About Extra-Marital Affairs
During middle adulthood most individuals want to get married and might believe that they are going to be in a monogamous relationship, but we are seeing more marriages dip into seeing other people. A common life experience that you see middle age people go through in today’s society is extra-marital affairs; the term extra- marital means when something happens outside of the marriage and most of the time is referred to as sex. There are a lot of factors as to why couples in contemporary society decide to have sex outside of their relationship with their partner, some factors could be; dissatisfactions with the partner and the craving of more sex but each case has individual reasons (Barta & Kiene, 2005; Glass & Wright, 1992). Adultery is more common than it was in previous years because gender roles have slightly shifted; instead of women staying at home being house-wives they are able to have jobs now that sometimes require them to travel. Since women and men are both able to work it leaves them with more opportunity to participate in activities that they normally would not if they were close to home. Extra- marital affairs are one of the contributing factors as to why the United States has a high divorce rate even in different cultures, 160 cultures believed that adultery was the main cause of a divorce. In Western states, it has been estimated that between 25 and 50% of divorcees cited a spouse’s infidelity as the primary cause of the divorce (Mark, Jeanssen, & Milhausen, 2011). These two experiences are closely related to middle and upper adulthood because these are common difficulties that they are exposed to. When a couple has gone through a life experience like this it is going to take a lot of patience and healing to continue to work on their relationship if that is what they want but it is not impossible to achieve.
A stereotype about men that is very popular is that they are the main ones who commit a lot of adultery. According to Rosco, Cavanaugh, & Kennedy (1988), 50% of men and 25% of women have participated in some type of extra- marital act during a point in their lives with more studies done articles have also discovered that reports of infidelity can range from 23% to 63% for men and 19% to 45% for women (Mark, Janssen, & Milhausen, 2011; Schmitt, 2004). Although men do tend to cheat on women more the disparity between the two genders is closing. There is no race that commits an extra- marital affair more than another but African American men do admit to cheating on their spouses more than their counterparts and there could be a lot of different factors that can determine why; for example how big the population was compared to others or if there was a big difference on the amount of people who were married. Many different studies have discovered that education can also be connected with infidelity, the research determines that people who have a higher education will be more likely to cheat than people who may have not went to college or finished high school (Atkins, Baucom, & Jacobson, 2001; Treas & Giesen, 2000). Income has also been connected to infidelity because people; particularly men, with higher incomes are able to have sex outside of their relationship more because their job offers them more opportunity(Allen et al., 2005; Atkins et al., 2001; Glass & Wright, 1985). Although gender, race, income level, and education status can all be factors as to why these different populations decide to engage in this activity. The demographic group that most researchers focus on the most is the differences between men and women but to get a more correct analysis people should take into account people with different sexual orientation.
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Reasons for Cheating
Although both men and women have extra- marital affairs, they each have a different reason to why they are cheating. Men in particular chose to cheat because they are sexually attracted to women and their appearance but on the other hand women participate in affairs because they are connected to the other person emotionally. According to DeMaris college-student informants, men’s affairs usually occur for sexual excitement, when men have an affair it typically has nothing to do with their happiness or the pleasure that their primary partner presents to them (Barta and Kiene’s, 2005). Unlike men, women tend to be adulterous because they are not happy with the person they are with so when they do cheat, they are looking for emotional happiness and fulfillment rather than basic sexual needs. Another reason why men have extra- marital sex is because they feel like they have power over their spouse and can do whatever they want without being held accountable. One important effect of power is that it leads people to behave more confidently toward potential partners (Lammers, J., Stoker, J. I., Jordan, J., Pollmann, M., & Stapel, D. A., 2011). When an individual has more power than their partner, they are more comfortable with their appearance and personality, so it is easier for them to approach people they are attracted to. It is easy to see that men and women are very different than each other when it comes to the type of desires they require to be satisfied. There is a difference in to why these two populations cheat, as you can see women cheat for intimacy and men are more likely to cheat for passion. Intimacy is when there is a deep relationship between the two people and they learn to understand each other but passion is just arousal and does not last as long (Bülent & Ahmet, 2017). When women have extra- marital sex it can be harder for them to leave that person in order to stay with their partner because they were connecting with them on a deeper level.
