What Causes Adultery? 7 Reasons Married People Cheat
When you got married, there was likely an understanding that you and your partner would only engage in sexual intercourse together. If you or your spouse violates that rule, that is considered adultery. To commit adultery is an inherently controversial act, and it is a common reason for divorce. Many people have speculated about the potential underlying roots of adultery and what prompts individuals to cheat on their spouses. Before the causes of infidelity can be examined, the act of adultery itself must first be probed.
An Overview Of Adultery
In Western culture, adultery is heavily frowned upon and even illegal in many American states. Punishments include enforcing grounds for divorce, fines, and incarceration. Despite the ethical breaches and potential legal consequences, many people have engaged in adulterous acts for one reason or another.
It is not uncommon for a married woman or man to engage in an adulterous relationship simply because they are unhappy in their current marriage. The cheating husband or wife may feel as though their spouse does not listen to them, fails to show care/attention, or simply doesn't love them anymore. Many people would argue that the reasons above do not justify infidelity. However, marital unhappiness is one of the most common reasons behind the commission of adultery. Many other causes of adultery may stem from a lack of happiness in the relationship.
Boredom/Need For Something New
Sometimes, adultery is triggered by sheer boredom. Over time, some marriages can begin to feel routine. In some cases, the bored married woman or man may become dissatisfied with their predictable, familiar marriage and begin to seek a thrill elsewhere.
However, an unhappy spouse does not always seek out a lover. Sometimes, he or she just so happens to meet a new person. The potential chemistry or initial attraction may excite the unsatisfied spouse who then decides to engage in adulterous acts with this other person. Whether or not the extramarital relationship lasts after the original passion and exhilaration depends on many factors.
Cheating husbands and wives may engage in adultery simply to get back at their spouse. Their urges to get revenge can be motivated by perceived wrongs or transgressions committed by their partner. A married woman or man who knows that their spouse had an affair with a coworker may then respond by entering an extramarital relationship of their own, for example. Sometimes, the unfaithful married person views cheating in response to prior cheating as "evening the score" or otherwise getting back at their spouse who hurt them. Rarely does cheating for the sake of revenge engender positive outcomes, though.
Some cite narcissism as yet another cause of infidelity or adultery. A happy, fulfilling, and even exciting marriage may not be enough for a narcissist. A narcissistic woman or man could feel compelled to be loved, wanted, and desired by more than just their husband or wife. Therefore, the narcissistic spouse may either seek out extramarital lovers or simply cheat on their partner when the opportunity presents itself.
Narcissists have a tendency to bring out the darker corners of human sexuality and are infamously regarded as cheaters. These people tend to feel as though societal norms such as monogamy are beneath them. Narcissists often view themselves as superior to others and believe that rules are for other people. They may feel that they are immune to consequences such as societal punishment for adultery. The give-and-take dynamic which inherently occurs in marriage is often too much for a narcissist and can prompt them to feel as though they are losing control. This perceived loss can prompt the narcissist to cheat on their spouse in order to somehow regain control and power in their marriage.
Lack Of Sexual Satisfaction
Adultery is sometimes motivated by a lack of sexual satisfaction in the cheating person's current marriage. The married woman or man may genuinely love their spouse, yet cheat on them because they believe their extramarital lover can satisfy them in a way that their spouse cannot.
Some may argue that a man or woman who truly loves their spouse could never cheat on them. However, the validity of this claim remains highly debatable. Sexually unsatisfied husbands and wives have, in fact, cheated on their spouses despite claiming they love them.
Falling Out Of Love/Falling In Love With Someone Else
Although falling for an extramarital lover is seemingly rare, it can and does occur. Sometimes the cheating spouse meets someone else outside of their marriage and feels a strong connection with them. Sometimes, the unfaithful husband or wife misconstrues emotional or sexual intimacy as 'love,' especially if these feelings have been lacking in the marriage.
In some cases, husbands or wives have left their current marriages to pursue healthier relationships with their paramours. Sometimes these relationships work out, and other times they do not. Nonetheless, falling in love with another person or simply falling out of love with one's spouse can incentivize the commission of adultery, often as a means to give the partner grounds for divorce.
Exposure To Other Cheaters
A surprising study revealed that the children of parents who had affairs are more likely to cheat on their future spouses, even if they witnessed their parents receive some sort of punishment for adultery. Of course, this is not to say that every child with parents who have engaged in affairs will become cheaters. However, one's environment can significantly impact their values, beliefs, and choices later in life.
Working On Honesty In Your Marriage
A couple who has experienced adultery in a marriage may be able to get through it if they are willing to talk about it in an honest way. It may be important not to villainize your spouse for committing adultery but rather focus on how to get through this violation of trust. If you find out that your partner has had sexual intercourse with somebody else, it can be devastating, but therapy can help. The relationship can be salvaged if both people are willing to be honest with one another.
