The Relationship Between Addiction And Infidelity

Infidelity is the act of cheating on a romantic partner. What constitutes infidelity can vary greatly depending upon what is agreed to by all partners in a romantic relationship; both sexual and emotional infidelity can occur. A Psychology Today survey noted that “20% to 40% of men and 10% to 25% of women will cheat.” These numbers have increased in recent years. 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:

  • Sexual behaviors (touching, kissing, etc.) with someone of interest 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 trust and security and causes emotional damage and distance in others. Additionally, cheating is a complicated topic that draws many opposing opinions. The reasons for infidelity are often unknown or varied.

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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 stray outside the bounds of a relationship is common for some individuals. In particular, alcohol lowers inhibitions and can reduce the judgment of those who drink. Someone may consider having an affair while sober; once they use drugs or alcohol, they may be more likely to actually follow through with this notion.

How Substance Abuse Can Encourage Infidelity

When someone drinks or does drugs, they can easily blame their poor decisions on the substance. Saying things like “the liquor made me do it” or “I only did it because I was drunk” allows someone to side-step taking responsibility for their mistakes.

Furthermore, substance abuse often makes someone feel relaxed and carefree. There may be very little awareness of consequences for harmful behavior. As a result of this, intoxicated individuals may take bold actions. Unfortunately, feeling free and having little fear can cause someone struggling with substance abuse to discount the impact their addiction and infidelity has on their family.

Coping With Infidelity And Substance Abuse

If someone finds out that their significant other is committing infidelity, they can experience a surge of painful emotions. The loss of how they formerly perceived their partner can be upsetting. Feelings of anger often arise. The individual who’s been cheated on may feel they are unworthy of monogamy. These feelings can be taken as a sign of self-worth and internalized. The victim of infidelity may develop anxiety as they question where it all went wrong. They may also develop depression as painful emotions resurface.

In response, someone can choose to cope with these emotions through the use of alcohol or other harmful substances that seem to provide temporary joys, highs, or distractions. Once that substance wears off, the individual in pain 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 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 [observed in] heterosexual counterparts,” with “higher rates of intimate partner violence.”

If someone is physically or emotionally abused by their 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 their relationship. If kids are involved, a partner may find it difficult to leave; the partner may resort to cheating if they see it as their only option. What’s more, living with a partner who abuses substances can create co-dependent relationships.

Sex Addiction And Infidelity

Sex addiction involves repeatedly engaging in sexual acts despite negative consequences. If sex addicts are in relationships, their actions often harm their partners. People battling sex addiction can lose even more control when under the influence of alcohol. Their destructive behaviors may increase, and a once-healthy relationship can be further damaged.

Sex addicts look for highs through sex and can spiral into emotional lows and highs, possibly fueling an SUD. The mixture of substance abuse and sex addiction is a serious combination needing immediate treatment.

Get Help And Repair Your Relationship

Facilities seek to treat not only the SUD but also underlying problems that cause it. Underneath the dependence can be anxiety, depression, or compulsions that need intervention. Counselors are available to provide emotional and mental assistance while patients in facilities receive medically-assisted detox. Many rehab facilities also offer counseling on how to rebuild relationships and regain trust. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss available treatment options.