A lot of marriages do not last for a lifetime and each marriage has a reason as to why it failed. Some spouses divorce because they are not happy together, they have grown apart, they were not ready for that serious of a commitment and lastly, someone in the relationship had sex outside of their marriage. 31% of men and 45% of women stated that extramarital affairs is one of the reasons why they were separated(Atwood and Seifer, 1997). Since extra- marital affairs can cause divorce which will break families apart, this effects the families social system. When spouses with children decide to get a divorce, the process can be very traumatic for the child in some circumstances. Conflict between parents was somewhat connected to the parents having a poor relationship with their child because of the negativity (Krishnakumar & Buehler 2000). Couples who are going through a divorce or are working through infidelity can be very consumed on fixing their marriage or getting away from the other person that they do not realize that they are also losing a relationship with their children. There have been many clinicians that study how infidelity can affect young and older children differently. Thorson studied how families developed a way on how and when to tell their children that one of the parent’s engaged in extra-marital sex. Additionally; older children who have experienced infidelity in their family are more willing to talk to their mothers than fathers about what happened and how they are going to move on with the situation (Thorson 2009). It may be easier for older children to talk to their mothers about what happened for a numerous amount of reasons; one reason could be because their mother is the victim of the incident. Adult male children who knew about their fathers’ extra- marital sex would go on to participate in the same act when they got older due to how big of and influence parents have on their childrens lives (Platt et al. 2008). Extra- marital affairs can be a risk factor in the future for children who are exposed to this behavior during their adolescence. Children copy what they see their parents do because they absorb everything that is exposed to them, this is not a good trait to pick up on when they are older because it can increase the number of divorces couples get in the future.
Extra- marital affairs can take a toll of the individuals involved biological, psychological and sociological health. If a person is having sex outside of their marriage and is not using contraceptives, they are more at risk for being exposed to conceiving a child, contracting an STD, and weight gain or lose due to the stress. People who have multiple sexual encounters with different partners are likely to use less condoms which can spread sexually transmitted infections. The more people participate in sex with multiple individuals the faster they are to contract HIV and AIDS because the rate for STIs are so high (Thornton & Naguerney 2011). Extra- marital sex can cause a lot of psychological problems for both parties, for the people who are committing the crime they can have issues with constantly feeling like they are going to get caught by their partner which can cause stress and for the victims they can have a lot of self-doubt about themselves by not feeling good enough or develop trust issues in the future. The attachment theory by John Bowlby believes that people make mental ideas of how available the important people in their lives are to them and because of this it can develop strong cognitive and social actions and thoughts to that person. One the other hand, people who acquire a secure attachment believe close relations are available to them and behave accordingly but people who develop an insecure attachment style; for example, attachment anxiety or attachment avoidance, believe close relations are less available (Baker, McNulty & Russell 2013). The different types of attachment styles the individuals grow up developing can be a factor to what type of relationship they will have when they are adults. There have been multiple studies that have focused on how attachment theories can determine extra- marital affairs.
Baker, McNulty & Russell (2013) found that:
DeWall and colleagues (2011) described eight studies indicating that attachment avoidance, but not attachment anxiety, was associated with (a) a greater interest in alternatives and/or (b) infidelity; Bogaert and Sadava (2002) demonstrated that attachment anxiety was positively associated with infidelity, particularly in women; and Allen and Baucom (2004) reported that (a) attachment avoidance was positively associated with the number of extra-dyadic partners reported by male undergraduates, (b) attachment anxiety was positively associated with the number of extra-dyadic partners reported by female undergraduates, and (c) attachment avoidance trended toward being associated with the number of extra-dyadic partners reported by married individuals.
Lastly, there is a lot of social shame that comes with infidelity. Couples who have close friendships to other people may feel ashamed because they might feel like they are being judged. People have many opinions about infidelity when the individual that was cheated on stays with their partner. Since they feel ashamed and judged they may be more likely to not engage in social activities as much to avoid uncomfortable situations. As you can see extra- marital sex has more outcomes than just emotional pain, rage, and divorce; there are mental, biological and effects on the children that occur as well.
The field experience that I chose to get information from is a therapist by the name of Amanda Randall. She is the director of the social work program, but she also has her own private practice called Randall and Associates. Dr. Randall started off as a sex therapist at her colleague’s office in 1984 and when they moved, Randall inherited the business. Her office has 4 other workers that are full and part- time; that include a clinical dietitian, licensed mental health counselor, alcohol/ drug counselor, and her personal office. Because it is a private practice the office receives their funding from the clients that pay out of pocket and the clients who have private insurance; Dr. Randall stated that she does work with some transgender adolescence and only charges them very little because they are not able to pay. She stated that her mission in her office is to provide inclusive psychotherapy; Randall believes that it is important to be mindful of all clients’ thoughts and feelings, this is especially critical for her because she works with married couples.
Dr. Randall works with couples who are trying to fix their relationship because they have experienced infidelity. When she is working with married couples, she tends to see 3-5 clients a week and they usually have sessions for 6 months to a year because there is a lot of work that needs to be done to find peace. I asked a lot of questions about her experience with working with relationships for over 35 years and she had a lot of insight; one question I wanted to know was if there was a difference in homosexual and heterosexual relationship infidelity. Her response was that men who are gay tend to have a better relationship opposed to lesbians and heterosexual couples since gay men have better relationships, they have a better understanding of their partners needs. They are more likely to allow their partner to have sex outside of their relationship, so their needs are completely met and because of this it is not considered cheating if they have made an agreement that this was okay in the relationship. On the other hand, lesbians and straight couples are not as willing to share their partner and if someone’s needs are not being met, they could go out looking for someone to fulfill those needs behind their partners back which causes conflict within the relationship. Dr. Randall discussed how she has to always be conscious of her biases because as a couple therapist you are always going to relate to one person more than the other due to a lot of reasons but you have to be mindful of that and not act on those thoughts so it is important to work straight down the middle. She also believes that people cheat for many reasons and when you are working with a couple to not blame everything on the person who had the affair because they are going through emotions as well. Randall also stated that it is good to always be current and aware of the society around you because she has been exposed to new problems in couples’ therapy that she did not have to think about 10 or more years ago.
