He doesn’t think he’s been unfaithful. She absolutely thinks he has. What one person believes is a marker of infidelity can be the difference between a relationship continuing and inevitable Michigan divorce. Simply enough, infidelity perceptions differ between men and women, according to new research published in Sexual & Relationship Therapy.
The Perception of Infidelity
Perception is everything, especially when it comes to infidelity. And perception, as we all know, is often far more important than reality. Worries about cheating come with their own mind games: Does he smell different? Why was he out so late? Why did he come back early? Who was he talking to? Did he lie to me about who he was texting with? Did he really go to the gym? There is no end to the mental distress that a woman can endure when concerning herself with the trustworthiness of her male partner. Of course, men can have the same kinds of questions running through their mind. But what this study focused on was the categorization of infidelity, not concerns about it.
There were 354 undergraduate psychology students who completed an online questionnaire that was intended to assess their personality and how it affects their perceptions of infidelity and their sensitivity to rejection. Infidelity was categorized in three ways: sexual infidelity, intimate infidelity, and fantasy infidelity.
In other words, does sex with another person constitute infidelity? Does becoming emotionally but not physically involved with another person besides your spouse count as infidelity? Does daydreaming about infidelity equate to actually cheating with someone else? For women, the answer was often yes to these questions. For men, not so much.
Mars vs Venus in the World of Infidelity
The authors of the study found that “women were more likely than men to identify both sexual-based and emotion-based acts as constituting infidelity.” This finding wasn’t a surprise to the researchers who discovered that women scored higher than men in measures of “communion,” which is defined as the extent to which a person wants to form and maintain positive interpersonal bonds.
This isn’t to say that men are only and always about sex, that they aren’t ever invested in their relationship, and they couldn’t care less if their spouse is emotionally available to someone else. But, at least according to this study, a wife is far more sensitive about her husband becoming emotionally close with another woman and often considers this behavior cut-and-dried relationship infidelity.
Ease Anxiety: Identify Gender Differences
What the study didn’t pursue was whether these perceptions of men and women lead to the demise of relationships. Infidelity, of course, is able to cause the breakdown of a marriage. But for some people it’s their definition of infidelity that can create a dissatisfying and broken relationship. Couples can better navigate the minefield of infidelity by speaking openly with each other and clearly identifying their perceptions of infidelity and their expectations for the relationship. Let your partner know that you think of texting with your ex-spouse as intimate infidelity. Be open about your concerns if you have any worries about infidelity in your relationship. Couples therapy can sometimes help.
If you’re beyond the point of talking and divorce is in your future, contact an experienced Michigan divorce attorney at Michigan Divorce Help in Mt. Clemens, MI, to schedule your no-cost initial interview.