Cheating is a hot-button topic. Although almost everyone knows someone who has cheated or has been cheated on, it remains somewhat a taboo topic of conversation that is still relegated to whispers behind closed doors or gossip reserved for time out with friends. Despite the enduring taboos and discomfort surrounding infidelity, it is actually a fairly commonplace practice and is not quite as distant as many people seem to think. Far from a significant determiner of delinquency, cruelty, or severe emotional problems, infidelity occurs in even the most dedicated relationship and does not require a lot of provocation to occur.
There are many different definitions of cheating, but the most consistently agreed-upon description of cheating is this: engaging in a physical or emotional affair without the express consent of the person with whom you are currently involved. Infidelity can be wholly emotional, wherein you experience love and commitment toward someone who is not your partner, or it can be a single instance of sexual involvement, where neither of the involved parties ever meet again. Cheating runs the gamut in terms of how it plays out and what causes it.
For most studies, cheating is defined as engaging in extramarital relationships, whether emotional or physical or combining the two. Perhaps due to the increased number of divergent traits in non-married committed relationships, most statisticians focus on affairs as they relate to married couples rather than couples of any other type of commitment level.
Cheating Facts and Figures
The facts and figures regarding cheating continually shift and evolve as different definitions of cheating emerge and different physical and emotional relationships become socially normal and acceptable. However, even within a malleable frame, some trends can be seen within infidelity, including the backgrounds of people who cheat, the motivations behind cheating, and even the duration of different types of affairs.
Virtually everyone is susceptible to cheating. Although cheating was once considered a male activity primarily, women's cheating has continued to climb. Men might still cheat more, but the rate of women cheating has experienced a definite climb in recent years. Even so, the rates of cheating differ according to a few different factors. These include:
Trend data suggests, cheating peaks at age 80 and over for men, while the highest rate of cheating in women usually peaks between the ages of 50 and 59. Despite cheating often being portrayed as a young man's game, men's rates of cheating are actually at their lowest in their youth and their twenties. The statistics gathered in this study focused on couples who were married rather than couples who were enmeshed in committed or long-term relationships, which could also play a role in how the numbers panned out.
Sex plays a role in cheating, as well: despite a closing gap in many age groups, men are almost always far more likely to cheat-the one exception being the age group of 18-29, wherein women were 1% more likely to cheat than men. The percentile difference between men and women being more likely to cheat went up and down as age went up and down, but men's dalliances were, as a whole, more statistically significant than women.
The level of education a person possesses also bears statistical significance about cheating. People who possess some college education were more likely to cheat than those with college degrees and those whose formal education pursuits ended high school. The exact reason for the incidence of cheating according to education level is not known.
4) Religious Preferences
Individuals who attended some religious meeting once per year or less reported higher levels of cheating than those who attended a religious meeting a few times per year-and. These individuals reported higher incidences of infidelity than those who attended religious meetings every week.
Cheating is not very common at all; fewer than 25% of men admit to having cheated on their spouse, while at least 15% of women admit to having cheated on their spouse. Although these numbers might be higher than is comfortable for people who believe that cheating is always wrong, there is some comfort in knowing that not everyone cheats, no matter how common it may seem. There seem to be firm believers in the importance of trust and commitment.
Interestingly, the same study that provided these statistics denoted that the vast majority of people surveyed suggested that cheating was never an acceptable decision. 81% of participants indicated that they believed cheating to be wrong in every single case, compared to only 73% of respondents 40 years prior. Even among cheaters, infidelity was considered unacceptable by the majority: 64% of individuals who acknowledged their own infidelity also believed that cheating was always wrong, no matter the circumstances involved.
There are some common threads when men and women cheat on their spouses. These reasons are not always present but do possess statistical significance about infidelity and the likelihood of extramarital relationships. These include:
1) Emotional Neglect
Emotional neglect is the most common reason for cheating among women. Women are more likely to engage in infidelity if they feel that their partner is not providing for them emotionally and may seek emotional validation and support from someone outside of their marriage. This search can result in an emotional affair but can also lead to sexual infidelity.
