Some people describe infidelity as the ultimate betrayal.
For others, it is not the best thing that could happen but, really, no big deal whatsoever.
There is a group of people who feel so guilty after being unfaithful that they never do it again.
Still, others engage in infidelity repeatedly and don’t feel they are doing anything wrong.
To make things even more complicated, what one person may call “infidelity”, another won’t.
How can one topic have such a range of reactions and behaviors?
This article will give you some answers.
- Is infidelity morally acceptable or not?
- Palestine, Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan
- Other countries
- Different cultures have different attitudes towards infidelity
- Finland and Britain
- Spain, Belgium, Norway
- France, Germany, Italy
- Infidelity has multiple definitions
- Unfaithfulness in the U.S.
- Not as bad as they say
- They say “once a cheater, always a cheater.” Is that true or not?
- What about factors such as education, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, etc.?
- The GSS
- Non-consensual sex Source: YouGov 2016
- Tolerance of infidelity
- Genetic influence
- Professions more likely to cheat
- The financial cost of infidelity
- The way forward
Is infidelity morally acceptable or not?
Turns out, it depends on where you live. A recent article in The Economist gave some very interesting statistics.
Less than 50% of those in France think that infidelity is morally unacceptable.
This may explain why roughly ⅓ of adults in France confess to having cheated—up from ⅙ in 1970.
However, the situation is more complicated.
Since regular sex outside a relationship is not considered to be infidelity by one in eight people in France, what exactly are they confessing to?
And yet, despite what the French believe and how they behave, the data shows that Italians actually commit more infidelity.
Almost half of Italian men (47%) say they have had “unfaithful sex.”
Palestine, Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan
On the other end of the scale, in countries like Palestine, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, close to 100% of those asked said that infidelity is morally unacceptable.
Here is how other countries stack up…
|Country||Which % think infidelity is morally unacceptable?|
|Brazil + U.S.||roughly 85%|
|South Korea, Uganda, Australia||roughly 80%|
|Nigeria, Britain, Canada, China||roughly 75%|
|Argentina, Poland||roughly 73%|
|Japan, Russia||roughly 70%|
|South Africa, Spain, Italy||roughly 65%|
So, if you are living in a country which sees infidelity as more acceptable, would you be more likely to “indulge?”
Different cultures have different attitudes towards infidelity
An article in The Mirror Online poked around in several countries to see how they felt about infidelity. Here is their “top 10.”
Finland and Britain
Finland and Britain come in last with only 36% of those surveyed admitting unfaithfulness.
In Finnish culture, such situations are named “parallel relationships.” They are more or less accepted by this open-minded society.
Finnish married men tend to be more unfaithful than their wives. Data shows that one in five men were unfaithful with 10 women or more.
This was seven times more than the unfaithfulness rate of Finnish married women.
Spain, Belgium, Norway
The percentages of unfaithfulness in these countries are 39%, 40%, and 41% respectively.
Opinion has it that although Spaniards are passionate, they are kept in check by the influence of their Catholic Church.
A dating website advisor in Belgium says that being unfaithful is not the big taboo it once was. Couples usually respond with tit for tat or get divorced, no big deal.
In Norway, there appears to be a direct relationship between the weather and the level of unfaithfulness. The colder it is, the more Norwegians are, and vice versa.
France, Germany, Italy
Figures show that 43% of the French are unfaithful, while Germany and Italy tie at 45%.
Despite the relatively high rate of infidelity, Italians remain married. The divorce rate in Italy is among the lowest worldwide.
Just slightly higher at 46%, Denmark’s figure might be a result of “capital players.” Data shows that admitted infidelity in Copenhagen is over 33%.
Over half (56%) of Thais admit to infidelity. Part of the reason may be the historical roots of unfaithfulness in Thailand.
For example, a Thai tradition is the mia noi (minor wife). In addition, there is the “kik” culture of the younger crowd. “Kik” refers to a relationship that is “more than a friend” but may or may not include sex.
Kik relationships are strong, with partners spending time together, perhaps at the expense of their “traditional” relationships.
Is your attitude toward infidelity being challenged by the country in which you live?
Infidelity has multiple definitions
Webster’s Online Dictionary states that infidelity is “the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife, or partner.”
Indeed, when most people think of infidelity, they think of adultery: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner.”
Yet, as we can see, the two definitions are not the same. While infidelity includes adultery, it is more…and here is where things begin to get complicated.
Is the cyber affair your partner is having infidelity even though they’ve never met in person?
What about the close friend with whom your partner shares inside jokes and deeply personal thoughts? (Again, no physical aspect)
Does watching a lot of porn count as infidelity?
What about areas that have nothing to do with romance or sex?
This article mentions financial infidelity. In these cases, one partner is not completely truthful (or withholds information) about their economic situation. For example, they might lie about…
- how they earn their money
- the amount of their income
- the size of their debt
- how they spend their money
- the secret bank accounts they’ve opened
- unagreed upon loans they have made with joint funds
This dishonesty could be seen as being unfaithful to the trust of the relationship.
All these examples show that there is no consensus (total agreement) about what infidelity means. As a result, the same act could be seen as hurtful by one partner and perfectly acceptable by the other.
Do you and your partner share a common definition of infidelity?
Unfaithfulness in the U.S.
A lot of the data about infidelity is based upon adults in the United States. Let’s take a look at some of it.
How many people cheat…really?
Interestingly, there are different reliable results.
Not as bad as they say
Dr. John M. Grohol, Psy.D. is a qualified clinical psychologist, researcher, and author. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central.
In his article, Dr. Grohol puts forth the opinion that many of the infidelity statistics are a marketing tactic.
That is, companies paint a pessimistic picture in order to encourage people to buy their products and services.
