Cheating or just fantasising?

KATHERINE FEENEY
Last updated 11:59 10/04/2013
cheating
STEVE BACCON

CHEATING: "Of course, just how negative that impact is depends upon those aforementioned boundaries, and the nature of the decision made to breach them."

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Is it wrong to think about someone else when you're having sex?

There are reams of scientific paper dedicated to a subject called "extradyadic sex".

What is it exactly?

According to the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, the term refers to a wide range of behaviours occurring outside of a committed relationship, though (probably because most academic research is carried out by men) it's most commonly understood as vaginal sex outside of marriage.

Cheating, in other words.

However, there is mounting research into other forms of extradyadic sex, ranging from intense emotional relationships or close friendships, to kissing, oral sex, or other sexual behaviours.

In fact, in some cases, the primary dyad need not be married - a fact which reflects changing social norms pertaining to long-term relationships. And the interaction doesn't necessarily have to occur in the flesh - extradyadic relationships conducted online are now also being examined by the academy.

Most of these internet-based relationships are characterised by their secretive nature - something we associate with affairs of the stock-standard, flesh-and-bone variety.

But if you never actually touch or smell or have physical sex with the person you're extradyadically involved with, is it really that wrong? Or is it as wrong, at least, as the more traditional version of infidelity?

A report from the Kinsey Institute paints extradyadic relations as a huge threat to a couple's happiness.

In Western countries, it has been estimated that between 25 and 50 per cent of divorcees cite a spouse's infidelity as the primary cause of their marriage breakdown, with around one-third of men and one-quarter of women in heterosexual relationships likely to engage in extradyadic sexual relationships at least once.

Yet the report also offered insight into the types of people more likely to engage in extradyadic behaviour. For example, a strong tendency to lose arousal when facing possible risks is a personality trait with a protective effect for engaging in infidelity.

So can this be read as reason to the rhyme of 'it's not you, it's me'? If a quirk of someone's character is behind your lover's extradyadic behaviour - a person you've professed to love, warts and all - then can you really find fault with their actions?

Well, yes. Yes of course you can. You can because we know humans to be creatures capable of making reasonable, informed and educated decisions. It doesn't take a genius or moral puritan to know that committing physical, emotional or intellectual energy to someone outside the well-defined bounds of your relationship may have a negative impact.

Of course, just how negative that impact is depends upon those aforementioned boundaries, and the nature of the decision made to breach them.

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For some people, maintaining very close friendships with people outside the partnership is fine, for others it's not. Some people don't mind their lover having sex with other people. We've discussed this before.  

But who's actually ever had a discussion about whether it's acceptable to think of someone else while having sex? Is it ok if the person is, say, someone with whom sex is actually very unlikely (a celebrity for example)? Is it definitely not ok if the dydad's fantasy is about an ex-lover?

On one hand, arousal is arousal - if you're both enjoying the sex, what's the problem? On the other, lovemaking is heightened the more each party is 'present' in mind, body and spirit - if you're partner's thoughts have turned to someone else, the sex will be diminished.

Is it wrong to think about someone else when you're having sex?

For me it is. How about you?

- FFX Aus

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