If you listen to the right (or wrong) people, it’s common to hear accusations of rampant infidelity referenced in support for the futility of monogamy or any sort of long-term committed relationship. Although the statistics about divorce and infidelity are a bit jarring, and definitely contradict the traditional narrative of fall in love, get married, live happily ever after, I do think guys blow cheating and non-monogamy out of proportion.

I spent a few hours recently researching statistics and studies on infidelity and cheating, and the results are quite varied. Part of this has to do with time period (cheating is becoming more common or at least more admitted in the last decade) but I think part of it has to do with opportunity. People in the 21st century have more of an opportunity to meet and cheat than any other generation in history. Hopping on Match.com with a private email your wife doesn’t know about is not hard. And considering most wives have jobs and careers of their own, meeting up for a lunch date isn’t hard either.

But here I’ll try to give a fair assessment and rundown about the state of fidelity in our society today. Again, many of the results are murky, but I’ve tried to preen the best and most relevant conclusions we can draw from many of these studies.

How many people cheat on their spouse?

The answer is going to depend on the year and the study. Here are a handful of results though:

  • 1997: 22% of men; 14% of women
  • 1998: 24% of men; 18% of women
  • 1998: 37% of men; 22% of women
  • 2002: 50-60% of men; 45-55% of women
  • 2003: 50-65% of men; 45-55% of women
  • Unknown: 25% of men; 17% of women
  • 53% of the population will cheat on a spouse or significant other during their lifetime.

As you can see, the numbers are all over the place. What I did find was that generally accepted estimates by scholars and therapists is approximately 60% of men will cheat during their lifetime, and 40% of women will cheat at some point during their lifetime. It should be noted that this means cheat on ANYONE, not just a spouse. My guess is that cheating on spouses brings the figures down a little bit.

Other interesting statistics:

  • Affairs affect 1 in 2.7 couples.
  • Women under 30 are just as likely to cheat as men under 30. After 30, women are far less likely to cheat.
  • 98% of married men and 80% of married women admit to fantasizing about someone other than their partner.
  • Women who are financially independent are more likely to cheat, whereas men WITHOUT financial stability are more likely to cheat.
  • 80% of women who suspect their spouse of cheating are correct; 50% of men who suspect their spouse of cheating are correct. [Woman’s intuition?]
  • 65% of affairs end up causing divorce.

Who is most likely to cheat?

What personality traits or characteristics are positively correlated to infidelity? Check it out… list below applies to both men and women unless otherwise stated:

  • Attractiveness – The more physically attractive a person, the more likely they are to be unfaithful. Studies have found that men, specifically, who feel they are more physically attractive than their partner, report far lower satisfaction in their relationship.
  • Separateness – The more separate a couple’s work life, social life and daily living situation is, the more likely they are to cheat.
  • Sex drive – Higher sex drives correlate to higher chances of cheating.
  • Risk-Takers – People who are prone to take risks are more prone to cheating.
  • Sense of Entitlement – The more entitled people feel and the less they’re able to deal with hardship or conflict, the more likely they are to act outside of the relationship.
  • Genetics – Recent research is pointing to the possibility that interest in commitment and monogamy (or lack thereof) could be genetic.

Conclusions

Looking over the information above, one can see why people involved in the pick up industry seem to have such a skewed perspective of infidelity; both them and the women they spend most of their time chasing (hot party girls) fit all of the qualifiers for someone who is unlikely to be faithful.

What does this mean for marriage and relationships? I don’t know. Some psychologists feel that the internet and the greater level of interconnectedness and ease of meeting new suitors, as well as people spending more time in work environments than ever (especially women), instead of at home together, makes the upcoming generation susceptible to an epidemic of adultery. Statistics are already confirming this.

Some people argue that our conceptions of relationships need to be questioned and possibly altered. Others feel that the institution of marriage is out-dated and should be thrown out. Others feel that society is going to hell in a hand-basket and we’re a bunch of immoral hypocrites.

Personally, although these statistics definitely don’t show a rosy picture, I don’t think they necessarily damn the possibility for a long-term happy and healthy relationship. Granted, I’m far more liberal about defining my relationships with women, and am extremely lacking in jealousy as a boyfriend, so my tolerance for this kind of stuff is higher than most. I accept that humans are pinned in a trap of being sexually non-monogamous yet socially monogamous at the same time. I feel like an awareness of these natural drives and finding a way to honor them in a healthy way within a relationship is the path to acceptance and happiness.

