Haven’t you heard? Everybody is sleeping with everybody else except their spouse or partner. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it is probably happening a lot more than you think.
Intrinsic to the act of infidelity is secrecy, so it’s probably not surprising that you don’t realize that your neighbor is sleeping with the mailman and your hot co-worker is sleeping with every man in the office except for you. While people generally aren’t so great at keeping secrets, the stakes are pretty high with infidelity, so people usually manage to keep their indiscretions pretty quiet.
The Statistics on Infidelity
How common is infidelity, statistically? It depends on whose statistics you want to use. There have been several different studies done at different times that have revealed slightly different results on the prevalence of cheating. In 1981, the National Survey of Women showed that 10% of women surveyed had a secondary partner for sex, while in 1994, the General Social Survey revealed that 13% of those interviewed admitted to having extramarital sex.
Other surveys made infidelity seem much less prevalent. The General Social Surveys for 1988 and 1989 indicated that only 1.5% of people who were married admitted to having an extramarital sexual partner. In 1993, a probability sample indicated that it was probable that only 6.4% of the 1,194 married people surveyed had extramarital sex in the previous five years. The results did indicate that the probability would go up considerably the longer the relationship lasted though.
Why the Statistics Are Wrong
Again, infidelity and secrecy go hand in hand, which is why people are just a little bit unlikely to sit at their kitchen table filling out a survey in which they admit to having an affair. Even with random phone or Internet surveys, you never know who is looking over your shoulder. All of this conspires to make data reported on infidelity a little skewed.
As for known infidelity, such as infidelity reported in divorce hearings and such, there is absolutely no reason for the straying partner to be completely honest about it. On one hand, a person may lie to make them seem like a better person in court, on the other hand, they might exaggerate to make themselves seem more successful or sexy. The bottom line is that the reported survey results show the bare minimum prevalence of cheating—it’s probably actually much higher.
Why Infidelity Is So Common
One could debate forever on whether or not it is human nature to avoid monogamy, but clearly there is something pulling many people toward cheating. The psychology of cheating is very complicated and there are plenty of reasons why a person might cheat.
Right at the top of the list of cheating reasons is good old-fashioned lust. We all occasionally see someone who gets our juices flowing for whatever reason. Some people can control that urge, but for others lust is a runaway freight train that will not be stopped by something as fragile as a wedding vow.
In some cases, it might be that someone saw their parents cheat and they just came to believe that cheating was part of marriage. In others there may be feelings of bitterness that drive one partner to cheat in order to hurt the other, or perhaps one partner cheats and the other feels compelled to cheat for revenge. In still other cases, maybe a person has low self-esteem and needs the validation of multiple partners finding them attractive in order to feel better about themselves.
Why Infidelity Is Even More Common Now
People are cheating more these days for a variety of reasons, but availability is certainly one of the biggest ones. In the past, cheaters were limited to cheating with a pretty select group of people—neighbors, family friends, co-workers, and such. People can now go on dating sites and choose a cheating partner that is almost made to order.
Other technology facilitates cheating these days, too. You can call your lover on a disposable cell phone, book a restaurant and hotel online, and find them both with your GPS. Having such easy and relatively untraceable ways to set up trysts make cheating much easier in this day and age than it was in the past.
The other thing that makes cheating more common now is the general attitude of society towards the act of infidelity. People aren’t exactly doing public service messages promoting taking a roll in the hay with your husband’s brother, but there are celebrities, athletes, and other role models getting caught cheating every day. Perhaps more surprisingly, their spouses, and society in general, usually just shrug off such indiscretions and carry on like there is no problem.
Cheating is very common these days; more common in fact than most people realize. The statistics show cheating to be a relatively rare occurrence, but the secret nature of cheating means that those statistics are probably wrong. People continue to have plenty of reasons to cheat and plenty of opportunities, so cheating will likely continue to be common, whether you realize it or not.