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.
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.