How Many People Cheat? Infidelity Facts And Statistics In The US
Although many people know someone who has cheated or been cheated on, infidelity remains a somewhat taboo topic among many. Cheating is often considered a sticking point in a relationship—a boundary that can’t be crossed—so it is understandable that many people who have experienced infidelity are uncomfortable discussing it. This sensitivity surrounding the topic of infidelity, and the fact that there are so many different definitions of cheating, can make it hard to know exactly how prevalent unfaithful behavior is. To help paint a clearer picture, we’re going to discuss facts and statistics that elucidate who cheats, how often unfaithfulness occurs, and common reasons for infidelity.
What Is Considered Cheating?
Though there are many different definitions of infidelity, it may be best described as a physical or emotional affair entered into without the express consent of one’s partner. Infidelity can be wholly emotional, wherein you experience romantic attraction toward someone who is not your partner without a sexual component. Or it can be purely physical in nature, devoid of an emotional connection. In many situations, though, it is both.
Cheating can run the gamut in terms of how it plays out and what causes it. While some people consider a kiss cheating, others might be okay with this kind of behavior. Infidelity typically depends on the specifics of a relationship, each partner’s values, and the action the individual engaged in.
Infidelity Facts And Figures
Because infidelity can occur in so many different situations, and in such a variety of ways, it isn’t always easy to get a clear picture of its prevalence. For example, the percentage of infidelity among married couples will be different than that of unmarried partners. Still, some trends emerge from the research, including the backgrounds of people who cheat, the motivations behind infidelity, and even the duration of different types of affairs. Below are several facts and figures that help illustrate who cheats and why.
Virtually anyone can be unfaithful in a relationship. Although cheating was once considered a primarily male vice, that dynamic is shifting. In fact, some studies show that women now cheat at a slightly higher rate, though most suggest that men still cheat more often. The rates of cheating differ based on various factors, which include:
Age – Research suggests that rates of cheating actually go up with age. The results of one study show that married individuals over 55 reported infidelity at a rate of 20%, compared to a rate of 14% for those under 55.
Gender – Despite a closing gap in many age groups, it is still thought that men are more likely to cheat than women.
Education – People who possess a college education are considered equally as likely to cheat as those who do not.
Religious Preferences – One study found that people who identify as religious are less likely to cheat on their partner.
How Prevalent Is Infidelity?
Infidelity rates vary widely based on the demographic being surveyed. According to estimates based on married couples, approximately 25% of men admit to cheating on their spouse at some point, while around 15% of women admit to the same. Another study found that up to 4% of married individuals had cheated on their spouse in the past year. Cheating statistics generally increase when marriage is taken out of the equation, though. According to a study published in 1999, researchers found that 75% of male and 68% of female college students admitted to cheating.
Common Reasons For Cheating
Infidelity can arise out of a variety of situations and for several different reasons. While many people cheat as a response to feeling unfulfilled in a certain aspect of their relationship, infidelity is often related to personality, situational factors, and even mental health struggles. The following are several common reasons for infidelity.
Those who feel that their partner does not validate their feelings or say their own emotions may seek that level of connection elsewhere. Emotional neglect is the most common reason for cheating among women. Women may engage in infidelity if they feel that their partner is not emotionally invested and may seek validation and support from someone outside of their marriage. This search can result in an emotional affair but may also lead to sexual infidelity.
Men are most likely to cite sexual dissatisfaction as the primary reason for having an affair. Research shows that over 42% of Tinder users are in a relationship, with 30% being married, indicating that many people use dating apps to fulfill their sexual desires.
Many people experience more or less confidence based on how attractive they are to other people. This can cause some to seek out a sexual relationship that will help improve their self-esteem. In one study, researchers found that neuroticism—a personality type characterized in part by low self-esteem—was positively correlated with infidelity. This link can be especially strong if the individual’s low self-esteem is related to the belief that their partner is cheating. The same study found that suspicion of infidelity is itself a cause of unfaithful behavior.
Up to 10% of people in the US live with hypersexuality, or sex addiction. Hypersexuality is characterized by a fixation on sexual activity, and its effects can be similar to those of other addictions. Hypersexuality is a symptom of many common mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders. It can cause an individual to take risks in order to engage in sexual activity—risks that often include infidelity.
How Does Cheating Affect Relationships?
Cheating is considered one of the leading reasons for the end of relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, infidelity in the United States is responsible for 20% to 40% of divorces. Most affairs last approximately six months, which can be enough time to severely impact a committed relationship.
However, cheating does not have to lead to a breakup or divorce. According to one study, approximately 80% of couples who had experienced infidelity stayed in their relationship. One common method for overcoming infidelity is couples therapy, during which partners can work on trust, communication, and a renewed commitment. In a study published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, researchers examined the effects of therapy on couples who had experienced infidelity. They concluded that therapy can help couples “work through an infidelity, restore their relationship, and enjoy a stable and satisfying marital relationship”.
Confronting Infidelity With Online Therapy
Studies show that online therapy can help couples work through relationship conflict that may arise out of cheating. For example, in one study, researchers found that online therapy helped participants address challenges related to infidelity and trust. Specifically, they concluded that online therapy can help couples “communicate more effectively . . . cope with infidelity, and improve sexual satisfaction within the relationship”.
Online therapy can provide you and your partner with emotional support and guidance if infidelity has damaged your relationship. With an online therapy platform like ReGain, you can participate in therapy remotely, which may be helpful if you’re not comfortable discussing topics like cheating and trust in person. To further provide you with privacy, ReGain allows you to remain inomminate—you can simply select a “nickname” when you sign up, and your identity will remain hidden. A qualified counselor can help you and your partner move forward after infidelity and continue to grow in your relationship. Continue reading for reviews of ReGain therapists from those who have experienced similar concerns.
“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.”
Although it isn’t always openly discussed—and despite its often-damaging effects—infidelity is a fairly common occurrence in the US. If you’d like insights into how cheating could impact you and your partner, consider working with a mental health professional online. With the help of a licensed therapist, you may be able to decrease the odds of your relationship showing up in one of the above statistics.
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:
- Their partner admitted to cheating on their spouse by saying it to their face.
- A spouse finds out from another party that their partner cheated on them.
- The spouse finds information, such as hotel receipts and suspicious bank account transactions; someone can find out if their partner is dishonest.
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.
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:
- Spouses divorce, but they may remarry, either someone else or (for the cheater) the person they cheated with.
- After divorcing one another, both partners and even the cheating spouse may feel relationship loss and not engage in future relationships without help from counseling and a support network.
- Couples can recommit to their marriage vows and work together in getting over the sense of betrayal by talking to each other, seeing therapists, or giving each other some space.
Who cheat most in a relationship?
What is the main cause of cheating?
What do all cheaters have in common?
What are the signs of a cheating partner?
How do you tell if a girl has slept with another guy?
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