Percentage of married women who cheat

Infidelity Statistics (2022): How Much Cheating is Going On?

Being cheated on is a gut-wrenching experience.

Nobody wants it to happen to them, and few of us would even imagine that the person we love and care about could stab us in the back so brutally.

But cheating happens.

In fact, it happens a lot.

Infidelity remains the number one reason that married and unmarried relationships end all across the world.

This is an in-depth guide to infidelity.

What’s the truth about how many people are cheating and their motivations, gender and relationship types?

Here’s the cold, hard truth:

Nobody wants to get cheated on but many of us will be cheated on.

We have the statistics, polls, analyses, interviews and research.

Who is cheating, why, and where? Do men cheat more or do women?

We’ll also take a look at other kinds of cheating including emotional cheating and financial cheating.

Let’s get started.


  • What do the numbers say?
  • Why do people cheat?
  • What goes on in cheaters’ minds?
  • Why do women cheat?
  • Why do men cheat?
  • Who cheats more?
  • Homosexual and bisexual cheating
  • How long do most affairs last?
  • Digital dirt
  • Which professions cheat more?
  • Emotional cheating
  • Financial cheating
  • Should I stay or should I go now…?
  • Cultural perceptions of cheating
  • How do you “get over” being cheated on?
  • There’s still hope!

What do the numbers say?

The overall numbers on infidelity are alarmingly high.

Some websites have published unverified numbers claiming that “about 40% of unmarried relationships and 25% of marriages see at least one incident of infidelity.”

Another estimate from the journal of Marriage and Divorce concludes that a mindblowing 70% of married Americans cheat at least once in their marriage.

More reliable numbers from the US General Social Survey point to lower statistics for infidelity, but they are still worrisomely high.

According to the General Social Survey, “twenty percent of men cheat compared to 13 percent of women.”

According to LA Intelligence Detective Agency the numbers are somewhat higher. They write that:

  • 30 to 60 percent of married couples will cheat at least once in the marriage
  • 74 percent of men and 68 percent of women admit they’d cheat if it was guaranteed they’d never get caught
  • 60 percent of affairs start with close friends or coworkers
  • An average affair lasts 2 years
  • 69 percent of marriages break up as a result of an affair being discovered

This is not what any of us want to hear. But the ugly truth is better than a beautiful lie.

So let’s find out the truth about cheating.

Why do people cheat?

The usual reason that people assume for cheating is that one or both partners are not happy, are unsatisfied or are having other personal problems.

The truth is more complicated.

As LA Intelligence Detective Agency notes:

“Statistics show that 56% of men and 34% of women who commit infidelity rate their marriages as happy or very happy. This makes the reason people cheat a little harder to dissect and comprehend.”

A poll from Superdrug Online Doctor found that men and women cheat for very different reasons.

For American and European women the number one reason was that their partner did not pay enough attention to them and the least important reason was that American women were bored and European women “needed to feel sexy.”

For American and European men, the reason was that the other person they had an affair with was very hot and the least important reason was that their partner was no longer paying attention to them.

Image credit: Superdrug Online Doctor

What people consider cheating also varies a fair bit, especially between the US and Europe.

Image credit: Superdrug Online Doctor

Out of those who do cheat, the reasons, forms of cheating and consequences vary considerably.

The website the Truth About Deception maintains a poll for cheaters that’s updated daily. It currently has over 94,600 respondents. The poll allows users wh have cheated to anonymously say why they cheated, how many times and more information.

The results as of March 23, 2021 shows some fascinating info:

  • 43.7 percent of cheating women and 22.2 percent of cheating men have cheated on their spouse with someone they both know.
  •  72.1 percent of cheated males cheated in a one-night stand, while only 53.1 percent of cheating women cheated by having a one-night stand.
  • 53.1 percent of cheating women have cheated on their husband more than once; 66. 9 percent of cheating men have cheated on their wife more than once.
  • 40 percent of cheating females and 30.5 percent of cheating males have engaged in cybersex with someone other than their spouse.
  • 34.6 percent of cheating females and 25.9 percent of cheating males did so because they were bored with their sex life.
  • 73.7 percent of cheating females and 48.1 percent of cheating males were motivated to be unfaithful due to problems in their relationship
  • 49.8 percent of cheating females and 19.8 percent of cheating males thought about splitting up because of the affair
  • 30.3 percent of cheating females and 15.2 percent of cheating males did so to get even with their partner
  • 47.8 percent of cheating females and 39 percent of cheating males were caught by their significant other.

