Defining infidelity can sometimes be difficult simply because it tends to mean different things to different people. In the most general sense, infidelity is a betrayal of trust that occurs when one person crosses the established boundaries of a romantic relationship. Since every relationship is different, though, ideas about what constitutes a betrayal will naturally depend on the unique set of expectations that two romantic partners have for one another, which is why it is so important for new couples to establish certain boundaries very early on in the relationship. After all, it is very difficult to avoid stepping over boundaries unless one knows exactly where the line is drawn. The unfortunate reality is that even in cases where boundaries have been clearly defined, infidelity is an all-too-common dating dilemma that once discovered (and in some cases once it is merely suspected), often has catastrophic effects on both the relationship and the emotional well-being of both partners involved.
Obtaining reliable statistics on the prevalence of infidelity within romantic relationships is challenging for a variety of reasons. For starters, most of the studies that are conducted focus specifically on married couples rather than those who are unmarried but involved in committed relationships. Also, it is easy to see how most people would be reluctant to openly admit having cheated on their partners. Even if the information gathered is kept confidential, those who are unfaithful to their partners might worry that revealing their indiscretions in any way could potentially come back to haunt them at some later time. Despite the obvious flaws that exist in the collection of such sensitive data, researchers estimate that some type of infidelity (sexual or otherwise) occurs in approximately half of all committed relationships. Some research also indicates that if a person believes that he/she has an opportunity to cheat and get away with it, the likelihood of being unfaithful to one’s partner increases significantly.
One common misconception about infidelity is that men are more likely to cheat on their partners than women are. While this idea might have been reasonably true in the past when men had more opportunities than women to spend time away from the home and were therefore more likely to encounter temptations, the independence that women have gained in modern times has also served to increase their own opportunities for developing emotional and/or physical attachments to people other than their partners.
Whether perpetrated by a man or a woman, infidelity is a painful betrayal that often takes a serious toll on romantic relationships. Though there is no surefire way to “cheat-proof” a relationship, the best defense lies in open and honest communication between partners who value and respect each other’s trust.