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Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 20–49 | Cite as

“I Love You, and I Cheated”: Investigating Disclosures of Infidelity to Primary Romantic Partners

  • Andrew S. WaltersEmail author
  • Brea D. Burger
Original Paper

Abstract

The research presented in this article used a quantitative–qualitative mixed design to investigate components of infidelity. Two studies were completed. The first study compared responses from persons (n = 22, 16 women, 6 men) who, in the context of a romantic relationship, disclosed infidelity to their primary partner, with a matched control sample of persons (n = 22, 16 women, 6 men) who did not report infidelity. Study 2 involved in-depth, bibliographic interviews with those persons disclosing infidelity to primary partners. Study 2 explored how persons defined infidelity and the nature of their disclosure. As predicted, results from Study 1 demonstrated clear differences between persons who did and did not report infidelity on measures of sexual permissiveness and intentions to engage in extradyadic activity, but not on other sexological measures. In Study 2, disclosures of infidelity to primary partners were interrogated using principles of interpretive biography. Qualitative analyses revealed that disclosures of infidelity were embedded with multiple meanings, including transformative moments of self-understanding. Results from the current research add depth to researchers’ and clinicians’ understanding of how infidelity is defined and disclosed to partners.

Keywords

Cheating Infidelity Quantitative–qualitative mixed designs Sexual self-disclosure 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Roberto Refinetti, Editor, two masked reviewers associated with this journal, and Terri D. Fisher, The Ohio State University, for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biobehavioral HealthPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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