The Rationalization of Infidelity

What’s emerging as a recycled phenomenon from the key parties of the 1970’s, infidelity and “open relationships” are now taking center stage again. Technology – from cheating websites like and open relationship sites like Open Minded to phone apps, are catering to increasingly disgruntled and bored partners looking to fulfill their extramarital desires.

I believe a confluence is happening: technology has fanned two different trends. One, smart phones and apps are making it easier for anyone to do anything, cheating included. They offer the discretion and privacy that wouldn’t have been possible in years past.

Second, I think a lot of the Millennial narcissism (pardon the generalization) is also fueling the acceptance of some of this: younger couples who want instant gratification and have come to expect that they get what they want, want to elaborate this thinking to the bedroom, and confront their sexual or emotional dissatisfaction with their primary relationship to find ultimate fulfillment, often times in one or more relationships.

Proponents of extra-marital relationships often invoke evolutionary history to support their claim, that our ancestors had biological imperatives to have multiple partners. That may be so, but haven’t we evolved somewhat from those distant predecessors?

Call it what you will – “polyamory,” “open relationships,” “ethical non-monogamy,” – the effects of this behavior are often the same. I think that there are couples out there that can have this type of arraignment. I do. But, I think that most of the couples that are looking for fulfillment by indulging in this behavior will ultimately end up in a worse place. They’ll still be unfulfilled, they’ll have to deal with one or more partners being hurt, and they’ll have to deal with navigating emotional connection to more than one person.

If there are marital or relationship problems, those need to be addressed first. Many times, sexual disconnection is a function of underlying emotional or relationship disconnection, and what we see is the marriage or relationship suffering from sexual problems. Those are the symptoms, not often the actual problems.

For the individual, looking at the discontentment is a lot less sexy than indulging in their desire to have more than one relationship, or to get their needs met sexually outside of the marriage. Identifying and dealing with the actual problems in their relationship or marriage is a lot more difficult, but ultimately strengthens our ability to fully deal with our problems, and strengthens our ability to repair a problematic marriage or relationship.

To ask oneself: “What is my boredom about? Why am I discontent in this relationship or marriage?” is a harder sell for those looking for sexual or emotional alternatives to their primary relationship.

I’m not saying that I don’t think people shouldn’t do what they want to do, but I don’t want to see this trend in the same way every other fair-weather Internet trend has come and gone. I don’t think we need to reinterpret relationships or marriages in this way, even if it provides us a “have my cake and eat it, too.” If a relationship or marriage isn’t working, it needs to be addressed, worked on, or ended if it’s too dissatisfying. Otherwise, hurt, jealousy, pain and unhappiness come as a result of indulging in this kind of behavior.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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