After reviewing the research, Dr. Grohol says that overall, the chances that your partner will be unfaithful is low.
He states that in any particular year, “the actual likelihood of your relationship suffering from cheating is low — probably less than 6 percent.”
Over the length of the relationship, this percentage could “rise to as much as 25 percent.”
He concludes that this “is a far cry from the 50 percent number we hear from many so-called professionals and services trying to sell you something.”
Is it fact or opinion?
They say “once a cheater, always a cheater.” Is that true or not?
Polling group YouGov got answers from 1588 U.S. adults. Over half, 58%, felt this was generally true. Yet, this is opinion, not fact, right?
Unfortunately, research supports this opinion.
A study of 484 U.S. adults concluded that people who were unfaithful in previous relationships were likely to continue being unfaithful in future ones.
In fact, those who admitted to infidelity in their first relationship were three times more likely to cheat in their next one.
What about factors such as education, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, etc.?
We are now entering rather murky waters. A lot of the information on the internet is not quite the same in fact as how it is being made to appear.
Many of the facts and figures being repeated on the internet are based on data from the General Social Survey (GSS). This organization has been following changes in American society since 1972. The most recent data available at the moment is from 2018, but much of the information about infidelity has a “latest date” of 2016.
It is always very important to pay attention to the “fine print” when reading statistics. For example, one reported fact is that there is no link between education level and infidelity. As a result, they say it is a myth that people with higher education are less likely to cheat.
Let’s take a closer look…
This report is based on GSS data from 2010-2016. The data is based on people who reported (said, admitted) that they had sex with people other than their partner while married (either married now or married previously).
- What about data for previous years? What about after 2016?
- These are only the brave people who admitted their infidelity. The results might change if we could see into the minds of those who did not.
- The population is only married people. What about all those unfaithful partners who are in unmarried relationships?
No one is questioning the validity of the GSS data. What we are suggesting is that people reporting this data may package it to tell a narrative that is not exactly 100% accurate.
Having said that, if you would like to get an idea of the infidelity of currently/previously married people in the U.S. between 2010-2016, this overview is a good place to begin.
Many sensational numbers about infidelity are based on old information. For example, in one article, the source was from 2005. While it was a reliable source, most likely the situation has changed somewhat 15 years later. Another mind-blowing statistic was based on data from 1994—over 25 years ago!
It is somewhat inaccurate to present such information as current and up-to-date.
OK, so what numbers do we have about infidelity?
Source: YouGov 2016
Their survey of 997 Americans showed that 19% had non-consensual sex (infidelity).
It appears that age has little to do with this figure. Where age does make a difference is in the reporting: 17% of those under 45 will admit it, whereas only 3% of over 65s will own up to their infidelity.
Here is how that 19% break down further…
|$100K or more||24%|
|Prefer not to say||13%|
Tolerance of infidelity
Data from a study of 949 Chinese and 305 British men highlighted some information about tolerance to same-sex infidelity. In other words, about how accepting the men were if their women partners cheated on them with other women. In general, the males preferred that their female partners were unfaithful to them with another female.
The study also examined infidelity length as a factor in acceptance. Overall, the men were more tolerant in cases of short-term unfaithfulness as opposed to long-term cheating.
There is evidence that infidelity may be influenced by our bodies themselves. Research from 2005 pointed to a genetic component. Basically, in about 40% of people, there is somewhat of a genetic influence on their extrapair mating (infidelity) and number of sexual partners. This influence appeared to be connected to the hormone vasopressin, responsible for keeping our cells well hydrated. However, this could not be proven at that time.
Later research in 2015, supported the genetic component. In fact, it found that genetics explained cases of extrapair mating in 62% of unfaithful men and 40% of unfaithful women. Also, this study found that in women, the genetic component was linked to arginine vasopressin.
Professions more likely to cheat
Ashley Madison is a dating site for cheaters. Their website states: Life is short. Have an affair.® We leave it up to you to decide about the reliability of their data.
Ashley Madison surveyed 1000 of their clients to see which professions showed up more often.
Here are some of the results as reported in this CheatSheet article (since the original survey was not able to be located).
- The majority of unfaithful men worked in the trades (29% males, 4% females). Examples of this category include plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc.
- The medical profession was the highest category for women (23% females, 5% males).
- Men and women entrepreneurs were equally unfaithful (11%).
- In the category of IT, men were the majority (12%) with women at ⅔ of that figure (8%).
- Two other “almost even” categories were retail and hospitality, and finance. Not only were the statistics almost the same for men and women, they were exactly the same for both professional categories. (8% males, 9% females).
- Women educators turned up 12% of the time, with their male colleagues at ⅓ their rate (4%).
The financial cost of infidelity
Often, infidelity is not cheap. There is the cost of membership to dating sites. Many cheaters pay extra attention to grooming and updating their clothes. Then, there are the costs of the dates themselves, even if split 50-50 with the other person. In general, the average monthly cost of infidelity is $444 per month or slightly over $5,300 per year.
The way forward
Information is coming to light that as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine, many infidelities are being revealed. Numerous couples are currently having to work through what this means for the future of their relationships. They are asking the tough questions such as “Stay? Go? Divorce? Live separately?”, not to mention those who need to take children or elderly parents into consideration.
One resource worth checking out is this TED talk. From the title, it sounds as if it will be in support of infidelity. Not really. You will have to watch to understand.
Esther Perel is a social anthropologist. She draws on the data she has gathered from over 10 years of “globetrotting” to give an extremely informative and thought-provoking talk on infidelity. It is worth all 21 minutes and 30 seconds needed to hear it.
What is especially nice is that after exploring the topic, Perel gives practical, “can do now” tips for surviving infidelity and coming out even stronger on the other end.