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thegrandnarrative : infidelity   4

Micro-cheating: What It Is and Why It’s an Unhelpful Concept
The truth is that many of the behaviors deemed “micro-cheating” — like checking someone else out — are far from reliable signs of relationship problems. But the fact that they’re categorized as “cheating” reveals an implied demand that our partners never pay attention to anyone but us. Ever. That kind of possessiveness represents an unhealthy and unrealistic approach to love. The hard truth is that it’s very, very difficult for a single person to meet all of your sexual and emotional needs forever.

Humans are not “wired” to find one — and only one — person attractive for their entire lives. This is because we — like many animal species — are subject to something known as the Coolidge Effect. This refers to the well-documented finding that sexual interest in one partner tends to wane over time, but comes roaring back in response to new partners. (In case you’re wondering, this effect is named after a story about former president Calvin Coolidge who, on a visit to a chicken farm, noted the seemingly endless prowess of a rooster that had access to multiple hens.)

Studies have found that both men and women show some degree of habituation — a lessening of sexual interest — when they watch the same porn clip over and over. Likewise, other research has found that when heterosexual men watch porn featuring the same woman every day for a week, they subsequently ejaculate faster when they’re shown erotic images of a new woman.

*am reminded that men suffering from infertility problems are recommended to watch two men on one woman porn, as that results in higher sperm count of ejaculate. Hardly bad if this is the natural response*

What these data tell us is that it’s simply part of our nature to be turned on by novelty, which is why most of us fantasize about people other than our partners and find ourselves gazing at attractive strangers from time to time. These things don’t necessarily mean that we no longer love our partners or that our relationships are on the verge of crumbling — more often than not, they’re just part of being human. To deny this and instead chalk these things up to “micro-cheating” is a recipe for relationship disaster. If you insist that your partner should never find anyone but you attractive — a pretty unrealistic expectation, according to science (not to mention common sense) — you’re probably going to have a rough go of it, because every lingering glance they give and emoji they send will become a cause for contention.

To be clear, the fact that the Coolidge Effect exists does not mean that long-term passion is impossible in a monogamous relationship or that an open relationship is the only option. Lifelong monogamy and sexual passion are not mutually exclusive; however, if you want both, you have to work at it by regularly finding ways of introducing novelty into your sex life. For example, research finds that the more acts of novelty and variety couples engage in (like watching porn together, or giving each other massages), the better able they are to keep the flames of passion burning.

It’s natural to find people other than your partner attractive. And this, in and of itself, is not cheating. It’s just how our brains work. And while it may be tempting to see this as an inherent threat to our relationships, there’s a more productive way you can use this insight: working to ensure that novelty remains a big part of your own sex life. This will likely enhance your relationship in the long run.
cheating  sexual-desire  infidelity  pornography 
december 2018 by thegrandnarrative
Study: The Warning Signs for Relationship Infidelity
The researchers began by following 113 newlywed, heterosexual couples over three and a half years, testing for two psychological responses: disengagement, or the instinct to look away from an attractive person; and devaluation, which is the impulse to downgrade the perceived attractiveness of romantic alternatives. They found that the faster the participant looked away and the more negatively they viewed any romantic alternatives, the more likely they were to avoid infidelity and have a successful marriage. Not letting yourself want what you can’t have, it turns out, is a pretty effective strategy.

While disengagement and devaluation seem like intrinsic, knee-jerk reactions, that’s not exactly the case — and claiming that it’s out of your control is exactly the cop-out it sounds like. “Whether we’re talking about infidelity or other areas of conflict, people don’t realize that instead of reacting, they can take a moment to choose the response,” says Tara Fields, psychotherapist and author of The Love Fix. “People do have control over their reactions and their reactivity.”

In fact, it’s just like any other bad habit, according to Fields: To control it, you have to consider why, exactly, you’re prone to it in the first place. Oftentimes these impulses are environmental; for instance, the participant picked it up from a family member, or saw friends doing it. “Once you look at the behavior and deem it negative, you can then look at the payoff,” explains Fields. “How does it serve you? How does it make you feel?” Even just identifying it helps. After all, the perennial first step to anything is awareness.

Next, the researchers tracked 120 different newlywed couples over the course of three and a half years, and found additional — and equally important — factors that predict infidelity within a relationship. These include being younger, a history of short-term sexual partners, and, weirdly, a satisfying sex life. This last point seems counterintuitive, but the researchers surmised that if a person has a more positive attitude about sex in general, they may be more likely to seek it out with people besides their own partner.

In this case, it does seem like there’s only so much you can do about these predictors — and that’s very little. After all, it’s not possible to go back and change the number of sexual partners you’ve had. And even if a good sex life is a predictor of infidelity, how (and, really, why) would you try to change that?

But according to Fields, avoiding infidelity is primarily a matter of both being aware and keeping your partner in the loop. For example, “if you’re younger, you may be more ambivalent about making a commitment in a monogamous relationship,” she says. “It’s fine as long as you tell your partner.” (This doesn’t fly as an excuse after the fact, she warns. You can’t confess that you’ve cheated and then explain that you felt vulnerable.)

In other words, the predictors identified in this study are far from set-in-stone prophecies, and a policy of total transparency is a sound way to sidestep them. It’s also an indication that I should probably take my boyfriend’s confession as a good sign, especially when the alternative feels a lot like gaslighting: “You’re convincing your partner who’s catching onto things that they’re crazy,” explains Fields. Once that unravels — which it likely will — it’s difficult to recover that trust. Consider it this way: It’s much easier to preserve trust in a relationship than re-create it from scratch.
infidelity  sexual-relationships  adultery  couples  male-gaze 
april 2018 by thegrandnarrative
Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes - The New York Times
et the number of Americans who actually cheat on their partners is rather substantial: Over the past two decades, the rate of infidelity has been pretty constant at around 21 percent for married men, and between 10 to 15 percent for married women, according to the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago’s independent research organization, NORC. We are accustomed to thinking of sexual infidelity as a symptom of an unhappy relationship, a moral flaw or a sign of deteriorating social values. When I was trained as a psychiatrist we were told to look for various emotional and developmental factors — like a history of unstable relationships or a philandering parent — to explain infidelity. But during my career, many of the questions we asked patients were found to be insufficient because for so much behavior, it turns out that genes, gene expression and hormones matter a lot. Now that even appears to be the case for infidelity.
infidelity  genes  genetics  sexuality  affairs 
june 2015 by thegrandnarrative

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