Attachment Style May Predict Infidelity

Individuals who have avoidant attachment personalities struggle with intimacy and closeness. In romantic relationships, this type of personality can cause a partner to distance themselves from their loved one, and avoid physical closeness. “Because avoidantly-attached people feel most comfortable with distance and detachment from their partner, they may have less of the commitment-inspired inhibition that normally prevents people from showing interest in alternatives and from engaging in infidelity,” said C. Nathan DeWall of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. “Therefore, avoidant attachment may relate to a broad pattern of responses indicative of interest in alternatives and propensity to engage in infidelity, associations that should be mediated by a lack of commitment to one’s partner.” DeWall and his colleagues conducted a study to find out how avoidant attachment affected commitment in romantic relationships, and if the level of commitment would influence the desire to cheat. He said, “We focus on commitment because prior evidence suggests that commitment is the most direct mediator when predicting behaviors that relate to the persistence of one’s relationship and engagement of behaviors meant to strengthen one’s relationship, accounting for variance beyond relationship satisfaction and investment in one’s relationship.”

DeWall enlisted 42 college students in romantic relationships for his study. He conducted eight separate studies designed to evaluate both attachment style and commitment, and found that in all the studies, attachment style was directly linked to commitment and infidelity. “The first four studies showed that avoidant attachment was related to more positive attitudes toward cheating on a current relationship partner, having an attentional bias toward alternatives, and engaging in more infidelity,” said DeWall. “The final four studies showed that lower levels of commitment mediated the relationship between avoidant attachment and interest in alternatives and infidelity. He added, “Our findings suggest that chronic discomfort with closeness and intimacy, as indicated by relatively high levels of an avoidant attachment style, has direct consequences for how interested people are in alternatives to their relationship partner, their attitudes toward cheating on their partner, how committed they are, and hence how much they engage in infidelity.”

Reference:

DeWall, C. Nathan, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Erica B. Slotter, Richard S. Pond, Jr., Timothy Deckman, Eli J. Finkel, Laura B. Luchies, and Frank D. Finchman. “So Far Away From One’s Partner, Yet So Close to Romantic Alternatives: Avoidant Attachment, Interest in Alternatives, and Infidelity.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101.6 (2011): 1302-316. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kat

    Kat

    December 20th, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    I see this from another angle too. What if the partner who is more remote actually causes the other partner to stray? Not that I think that this is an excuse but it is kind of hard living with someone who keeps you at a distance when all you want is to be close.

  • HolliS

    HolliS

    December 20th, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    When you commit to a partner you have to commit for better or worse. This should have nothing to do with how easily you form attachments to someone, but how in love with and committed you are to being with your spouse. There is simply no excuse that is going to fly with me when trying to explain away infidelity. There just isn’t. If you don’t want to be in a arriage, then fine, get a divorce. But it is never going to be right in my eyes to go out and cheat just because you may not be happy.

  • bernard

    bernard

    December 20th, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    ^^kat has a valid point here. and to prove this there have been many many cases wherein one partner looked for intimacy and solace outside a relationship because of the other partner s behavior and habit of keeping away. seeking closeness is only human after all.

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