Infidelity 101

Some service members and their partners worry about infidelity, especially during deployments. Warfighters also can experience many mental stressors in the months after their return, which can make their relationships vulnerable to infidelity.

  • What leads someone to cheat? If you’re unhappy in your marriage or don’t have sex very often, you’re more likely to cheat. Those who feel powerful also are more likely to be unfaithful now or in the future. If your friends, family members, or coworkers support your infidelity, you’re more likely to cheat too.
  • Why is infidelity hurtful? Sexual faithfulness in a relationship is related to trust, respect, and intimacy. Infidelity damages the emotional foundation of a relationship, and it can feel like an intense betrayal of your agreement to trust and respect each other.
  • What’s the impact? Both men and women experience the pain of infidelity. Discovering your partner has been unfaithful can lead to a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, or jealousy. Infidelity can lead to increased conflict and poor communication in a relationship too. Cheating increases unhappiness in a relationship and can lead some to contemplate divorce. Service members whose partners were unfaithful during deployment tend to experience more depression symptoms. And if a service member experienced trauma while deployed, then having an unfaithful partner can make things worse.
  • What if I’m worried about infidelity? If you’re concerned about infidelity in your relationship, keep in mind that help is available. DoD offers professional counseling services over the phone, online, and through video chat. Or connect with a Military and Family Life counselor who specializes in couple relationships. You can meet alone, or with your partner, to discuss how to manage your worries about infidelity.
Resources

Cano, A., & O'Leary, K. D. (2000). Infidelity and separations precipitate major depressive episodes and symptoms of nonspecific depression and anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 774–781. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.68.5.774

Jackman, M. (2014). Understanding the cheating heart: What determines infidelity intentions? Sexuality & Culture, 19(1), 72–84. doi:10.1007/s12119-014-9248-z

Kachadourian, L. K., Smith, B. N., Taft, C. T., & Vogt, D. (2015). The impact of infidelity on combat-exposed service members. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 28(5), 418–425. doi:10.1002/jts.22033

Olson, M. M., Russell, C. S., Higgins-Kessler, M., & Miller, R. B. (2002). Emotional processes following disclosure of an extramarital affair. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 28(4), 423–434. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2002.tb00367.x