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Infidelity, impulsivity, attachment and distorted cognitions

Ignat, R1

1: Wings Management, Romania

Objectives: The study explores the most common reasons for infidelity. Do these motivations vary according to the attachment style? Is there a link between infidelity and a dysfunctional subtype of impulsivity? Are there some distorted cognitions that can be associated with increased infidelity?

Methods. The final database included 316 valid online answers. Infidelity was evaluated by rating: 11 specific reasons, 3 infidelity scenarios, 10 quotes about monogamy. Dickman Impulsivity Inventory was used for evaluating dysfunctional impulsivity level. Bartholomew-Horowitz scale was used for the attachment style. Dysfunctional cognitions were expressed in 13 true-false statements. Rusbult Investment Model Scale was used to explore the link between couple stability and relationship investment.

Results: 45% of men and 26% of women admit they committed an infidelity while in an exclusive relationship lasting longer than 6 months. Reasons for infidelity were grouped under 4 main categories: A) Erotic Impulse

  1. B) Feeling ‘unloved’ or perceiving that ‘the right partner’ is missing C) Communication, validation & mutual respect deficiencies D) Revenge after a conflict or following partner’s infidelity. For women Reason C) was most common. For men reason A). Still there are significant variations with age. For example 67% of men under 30, mention reason B) as infidelity base. Infidelity does not seem to obviously linked with dysfunctional impulsivity score. Still some specific impulsivity characteristics were less frequent in loyal partners. Unsecure attachment style was present in 33% of loyal partners, versus 46% of people that were not loyal. Five distorted cognitions were more frequent in people that decided to be unfaithful. Loyal partners rated infidelity scenarios more frequently as clearly inappropriate. The link between couple stability and global relationship investment was reconfirmed.

Conclusions: Further exploring infidelity links to distorted cognitions, impulsivity and attachment style can be a valuable tool for improving couple satisfaction.


Work supported by industry: no.

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