Infidelity: Avoidable? Or Just A Fact Of Life

June 13, 2011  |  


For years, studies have told us that infidelity is more common than not amongst men and more common than some may wish to believe amongst women.  Salon’s Tracy Clark Flory cites an endless stream of surveys that provide similar numbers…

Most contemporary surveys estimate the number of people who cheat during a marriage at anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of women and 30 to 60 percent of men. Note, though, that in 2002 the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 15 percent of married women admitted to an affair, compared to 22 percent of men. The best educated guess, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, is that an affair takes place within 40 to 76 percent of marriages: “A conservative interpretation of these figures suggests that although perhaps half of all married couples remain monogamous, the other half will experience an infidelity over the course of a marriage.”

…but then reminds us how fallible these statistics are:

Infidelity rates are notoriously difficult to pin down because who wants to admit to being a cheater? Then there is the fact that people — and the scientific surveys we’re relying on here — employ very different definitions of infidelity. As the anthropologist Helen Fisher explains, a meta-analysis of a dozen American infidelity studies found that “31% of men and 16% of women had had a sexual affair that entailed no emotional involvement; 13% of men and 21% of women had been romantically but not sexually involved with someone other than their spouse; and 20% of men and women had engaged in an affair that included both a sexual and emotional connection.” Things get even more thorny when you consider the variety of ways that people stray these days, which from some perspectives can include sexual encounters à la Rep. Anthony Weiner. It’s difficult enough to define these terms within a particular relationship, let alone across a culture.

So if x number of men and x number of women are admitting to infidelity, we can estimate that the numbers are actually a bit higher. The majority of you reading this would probably agree that the percentage of people engaging in extramarital affairs is significant, even if it isn’t more common than not. Many of us know people who have been cheated on in marriages or serious relationships and/or persons who have cheated. Perhaps you’ve been the victim or the culprit or both at one point or another. And with the ever-changing definition of infidelity (and the new ways in which one can participate), there’s no universal agreement about what is or isn’t cheat anymore anyway.

I’ve personally never been able to buy stories about the “natural” inclination of men to spread their seeds and be fruitful, nor have I been so naive as to pretend that women don’t have it in them to cheat. Men and women are socialized very differently and the stakes for an unfaithful woman are much higher than for a man. There’s also the belief that women cheaters are a bit more discreet, which could certainly skew our perception of who’s really zoomin’ who.

That said, is infidelity simply one of those things that happens or is it possible to avoid it? There are 99 million reasons as to “why” people step out, from unhappiness in other areas of one’s life to lack of fulfillment in the relationship, but should we simply resign ourselves to the possibility that it can happen? Do you think it’s possible to safeguard a romance against cheating? Or is it more important to be prepared for what happens if and when it occurs?

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  • tyty
  • justme

    Thank you for expressing a male point of view from what I have been trying to illustrate from a woman's perspective! Monogamy is possible and very much alive in our culture. And I feel kinda bad for the men and women who believe that fidelity is not possible. I am stunned to realize what people view as acceptable!!! Anyway, just saying thank you!

  • City City

    Quit being so soft. Take control over what you can control, which is your body. You choose where you go, what you say, and what you do (unless you have an illness or affliction). People are making allowances for this behavior like its to be accepted. I predict that within the next handful of years that OPEN MARRIAGES where partners are free to explore these feelings, will be very popular. Now I’m typically liberal when it comes to lifestyle choices so if that’s your deal, deal on. But I won’t deny that many people looking to that lifestyle are running from the responsibility of a traditional marriage. That’s exactly what a lot of the comments on here are doing. Don’t accept somebody shunning marital responsibility as “well, its a given that people cheat.” SHULLBIT! Its not a given. I understand that we’re all human and people ccuf up. But the standard for excellence is dropping, and that I cannot co-sign. City Out!

  • Lyndon

    Every peice of history available to us shows that infidelity is a virtual guarantee. If you or anyone actually wants to change the game we have to deal with the roots of these issues. And for black folk, there are SO many to handle. Cheating for some is a way of coping, others it's learned, either way we can't pretend our history is that of fathers that were "rolling stones" that we made songs about. Monogamy has NEVER been a part of our heritage. If you wanna start you have to do and some things we have never done before… Like being honest

    • justme

      Yet again, I disagree. Infidelity is NOT a virtual guarantee. And for those who accept that it is is setting themselves up to experience just that. Monogamy is not normal for some, but there are many of us who can and will control our urges to remain faithful to pur partners. I am not a primitive animal that can not control my urges who live from day to day looking for something to mount. I do agree with the aspect of honesty. And honestly speaking, I set my cards out early, infidelity is not acceptable to me. But if we go deeper into the issue, could it be a correlation between infidelity being acceptable in our culture and the increase in HIV/AIDS in our culture????

