What does psychology understand by cases of infidelity?

Couple relationships must face a great multiplicity of situations that present different levels of complexity. Understanding that a courtship or a marriage requires different types of commitment , the fulfillment of these agreements depends on both and on the same rules that they agreed on from the beginning.

One of the most common conflicts is infidelity which can be carried out in different ways. It represents the first sign of a lack of communication or trust , which could eventually result in the end of the relationship.

There are a multiplicity of both internal and external factors that must be taken into account, since they all influence this decision. That is, some people are more likely to be unfaithful than others , it is due to certain social pressures as well as some other psychological aspects. Next, how infidelity works is analyzed from the point of view of psychology.

What is infidelity?

Infidelity implies the action or conduct of any person to have sexual relations with other people during the permanence of a love relationship, whose partner has been promised vows of fidelity and respect.

Seen in this way, for there to be infidelity, the sexual factor seems to be relevant, although infidelity, which is equivalent to missing the commitment of fidelity acquired in one way or another, can manifest itself in different ways . The most common thing is to hear that infidelities are based on the practice of sexual relations with other people.

It is also considered that any type of deception regarding the breach of a legal marriage agreement can be considered as an infidelity. This means that in a couple there can be an infidelity at the time of stopping to carry out certain actions or decisions, these same ones at first had been decided by mutual agreement.

The particularity that infidelity presents as such is the perspective or the criteria with which it is analyzed. Within couple relationships it is observed that one of the two individuals may have a stricter or more flexible opinion. That is why addressing this issue turns out to be more complex than it seems.

How is it identified?  

Surely, the nuances of infidelity do not have to do with the fact itself, but with the psychological factor: what happens in the person’s mind, through what emotional mechanisms is the decision made to advance in the deception? Under what social and cultural conditions? Is infidelity the final break that is preceded by other behavioral problems and signs? Is infidelity a cause of other problems or the consequence?

It is impossible to delimit a compact nature of infidelity because individuals obey their own processes of an emotional and cognitive nature , on the one hand, and sociocultural, on the other. Each mind is a world, they say. And the physiological-hormonal factor does not seem to be a determining element, because the adult human being is the amalgam of complex developments. Reducing the cause of infidelity to unsatisfied libidinal behaviors is the opposite of the notion of a social and civilized individual.

The adult human being is a social product. The construction of values ​​that emerge in individual behaviors come from the family, which in turn obeys its sociocultural environment . Much of what the adult individual is is due to decisions made by his parents and guardians when he was in a situation of dependency. Hence, the importance of the family in the psychological makeup of that adult individual.

For better or for worse, behaviors are learned , just as instilled gender roles direct the future of adolescents and future adults. If it is understood that infidelity is equivalent to deception and is within a broader anti-value that is dishonesty, perhaps this way the matter can be seen more clearly.

What are the theories that try to explain why people are unfaithful? 

Men and women could repeat behaviors already assimilated as routine, coming from their family nucleus. Regardless of what the young adult (of any gender or sexual orientation) decides to do with their loving environment, the learned behaviors tend to manifest themselves, although ultimately everything depends on how the psychologically transferred burdens are assumed .

In fact, psychological theory in its behavioral manifestation considers that behavioral and personality traits are essentially established by environmental factors, rather than by innate elements and qualities. For this psychological school, the human being is totally malleable and passive, therefore his psychological conformation depends only on the stimuli of his environment.

Under this theory, human beings are subject to their behavior being shaped by the environment where they exist. Behaviorism as a scientific trend in psychology raises the idea of ​​the individual as a passive receptor.

However, this idea was questioned by cognitivism , which gives an active character to the learning process. Using the mind-computer processor metaphor, for this psychological doctrine the human mind is a kind of electronic brain that is constantly checking the agreement between its intention to act and the objective conditions present.

In this dynamic learning process, the mind is self-correcting, remaining only with what is useful and necessary, in a similar way to what computer-type servomechanisms do.

That said, understanding the mobility of human learning, one cannot speak of determinisms when looking for the origin of adult behaviors . It is worth noting, that of infidelity.

In other words, the contextual component ( home learning models ) is not a determining factor, although it is an important factor , to find the nature of infidelity in the adult individual. As the cognitive theory well contributes, the individual is by no means a passive entity; their ideas and guiding principles, motivations and personality, are gestated in a more dynamic way.

For its part, the behavioral theory serves psychology to fix its attention on behaviors as elements that can be observed and analyzed. This distancing from subjective analysis procedures allows the psychologist to analyze behaviors in their stimulus-reaction dimension.

Viewed in a complementary way, cognitive and behavioral premises are useful for psychological practice. Much emphasis is placed on the implementation of agreements, of emotional recognition exercises in couples who want to solve the lost trust, after episodes of infidelity. Behavioral therapies are useful in these cases, because they start from the idea that behaviors are acquired, therefore, modifiable.

What does it mean psychologically?

Is infidelity an adaptive response ? Can a man or woman be unfaithful even when they love their partner? Can partner infidelity occur between individuals in whose upbringing family there were no infidelity episodes? According to the behaviorist model and experience in social life, the answer is yes.

Behavioral therapy allows us to understand recurrence, contrary to the general hypothesis, that action affects thought. That is, behavior modification through conditioning therapies can change your thinking or your cognitive scheme.

Why was the sense of commitment of fidelity to the couple lost? Perhaps behavioral therapy helps to put the patient in the previous situation in which there were no conflicts and to review what went wrong later. Another useful psychological therapy for dealing with conflicts of this type is the psychodynamic model , which defends the premise that a greater awareness of oneself and of others can be acquired.

In short, it would be possible to improve the individual’s personal schemes and place them in less conflict. This behavior modification would suppose the substitution of mature behaviors for immature ones .

Of course, the success of psychodynamic therapy depends on the individual’s ability to change their sense of personal commitment and their will for action within their life as a couple: willpower and the inner effort are required to bring about that change.

Infidelity in love relationships also goes through a basic communicational issue, which therapies also address. The assertive and honest communication would solve any kind of difference, less the decay of love.

If infidelity is the consequence of heartbreak , there would be no need for it to occur if the parties first agreed on the separation of bodies or estrangement, in order to organize ideas and emotions. But, it is already known that in practice this does not always happen.

Infidelity is certainly a serious breach of commitment under clearly defined conditions. But, it could also be said that infidelity is not always due to the emotional immaturity of the individual .

While infidelity is not an honest behavioral response, neither does the human condition allow for compact responses when it comes to motivations, emotions, and desires . The perspective of the lover will surely be very different from that of the husband or wife. So far it seems that everything is coherent, but complex. Infidelity certainly attracts different points of view. It is clearly a conflict of emotions that involves at least three people; it constitutes the least desired love triangle.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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