In addition, 44% of people aged 17 to 24 admitted they cheated at least once to get back with their ex after a breakup, and 53% of the respondents admitted having sex with their ex.

The likelihood of cheating does seem to correspond to marital status as well. As far as the numbers show it seems to make a big difference if you’re married or not or at least correlate to an overall difference.

As Branka Vuleta notes:

“There is a 20% chance of a first marriage resulting in divorce within five years. In comparison, couples who cohabit for five years have a 49% chance of separating. Similarly, married couples have a 33% chance of divorce within 10 years, whilst cohabiting couples have a 62% chance of splitting up in this timeframe. These statistics indicate that married couples are likely to remain together longer than couples who choose to cohabit but do not marry.”

What goes on in cheaters’ minds?

Of course only the cheater themselves what’s going on in their minds and in their underpants.

But there are definitely gender differences in motivation that emerge in polling across the world.

As Fatherly notes:

“Men are more prone to casual and opportunistic cheating, which plays a big part in why they get caught. Infidelity, for many men, is evidence of recklessness.

For women, however, cheating may be evidence of a more thought-out plan to address perceived needs. The potential costs of being sexually reckless is otherwise too high. Intimate partner violence, which one out of three women experiences at some point, is often triggered by infidelity.”

It’s often not about looks either.

In fact a reputable study cited by HuffPost found that a majority of people surveyed cheated on their partner with someone they considered less physically attractive than their spouse. Furthermore, only 25 percent of men found the woman they were having an affair with to be more interesting than their wife.

As Sophia Mura writes for Bride magazine, there are four main traits that make someone more likely to cheat, namely: they rank low for agreeableness and conscientiousness, your lives are not intertwined, you see their differences as flaws and they’ve become narcissistic.

According to Mark Manson, the main reason people in relationships cheat is “when one’s need for self-gratification outweighs their need for intimacy.

In other words, the desires of the moment and lust for immediate satisfaction temporarily outpaces their desire to be respectful and loyal to the love and relationship they have waiting at home. It’s not always some big problem going on: in many cases it’s plain temptation and the heat of the moment.

How did people meet the person they’re cheating with?

The chart below shows some of the common places cheater met their mistress or boy toy.

Image credit: Superdrug Online Doctor

Why do women cheat?

Obviously every woman is different. That said, women tend to cheat for very different reasons than men.

In general, women cheat when they feel a lack of intimacy and feel ignored by their partner, whereas men are more visual and tend to cheat due to immediate temptation.

Nonetheless, women are not always cheating for deep reasons. Sometimes, like men, they get caught up in the heat of the moment.

As Jeremy Brown explains:

“Some women cheat to avoid boredom; other women cheat because they feel neglected. Still, other women say they cheat just because they want to. The reasons for infidelity are complex and unique to each relationship…

The concept of a cheating wife contrasts a lot with what our culture tells us about women. To many, the thought triggers stronger reactions than that of a cheating man, which is more expected based on historical norms.”

What this means is that many cultures still idealize women as perfect beings who never get horny or tempted. It’s a misogynist streak which believes men are allowed to sometimes lose control and be kind of stupid, but women should stay loyal and not stray from their man.

The truth is that while women are more likely to cheat for reasons of feeling a lack of love and wanting something more serious, plenty of women do cheat because they want to try sex with someone new: it’s not just a male thing, contrary to the popular myth.

Why do men cheat?

Men generally have different motivations for infidelity than women, although every case varies.

Men tend to be more visual and get tempted into infidelity by their physical desires. However once you dig deeper there are usually more disquieting reasons why men cheat.

According to psychologist Robert Weiss, once you cut through the excuses and denial, the real primary reasons men cheat are the following: immaturity, other problems, low self-esteem, too cowardly to just end things, wants to get another side piece before ending things, impulsivity, childhood abuse or to get revenge on his partner.

Weiss says that a man who is immature and has other issues like a sexual addiction, drug use or alcoholism may cheat as part of a broader lifestyle issue or he may also be seeking

“validation from women other than his mate, using this sextracurricular spark of interest to feel wanted, desired, and worthy.”