How Therapy Can Help
Adultery is a betrayal. When you find out that your spouse cheated on you and had sexual relations with somebody else, it is painful, and you may have a lot of feelings. You could be angry, depressed, hurt, or frustrated. A licensed mental health professional can help you work through these emotions. Moreover, a couples counselor can help the two partners understand why the adultery occurred and see if there's any hope to save the marriage. Remember that a couple's counselor is there to help you. They can help you and your partner understand why the affair happened in the first place and what to do next.
Every one of us will encounter hardships or difficulties in our relationships. However, what ultimately makes the difference is how we choose to handle them. Sometimes, the best course of action is to pause, reflect, and think carefully about the next step to take. Making decisions in the heat of the moment is rarely a good idea and often breeds hardship, including the ugly aftermath of adultery. While the potential causes of adultery are plentiful, this does not make the act any less harmful or hurtful. Many marriages have suffered or even ended due to one or both spouses’ lack of fidelity. There are many productive alternatives to adultery, including talking with your spouse, going to couples counseling, or sitting down with a professional for a one-on-one session.
If you are contemplating adultery or have experienced it, you might feel ashamed or embarrassed. These are normal emotions, but they can also prevent some people from getting the help they need, especially in person. An online therapeutic setting may help you feel more comfortable discussing problems in your relationship. Internet-based counseling also tends to be more flexible, allowing you to schedule sessions anytime day or night.
Online therapy has been proven to be a legitimate form of couples therapy. A recent study found that couples undergoing web-based counseling using video conferencing experienced positive outcomes, including increased relationship satisfaction and enhanced mental health.
Seeking help should be revered as a sign of strength, not weakness. Here at Regain, we pride ourselves on having compassionate, licensed professionals to provide high-quality counseling and therapy. Whether you’re looking to safeguard your relationship from adultery or heal from the harmful effects of infidelity, counseling can help—get started today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is considered adultery?
The legal definition of adultery according to most systems of family law is “consensual sexual relations when one of the participants is legally married to another”. Put less archaically, the adultery definition is when a married man or a married woman has some variation of sexual intercourse with someone who is not their spouse.
This is very important in fault divorce states. A fault divorce state is a state that demands a grounds for divorce – such as one of the individuals being caught in adultery. While most states do not use the fault divorce system, committing an act of adultery will likely give your spouse the upperhand in court, whether or not such a thing is explicitly stated in your state’s family law.
What is adultery in the Bible?
The sin of adultery is mentioned in the Bible, but the way that the term adultery was used in the Bible may not harbor the exact same definition that comes to mind when many of us think of the word “adultery.” At face value, the Bible has an unforgivingly broad definition of adultery along with allegories that contain brutal punishment for adultery. Yes, it does coincide with the legal one in that it encompasses sexual relations outside of marriage, but it also includes “evil thoughts”, which can be as simple as the tendency of a man or woman to lust over another prior to marriage. Additionally, if a married woman divorces her husband and marries another man, then per the biblical definition, she has committed adultery. It is also worth noting that it is the only forgivable ground for divorce. En sum, any form of sexual immorality, at least from a Judeo-Christian perspective, is adultery, per the Bible.
It is worth noting that the Bible, at least rhetorically, appears to appeal to a double standard in the way that it talks about adultery or discusses adultery. In general, it tends to place more responsibility on the married man, but contains more anecdotes on punishment for adultery in which the married woman is the one who committed adultery. Many people have criticized this rhetorical tendency of the Bible and accused it of reinforcing the double standard through which we view human sexuality.
There are quotes from the Bible related to adultery. For example, proverbs 6:32 reads, “whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he [that] doeth it destroyeth his own soul.” There is also a famous passage in the bible called, “Jesus and the woman taken in adultery.” [John 7:53-8:11.] “Jesus and the woman taken in adultery” is also referenced as “The Passage of the Woman Caught in Adultery.” Other more commonly referenced, simplistic words adultery related to in the Bible are exodus 20:14, which simply reads, “thou shalt not commit adultery.” Here are some other words from the Bible related to adultery:
“The man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” [Leviticus 20:10]
“I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” [Matthew 5:28]
What happens when you commit adultery?
First and foremost, the thing that tends to happen when one has committed adultery is their partner will feel very hurt and betrayed. It is important to know that if you commit adultery, you are not only making things worse for yourself, but for your loved ones as well.
Secondly, it is important to remember that the spouse having committed adultery is the most commonly cited ground for divorce, both in the instances of fault divorce and otherwise. Whether it is written in your state’s family law or not, you will more than likely have the lower hand in court proceedings if you are guilty of adultery, as those who commit adultery tend to be less popular in the eyes of the jury.
