sexual dissatisfaction, invalidation by their spouse, low positive communication, and high levels of negative communication.
Regardless of the reason, infidelity can tarnish or permanently erode the sanctity of the relationship.
What's required for true reconciliation and healing is a safe environment for both parties, and an objective intermediary or counselor who can act as a guide through the storm of emotions and thoughts that arise from the break in trust. If both partners are willing to commit to honest communication, and confront their co-created history, an opportunity can open to establish new criteria for mutual trust and love to unfold.
Where can you start? Both partners can begin to consider responsibility for their role in the affair. It may include the uncomfortable realization that one or both have histories of choosing partners that can't commit, or who stray, or stay silent when they should be communicating. Another place for self-examination is lessons learned from your parents' behavior regarding their expressions of love, communication, and fidelity.
What the Research Shows
During the past two decades, research on the neuroscience of attachment has offered a fresh perspective on what drives lovers to betray each other, and whether a relationship can survive the trauma of an affair. To repair and restore the bond, both partners must make a commitment to create a state of secure attachment.
Infants who bond to a caring, attentive mother know that their needs will be cared for. This allows the infant to relax, learn, and grow. Children who have securely bonded with one or both parents can grow into an adult who can bond securely with their romantic partner. We never outgrow this need to feel safe and secure in our relationships. We are neurologically designed to be deeply connected to someone we trust. We all want our needs cared for, and feelings heard, by someone who makes us a priority.
If an infant's mother is absent, busy or insecure, the baby can't form a secure bond with her. This makes the child anxious, and creates insecure attachment. Our early childhood attachment pattern affects our adult relationships, so we use the term LoveStyles to describe these patterns. How you relate to your partner is, in large part, a result of your unique LoveStyle. Keep reading ...