2) Sexual Dissatisfaction
Men are more likely to cite sexual dissatisfaction as the primary reason for having an affair-with an especially significant peak after their partner gives birth. While men did not necessarily suggest that their deviance was warranted, having a dissatisfying or absent sex life is the most common reason men give for having an affair.
Boredom with an existing relationship can also lend itself to infidelity. Couples in long-term relationships are more likely to have an affair than couples who have been together for a shorter period of time, suggesting that the familiarity of a long-term partner can be seen as a detriment rather than a boon.
4) Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is linked to cheating because many men and women derive their confidence from how attractive they are to the people they are sexually interested in. If you have chronically low self-esteem, an affair can (briefly) reassure you that you are wanted and desirable and can, for a while, help you feel as though you are worth time and attention again. Unfortunately, this type of ego boost usually does not last, as it is not built on anything permanent or consistent, which can create a cycle of low esteem, cheating, esteem spike, and an esteem crash.
When Is Cheating Considered Acceptable?
This, too, depends on gender. Males were more likely to justify cheating if sexual needs were not being met within an existing relationship. At the same time, women were more likely to justify cheating if emotional neglect was involved. Cheating was considered more acceptable to men in heterosexual relationships if their partner cheated with a woman, while cheating with a man created jealousy and anger. Conversely, women were more likely to feel angry if their partner cheated with someone of the opposite sex but far more likely to actually terminate the relationship if their partner cheated with someone of the same sex.
As a whole, cheating is still not considered an acceptable practice, even in progressive or liberal circles; between 81% and 86% of study participants are recorded as saying that there is no instance in which cheating is acceptable or justified, including more than half of all individuals who acknowledged engaging in infidelity, themselves.
Cheating Facts and Figures
The sheer number of facts and figures relating to infidelity reveals how widespread cheating truly is and how diverse and varied people's attitudes, opinions, and beliefs about cheating are. Although most people uniformly believe that cheating is unacceptable, there remain numerous people who have stepped out on their partners and felt justified or reasonable at the moment(s). Cheating, then, is not quite as cut-and-dried as many people seem to think, and the circumstances surrounding infidelity can play a significant role not only in how often infidelity occurs, but also in how acceptable it is deemed, how the person who has cheated is received, and how forgiving the relationship is after infidelity has occurred.
Cheating can signal issues within a relationship, as well as issues within an individual. Couples and individuals alike can seek relationship counseling to determine what path is best to work toward healing, whether that means healing a broken relationship, improving communication patterns, or learning to let go of a fear of intimacy and connection. The therapists working through ReGain.us are qualified to offer therapy to singles and couples alike and may assist you or your partner.
Infidelity is painful, no matter how you view it or where you stand in a relationship. The instigator of infidelity, their spouse, and the person they are cheating are all involved in a web of pain, confusion, and frustration that are not easily allayed, even in the wake of adrenaline often caused by sneaking around and engaging in risky behavior.
“Jeff has been valuable to our relationship recovery from infidelity and rebuilding a new relationship. His experience and confidence in our recovery were important.”
“Stephen Witte is a fantastic listener! Stephen's guidance and experience with couples helped me and my partner through a time of infidelity and deception. Our sessions with Stephen helped guide us to healthier communication and the road to forgiveness. We used video chats. But I chatted Stephen with messages a few times throughout the week, and his responses helped me through tough/anxious moments with his perspective and encouragement. He was truthful about the tragedy that had occurred in our relationship, yet offered supportive strategies and guidance for us to help us get through. I felt like I could speak at him for minutes and throw a bunch out there, but he had a great way of picking out the most important part of what I was trying to say. He did a great job facilitating the discussion that helped me clarify my thoughts and communicate with my partner. My partner and I had multiple sessions with Stephen and both felt very comfortable speaking to him. Thank you very much, Stephen, for being here for us.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How common is cheating?