Sources: TruthAboutDeception.com, Infidelity-etc.com, MenStuff.org

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27 Responses to Infidelity Statistics

  1. modernguy says:

    If you’re not jealous it means she’s replaceable, which is the opposite of love.

    Something this survey misses is that serial monogamy is a soft form of cheating, because they are relationships of convenience that only last until the next thing comes along.

    • Mark says:

      Sex is replaceable. Her love for me isn’t. That’s why losing the former doesn’t bother me as much as the latter.

      Somewhere along the line people started equating sex with love. They don’t always occur together. And they’re DEFINITELY not the same thing.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’d also wonder about the definition of ‘cheating anytime, ever’. If some 16-year old ‘cheats’ on her ‘boyfriend’ of three weeks by kissing another guy at a party, is that really the same as sleeping with someone when you’re married?

    I’ve also felt for a long time that guys in the seduction community extrapolate too much from the sub sample of girls who actually go for guys like them.

    Also, do you have access to actual research journal articles?

    • Mark says:

      I agree. Who’s to say that “cheating” isn’t defined in one study as kissing, and in another as extramarital sex? I do agree though, that the overall point here is that (once again) pick up guys have a biased sample size that they’re dealing with. Most women don’t cheat. But most drunk women in short skirts at bars on a Thursday probably do.

      The studies are all referenced in those links I gave. I didn’t take the time to dig them up myself though.

  3. realdeal says:

    @mark “Sex is replaceable. Her love for me isn’t. That’s why losing the former doesn’t bother me as much as the latter.”

    Women equate GOOD SEX to Love far more than men do. when a women cheats it’s usually cuz in her mind the guy is out, she has lost respect for him and she’s no longer interested in him sexually.

    Women have a harder time separating good sex from love as I’m sure you’ve heard the line “I love him but I’m not in love with him” which means I love him like a friend or a brother at the most. so in other words, women cheat to trade up with a better mate, not just to have sex with a stranger out of novelty like men i.e. they are not into “hit it and quit it” they want the romance, passion etc…

    with the exception of women who cheat out of revenge or who have fucked up self-esteem issues, the women who are usually able to separate both are usually sex workers, who several of them have had bad abusive childhoods, (prostitues, porn stars, broke ass models etc.). now if you want to be her pimp, you can go down that route.

    finally, there is a subcategory of women who can genuinely separate sex from love (i.e. polyamory), but they are in the minority and are usually not that attractive.

    to get more proof check out the book “women’s infidelity” by michelle langely. She specifically states that women generally speaking become disinterested in the man they cheated on even if he forgives her because her emotions are in limbo and she sees the man who forgives her as weak and desperate (to make things work).

    • Mark says:

      Great comment and I generally agree with everything you say, although there are a lot of murky grey-areas that arise. For instance, instabilities in the relationship, temporary distances between partners, and even different times during a girl’s menstrual cycle can all effect her propensity to cheat or to want to cheat on a guy, even if she’s perfectly in love with him.

      As far as NOT being jealous being a turn off for women at times, I’ve definitely experienced this. Women seem to have a weird middle ground that they like — they want their man to be jealous and possessive enough to help them feel some security, but at the same time they don’t want him to be jealous to the point of being controlling or flat out inappropriate or embarrassing.

      My lack of jealousy usually comes from a delusional level of self-confidence and abundance mentality — the idea that any woman who would be stupid enough to cheat on me is not worth my time and I’m better off without her anyway… I’m so at peace with this belief that it actually makes me calm and bothers the women I date. The knowledge that if she did it, it would not only destroy my attraction for her and give me reason to dump her, but it’d also practically dump her for me in the process… I’d almost prefer it to a really sticky, drawn out and painful break up that often occurs.

      I also think the way my first serious relationship of four years ended — the way she left me in such an egregious and painful manner, I feel like maybe that jealousy and abandonment switch in my brain may have “shut off” a little bit so to speak. It’s like I’ve felt that type of pain to such a dizzying degree, that the thought of some girl I’ve been seeing for a few months traipsing off with some guy one night strikes me with a chuckle and a feeling of “Good riddance.”

      Of course, I’m sure some of these attitudes will change when I’m older, married and have children. When you’re in your mid-20’s and banging women by the dozen, it’s hard to take any of this crap seriously. 😉

      • Leo says:

        “Of course, I’m sure some of these attitudes will change when I’m older, married and have children. When you’re in your mid-20′s and banging women by the dozen, it’s hard to take any of this crap seriously.”

