Sexual Infidelity Like 'Comfort Food,' Says Investigator

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A leading PI's theory states that people's desire to cheat on their partners is very similar to cravings for comfort food during times of stress or sadness. Poor economy, layoffs and disasters seem to skyrocket infidelity, according to the researcher.

The post 9/11 economy absolutely buried us with requests

It may not pass scientific muster, but a leading private investigator has developed a theory linking financial hardship such as that experienced during a recessive economy, with an increase in marital infidelity.

Likening it to other actual, proven science, the recipe for Mark McAlpin’s adultero solatium (adultero: the Latin word for unfaithful marriage partner and solatium: a Latin word meaning compensation, or solace) theory combines raw numbers from his own investigative practice with a bit of arm-chair psychology and an unmeasured pour of biochemistry. Admittedly a scientific lay person, the PI says he has been rolling this theory around in his head for years, and the numbers have consistently evinced his hypothesis.

The theory basically builds on the well-known reliance of stressed or distressed people on the relief found in their indulgence in 'comfort food.'

“The human body wants to feel good. When people face physical, emotional or even mental pain or stress, they normally engage in activities that will either remove the pain or counter it with pleasure. Chocolate, ice cream, booze, a hot bath or log message, illegal drugs, pick your poison," he said. “Diluted to it’s simplest explanation it’s all about brain chemistry. The serotonin effect is a pleasurable response to a situation. People naturally want to feel good. The worse they feel, the greater their desire to feel good. People who are stressed out, upset or worse, actively seek out pleasure to dull the pain. The worse the pain, the more powerful the trigger for pleasure. The most powerful triggers are associated with the greatest pleasures: food, drugs and sex. This theory is only different from the accepted psychological responses in that it rightly includes the sexual and/or emotional pleasure sought from people other than the afflicted’s significant other.”

McApin’s theory is based solely on data he’s culled from his skip tracing website The site, which offers reverse lookup phone number traces, has always counted infidelity investigations among its customer's top reasons for ordering his services. But the investigator says search requests based on suspicions of a cheating spouse have greatly increased during periods of economic stress. He has also mapped increased search requests from geographical areas particularly effected by negative economic factors.

“The post 9/11 economy absolutely buried us with requests,” McAlpin recalls.

Although customers don’t always confess the reason for the investigations they request, McAlpin says trends are pretty easy to spot.

“When the vast majority of searches are suddenly women asking you to investigate other women, it is pretty clear what is happening. When investigations involving people seeking info on people of their same sex jumps from 70 to 90 percent in the weeks following 9/11 or a ton of new customers from the Palo Alto area spring up after the first round of HP lay offs, it’s pretty hard to dismiss the trends,” he said.

McAlpin said he has seen similar increases in cell phone lookup requests in other geographical areas following disasters and major layoffs or plant closings.

“There are obviously smaller examples of this, but I don’t look into every increase from every area. There are clearly layoffs, factory closings and fires and other disasters all over the country. I’m sure the theory is exemplified in those situations, as well,” said McAplin.

It has been statistically shown that in the vast majority of suspected infidelities, the suspected parties were in fact cheating. It stands to reason then, that the more suspicion of infidelity, as evinced by such requests for information for that stated purpose, the more actual cheating in that area. And with a spike in cheating following an economic or emotional blast, the benefit of whatever doubt is sure to come from professionals in the field of the human psyche should certainly be given to the adultero solatium theory.

The lack of definitive detail and corroborating outside evidence supporting the theory will surely lead some to dismiss the merits of the hypothesis. But McAlpin says this doesn’t bother him in the least.

“I have no plans to write a dissertation on this, I just find it interesting. If this theory helps someone discover a potential infidelity, or better yet avoid hanging a scarlet 'A' on themselves or seeing one on their spouse, great. If those in the behavioral field see some merit, maybe someone will conduct some research that will bear the seal of scientific approval. For me it is just an interesting footnote to the way I track business trends,” he said.

The investigator’s popular website has helped thousands with infidelity advice including recognizing the signs of a cheating spouse, how to catch them, and the phone number tracing investigations he specializes in.


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Elizabeth Knightly
Psychology Matters
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