Why Sexual Infidelity May Not Be the Worst Betrayal

For years now the common wisdom both among the man on the street and within the scientific community has been that men as a group are much more concerned about the possibility of the infidelity of their mate due to evolutionary causes. The thinking has been that males were extremely concerned about the possibility of raising the offspring of another man in an environment where providing for your family often meant risking life and limb. According to this evolutionary hypothesis women’s primary concern about the sexual infidelity of their mate was due to their concern about having a partner who was totally committed to raising and protecting a family.

A recent article in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the evolutionary hypothesis may be too simple as well as too gender specific. The authors of the study categorize infidelity into two broad classes: sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity. Citing the example of the recent South Carolina governor who described his Argentine lover as his “soul mate” while apologizing to his wife for his sexual infidelity, he did not realize that his emotional betrayal was much more hurtful than his illicit tryst.

The new research does not dispute that a gender difference does tend to exist. Most men, and it is believed to be true across ethnic and national boundaries, are more jealous about sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity, while most women would view emotional infidelity as worse than sexual infidelity. The researchers suggest, however, that because there is a definite and not insubstantial subset of men who would find emotional betrayal more upsetting than sexual betrayal, that the cause may be more deeply rooted in individual personality than in evolutionary bias.

For reasons still not well understood some people, including both men and women, prize their autonomy even in close and intimate relationships over the sense of commitment that they may impart to their partner. The people who prize autonomy would find sexual infidelity the worst of the two kinds, while people who prize commitment over autonomy would be more hurt by the emotional infidelity of their partner – by considering a person other than them as their “soul mate.”

Although the study pointed to actual instances of both sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity the findings could likely be as broadly applied to the role of jealousy in an intimate relationship as well. Jealousy may be considered only a suspicion or a belief that a partner has or may be unfaithful. Autonomous type partners who negatively affect a relationship by their suspicion of sexual infidelity should be encouraged to form more secure attachments.

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Author: Peter Boston
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
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