        Hmmmm. I’ve met several couples in their EARLY 20s that got married and had kids. Of course that when you are young you want to experience everything that life offers, but what would you do if you find your “soul mate” or the “one” when you are very young, would you give up the chance to be with somebody that you really like just to be banging more girls out there? I just met a young couple last friday and they’ve been together for 8 years and they have a kid. A close friend of mine have been with the same woman for 26 years and they have 2 kids. Is there any “right” age or moment to get married?

      • Leo says:

        “I also think the way my first serious relationship of four years ended — the way she left me in such an egregious and painful manner, I feel like maybe that jealousy and abandonment switch in my brain may have “shut off” a little bit so to speak. It’s like I’ve felt that type of pain to such a dizzying degree, that the thought of some girl I’ve been seeing for a few months traipsing off with some guy one night strikes me with a chuckle and a feeling of “Good riddance.”

        Mark, please take this with a grain a salt because I’m not a shrink and this is only my humble opinion. But have you thought that MAYBE that level of detachment that you have with women is a defense mechanism to don’t get hurt again? If I don’t care for any woman and I can “replace” her easily, how can I get hurt again? No commitment = no pain. Just my 2 cents.
        P.S.: You mentionned: her love for me. How about: Your love for her?

  4. realdeal says:

    it’s not that it turns her off, in her book michelle langely mentions that men who were too trusting were seen as “naive” and too “innocent” by the women. The women felt that the men had this image of “perfect girl” in them and they felt it hard to keep the role/image up all the time. in other words, the guy refused to accept that his sweet girl has a “dark” side too.

    here is another interesting article by her
    http://ezinearticles.com/?Bad-Girls:-Lets-Be-Honest-Ladies,-Arent-You-Only-Into-Him-Because-Hes-Not-Into-You?&id=87022

    now it could be cuz those men were not that adventurous in bed à la secret garden of nancy friday.

    anyways, a calculated small dose of jealousy from time to time is necessary. best to do it it with a straight neutral face and smooth talk so as not to let her really read your emotions like an open book.

    I enjoy the blog but still, most of it deals with getting laid, not how to manage women. I would recommend you these books

    Black players: secret underworld of black pimps (rereleased by tariq nasheed and it is a phd thesis on black pimps)
    modeone: let the women know what you’re really thinking
    pimp story of my life: by iceberg slim
    pimp game by mickey royal

    as you see, all of the above are from black authors and deal with pimps. though I dont condone them, they are worth a read.

    • Mark says:

      Ahh… I see what you’re saying. For me it’s not a denial about her innocence, it’s more of an indifference, which actually pisses them off. But I get what you’re saying.

      I’ve read Mode One and enjoyed it. Heard of those books on pimping. Sounds interesting, will have to check them out.

  5. realdeal says:

    I forgot to specify that Modeone is a hell of a book on men women interpersonal communication and is not related to pimping!

  6. Schwaermer says:

    Hi Mark,
    Saw you on The Social Man and thought I’d check out your site – very cool.

    I too have looked into this subject in some detail and what I learned squares with your original post pretty well. The comments seem to include a lot of personal bias that is “real” but not necessarily useful across the general population.

    Any human behavior is a huge subject and so there is a lot not said here. I wanted to add the the stats about who cheats (e.g. men and women) are self-reported and therefore biased. There are several studies showing that women cheat approximately as much as men (but frequently for different reasons) but deny it even on anonymous self-report studies.

    With regard to the idea of successful long – term relationships, I do believe it is possible. Another huge subject!

  7. Dangles says:

    I’m currently reading the book The Ethical slut and in one of the first chapters it talks about jealousy. I thought it might be helpful to ModernGuy with his view:

    “If you’re not jealous it means she’s replaceable, which is the opposite of love.”

    Ahem

    Myth #5 JEALOUSY IS INEVITABLE AND IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERCOME

    Jealousy is, without a doubt, a very common experience, so much so that a person who doesn’t experience jealousy is looked at as a bit odd, or in denial. But often a situation that would cause intense jealousy for one person can be no big deal for another. Some people get jealous when their honey takes a sip out of someones else’s Coke, others happily watch their beloved wave bye-bye for a month of amorous sporting with a friend…..

  8. Mark says:

    The debate over whether sexual jealousy is natural or learned is just as big (if not bigger) than the debate over monogamy being natural. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear from science at this point that monogamy is NOT the natural state of humans. The next big question is whether jealousy is or not.

