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Tags: behavioral | disinhibition

Did It 'Just Happen'? Probing Impulsivity and Infidelity

infidelity relationship relational breakdown

(Tero Vesalainen/Dreamstime.com)

Wendy L. Patrick By Friday, 01 March 2024 05:22 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Behavioral Traits Can Predict Behavior 

"It just happened," says a partner trying to explain an act of infidelity.

Bu is that ever true?

Acts of adultery are decisions — often poorly made and regrettable, but intentional actions nonetheless. Betrayals of trust within intimates are devastating to the innocent partner and can derail relationships.

Although there are links between deciding to stray and the ability to delay gratification or think before acting, not everyone who is impulsive is unfaithful.

Consider the ways in which predisposition interacts with principles and personality.

Investigating Impulsivity

For many people, impulsivity is a common challenge — from the smallest retail store to the largest wholesale grocery warehouse.

That's why the candy and magazines with salacious headlines are still at the cash register, and our internet sessions are bombarded with clickbait advertising.

Research reveals, however, that within relationships, impulsivity can be associated with more than spending out of our price range or going off our diets — it can be associated with infidelity.

F. Carrier Edmond et al. (2016) examined the link between sexual impulsivity and problematic adult sexual behaviors.

They begin broadly, noting the significance of this issue generally, given the reality that people who succumb to immediate sexual gratification may suffer negative consequences relationally, but also physically, psychologically, or legally — which has been my focus as a sex crimes prosecutor for almost 30 years.

They recognized impulsivity as a risk factor for conjugal infidelity, and risky sexual behaviors in general which can lead to unwanted pregnancy and the transmittal of sexually transmitted infections, and sexual coercion, which the authors define as "strategy used to have a sexual contact with someone who is unwilling or unable to consent."

Edmond et al. (ibid.) recognize impulsivity as a multidimensional construct including factors such as the inability to tolerate delay, trouble inhibiting inappropriate behavior, and having a predisposition to act without considering the consequences.

Regarding the nature of impulsivity as a character trait, Edmond et al. (supra) defined it as "a relatively stable intrapersonal characteristic leading individuals to engage in reckless, inconsiderate actions."

They additionally note, however, that some people uniquely struggle with appropriate self-control within the sexual domain.

Impulsivity and Sensation Seeking

Edmond et al. (supra) note that impulsivity and conjugal infidelity has been associated with general measures of impulsivity as well as to sensation seeking.

They also recognize what many people have experienced as a practical matter, either personally or as the victim of infidelity — the relationship between unfaithful behavior and problematic drug and alcohol use.

Substance abuse can prompt behavioral disinhibition, which is one of the reasons partners predisposed toward overindulgence are well-advised to avoid situations where their better judgment may be overruled in the moment, such as may occur at parties or events with an open bar.

Impulsiveness Tempered by Integrity

Singles looking for true love and not merely a liaison are advised to examine the principles behind the interpersonal presentation. Many adventurous people are exciting as well as ethical, tempering fun with family, friends, and faith.

Instead of only looking for red flags, consider some of the green lights:


People who are pre-planners both personally and professionally are playing the long game, and less likely to be swept away on a whim.

They keep moving within a distracting field of shiny objects, focusing on wholesome goals such as family, fitness, and finances.

Self-made Success

It's challenging for impulsive individuals to persevere professionally, scholastically, or athletically if they are consistently lured off course by risky endeavors or bouts of poor judgment.

The time and effort required for a prospective paramour to have earned the degrees, experience, or expertise he or she has reveals morals and motivation.

Gratification Delayed

The ability to resist temporary temptation to achieve greater goals signals self-control.

People who are successful in maintaining a diet or exercise routine past the second week of January, or able to go the entire 40 days giving up a favorite food during the season of Lent are also more likely to remain faithful in the face of relational alternatives.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

The ability to resist temporary temptation signals self-control. People who are successful in maintaining a diet or exercise routine, or able to go the entire 40 days giving up a favorite food during the season of Lent are also more likely to remain faithful.
behavioral, disinhibition
Friday, 01 March 2024 05:22 PM
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