A Definition of Relationships Marked by Chronic Infidelity

In a relationship characterized by repeated infidelity, one or both partners repeatedly engage in extramarital or extra-relational affairs, betraying the trust and boundaries established within the relationship. This recurring behavior isn’t just about the physical act but often points to deeper, unresolved issues, such as emotional dissatisfaction, fear of commitment, or personal insecurities.

The repeated breaches of trust can erode the foundation of the relationship, leading to heightened suspicions, resentment, and emotional distress. The partner not engaging in the infidelity may grapple with feelings of inadequacy, betrayal, and confusion. Without intervention, trust becomes exceedingly difficult to rebuild, and the relationship may be trapped in a cycle of suspicion, guilt, and recurring betrayal.

(This article is part of the series: Unhealthy Relationship Patterns: Categorizing the 21 types)

The Perspective of the Partners

Partner Engaging in Chronic Infidelity:

  • Perception: May view their actions as separate from the relationship or as a means to fulfill unmet needs. Might not fully recognize the depth of pain or betrayal their actions cause.
  • Emotions: Experiences guilt, defensiveness, or even justification for their actions. There might also be underlying feelings of dissatisfaction, entitlement, or fear within the relationship.
  • Behaviors: Engages in secretive actions, hides or deletes messages, and may become defensive or evasive when questioned. Might also make repeated promises to change but falls back into old patterns.
  • Rationalizations: Believes that their extrarelational affairs are a result of unmet needs within the relationship or sees them as separate from their commitment to their partner. Might also rationalize that what their partner doesn’t know won’t hurt them.

Partner Not Engaging in the Infidelity:

  • Perception: Feels betrayed and undervalued in the relationship. Might constantly be on the lookout for signs of another betrayal.
  • Emotions: Experiences feelings of hurt, betrayal, inadequacy, and anger. Trust is deeply eroded, leading to suspicion and anxiety.
  • Behaviors: May engage in checking the other partner’s phone, asking probing questions, or seeking reassurance. Might also withdraw emotionally to protect themselves from further hurt.
  • Rationalizations: Believes that they might be the cause of their partner’s infidelity due to not being “enough” in some way. Alternatively, might think that love and commitment should be enough to overcome the breaches of trust.

Is it a problem with Chronic Infidelity or something else?

The “Chronic Infidelity” relationship type shares commonalities with other dynamics. Here’s an exploration of its intersections with other types and the unique attributes that distinguish the chronic infidelity type:

  1. Secretive Relationship: Both relationship types involve a lack of transparency. While chronic infidelity specifically involves repeated betrayals of trust through affairs or liaisons, secretive relationships encompass a broader range of hidden behaviors, agendas, or aspects of one’s life that are kept from the partner.
  2. Emotionally Disconnected Relationship: An emotionally disconnected relationship can sometimes pave the way for chronic infidelity if one partner seeks emotional or physical intimacy elsewhere due to the emotional void in their primary relationship. However, emotional disconnection doesn’t always lead to infidelity; it primarily revolves around a lack of emotional closeness or understanding.
  3. Relationships Based Solely on Physical Intimacy: Both types prioritize physical over emotional connections, but for different reasons. A relationship based solely on physical intimacy lacks deeper emotional bonds, but both partners may be content with this setup. In contrast, chronic infidelity involves one partner consistently seeking physical intimacy outside the primary relationship, often indicating dissatisfaction or unresolved issues within the primary relationship.
  4. Unresolved Past Relationship: Sometimes, chronic infidelity can stem from unresolved issues or baggage from past relationships. A partner may cheat due to patterns established in prior relationships or unresolved emotional wounds. However, the primary focus of the unresolved past type is the shadow of past relationships on the current one, not necessarily infidelity.

Unique Indicator for “Chronic Infidelity” Type

The defining feature of the chronic infidelity type is the repeated act of seeking intimate relationships outside the committed partnership. Unlike other types where secrecy or emotional distance might play a role, chronic infidelity specifically involves a pattern of betrayals that damages the trust foundation of the relationship. It’s not just a one-time event but a recurring behavior, indicating deeper issues either within the individual or the relationship itself.