    There’s a lot of evidence that sexual jealousy is tied largely to both culture and economic conditions. For instance, “honor killings” in the Muslim world, or female circumcision in Africa. But all that would prove is that jealousy occurs in different quantities. From everything I’ve read, no one has actually found a society in which sexual jealousy wasn’t present. Society without jealousy has just been theorized based on primatology and anthropology.

    • Dangles says:

      When it comes down to it jealousy is an emotion. I think it is natural to feel emotions or to feel threatened when something might be taken from you. It is not something that all people feel though.

      I don’t know enough about emotions to sit here and say much but I would imagine if you are secure in yourself and with what you have you wouldn’t get as jealous as someone who isn’t. There will always be people who aren’t secure (probably more than those secure) so I doubt jealousy will go away. It seems to me like a very natural response in a lot of cases.

      My only point was that it varies with the individual and lack of jealousy does not mean lack of love or attachment.

      • Dangles says:

        Oh wait, I’m new to the blog thing, you weren’t responding to me.

        • Mark says:

          I was kinda… I was just stating that there are two sides of the argument, so neither you or modernguy are necessarily right. Most polyamory literature (Ethical Slut being a prime example) is going to downplay the role of jealousy. Science, at least so far, has shown that jealousy is far harder to get rid of than what’s been theorized.

          • Dangles says:

            Fair enough. I’d be interested to see the relationship between societies that practice more non-monogamy or polyamorous relationships and how much jealousy enters in. I’m sure it still does to some degree.

            Do you think that the constant push for monogamy in society adds to the likelihood of jealousy? Having a scarcity mindset as well as thinking finding a partner is very important HAS to push you to feeling the emotion of jealousy much more than it would if these things weren’t put into your head as being important.

  9. Mark says:

    The short answer is: yes, jealousy does increase based on social pressures. But also that it never completely goes away, even in societies that don’t practice monogamy completely.

    Couple books are good about this:
    “Sex at Dawn”and “Secrets of Love and Lust” by Simon Andreai

    I’ve been meaning to write reviews for both of them on here.

    • Dangles says:

      My current order is Ethical Slut, Up From Eden, and then Sex at Dawn (all recommended by you I believe). I’ve got about 10 books that related to these topics and a few others in love/sex that came in today from Amazon. I have to say from the little I’ve read in each of those three so far I can tell I’m going to have my mind blown pretty hard out of my head. I plan on doing book reports on a forum I frequent. Maybe I’ll bring them to your attention when they are done so you can see what a mostly new guy thought about these books you recommended as they educated him on the world.

  10. TheSwede says:

    A note on the abundance/scarcity mentality and if-she-cheats-she’s-not-worth-it mentality.

    First of all, I’m in the same place (cheated? Okay, see you later, you’re obviously not it for me) but from time to time I wonder: what could I have done differently? I’m not saying I’m responsible for her actions, but at the same time…how much of it is “me”, so to speak?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, that if you’re striving to become “better” at relationships and understanding women, etc., at some point, if unfaithfulness occurs (and I’m talking about a committed relationship, where boundaries have been set, on the same page, yada yada), what can you learn from it, other than the “that bitch is a fucking slut and not worth it”?

    Picking up what I’m laying down, here?

    • Mark says:

      I suppose there are always lessons on what one could have done better… but I also know that some women are just disposed to cheating.

      Like my pre-PUA girlfriend who left me. I really sucked in that relationship. I was a pretty mediocre boyfriend. But I kept in touch with her for a few years and she cheated and/or left pretty much every guy she dated after me too. She’s not slutty, but she always ends up cheating on her boyfriends. I later realized that she has some serious emotional problems that cause her to sabotage herself. There’s nothing I can do or change about that.

      I guess sometimes you learn just which women to avoid in the future.

  11. Max says:

    What type of women are least likely to cheat? I’m a 20 year old virgin and I’m quite good looking but I do not know where to start. I never bothered dating after being exposed to PUA because I thought that ALL women were sluts so I ignored them COMPLETELY in order to focus on other things. I thought they didn’t matter that much. Eventually, I went mad due to lack of socializing and social isolation.

