What is Infidelity Anyway?

People wonder, “How many couples are affected by infidelity?” 

Depends on what you consider infidelity… Is chatting with an attractive coworker cheating? What about texting an ex? Kissing? Flirting? Sexting? Watching porn? Happy-ending massage?

Where do we draw the line? Depending on your answer, the estimate of couples affected by infidelity range from 30-70%.

So who gets to decide what constitutes being unfaithful? Well, you.

No matter how you define it, Esther Perel- a renowned expert on the subject of infidelity- says that it usually has one to three components- Secrecy, Emotional Involvement, and Sexual Alchemy.

1. Secrecy

We all know that secrets hold power. Remember when you were younger and would secretly whisper among your friends or pass notes in class? Having secrets felt powerful.

The same is true in adult relationships as well. Secrets provoke intensity, mystery, and excitement.

Secrets among partners are also one of the things most hazardous to a relationship. When affairs are discovered, it can lead the betrayed partner to question their entire relationship. Whether it was an ongoing relationship or a one-night fling, the discovery of deceit can be most painful of all.

2. Emotional Involvement

To a certain extent, there is always an emotional involvement to an affair. This is true even when considering things like pornography and happy-ending massages. Though there may not be a relationship, emotions are present- joy, ecstacy, guilt…

Taking that emotional energy out of your relationship and giving it to someone or something else can be toxic to your relationship.

3. Sexual Alchemy

Esther uses the term sexual alchemy because not all affairs involve sex. Emotional affairs have all but become a buzzword these days. But even emotional affairs are comprised of sexual alchemy.

Sexual alchemy is about desire. The desire to be desired, the desire to feel wanted, the desire to feel important…

As Esther says, “The kiss you only imagine giving can be more powerful than hours of lovemaking.” Our mind is truly our most powerful sexual organ.

Many times I have heard partners defend themselves by saying, “We didn’t do anything. We just talked.” Depending on the extent of the conversation, it can be just as dangerous to your relationship as sex outside your marriage.

Defining Infidelity is Tricky

It’s up to you to define what is or isn’t infidelity in your relationship. Our conversations need to be more than just five words- “I catch you, you’re dead.”

I’ve seen partners caught completely off-guard by accusations of cheating, thinking they had done nothing wrong.

I’ll be going into more detail about each of these components as well as how to have these conversations early and often in your relationship.

More posts in this series:

Part One: Secrecy

Part Two: Emotional Involvement

Part Three: Sexual Alchemy

Mark Cagle, LPC

Mark Cagle is a father, husband, and expert marriage counselor in Dallas. He is passionate about helping couples to overcome the heartache of infidelity and betrayal so that they can heal the hurt and rekindle their relationship. Mark believes that by specializing in couples counseling he is able to dedicate himself and hone his skills in order to have the greatest impact on the couples he works with.