Psychologists say yes. And it can ruin your relationship.
Simply stated, people claim that they are not happy in their relationship so they look for love and affection elsewhere.
The second explanation is more detailed in nature. This explanation ignores the reasons that people “give” for cheating and looks deeper into our human nature.
The second explanation explores what it means to be human and asks, “why is being faithful to a spouse so difficult for many people to do? Probably the best way to think about these two explanations is to view them as two sides of the same coin.
One explanation looks at what people “say” about infidelity, while the other explanation looks at“how and why infidelity” occurs.
Together, both explanations give us a more complete picture about infidelity, love and romance.
To start with, human sexuality is incredibly complex. Decisions about our sexual behavior are typically not planned in advance. Few people intentionally plan on committing infidelity (at least not the first time it happens).
When making promises to be faithful, most people are serious and have every intention of keeping their word.
But while people generally have the best intentions when making such promises, human behavior is not always governed by the fact that vows were taken and that promises were made.
When it comes to making decisions about love and betrayal, logic and reason have a difficult time competing with our emotions for control. So from time to time, our emotions influence our behavior and lead us down paths we had no intention of traveling.
In fact, three separate emotional systems are involved in cheating – sexual desire, romantic love, and attachment. And often these distinct emotional systems pull people in different.
Most infidelity occurs, not because it is planned, but because people find themselves in situations where their emotions overwhelm them.
What types of situations influence our emotions and bring out the worst in our behavior?
- Being close or interdependent on someone other than one’s spouse
- Being around someone who is sexually interested
- Spending a lot of time one-on-one with someone else
- Not feeling close or connected to one’s spouse (e.g., feeling lonely, being upset or angry with a spouse, etc.)
- Situations that create the sense of opportunity – the feeling that one will not get caught (e.g., meeting someone in private, out of town trips, etc.).
- Situations involving alcohol or drugs
When placed in these types of situations, one’s emotions often prompt people to act in ways which are contrary to what is right. On occasion, poor decisions get made. Unfortunately, for many people, it is very difficult to always be in control of one’s emotions when placed in these types of situations.
What about “will power” or “self-restraint?”
Research shows that “will power” or “self-restraint,” alone, does little to change or influence our behavior. Some cultures have decided that individual “will power” and “self-restraint” cannot be trusted. Some cultures have made the decision that the best way to prevent infidelity is to make sure that the situations listed above do not occur – essentially, controlling situations is the best way to control behavior.
We do not collectively try to prevent these types of situations from occurring. Rather we allow situations to happen, but then we hold individuals accountable for their behavior and we expect people to behave appropriately.
Individuals are supposed to exercise their self-restraint and have the will power to control their emotions and their actions. Unfortunately, for many people this does not work.