In addition, Weiss says that sometimes men get infatuated and aren’t really into it, quickly tapping out to seek out some new nookie because he’s “mistaking the neurochemical rush of early romance, technically referred to as limerence, for love,” and “fails to understand that in healthy, long-term relationships limerence is replaced over time with less intense, but ultimately more meaningful forms of connection.

When a man cheats to break up, he may do it because he’s too scared to tell her straight up and wants her to do the hard work or Weiss says,

“he may want to end his current relationship, but not until he’s got another one lined up.”

Sometimes a guy just cheats because the chance comes up.

As Weiss says:

“He may never have even thought about cheating until an opportunity suddenly presented itself. Then, without even thinking about what infidelity might do to his relationship, he went for it.”

Who cheats more?

Men cheat more than women.

As stated, according to the General Social Survey, 20% of married men admitted to cheating and 13% of women, but the amount of women cheating has gone up 40% over the past several decades from its past miniscule amount.

In addition, some researchers wonder if the number of women is actually higher but women are just less likely to admit to an affair than men.

Apps like Tinder and dating apps have made it even easier for men and women to cheat and hide it from their spouse, especially if they stick to sexting for the initial phase of the affair.

Millennials are more likely to cheat using apps especially, with fully 11% saying they use apps to cheat on their partner.

Polling from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows that more women are cheating than ever before, especially in younger demographics, with 12.9% of US women between 18-24 saying they’ve cheated and 15.9% of US males in the same age range.

On adults over 65-years-old, only 10% of women cheated and 25% of men, showing just how dramatic the rise in younger women cheating has been.

In other words, a lot of men cheat, but more and more younger women are getting in on the backstabbing now too.

The highest age bracket for cheating women is not younger women, however, it’s still women between 50 to 59-years-old, a trend which has been recognizable for years now but switched from the 90s when women between 40 to 49 had the highest cheating rate.

In terms of demographic breakdowns in the US, the Institute for Family Studies has a lot of data.

Black Americans cheat more than other races, with 22% of married Black Americans admitting they’ve cheated compared to 16% of Whites overall and 13% of Hispanics.

In terms of gender and race, married Black men had a cheating rate of 28%, compared to 20% of married White men and 16% of married Hispanic men.

Age also has a significant impact on cheating.

Men and women both cheat more in middle age and between 51 to 59-years-old is the peak, with 31% of men and women in that age bracket admitting they’ve cheated.

Education level has no known correlation with cheating.

Politically the results are mixed. Although past studies have showed that liberals and Democrats are more likely to cheat by a few percentage points, recent results from the cheating website Ashley Madison showed that 60% of its members identified as Republicans and 40% as Democrats, making Republicans and conservatives more likely to cheat in the United States.

People who go to church or religious services less than once a year are more likely to cheat than those who go a few times a year or more. In other words religious people are less likely to cheat.

In fact, church or religious service attendance is linked to a number of benefits.

According to a 2016 Harvard study, religious service attendance is directly linked to “better health outcomes, including longer life, lower incidence of depression, and less suicide” and “associated with greater marital stability — or more specifically, with a lower likelihood of divorce.”

Family background is also important. Those who are adopted or come from broken families are slightly more likely to cheat.

As Anugrah Kumar notes for Christian Post:

“Fifteen percent of adults who grew up with both biological parents have cheated on their spouse before, compared with 18 percent of those who didn’t grow up in intact families.”

Homosexual and bisexual cheating

Even many people in heterosexual marriages have felt sexually or romantically interested in someone of the same sex, specifically 20% of straight women and 10% of straight men.

According to the journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 13.7% of those surveyed were open to the idea of a same-sex affair and 2.9% were equally into either sex.

Men tend to be more easygoing if their wife cheats on them with a woman, with 33% saying that wouldn’t be a dealbreaker and 76% said they’d prefer their wife cheat with a woman than a man.

Only 22% of women say that their husband cheating with a man would be acceptable to them, and 62% of women would rather their husband cheat on them with a woman than a guy.

How long do most affairs last?

Numerous studies say that most affairs don’t last long.

  • 25% of affairs last under a week
  • 65% last under six months
  • 10% last more than six months

In other words, the most you’re likely to get out of an affair is a few months. And it’s also true that cheaters tend to be repeat offenders.

Even though it can be tempting to give a cheating woman or man another chance, the statistics show that they’re much more likely to do the dirty deed again.

In fact, cheaters have a 350% higher chance of cheating again than someone who’s never cheated.