Cheating statistics can vary wildly from study to study because many people may have difficulty admitting to cheating. For instance, according to a study first published in 1999, researchers found that 75% of men and 68% of women admitted to cheating among their focus group of college students.
However, a more recent study in 2017 concludes that the percentages of cheating spouses for both men and women are similar. Most importantly, this article ends by describing various recommendations for more research on advancing the study of sexual infidelity. Thus, while these statistics are scientifically proven, experts still believe additional work is needed to get more accurate results.
These cheating statistics may not include cheating men and women who were dishonest when asked if they exhibited cheating behavior in the past. Additionally, cheating could mean different things to different people. For example, a couple could decide that the line to cheating on their partner might involve flirting with someone else or any other small interactions that could be signs of a budding relationship. In contrast, others may have more specific physical behaviors that constitute crossing the line.
Another common perception of cheating spouses is that they had sex with someone else, but other people may believe that cheating is sexual dissatisfaction alone. Regardless, cheating behavior can be construed in various ways, making it important for couples to establish cheating principles to prevent cheating infidelity.
What percentage of marriages end because of cheating?
According to the American Psychological Association, infidelity in the United States is responsible for 20% to 40% of divorces. Cheating men and women have various reasons for engaging in infidelity, such as not feeling satisfied in their relationship or excusing the decision to cheat is sexual dissatisfaction. Among married couples, national surveys show that 15% of women and 25% of married men have cheated on their spouses.
A cheating spouse does not necessarily mean the end of one’s marriage. Despite the relatively high number of divorces in the United States because of a cheating spouse, couples can find ways to stay together if they deeply care about the relationship. If men or women cheat on their spouses, these are three possible ways that the other party could find out about the incident:
Each of these methods may lead to some form of confrontation from the cheater or the cheated, but this meeting can shed some much-needed light on the relationship. Some affairs may destroy a relationship, while others may help people change their cheating behavior. If anyone, women or men, has cheated on their spouses, getting back into the good graces of their partners may take time. People may cheat on their partners for personal issues that could only be solved by leaving the marriage. Others cheat on their spouses because of miscommunication, which could be fixed through marriage counseling sessions and self-reflection.
Every marriage is different, and what works for one couple may not work for another. If two people are committed to the relationship, they may hope to save the marriage even after someone admitted to cheating.
Do cheaters always cheat again?
Is a cheater always a cheater after the initial event? There are many conflicting answers to this question. Some people may believe that people who cheat on their spouses should not be trusted again. Others believe in a person’s capacity to change even if they did cheat on their partner. This could come down to how much faith one has in one’s partner.
Admitting to cheating is the first step in acknowledging one’s mistakes and finding a solution that can help the relationship move forward instead of teetering on the brink of destruction. Those who cheat on their spouses can sometimes move on and become better people if they make positive changes in their life.
According to Los Angeles–based therapist Carin Goldstein, the betrayer can stay faithful only if they take responsibility for what happened and enroll in individual and couples therapy. By confronting one’s emotions about cheating and finding ways to overcome the habits that led them to cheat, both the betrayer and betrayed can reconcile their relationship. It takes work, but the effort should be seen as a positive sign if the relationship is worth saving.
Why do people cheat on people they love?
People cheat on people they love for a variety of reasons. For example, they may not feel like they are getting enough attention in a relationship. As such, a partner could find loving attention elsewhere by cheating on their spouse.
In certain relationships, partners may also have active accounts on dating apps. Research claims that over 42% of Tinder users are in a relationship, with 30% being married. Some people may use dating apps to cheat. If that could be an issue, then couples could discuss if they should delete their accounts to prevent the chances of them using apps to cheat.
How do affairs usually end?
There are two different types of affairs: physical and emotional affairs. Physical affairs are attributed to a partner cheating on a spouse by having physical interactions or sex with another person. Emotional affairs may involve a partner deceiving their spouse, leading to a lack of trust in the cheating spouse or even a greater general mistrust of people.
Both types of affairs can negatively impact a person’s mental health. As such, these affairs may end in several ways, including: