Elements that make people more vulnerable to extra marital infidelity.
In addition to the general situations created by being in long term intimate relationships, there are specific elements that make affairs more likely to occur.
When people live in marital situations where there is a lot of hostility, for instance, an affair may be a way of getting back at a spouse seen as insensitive, uncaring and rejecting. At times they are ways of getting out of the marriage. These affairs are called “exit” affairs.
Going through a life transition, like entering middle age, may also increase chances of one partner getting involved in an affair. The unconscious purpose of the affair here is to deny reality by engaging with a partner – typically younger – who finds us sexually attractive and givers us the attention we crave.
Losing one’s job, recovering from a life threatening illness or getting through the birth of a baby are transitional times where usual patterns of connecting with one’s mate have been altered by these events. Because of this, these emotional connections no longer provide the comfort and security they might have provided in the past. These times also force some people to see their lives differently and reflect on what they want. Consequently, they may develop different priorities and different goals for themselves. Some may struggle with these changes, conflicted about who they used to be and who we are now. Extra marital affairs may both contribute and reflect these changes.
People who are better off economically and have higher levels of education tend to get involved in extra-marital affairs more often than people with lower incomes and lower educational levels. Further, people in occupations with high levels of stress, like working in an emergency room, being a firefighter or a soldier in a combat zone, have higher incidence of affairs than people in professions with less drama. People in the entertainment business are extremely susceptible to getting involved in affairs, because they have the financial means and lead lives full of excitement and high drama. This is also true for surgeons and politicians, as they operate in high visibility and high drama professions.
Gender Differences. Do men and women act differently when it comes to extra marital infidelity? Current trends indicate that the gender gap is closing, as more women are likely to engage in affairs, particularly younger women. We can speculate on what are the reasons for these changes. I think one of the main reasons is the more open attitude about sex and women today, versus the past. Also, most of women in long term relationships now work out of their homes.They are thus in daily contact with other people, exposing themselves to the same risks and vulnerabilities as men. Earlier we talked about the fact that most affairs develop in the office, where both men and women are in daily contact but without the stresses of living together.
Women, today, are also quite aware of their needs and are more assertive in verbalizing and meeting them, rather than passively accept their situations.
There also seems to be a correlation, in women, between age of first intercourse and infidelity later in life. The earlier the first sexual experience, the more likely women are to engage in extra marital sex later in their lives.
In the next blog post we will discuss some of the psychological elements that make some people more vulnerable to extra marital infidelity.