More interesting stats:

  • 2%: Number of children who are the result of affairs.
  • 3%: Marry the lovers they had the affair with.
  • 50-60%: Number of married men who engage in extramarital sex at some time during their relationships.
  • 80%: People who become addicted to an online affair.
  • 75%: Percent of divorces in which cheating is a factor.
  • 25%: Affairs lasting less than a week.
  • 98%: Men who have frequent fantasies about someone other than their partner, but it’s not just men.
  • 80 percent of women do it too.
  • 65%: Affairs that ended within the first six months.
  • 57%: People have used the internet to flirt.
  • 42% of women who admitted to cheating on a large poll said they are blond, 23% were redheads, 20% for brown and 11% for black.

Digital dirt

According to the Australian Journal of Counselling Psychology, out of a survey of cheating adults, “more than 10 percent had formed intimate online relationships, 8 percent had experienced cybersex and 6 percent had met their Internet partners in person.”

It is also becoming more common for women to cheat online.

Digital infidelity is a growing occurrence, with classic signs often occurring. These include:

“Spending time online in private, smiling about messages received without elaborating on them, and deleting messages or search history as a matter of course.

Usually behavior changes as things are kept secret and there is a need to tell small lies. Withdrawal from home life can also occur, as does going to bed later than normal, or getting up in the night.”

Which professions cheat more?

According to the Investigation Hotline, the most likely professions to cheat that they have investigated are those in the trades, medical profession and entrepreneurs.

  • 29% of male cheaters are plumbers, electricians, etc. and only 4% of women are in the trades
  • 23% of women on Ashley Madison are in nursing or medicine, while only 5% of men are.
  • 11% of cheating women and 11% of cheating men are entrepreneurs.
  • 12% of men and 8% of women on Ashley Madison are in the information technology field
  • 9% of unfaithful women and 8% work in the retail and hospitality sector

Career also has another link to cheating, since those who are financially dependent on their spouse are more likely to cheat. That means those in lower-paying jobs or who are not working will generally cheat more on their partner.

When it comes to IQ there also seems to a connection, since men with higher IQs are — in general — less likely to cheat.

Those who go on business trips are also more likely to cheat.

According to a poll from Gleeden that surveyed 8,000 people, 62% of men and 57% of women said they’d cheated on a business trip.

Despite being different than the earlier General Social Survey results cited, this was of European adults and results vary from survey to survey.

Emotional cheating

Emotional cheating is when a man or woman spends emotionally intimate time with someone else having deep conversations and a strong personal connection even if it doesn’t involve sex.

Fully 56 percent of men say they’d be more upset to hear their woman is emotionally cheating, and 73 percent of women would be more angry about an emotional affair than physical cheating.

Couples therapist Alicia Munoz observes that:

“Emotional cheating is a particular type of secretive, sustained closeness with someone who isn’t your primary partner. It’s one person making a unilateral decision to cultivate nonsexual intimacy with someone other than their primary romantic partner in a way that weakens or undermines the relationship.

Many see this type of connection as having an erotic component to it. Though there often can be an underlying romantic or erotic energy in emotional cheating, it can also occur without the element of romance or eroticism present.”

Emotional cheating is extremely common, but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful to the person it’s happening to.

According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, “35% of women and 45% of men admit to having had an emotional affair before.”

As Munoz writes, people get so upset:

“because their partners have engaged in an inappropriately deep, sustained closeness with someone else in a way that excluded them. I’ve even talked to people who feel their partner is emotionally cheating on them with a therapist!”

The difficult thing about emotional cheating is that it can be hard to separate from just having close relationships outside your romantic relationship.

The best way to tell if someone is emotionally cheating is to determine if: the other relationship strengthens or weakens your romantic relationship and if the other connection is a kind of addiction and craving or more of a healthy choice.

Common signs your partner is emotionally cheating include:

  • They confide more in the other person than you
  • They don’t value time with you in the same way
  • They turn to the other person after fighting with you
  • They meet and speak with the other person more than you
  • They give gifts and share many special times with the other person
  • They don’t bother trying to fix issues with you anymore
  • They treat the other person like a lover with their words and behavior
  • They deny that it’s inappropriate and become defensive if you question their new connection

While emotional cheating does happen quite often, it’s important not to just throw accusations of it around for leverage or to cover up other issues in a relationship.

