This study suggests infidelity makes some couples happier

Despite 84% of Americans claiming to disapprove of infidelity, roughly 60% of the very same Americans engage in it according to psychologist Alice Walker. 

Suggesting infidelity to be, for some unions, an unconventional but effective method of revitalizing the spark, is becoming less and less heretical. In fact, experts seem to be pretty enamored by the prospect, especially with the backdrop of the current shifting of Millennial values.  In the last couple of days alone, the internet was greeted by a nice heap of musings exploring the complicated role adultery plays in long term courtship.

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Infidelity is one of the top reasons behind divorce in this country. But can it potentially bring satisfaction to struggling marriages?

Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple

Dr. Alicia Walker, recently penned a paper called Having Your Cake and Eating it, Too: Factors Impacting Perception Of Life Satisfaction During Outside Partnerships.  

A survey of over 1,070 members, revealed that 7 out of 10 respondents feel more satisfied in their marriage while they were having affairs-irrespective of how much they loved their primary partners. The amount of time spent copulating with people other than their spouses also contributed to satisfaction levels. Interestingly enough, women were found to feel more satisfied during affairs than men, a fact Walker contributes to how desire is informed by gender.

According to a 2002 study, intimacy frequency and satisfaction decreases for men and women equally over time, but women usually experience a sharper decline in desire. This is important because, when the individuals surveyed outed the reason for unfaithfulness to be purely carnal, as opposed to being born out of lack of emotional fulfillment from their spouse, they were found to be much happier than the latter.

The data, when examined as a whole, implies that people that engage in extramarital affairs without disclosing them to their spouse, tend to be happier. That doesn’t fundamentally make it a healthy solution though.

Infidelity as an act doesn’t have to signal the curtain call, but what the need implies just might. As psychologist Bente Træen says: “I think the idea that infidelity is the main cause for divorce is exaggerated. It is rather a break down of communication. A loss of love.”

Not all omens portend evil. Sometimes a clear and unmistakable gesture of dissatisfaction is beneficial for both parties. BestLife ran a piece last year, following the tragic unfolding of events centered around an anonymous woman called Molly.

An eight-month affair disrupted her marriage, but ultimately Molly and her husband were all the better for it. A happy ending doesn’t make the events leading to it exculpatory, but it does ask us to reexamine acts previously conceived as undependable malice.

Grant Hilary Brenner of Psychology Today, exhorts us not to be too rash to accept numbers as guidance. In his own analyst of adultery stats and literature, he makes a point to say that he does not intend for couples to use the data he indexes to give themselves license to risk the hurt of their loved ones.  Rather he wants it  to allow it to help them “understand infidelity on a deeper level; food for thought for those in unsatisfying relationships who are considering how to achieve greater life satisfaction.”

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