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Infidelity: Excruciating ending or painful climb to greater levels of intimacy

“I felt a sudden and far from unpleasant southward tingle. I would argue that – fantasies aside – the majority of men are monogamous from the chin up. Below the belt-buckle, however, there’s a wahoo stampeder who just doesn’t give a shit.” This quote from Stephen King’s newest novel, “Joyland,” sums up much of our attitudes toward infidelity. First, men are considered to be the primary perpetrators. Second, the underlying reason usually offered for cheating is surrender to a biological drive that cannot be controlled.

Women are unfaithful almost as often as men are.

Reality will be the focus here. One reality is that women are unfaithful almost as often as men are. According to research reported in the “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy,” 57 percent of men admitted committing infidelity in any relationship they have ever had while 54 percent of women admitted the same. In 41 percent of marriages, one or both spouses have admitted infidelity. Helen Fisher, PhD, and Justin Garcia discovered in their research that 50 percent of women and 52 percent of men actually hope to trigger a longer relationship when participating in a “one night stand.” One-third of them were successful.

The biological reality is that although human beings are “animals,” homo sapiens are the only creatures possessing a prefrontal cortex allowing complex thought, decision-making, and choice. It is assumed that evolution put it there to be used rather than be ignored when certain biological urges manifest themselves. Humans have the biological urge to expel waste from their bodies as do other animals, but their human prefrontal cortex allows them to choose to do so in the privacy of lavatories rather than under a tree in the middle of the park. When humans have a sexual urge, their prefrontal cortex allows them to evaluate the context (is one currently single or in a committed relationship) and then to make a behavioral choice based on one’s moral or spiritual code derived from prior complex thought and priority setting.

It is clear that despite our status as unique decision-making creatures, a slight majority of individuals respond to issues of sexual intimacy with immaturity and a lack of cognitive and spiritual focus. The primary outcome of such choice is pain from betrayal (which generally includes lying and deception) and the loss of trust in some form for everyone involved. Sissela Bok, in “Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation,” claims that deceit (which includes lying and deception) is as much a form of deliberate assault on another human being as is physical violence. Lying changes the balance of power in the relationship between the one who lies (whose power increases) and the one who is lied to (whose power decreases). Most people who lie do so to gain power in relationships or to avoid paying consequences for their own poor choices. Most liars, however, do not stop to think about the widespread impact that their lies will have. Those who lie do not really comprehend the effect that their lies have on their sense of personal integrity and on their credibility with others. In fact, research has shown that those who lie greatly underestimate the risks they run in terms of their credibility with others and the fact that eventually their power in relationships will decrease. Finally, those who lie create emotional stress for themselves as their lies need to multiply to keep their stories believable.

What does this mean for the future of relationships and marriages after infidelity occurs? The “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy” reported that 31 percent of the marriages in their study continued after an infidelity was admitted or discovered. Jay Kent-Ferraro, PhD, MBA, contends that the survival of a relationship after infidelity is based upon the definition of love within that relationship in “Is It Really Possible to Save a Marriage After an Affair” in “Psychology Today.” A relationship will end if love is contingent upon one’s spouse being unfailingly faithful, while a relationship based in an unconditional love - which can forgive extreme failure coupled with a renewed commitment to healing for both partners and appropriate boundary maintenance – can survive and thrive over time.

There is hope for ongoing intimate connection with a partner even in the face of the pain of infidelity. Hard work and commitment to change and each other is necessary. In the long run, however, it may be a better strategy to engage one’s prefrontal cortex when a “southward tingle” occurs outside the context of one’s committed relationship and to make choices that are proactive in terms of personal integrity and the happiness of those we love.

For residents of Columbus, Georgia, who seek a spiritual community that actively supports the development of healthy relationships spiritually, emotionally, and physically, the following five Unity churches are within driving distance:

  1. Unity of Albany (GA) – approximately 75 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 178 Hugh Road, Leesburg, GA. Phone: (229) 435-1001.
  2. Unity of Montgomery (AL) Spiritual Center – approximately 77 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 1922 Walnut Street, Montgomery, AL 36106. Phone: (334) 263-1225.
  3. Unity Spiritual Life Center of Central Georgia - formerly Unity in the Heart of Georgia (Byron, GA) – approximately 78 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 127 Peachtree Parkway #701, Byron, GA. Phone: (478) 737-7537.
  4. Unity South Atlanta Church (Jonesboro, GA) – approximately 84 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 10 a.m. on Sundays is 7541 Mt. Zion Boulevard, Jonesboro, GA. Phone: (404) 578-3033.
  5. Unity of Dothan (AL) – approximately 90 miles from Columbus, GA. Address for services at 11 a.m. on Sundays is 942 South Oates, Dothan, AL 36301. Phone: (334) 794-2840.

Home Study Resources for Residents of Columbus, Georgia

Available related texts on Amazon include: (1) “Surviving Infidelity: Making Decisions, Recovering from the Pain (3rd edition)” by Rona B. Subotnik and Gloria Harris ($9.82 in paperback); (2) “After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful (2nd edition) by Janis Abrams Spring, PhD ($11.42 in paperback; $10.99 on Kindle); (3) “Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy” by Frank Pittman, PhD ($13.00 in paperback; $40.50 in hardcover); (4) “Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life” by Sissela Bok, PhD ($10.85 in paperback); (5) “Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation” by Sissela Bok, PhD ($11.21 in paperback); and, (6) “Surprised by Love: One Couple’s Journey from Infidelity to True Love” by Jay Kent-Ferraro, PhD, MBA, and Julie Kent-Ferraro ($12.44 in paperback; $9.99 on Kindle).

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