    • justme

      Infidelity is not a virtual guarantee. And for individuals who accept that infidelity is a virtual guarantee are accepting a possible defeat in their relationship. Are we so primal and animalistic that we can not control are sexual desires. Are we non rational, innate, cavemen that have to mount everything we see? The last time I checked, we were the only logical, rationale, speaking beings created. Therefore, can't we rationally choose not to cheat and remain faithful. I do agree with you in regards to being honest. So be just that, be honest enough to say I CHOOSE not to disrespect my partner and spouse with infidelity. Monogamy and/or infidelity is a choice. But most importantly, it makes me wonder, could it be a correlation with our culture accepting infidelity as normal and the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in our culture?????

  • Miss_Taken

    The word "expect" kinda trips me up because it implies that we may endorse cheating or discourage fidelity…I am NEVER surprised if a man cheats, and this is something I learned through some difficult experiences. I used to believe that an honest, "keep it 100", type of man would not cheat because those are the types unwilling to sugar coat anything to protect our feelings. I used to believe that I am too pretty, educated, popular and had too great of a personality for a man to cheat on me. And, I used to believe that a man would never cheat on someone less attractive (in all senses of the word) than his woman. Needless to say, I discovered that all of the above, and then some are completely false.

    Anyway, I will say this: I do NOT believe monogamy is natural. And, I do think it is a challenge to spend the rest of your life with one person and not want to experience the body or mind of another. How it’s done tends to carry a little more merit for me

    • Miss_Taken

      FYI: I have cheated in the majority of my relationships…either I admitted to my infidelity or he just never found out…

  • Kala

    But even having all of that waiting at home doesn't mean that the partner won't cheat. It could be all good at home but if the desire is there and they lack the control to curb it, they will act on it. It's all about having the choice to do right vs. doing what feels right.

  • justme

    CAN men and women remain faithful in a relationship to one another. Absolutely, where there is love, respect, and the respect of how you will effect the other person, there you will also find faithfulness. Are we so animalistic that we can not contain our urges? Temptation exists, no doubt, but that does not mean we have to give into temptation. To say every man cheats is to pigeon hole all men. Do all black women wear weave, do all white men embezzel money from their companies? Do all white woman have breat implants? Set your standards early in a relationship and be careful of what you do. If you cheat, then don't be surprised that your other half will cheat. Cater to your other half and what they like. Remain faithful yourself and most importantly pray (pray hard). There is no magic formula to fullproof your relationship from infidelity, but submit to your partner and your partners wishes (as long as though wishes are not immoral or disrespectful to yourself). Temptation is only an illussion that something else will bring happiness, so become that temptation that that man needs.

  • Kayla

    No, it is possible that men and woman actually love and care for each other and wouldn't want to hurt the other person. Just because the temptation is out there doesn't mean they will go. And I personally know several men like that. And same for woman. That's just an excuse "because they winked at me and I had to do it" . If that's all it took, then you didn't really love your partner in the first place.

  • offthatBULL

    I don't believe all men cheat. I think that if man realizes that he has a good woman and is smart enough to realize that we come a dime a dozen, he wouldn't want to screw that up.

  • Lyndon

    Fact of life. Most men cheat. Women grow weary of the games and become cheaters. The small percentage of men that are loyal fall victim to these women, then they become cheaters. It's all ugly imo.

    When both sides are willing to lay all cards on the table, you may have a fair game, but probably not.

  • My view, which is based on real life experiences, tells me that infidelity is a natural temptation. The people who can resist that temptation are those individuals who have a very well developed command of self discipline and self control. I do not think just throwing morality rhetoric at this issue is enough to insulate the average couple from succoming to it. Doing as much as possible to reduce the desire to participate by emphasizing how high the cost would be if you go this way, also emphasize all the great things that will be perserved by not giving in to this temptation.

  • homie

    I don't know if ther's a man out there that doesn't cheat, I just know I won't be the woman he cheats with.

  • lively09

    My opinion is that 98% of men cheat, and the 2% who do not are reform cheaters. As well as women who cheat, they just know how to cover their tracks, we are like cats, and men are like dogs.
    None of us are exempt from cheating. Men are opportunist, so if the opportunity is there, they are more than likely will take it. This happens alot with powerful rich men, because their is always women waiting to cheat with them. Women and men can stop cheating, if it happens just leave, no second chances, or therapy.

  • Pfft…

    Men are only as faithful as their options attractive men and ugly men with money have more options which increases the chances for infidelity.

  • Mixi

    Regardless of what prize they have at home, a person will cheat if someone else peaks their interest enough and they have the resources (time, money, opportunity etc) to step out. I don't think monogamy is in our nature and thats why only so few can successfully practice it. When you do find someone who has remained faithful for quite a number of years, it didnt happen by accident. They will tell you it took a lot of will power to remain loyal.

  • Wanda

    A man is only faithful as his next option…

  • fritos

    i think all men and women..are faced with infidelity..
    …They already sending out Free test models of iPad 2..but ONLY if you live in United States..i got 2..sent 1 to my mom house & 1 to my

  • Justin

    When white men can't keep it in the pants. Black women want to ask about all men. When it is just a Black man. Then damn all Black men.

  • Rastaman

    Infidelity is an individual choice. Each couple need to deal with it as a relationship issue rather than attempt to appy a one size fits all solution to the issue.