Furthermore, emotional cheating is usually a sign that something else is going wrong in the relationship and thus is often not the only problem that’s occurring.

Financial cheating

Financial cheating is a growing trend. It’s when married couples hiding the money they have from each other.

As Nicholas Kjeldgaard reports for NBC:

“About 40% of people in serious relationships are keeping money secret from their partner.”

One of the most common reasons is exactly what you would imagine: people racking up charges on a credit card and not telling their partner.

In the survey, 51% of Millennials acknowledged they hide financial secrets from their partner, higher than Gen X’ers, at 41%, and Baby Boomers at 33%.

More top signs of financial cheating include:

  • Finding out your partner has a credit card you didn’t know about
  • Getting removed from joint bank accounts or cards by your partner without a good reason
  • Noticing money that’s not where it should be or is massively overspent from what was agreed on
  • Your partner acts hostile and defensive around talks of money or their finances
  • Your partner is living the life of Riley without any apparent new source of income
  • Your partner picks up a dangerously expensive new hobby like gambling, or shopping every week for expensive clothing

The best way to resolve financial infidelity is to always be open about financial issues with your partner. Approach issues around finances with caution since it can be a very emotional topic for many people.

Fortunately there are effective ways to learn more positive attitudes around money and how to make it less of a toxic time bomb in your life and more of a proactive method for expanding your opportunities.

Should I stay or should I go now…?

When it comes to cheating, there’s no easy answer about whether you should stay or go. Every relationship is different.

As Psychologist Justin Lehmiller notes:

“It may surprise you to learn that only 1 in 5 people said they broke up with their primary partner as a direct result of the affair. However, it’s important to note that another 27% said they broke after the affair, but for a different reason, which points to the fact that affairs are often (but not always) symptoms of deeper, underlying problems in the relationships. So, in total, nearly half of participants broke up after their affair, but it wasn’t always the affair itself that caused the breakup.

In her TED talk “Infidelity: to stay or go…?” relationship expert and broadcaster Lucy Beresford makes some very valuable insights.

“Your friends might say ‘hm, can a leopard change its spots?’ Your mother might say ‘plenty more fish in the sea, my darling.’ But most times, that pressure to quit comes from within,” Beresford notes.

Beresford urges people to do their best to reconcile their relationships and take that new injury and distrust and work with it to find some new common ground and reestablish the basics of trust and intimacy.

Cultural perceptions of cheating

Cheating is not reacted to the same way in every culture, and neither is the gender of the one cheating. Many male-run and more religious societies disapprove of cheating for any reason.

Some more traditional societies also put the share of blame on women for cheating even if the man is the one doing it, claiming he must be unsatisfied or not being treated well at home if he strayed.

Cheating is regarded as morally unacceptable in most countries, although very liberal countries such as France have a lower rate of disapproval about affairs. Other more Westernized, liberal countries sometimes do not take a moral stand on cheating whatsoever.

According to a Yale University analysis, the percentage of people who think cheating is always wrong is:

  • Finland: 36%
  • France: 47%
  • Germany 60%
  • Italy 64%
  • Spain 64%
  • Russia 69%
  • Japan 69%
  • Poland 71%
  • Mexico 73%
  • Canada 76%
  • UK 76%
  • Nigeria 77%
  • Australia 79%
  • South Korea 81%
  • USA 84%
  • El Salvador 89%
  • Philippines 90%
  • Lebanon 92%
  • Egypt 93%
  • Jordan 93%
  • Indonesia 93%
  • Palestine 94%

In terms of who cheats most, there are some surprising results including Finland where cheating is considered a “parallel relationship.

The following estimates list what percentage of people have cheated in these countries:

  • Finland 36%
  • UK 36%
  • Spain 39%
  • Belgium 40%
  • Norway 41%
  • France 43%
  • Italy 45%
  • Germany 45%
  • Denmark 46%
  • Thailand 56%

As we can see, not all of these results correspond to cultural perception of cheating and some countries like the UK where cheating is still seen as unilaterally wrong have quite a high estimated rate of infidelity.

Others track fairly logically, with many socially liberal Scandinavian nations having a much higher rate of infidelity.

How do you “get over” being cheated on?

It’s crucial to understand that getting cheated on is not your fault, and it does not even necessarily mean your spouse doesn’t love you anymore.

While this doesn’t lessen the pain, it does bring some reassurance.

