The Relationship Between Addiction and Infidelity
Infidelity is when someone cheats on a romantic partner. What constitutes infidelity can vary greatly depending upon what is agreed to by all partners in a romantic relationship, and may include both sexual and emotional infidelity. A Psychology Today survey noted “20% to 40% of men and 10% to 25% of women will cheat.” These numbers have increased in recent years, for many reasons. In many cases, addiction can cause or worsen infidelity. In some cases, infidelity may cause or worsen substance abuse or addiction.
Common examples of infidelity include:
- Having sexual activities with someone of interest outside of the relationship
- Sexual behaviors (touching, kissing, and et cetera) with people outside of the relationship
- Spending time or money with someone of interest outside of the relationship
- Providing emotional support and/or developing emotional attraction with someone of interest outside of the relationship
- Attending functions with someone of interest outside of the relationship
- Hiding or lying about inappropriate activities with someone of interest outside of the relationship
- Seeking/having sexual fulfillment or emotional fulfillment with someone of interest outside of the relationship
Infidelity involves a betrayal of truth and security and causes emotional damage and distance in others. Additionally, cheating is a complicated topic drawing many opposing opinions. The reasons for infidelity are often unknown or varied.
Cheating While Under the Influence
Infidelity can spiral out of control. The secrecy of getting away with a taboo indulgence, and the thrill of living a double life can entice people to continually cheat. Drinking or using drugs to gain “liquid courage” to step out on a relationship is common for some individuals. In particular, Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can reduce the judgement of those who drink. Someone may consider having an affair while sober, but once they use drugs or alcohol, he or she may be more likely to follow through with this decision.
How Substance Abuse Can Encourage Infidelity
When someone drinks alcohol or uses drugs, they are complicating and adding an element that can become a motivator and a scapegoat to cheat. For example, when someone drinks, they can easily blame their decisions on alcohol. Saying things like, “the liquor made me do it,” or “I only did it because I was drunk and not myself” allows someone to side-step taking responsibility for their mistakes, while making more of them.
Furthermore, substance abuse often makes someone feel relaxed and carefree. There may be very little awareness of consequences for harmful behavior. In response to this, he or she may follow through with ideas they have always had, and take bold actions. This can range from escaping through an affair to avoid a dull marriage, or encourage someone to act on wishes, flirt, or pursue others. Unfortunately, feeling free and having little fear can push someone to discount the impact alcohol addiction and infidelity has on families.
Coping with Infidelity with Substance Abuse
If someone finds out their significant other is committing infidelity, they can experience a surge of painful emotions. The loss of how they perceive their partner can be upsetting. Feelings of anger often arise. The individual may feel they are unworthy of monogamy. He or she can take these feelings as a sign of self-worth, and internalize them. He or she may develop anxiety as they question and wonder where it all went wrong. He or she may develop depression as painful emotions resurface.
In response, someone can choose to cope with alcohol or other harmful substances that seem to provide temporary joy, highs, or distractions. The problem is once that substance wears off, he or she may continue using it as a crutch. Eventually, continued use of a substance to cope can encourage a tolerance, dependence, or addiction.
Infidelity as a Way to Escape an Addicted Partner
Many effects of intoxication, like aggression or violence can affect a loved one. Acts of domestic abuse like physical violence often involve someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to research, “nearly 500,000 incidents [of domestic abuse] occur each year between people who are intimate partners who had been drinking.”
The problem is also pronounced in LGBTQ relationships. Studies have found there were more cases of “problematic drinking than heterosexual counterparts,” with “higher rates of intimate partner violence.” There is no information on rates on infidelity in this group; however, the desire to find fulfillment and emotional support that may lead to infidelity is a possibility.
If someone is physically or emotionally abused by their abusive partner, or even if they are neglected because of someone’s addiction, they need love, safety and support. Without realizing it, they may look for love, safety, and acceptance outside of the relationship. If kids are involved, they may find it difficult to leave, making their need for support stronger, hence cheating. At worst, living with a partner who abuses substances can create co-dependent relationships.
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Sex Addiction And Infidelity
Sex addiction involves performing sexual acts or engaging in even risky sexual acts despite negative consequences. Contrary to individuals with high sex drives, sex addiction-based actions seek to fix an “urge.” If sex addicts are in relationships, their actions often harm others if he or she commits adultery. People battling sex addiction can lose even more control when under the influence of alcohol. This increases destructive behaviors that can damage healthy relationships.
Sex addicts look for highs through sex, and can spiral into emotional lows and highs, possibly fueling a substance use disorder. The mixture of substance abuse and sex addiction is a serious combination needing immediate treatment.
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