by Marie-Claude Boisvert, Chief Editor

7:00 am: I receive a call from Sarah, my good friend, my old roommate with a big heart, the one that has taken care of me so many times.

-Rose,… I… I have been fooled,… you remember Sebastian, the doctor I worked with two years ago when I was a resident…

-Yes, of course… How could I forget him, he had such an effect on you, like never before, love at first sight…

-I just spent the night with him at the Hotel Pur… He came to see me in Quebec City at a congress, he told me he was in love with me since the moment he first saw me… But he still has a wife, a 10 year marriage, and they have a little girl, she’s 2 years old. BUT WHAT HAVE I DONE…

My good friend bursted into tears, shouting, and I would have loved to not to live 300 kms away to be able to hold her in my arms. Sarah was definitely one of the best people I knew, always ready to help others, putting others first. She had fallen into the trap, letting herself fall for the man she had secretly “loved” for so long.

Even if he had told Sarah that she was the first, the only one, that she was special, although he seemed to be the typical “good guy”, infidelity always makes us doubt. Infidelity, adultery, it is one of the biggest taboos in our society, it has existed for as long as the couple has, and it is probably here to stay. Sarah’s situation made me want to dig deeper; learn more about the different theories developed by experts in psychology who have devoted much of their lives to studying this taboo.

First of all, what is infidelity? This question is debated every day, at the office or amongst friends. For some, infidelity is to love someone else, for others it’s to have sex with other people than your spouse. There is social media dedicated to such activities, or dating agencies. The term monogamy and infidelity can go a long way. Let’s take a closer look at infidelity, a physical infidelity; of a carnal deceit. According to Helen Fisher, the three types of love, i.e. the three cerebral systems (sex drive, romantic love and tender-love) (see article Love) can be felt at the same time, and for different people simultaneously. According to her, we can fall deeply in love with a person while appreciating the complicity of our spouse. Having a passionate adventure or great feelings of love towards a person, but feeling an attachment that is always so profound for the person with whom we share our home. This is possible even if it is contrary to the principle of fidelity. So Sebastian was perhaps sincere in his feeling towards Sarah, while being satisfied with his wife; “happy” in his family. It remained a mystery to know which feelings he would prioritize, which would not prevent him from still feeling this cocktail of emotions.

On the other hand, many are from the school of thought that humans are simply not monogamous; that we would be born to have a multitude of partners in life. The work of Professor David Barash and his wife Judith Lipton, MD, implies that no matter what the epoch, the human male and female are not monogamous. They believe that human beings are genetically not made for monogamy, but they assert that they are capable of it; that fidelity is an acquired principle and not an innate one. It’s funny to think that these two evolutionary researchers are married to each other.

Biologically speaking, some attribute a part of the responsibility for infidelity to genes. Indeed, we all have genes named DRD4, which are responsible for the production of dopamine (hormone usually related to romantic-love (see article Love). This hormone, which makes us see life as prettier than it is, would be harder to reach for people with a longer gene allele of the DRD4. It would take them more stimulation to feel this sensation of fulfilment. The type of infidelity often seen from these people is of an intense attraction; an adventure that would bring them a higher level of adrenaline. People with a longer DRD4 allele are also more likely to have drinking problems, gambling and other addictions.

Regardless of the reason for cheating, several studies in different countries show that 90-95% of people believe that cheating is fundamentally wrong. Most of them having committed adultery admit that they feel regret. Yet more than 30% of Americans admit to have already been unfaithful.

Another fact is that 76% of Americans stay together despite an infidelity; of these, the vast majority are those who confess their acts to their partner. The Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel specializes in infidelity and reports that after a confession, often, the couple achieves a better communication, and tend to take themselves less for granted. Both parties, both the cheater and the faithful one express themselves more freely. She even goes on to say that even if infidelity is  a real plague in a couple, it can sometimes have good consequences for the future communication of the relationship.

No matter the theories, Sebastian had made the choice to flounder for Sarah, the choice to go to Quebec City equipped with condoms in his suitcase. Even if he had all the excuses in the world, we would still call him a bastard, and even understanding his attraction to my beautiful friend, he now had to live with the situation. Be completely honest or live with the secret, drop everything or try to rebuild his couple in his own way. For her part, although the ball was not in her court, my beautiful girlfriend had to see what she was expecting from this episode. Their passion was beautiful, but completely destructive to all; as Esther Perel would say, infidelity is a bit like cancer, it affects well beyond the couple, but its evil of the world is there to stay…