Nonetheless, those feelings of being totally lost and crushed after this kind of betrayal are very difficult to deal with.

You might spend months just lying on the couch or feeling like giving up on life.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When I felt the most lost in life, I was introduced to an unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê, which focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.

My relationship was failing, I felt tense all the time. My self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. I’m sure you can relate – heartbreak does little to nourish the heart and soul.

I had nothing to lose, so I tried this free breathwork video, and the results were incredible.

But before we go any further, why am I telling you about this?

I’m a big believer in sharing – I want others to feel as empowered as I do. And, if it worked for me, it could help you too.

Secondly, Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – and it’s free to take part in.

Now, I don’t want to tell you too much because you need to experience this for yourself.

All I will say is that by the end of it, I felt peaceful and optimistic for the first time in a long time.

And let’s face it, we can all do with a feel-good boost during relationship struggles.

So, if you feel a disconnect with yourself due to your failing relationship, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video. You might not be able to save your relationship, but you will stand a shot of saving yourself and your inner peace.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

There’s still hope!

Rick Reynolds is the founder and president of the Affair Recovery has some valuable experiences to share about his own experience with infidelity and how to recover from it.

Reynolds writes that one of the things he wishes he’d known about the healing process after cheating was:

“Not knowing that there was hope left me skeptical and hesitant to give my marriage a chance. If I had known surviving infidelity was possible, I would’ve more quickly sought help, and I certainly would’ve had a better attitude. It wasn’t until we met others who had succeeded in saving their marriages — and were better off for it — that I began to realize there was hope for us, too.”

FREE eBook: The Marriage Repair Handbook

Just because a marriage has issues doesn’t mean you’re headed for divorce.

The key is to act now to turn things around before matters get any worse.

If you want practical strategies to dramatically improve your marriage, check out our FREE eBook here.

We have one goal with this book: to help you mend your marriage.

Here’s a link to the free eBook again


Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Click here to get $50 off your first session (exclusive offer for Hack Spirit readers).

Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Infidelity in America

The last few months of 2017 treated us to a whirlwind of news coverage on sexual harassment and abuse, with powerful men from Hollywood to Washington, D. C. falling because of sexual misconduct. It continues into the new year, with Missouri Governor Eric Greitens the latest to fall. And most of these men are married.

When Time magazine picked the silence breakers as the 2017 “person of the year,” few people paid attention to the other group of women negatively impacted by the fallout—the spouses of the men who engaged in inappropriate or even criminal (in some cases) sexual behavior. To these women, sexual harassment/abuse also means infidelity.

In general, men are more likely than women to cheat: 20% of men and 13% of women reported that they’ve had sex with someone other than their spouse while married, according to data from the recent General Social Survey(GSS).

However, as the figure above indicates, this gender gap varies by age. Among ever-married adults ages 18 to 29, women are slightly more likely than men to be guilty of infidelity (11% vs. 10%). But this gap quickly reverses among those ages 30 to 34 and grows wider in older age groups. Infidelity for both men and women increases during the middle ages. Women in their 60s report the highest rate of infidelity (16%), but the share goes down sharply among women in their 70s and 80s. By comparison, the infidelity rate among men in their 70s is the highest (26%), and it remains high among men ages 80 and older (24%). Thus, the gender gap in cheating peaks among the oldest age group (ages 80+): a difference of 18 percentage points between men and women.

Trend data going back to the 1990s suggests that men have always been more likely than women to cheat. Even so, older men were no more likely to cheat than their younger peers in the past. In the 1990s, the infidelity rate peaked among men ages 50 to 59 (31%) and women ages 40 to 49 (18%). It was lower for both men and women at the older end of the age spectrum. Between 2000 and 2009, the highest rate of infidelity shifted to men ages 60 to 69 (29%) and women ages 50 to 59 (17%). Meanwhile, the gender gap at ages 80+ increased from 5% to 12% in two decades.

A generation or cohort effect is likely to contribute to this shifting gender gap in infidelity. As Nicholas Wolfinger noted in an earlier post, Americans born in the 1940s and 1950s reported the highest rates of extramarital sex, perhaps because they were the first generations to come of age during the sexual revolution. My analysis by gender suggests that men and women follow a slightly different age pattern when it comes to extramarital sex. Women born in the 1940s and 1950s are more likely than other women to be unfaithful to their spouse, and men born in the 1930s and 1940s have a higher rate than other age groups of men. The higher infidelity rates among these two cohorts contribute to the changing pattern in the gender gap as they grow older over time.