  12. spacialist says:

    Jealousy is but one of the range of human emotions. When in response to a real event that is in fact threatening it is appropriate. When it is in response to an imagined event it is inappropriate. Small children need help in working through their jealousy of new siblings to help them understand that the fact their parents now also love another child does not mean they are no longer loved as much as before the new sibling comes along. Jealousy is most likely to occur in situations where there is some perceived threat to the primary relationship. It also occurs when individuals have, unfortunately, a sense of ownership and control over another individual. So often, the perception of threat is what varies.

  13. MARCo says:

    here’s my thought on cheating. People don’t cheat because of an opportunity, that’s biggest lie. Forget the movies and supposed “business trips, going out with friends and workouts in the gym” as an excuse. It’s very easy to cheat on a person who trusts you and you can cheat in any way you want – be it at your home because you KNOW when they’re coming from work, be it when you go out to buy groceries and staying longer or simply having them bought already before and stored in your car, staying longer on your workplace/traffic jam, when going on your child’s parental meeting, you name it.
    It’s easier than to do it even when compared to an ease of your relatives (or family member) to steal from your house. So this all story about “opportunity” and the internet is making up excuses to do it, it is easy and it’s only about the personality. In fact it was easier in times back then, when a woman stayed home, it was easier for both men and women when there were no so much cameras, mobile phones, monitoring systems, gadgets, etc. Many people do have
    People cheat because they WANT to cheat, because of the egocentric culture that arose in last several decades and it gets worse and worse. They simply want to check out the thrill because they think they’re entitled to it, thats what kind of persons they grew up to be. You need to know that 90% of your personality comes from your house if family was good. Second important factor is your company/friends and media, accounting 9%. Gets more influence if you’re living in a family that lets children grow up on their own without much bothering. Only 1% if about you and what kind of person you’re born. Genetics factor is thus just another excuse for the selfish culture.

    Another thing to note is that e.g. durex will have no use if a study claims to have 5% of people cheating. You’re probably going to ask yourself who those people are, and compare them to number of prison inmates, drug addicts, prostitutes, alcoholics, etc. Other words – people you don’t want to be compared with. But if they claim the number is 50%, then you get another excuse by the media that “everyone is doing it”. Something like “one night stand”.
    I’ve reminded my boys on the old saying when I was young – “check out the weed, everyone’s doing it, and it cleans your lungs”. People need to read through the deceiving strategies of people who mean them no good, but the society goes to hell without stopping. It’s quite sad when you know that western world lives in abundance to many material things, but it still becomes hell for it’s inhabitants because it simply sinks and reaches new low each decade.

    But the thing worth noting is, what do they define as cheating today. When you say “cheating” people usually imagine married people cheating on their spouses behind their backs and coming back to their families, hiding it from family members. But some people may think of flirting with different girls and boys at age of 15, watching porn when your wife isn’t home, using sex toys or reading erotic novels when a husband isn’t home, flirting when your spouse isn’t there, etc. It all depends on how they defined it.

    Claiming that 53% of people will cheat their spouses sounds like the decades old scam on female orgasm. For those of you who are younger, here’s the deal. Various “relevant” studies concluded that women (90% of women!) can’t reach an orgasm in their lifetime, while 80% of women will have an orgasm each time via oral sex. I must say I fell for this trick and believed it myself decades ago and my now deceased wife told me that she thinks it’s a lie. She just wasn’t into it either. Some 25-30 years ago oral sex was a taboo similar to anal sex today and was considered immoral (known but not practiced widely), but it rose in acceptance since then. As a consequence the number of throat cancers arose so much that now people claim that oral sex is more lethal than cigarettes, as a result of reasearch among people under 50 years old confirmed. Pay note that AIDS appeared only recently at that time in the 80s so they claimed that oral sex is secure sex, which is still believed by vast majority of people. So much about sexual education. I have a friend of mine since high school who now works in local hospital and she even told me that a number of throat cancers related just to HPV increased approximately 3-fold for women and close to 14 times for men compared to three decades ago (linking it to men trying to ensure their woman will reach an orgasm, and possibly their wives returning favor resulting in more frequent oral sex than before), which she directly linked to such claim back then, but such claim about oral sex is still popular. Funny thing is that recent studies also related oral sex as a source to avoid cheating, claiming that “if you do oral sex, your spouse is less likely to cheat”. This sounds really strange or stupid since they claim that about 50% of people are cheaters today, when oral sex is so much more widespread.
    She also told me that various other dieseases, including gastritis, which she claimed is the consequence of oral sex for years and has been said so by various sources, albeit it’s still not confirmed by any relevant scientific study. Another reason to use your own head and think instead of just accepting someone’s claims.

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