Infidelity in Marriage

Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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Are you experiencing infidelity in marriage? Do you wonder what causes it? One study points to the importance of self-worth, that is, low self-worth may be a contributing factor to the decision to cheat.(1)

Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon  97232

Couple in bed

The theory here is that a person who feels that he or she has no value seeks to feel more valuable by looking for love in as many places as possible. You may have thought you were protected from infidelity in marriage by virtue of the fact that you and your spouse engage in regular prayer and have a strong faith. However, one recent study showed that religiousness may or may not affect the probability of infidelity, depending on how the degree of religiousness is assessed. For example, church attendance seems to be correlated with marital fidelity, while faith and prayer are not.(2)

This then raises the question of why a person should bother to get married if he or she wants to have a variety of sexual partners. An interesting study was done recently in Bolivia, looking at why men get married, and why they then stray from their marriages.(3) The study’s authors put forth two theories: the provisioning model and the mating effort model. In the provisioning model, men are presumed to get married because marriage provides a division of labor important to rearing offspring who will remain dependent for an extended period of time. This means that marriage makes it possible for men to do other things while women raise the children. Under the mating effort model, the main benefit of marriage for men is that they receive a monopoly on access to their wife’s fertility.

Based on the results of their study, the authors concluded that men appear most prone to affairs when they are young and have a few children, which would seem to point more strongly to the provisioning model. What this means is that the primary benefit to men of getting married in the first place is that marriage allows a man to produce offspring without having to raise them. If this is true, it would seem to mean that there is no reason for a man NOT to have an affair! While we can debate whether or not this is true, it is presented here to give you some insight into possible reasons for infidelity in marriage.

If you are experiencing infidelity in marriage, you likely want some help handling your situation. Of course, I suggest you see a professional Relationship Specialist who can help you make some difficult and potentially life-altering decisions for your family. Many couples find that relationship counseling can help them to recover from infidelity. Counseling for infidelity in marriage may help you work through such issues as marital disaffection, trust, desire to improve the marriage, willingness to reconcile, and the capacity to give and receive forgiveness, all of which can affect the course, goals, and outcome of the therapy.(4)


(1) Eaves, Susan H., and Robertson-Smith, Misty. The Relationship Between Self-Worth and Marital Infidelity: A Pilot Study. The Family Journal 15(4): 382-386, 2007.

(2) Atkins, David C., Kessel, Deborah E. Religiousness and Infidelity : Attendance, but not Faith and Prayer, Predict Marital Fidelity. Journal of Marriage and Family 70(2): 407-418, May, 2008.

(3) Winking, Jeffrey, Kaplan, Hillard, Gurven, Michael, and Rucas, Stacey. Why Do Men Marry and Why Do They Stray? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 274(1618): 1643-1649, July, 2007.

(4) Bagarozzi, Dennis A., Sr., Understanding and Treating Marital Infidelity: A Multidimensional Model. The American Journal of Family Therapy 36(1): 1 – 17, January, 2008.

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Did Your Husband, Wife, or Intimate Partner Cheat on You?

Don't let infidelity, an affair, or a one-night stand destroy your relationship.

With professional intervention it is often possible to work through the pain of betrayal and come out stronger on the other side.

Steven Cohn, PhD is a seasoned Relationship Specialist with extensive experience in working with couples struggling to recover after an affair.