Two Things You Might Not Know About Infidelity

When we select a romantic partner, we want to know the good and the bad. Is he nice? Will she make me laugh? Getting to know the good isn’t too difficult. A first date is when the good is on full display. People primp, prepare questions in advance, and pay more than they otherwise for dinner. But how can you know whether the person who’s getting ready to sweep you off of your feet might later break your heart?

Conflict is a part of all relationships. We squabble, argue, and may even insult our loved ones. You have to do more than that to break someone’s heart. To accomplish that feat, something often happens that causes you to question treasured parts of your relationship. This brings us to a common cause of broken hearts worldwide: Infidelity.

What might boost the likelihood of infidelity? Gender is a key factor. Men, compared to women, are between two and four times more likely to report engaging in infidelity. Here are two things you probably didn’t know:

1.     Avoidant people—those who keep others at arm’s length, prefer to depend on themselves instead of others, and feel uncomfortable getting emotionally close to their partners—are more likely to engage infidelity. In one set of studies, my colleagues and I recruited people in relationships, measured their level of avoidance, and showed:

  • Their eyes gravitate toward attractive alternatives to their romantic partner.
  • They report more positive attitudes toward infidelity
  • They report more intentions to engage infidelity
  • They report engaging in infidelity more often than others
  • This effect is true for both men and women.

2.     A lack of commitment explains why avoidant people engage in more infidelity. Avoidant people dislike getting close to others. Hence, they have a tough time feeling strong relationship commitment. Their lack of commitment might make avoidant people feel safe and secure. But it also weakens the commitment that often keeps urges to engage in infidelity at bay.

The irony is that avoidant people keep others at a distance to prevent social rejection. By having lower relationship commitment, they’re more likely to engage in infidelity—and cause their greatest fear of rejection to come true.