John Bowlby designed the attachment theory which believes that it is very important to have a strong emotional and physical relationship with at least one of the parents in the house to have a good personal development for when they are older. His attachment theories focus on children and all the way up into adulthood. The four attachment styles in children are secure attachment, anxious-avoidant, anxious-resistant attachment, and disorganized attachment. Secure attachment is when children have a secure sense of self and have a good relationship with their parents, anxious-avoidant is children who have a harder time making relationships with other children and try to stay away from stressful situations, anxious-resistant attachment is tend to have low self- esteem and isolate their selves a lot more than others, and lastly disorganized attachment is for children who do not trust people and view them as a threat rather than support (Ackerman 2016). The reasons why children grow up developing these type of attachments shows you the type of love and attention they received from their parents; some people grow up to be adults with healthy human relationships and others struggle. Bowlbys’ attachment expanded onto the adulthood attachments that these people could develop, and they include; secure attachment, dismissive avoidant (or Anxious-Avoidant) attachment, anxious-Preoccupied (or Anxious-Resistant) attachment, and fearful avoidant (or Disorganized) attachment (Ackerman 2016). Adults who have a secure attachment relationship show characteristics of being very honest with each other and are genuinely satisfied with each other. Dismissive avoidant is an adult who tends to emotionally shut down a lot and threaten to leave their partners a lot throughout the relationship, for the other person in the relationship you can see how this can affect them because they may not be getting the emotional connection from their partner that they need so they find it elsewhere. Anxious-Preoccupied are people who have weak bonds with their spouse and feel desperate for love and attention, this type of behavior can be overwhelming for the person on the other end because they feel as if they have to fix all of their spouses’ problems. Lastly fearful avoidant is the person who avoid their feelings completely because they can get easily overwhelmed by them, they also can have a lot of mood swings and are scared to be fully committed with their partner because they do not want to get hurt. For this specific attachment the person who is engaging in infidelity can show these characteristics when their partner is asking questions about their actions.
When I met with Amanda Randall her agencies services were more directed towards the micro- systems of social work since her office deals with personal counseling and couples’ therapy. In this “agency” they also receive and give a lot of referrals to the clients that they get that they cannot help due to a limited amount of services offered. Dr. Randalls office does not have many macro practices but she stated that she used to have group classes. She is currently not offering those services because of her position at the University of Nebraska Omaha as the program coordinator for the school of social work. Dr. Randall stated that when she is done with her current position, she will go back to teaching groups for adolescences and adults. The mission of her private practice is to provide inclusive psychotherapy for everyone and something that her office can have challenges with is being aware of all the different identities that people can identify with. Another type of micro- practice that this population can benefit from is religion-based counseling, Dr. Randall is a religious person, but she does not share that information with her clients for boundaries. Couples who are heavily faith based could benefit from therapy that provides a religious aspect as well and they might be more willing to participate in counseling. Something that can help this issue is macro work by educating people on infidelity and how to notice the signs and understand what it is before we see this issue raise the divorce rate. There are not many historical approaches for infidelity because it is a topic that did not get much attention because of the gender roles from pervious decades.
Extra- marital sex does not happen to one race, religion or gender, everyone can be affected by it no matter what their identity is. For the social work practice strategies to be effective in all the different populations social workers need to be conscious about the different beliefs and values that each person has. A NASW code that pertains to the practice strategies would be Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to Clients and a specific standard is having cultural awareness and diversity (NASW 2019). Without this standard, clients are not going to get the help they need because the social worker is not going to know anything about their culture, and this can push the client away. The NASW code of ethics that I thought worked perfectly with the topic of extra- marital sex and infidelity is the importance of human relationships which means that social workers know that relationships are important for people to change and they try their best to strengthen human relationships like families, groups, and etc. rather than break them apart(NASW 2019). This ethic can relate to infidelity because social workers are trying to fix the couple with therapy together in hopes of keeping them together rather the two people separating and causing bigger problems within the family if they have children. The ethics that social workers work by are designed to always keep the client happy and is thinking of their best interest.
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- Nagurney, A., Thorton, V. (2011). What is infidelity? Perceptions based on biological sex and personality. NCBI. Retrieved from
- National Association of Social Workers. (2019). Read the Code of Ethics. NASW.
- https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics- English
- Roscoe, B., Cavanaugh, L. E., & Kennedy, D. R. (1988). Dating infidelity: Behaviors, reasons and consequences. Adolescence, 23(89), 35. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/docview/1295892860?accountid=14692
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About Extra-Marital Affairs. (2021, Apr 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/about-extra-marital-affairs/