In addition to gender and age, the infidelity rate also differs by a number of other demographic and social factors. For example, cheating is somewhat more common among black adults. Some 22% of ever-married blacks said that they cheated on their spouse, compared with 16% of whites and 13% of Hispanics. And among black men, the rate is highest: 28% reported that they had sex with someone other than their spouse, compared with 20% of white men and 16% of Hispanic men.

A person’s political identity, family background, and religious activity are also related to whether or not they cheat. Overall, Democrats, adults who didn’t grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse. For example, 15% of adults who grew up with both biological parents have cheated on their spouse before, compared with 18% of those who didn’t grow up in intact families.

On the other hand, having a college degree is not linked to a higher chance of cheating. Almost equal shares of college-educated adults and those with high school or less education have been unfaithful to their spouse (16% vs. 15%), and the share among adults with some college education is slightly higher (18%).

Given that many of these factors could be interrelated, I ran a regression model to test the independent effect of each factor. Basically, holding all other factors equal, will each factor still be related to the odds of cheating? It turned out that most of these differences (such as age, race, party identity, religious service attendance, family background) are significant, even after controlling for other factors. And a person’s education level is not significantly associated with cheating.

However, when it comes to who is more likely to cheat, men and women share very few traits. Separate regression models by gender suggest that for men, being Republican and growing up in an intact family are not linked to a lower chance of cheating, after controlling for other factors. But race, age, and religious service attendance are still significant factors. Likewise, men’s education level is also positively linked to their odds of cheating. By comparison, party ID, family background, and religious service attendance are still significant factors for cheating among women, while race, age, and educational attainment are not relevant factors. In fact, religious service attendance is the only factor that shows consistent significance in predicting both men and women’s odds of infidelity.

Infidelity is painful to the person who is being cheated on and can be detrimental to the relationship. Although statistics on the link between infidelity and divorce are hard to find, my analysis based on GSS data suggests that adults who cheated are much more likely than those who didn’t to be divorced or separated.

Among ever-married adults who have cheated on their spouses before, 40% are currently divorced or separated. By comparison, only 17% of adults who were faithful to their spouse are no longer married. On the flip side, only about half of “cheaters” are currently married, compared with 76% of those who did not cheat.

Men who cheated are more likely than their female peers to be married. Among men who have cheated on their spouse before, 61% are currently married, while 34% are divorced or separated. However, only 44% of women who have cheated before are currently married, while 47% are divorced or separated.

This gender difference could reflect the fact that men are more likely to be remarried than women after a divorce. A portion of currently married “cheaters” may be remarried, since we can't tell from the data whether or not the person who cheated is still married to the spouse he or she cheated on.

Wendy Wang is director of research at the Institute for Family Studies and a former senior researcher at Pew Research Center, where she conducted research on marriage, gender, work, and family life in the United States. 

Truths and myths about adultery

  • William Park
  • BBC Future

Photo by Getty Images

It looks like you shouldn't trust your partners blindly

Mike Pence avoids having dinner alone with any woman except his wife. For the Vice President of the United States, this is a sign of respect for his legitimate other half and observance of religious norms.

In the comments about Pence's decision, many wrote that this is how men who are unable to restrain themselves should behave. Others called the behavior sexist and offensive. nine0011

This view is not really an exception. About 6% of respondents in one study believed that it was a betrayal to treat the opposite sex to dinner at a restaurant.

Whatever the motives, Pence and his wife set clear boundaries for what is acceptable behavior with people of the opposite sex. In most heterosexual couples, this is not even close to true.

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  • Psychologist's blog: showdown - useful or not? nine0004

Many people do not have a clear idea of ​​what exactly is included in the concept of infidelity. Most also significantly underestimate the likelihood of a partner cheating, despite the fact that they themselves cheat.

People also have a poor idea of ​​how they will react to the infidelity of their other half. Many are surprised by their own reaction to this news.

However, given the fact that this phenomenon has become widespread, the lack of information about adultery and misunderstanding of this phenomenon cause a lot of painful emotions. nine0011

Psychologists encourage us to talk about infidelity more often and more frankly.

