Is Military Infidelity a Mental Health Concern?

In being of service to our country, the men and women who stand at guard sacrifice a great deal while on active duty. The things we in the general population take for granted, such as time with loved ones, are a major challenge for servicepersons. The globalized nature of U.S. peacekeeping means that active personnel must live a nomadic lifestyle. While you may think that this deters them from marrying, the opposite is generally true:

“The military’s solution is to incorporate families in their entirety, and it pays the full relocation costs for each family member — as long as they are married. This policy causes people to marry earlier than they had planned to, and sometimes to people they would not otherwise have married.”

Jennifer Lundquist | Associate Professor | UMass Amherst

Moreover, the U.S. Armed Forces compensation system dictates that members who are married or have dependents receive higher rates of pay and greater benefits than those who are single with no dependents. This further pushes an agenda to enter into an official union at a faster rate than the general population. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the rate of infidelity in the military is double that of the civilian population, despite the military in some states maintaining laws that criminalize extramarital affairs. Below are some additional statistics regarding military infidelity.


In addition to entering marriage “too early” there are other surface level issues that strain military marriages. It is common for spouses to be separated from 6-months to one-year at a time, or longer, during deployment. As the saying goes; absence makes the heart grow fonder, but too much makes it wander. The fact that access to outlets for both emotional and physical infidelity is wide open certainly doesn’t help. On the brick-and-mortar side, strip clubs (along with casinos) have long been established near national and international U.S. military bases. Meanwhile, advancements in technology and the ability to make new romantic connections via social media and dating apps, no matter where in the world one may be deployed, are also contributing factors. With all that said, it doesn’t explain why individuals who are known for their discipline struggle with adultery more than the general population. Are there deeper underlying issues at play? Could mental and behavioral health intervention be employed to address these issues and help mitigate the risk of military infidelity? Let’s review.

Underlying Concerns that May Contribute to Infidelity Among Members of the Military

Cooccurring Mental and Behavioral Health Issues

It should come as no surprise that research confirms military veterans and active personnel have higher rates of mental and behavioral health disorders than civilians. They exhibit higher rates of PTSD, anxietystress, and depression.

While there is no research to confirm that PTSD directly causes infidelity, studies show that the disorder is associated with deficiencies in romantic relationship satisfaction via an increase in maladaptive communication patterns and relationship instability. This logically increases potential for adultery. Anxiety is also an interesting consideration, namely as it pertains to sexual performance anxiety. Sexual dysfunction has been found in veterans with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. This leads to sexual performance anxiety. Studies suggest that individuals with sexual performance anxiety are more likely to cheat on their partners. It’s a truly vicious cycle. Meanwhile, Psychology Today reports that depression accentuates a couple’s differences and can lead to infidelity.

Peer Pressure Among Active Personnel

The camaraderie between active personnel can be beneficial in so many ways. However, if a groupthink culture of infidelity has been fostered within a base and during deployment, servicepersons may be influenced to participate. Research shows that peer pressure is a predictor for increased stress levels and anxiety. To avoid these mental health consequences, servicepersons may concede and cheat on their spouses. This concern can be further exasperated when members are stationed in foreign countries where the usual social and moral norms may differ, and encourage behaviors that individuals might not typically engage in.

Complicated Relationships with Pornography

Research finds a concerning relationship between porn addiction and military personnel. Among the symptoms of compulsive porn use, are loss of interest in sexual relationships with one’s spouse. This could contribute to one’s temptation to engage in extramarital affairs.

Gambling with Marriage

At the risk of side-stepping too far from today’s topic, we feel that it’s important to address a vulnerability that servicepersons have to another behavioral health disorder – problem gambling. Data shows that gambling among active duty military is 3.5 times higher than among civilians. Separation and divorce rates are significantly higher when a spouse has gambling disorder, and so in a roundabout way the potential for military infidelity is inflated even further.

Everything above indicates that behavioral health intervention is required to help mitigate the risk of military infidelity, and to help repair relationships that have already experienced it. There is nary a more qualified place to seek help than right here at Kindbridge Behavioral Health. In addition to offering online therapy for anxiety, depression, PTSD, sex-related addictions, and gambling disorder, we specialize in veteran and active military mental health support. Through our virtual network we are outfitted to service all veterans and active members of the U.S. military whether stationed locally or deployed abroad.

Note: Those residing in Colorado can take advantage of FREE mental health services for veterans, active duty personnel and family members, which includes couples counseling.

Concerned Military Personnel and Their Spouses

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