Dr. Frank Pittman has been working as a marriage therapist specializing in infidelity for over thirty years. As he puts it, “I’ve cleaned up more affairs than a squad of chamber maids.” In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Pittman is clearly on the side of avoiding infidelity because of the damage it does not only to the betrayed partner, but to the couple’s children and grandchildren. In his experience, most remarriages that begin within an adulterous relationship do not work out.
Dr. Pittman has identified the following seven kinds of infidelity:
“The male philanderer” is almost always someone with rigid concepts of gender. This man does not really like women, but he likes to seduce them as a display of masculinity. Women experience him as a narcissist or even as an abuser, but men can perceive him as normal because he is usually able to follow rules and ethics in his dealings with his male peers. “Girls on the side” is a hobby with him, and he enjoys a conquest and then moving on to the next one.
The “emotionally retarded male cheater” is likely to cheat with a woman whose life is full of drama. Her son is in jail, her husband has a gun, her sister’s house is on fire – her life is one crisis after another. All the drama makes the emotionally retarded man feel needed and alive. Underneath all his heroics, the emotionally retarded man has spent his life depressed and unable to process his feelings.
“The female philanderer” is usually the daughter of a male philanderer, and she is angry with men. Underneath her anger is a person sadly seeking love. If she is single, she tends to mess around with married men. She likes to raid other people’s marriages, do as much damage as possible, and then dance off reaffirmed, as Dr. Pittman puts it.
“The spider woman” is more dangerous. She has usually been betrayed by a man in her recent past, and now she is out for revenge. Sometimes she has endured abuse from her parents or men. She wants her victim to love her so much that he sacrifices his life for her.
“Accidental Infidelity” just happens. People can get caught up in the moment at work or at a convention or a bar, and end up in bed together. Often, one of the persons involved is simply too polite to say no and then totally regrets the incident later. Sometimes an “accidental cheater” can decide that infidelity could be a safe and innocent activity that he or she will keep repeating it.
“Romantic infidelity” happens more often in good marriages in bad marriages. One person falls insanely in love with someone outside the relationship, and it is “crazily stimulating,” as Dr. Pittman says. Romance can be as addictive as a drug or any other obsession. Romantic infidelity tends to occur at turning points in a person’s life, such as when you have a new baby, when you lose a lot of weight, when you gets a big promotion at work, when your youngest child goes away to college, or whatever. In Dr. Pittman’s experience, the people in the affair rarely achieve successful marriages because too many other people have sacrificed their happiness for the couple’s.
“Marital arrangements” occur in unhappy marriages. One person has an affair and his or her partner wants to stay married for any number of reasons, but yet remain emotionally distant from the cheater. It is a practical arrangement for both the offended person and the cheater. A marital arrangement can serve one person’s needs for excitement, romance, emotional intimacy, enhanced sexual experiences or whatever.
In Dr. Pittman’s opinion, infidelity causes so much strain on all the people involved that “I recommend that you observe it from a safe, physical distance and avoid any suicidal impulse to become a participant.”
Pittman, Frank (psychiatrist). “Beyond Betrayal, Life After Infidelity.” Psychology Today, published on May 01, 1993 – last reviewed on November 28, 2012.
Pittman, Frank (MD). Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990.