Thirdly, in many states, adultery is illegal. Punishment for adultery in such states ranges from fines to jail time. Outside of the US, punishment for adultery, particularly of women, is much more common. In some countries, a case of adultery can be punishable by the death penalty. By law adultery is a crime in a variety of locations, but it is only punishable by the death penalty in a handful of countries such as Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Yemen. Those accused of adultery who were raped will have to provide proof of the assault to avoid death penalty in some countries, meaning that those who were assaulted but are unable to prove it may lose their lives to the death penalty. The death penalty isn’t used for adultery in the United States and most other countries; even in areas where by law adultery is a crime.
To say the least, when you commit adultery, you should expect a souring of your intra-marital relations, and a disadvantage in the court of family law. However, in countries such as the United States and Canada, you will not face the death penalty as some in other areas unfortunately will. Areas criminalizing adultery in the United States include but are not limited to Michigan, Utah, Illinois, Idaho, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, New York, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia. Many states currently criminalizing adultery are considering or hoping to make it so that adultery is no longer a legal crime. Additionally, in some countries, such as India, by law adultery is no longer a crime. In areas where by law adultery isn’t necessarily punishable, adultery is simply a likely ground of divorce or an ugly battle in a relationship. It’s undeniably painful when one’s spouse steps outside of a partnership. Put in simple words adultery and cheating are known to harm relationships. In states such as Utah, however, by common law adultery involves serious consequences. An adultery criminal or someone who engages in adulterous conduct will face a misdemeanor criminal offense in the state of Utah after the case of adultery is proven. Someone convicted of adultery, who faces prosecutions for adultery, or who was proven to have engaged in adultery may face a sentence of up to ninety days in jail.
Note that adultery voluntary sexual involvement with more than one person when consented on both sides (or an open relationship) and polyamory are all very different things. Adultery voluntary sexual contact with someone outside of the relationship without consent and similar situations are cheating, whereas consensual open relationships or multi-partner relationships with agreed on rules are not. Open relationships are often very healthy, and they rely on communication, as do all other partnerships. In these partnerships, everyone involved must be clued in and happy with the discussed and agreed on circumstances of the relationship.
Do you have to be married to commit adultery?
Adultery at dictionary definition is, again, “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner.” That said, per the legal definition of adultery, which tends to be something along the lines of “marital infidelity”, no.
Definitions for adultery or definitions of adultery vary. However, colloquially, the term adultery can apply to relations outside of any monogamous relationship- be it a marriage or a more casual one. Of course, sexual intercourse between a married person and an unmarried person would be inherently adulterous on the married persons end. Therefore, while you may not be committing adultery if you are unmarried and have sexual intercourse with a married person, you are participating in an adulterous act. Don’t be the person to give someone else’s marriage ground for divorce, or help them become the recipient of some sort of punishment for adultery!
Is adultery a flirt?
Again – the colloquial definition of adultery is fairly elusive, so whether or not someone who flirted has committed adultery is frankly up to their husband wife or partner. Even so, it could possibly be ground for divorce or ground of divorce for some people. Some couples choose to work through flirting behaviors and even adultery, whereas others decide to cut ties. The specifics of how a relationship unfolds after these behaviors will depend on the unique couple, their views, and their desires.
That being said, in most states, the legal definition of adultery tends to refer to explicitly sexual behavior. Therefore, it is unlikely that you have committed adultery from a family law perspective unless you have participated in some form of sexual activity as a married man or married woman. Overall, places that prohibit adultery have terms that constitute adultery to include any form of sexual contact, activity, or behavior by the adulterous spouse.
Remember that in states that prohibit adultery or in states prohibiting adultery, the punishments that constitute adultery may vary and you may face serious repercussions if prosecuted for adultery. Additionally, even in areas where by law adultery is not a crime, those accused of adultery may be less favored in certain situations. Being accused of adultery or being an adulterous spouse is not something you want, whether by law adultery is a criminal offense in your area or not.
What is the difference between fornication and adultery?
In modern terms, fornication refers to any kind of sexual activity before marriage, whereas to commit adultery is to voluntarily have extra-marital sex.
However, according to the adultery definition that we get from the Bible, many expressions of human sexuality can be described as committing adultery, therefore an individual who is guilty of fornication would ultimately be considered guilty of adultery. Adultery is no longer defined this way by many people and groups.
Fornication is common enough in modern society that it is certainly considered to be far less morally reprehensible than is the decision to commit adultery. That is reflected by the fact that the modern adultery definition is much more specific, and does not include fornication. However, when children are involved, certain systems of family law may be easier to navigate for married couples. However, there is no punishment for fornication in the United States that compares to existing punishment for adultery in some states.
Is dating during divorce adultery?
Legally speaking, this depends on the phase in which the divorce is in. If the couple is not legally divorced yet, then it would be per the legal adultery definition. Furthermore, if the divorcee is the one doing the dating, it could strengthen the divorcer's ground for divorce, regardless of the system of family law. In states in which there is a legal punishment for adultery, this may be a sort of gray area.
Can a marriage survive adultery?
What causes adultery in marriages?
Is adultery the same as cheating?
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