Finding out how many people cheated on their partners at least once in their lives is very difficult, because researchers have to rely solely on the honesty of the respondents. Therefore, the data obtained vary greatly.

In general, the figure is as follows: 75% of men and 68% of women were unfaithful to their halves.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Caption before photo,

About 6% of heterosexual people consider it cheating if their partner pays for the opposite sex in a restaurant

However, only 5% of people believe that their partner has cheated or will cheat in the future. Therefore, even under the most modest assumptions, adultery happens much more often than we think.

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Perhaps we trust our partners too much?

"It's not that bad for a relationship," says Susan Boone of the University of Calgary. nine0011

This is the root of the problem. Cheating means different things to different people. Researchers can define infidelity, but everyone has their own idea of ​​it.

"We mistakenly believe that my partner and I have the same views on cheating, but different people have very different standards," says the researcher.

About 70% of people have never discussed this issue with their partner. Should visiting dating sites be considered cheating, for example?

Between 18% and 25% of Tinder users, for example, are in a committed relationship. However, real dates with people they meet on Tinder are already, perhaps, treason. nine0011

Not surprisingly, Tinder users who have a partner are more likely to have casual sex.

Participants in a survey about whether they thought their partner had ever cheated on them could interpret the infidelity as they pleased.

Some consider only sex to be cheating, for others flirting is also cheating. But all the more surprising is this 5% statistic. Recognizing betrayal in such a broad framework, however, we believe that partners do not cheat on us. Where does this extraordinary optimism come from? nine0011

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

About 70% of people have cheated on their partner at least once in their lives

First of all, emotional infidelity is hard to define. These things happen very often at work, where the intersection of professional and personal interests leads to very close relationships.

Not surprisingly, the transition from an innocent friendship to something more intimate often happens almost imperceptibly.

In one study, women in their 30s and 40s who have a long-term partner admitted that the line between an innocent relationship and something deeper with work colleagues is often quite blurry. nine0011

"To be honest, every day I look forward to seeing him at work," said one of the study participants.

"I feel like a stupid schoolgirl, but it's really a feeling of falling in love when you see a person and your heart starts beating faster."

Many of the respondents agreed that physical intimacy is not necessary to feel emotional betrayal.

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When you hide something from your partner, trust another, and even think about another person instead of your regular partner, all this can be attributed to emotional betrayal.

And considering how much time we spend at work and how close relationships often develop with colleagues, all this is quite natural.

But respondents also noted how important it is to trust and talk to your partner.

"I work as a fitness trainer, and physical contact is inevitable in my work," one of them said. nine0011

If you want to know more about your partner's attitude towards infidelity, take a closer look at his friends.

Image copyright, Unsplash

Image caption,

When it comes to adultery, we surround ourselves with people similar to ourselves

The more people in your environment who, in your opinion, have cheated on their partners, the more likely it is that you change too, or you may someday do so.

Indeed, in matters of adultery, we surround ourselves with people similar to ourselves. nine0011

Of course, most people in monogamous relationships think that cheating is morally bad.

But, if betrayal did occur, is it necessary to immediately admit one's guilt?

Polls show that more than 90% of people would rather know the truth.

Many of the respondents believe that maintaining trust is more important than protecting the feelings of a partner. But whether this is the best way out of the situation in reality is another matter. Adultery is the number one cause of divorce in the US. nine0011

Admitting to being unfaithful will obviously hurt your partner, but people react very differently.

University of Alabama psychologist Greg Tortoriello explains that it all depends on the individual.

Some people can react very badly to failure. Most often this happens to narcissists with an increased sense of self-worth or, on the contrary, excruciating self-doubt.

In the study, both types reacted aggressively to infidelity, even if it did not involve physical intimacy, such as a late-night phone call or response to a chat message. nine0011

Image copyright, Getty Images

Caption before photo,

Reaction to cheating depends on personality: narcissists, for example, can act aggressively

emotions, vulnerable narcissists are able to hold a grudge for a long time.

"Vulnerable narcissists may not talk to a partner for a long time and behave destructively for relationships. If your partner is this type of person, I would suggest finding a way to communicate with him under any circumstances," adds Tortoriello. nine0011

Cheating is easier to forgive if it was an isolated incident.

Although most people say in surveys that they would immediately leave the wrong partner, in reality this is far from the case, say researchers Tortoriello and Boon.

"Sometimes it's the end of a marriage, but not always."

Now Tortoriello plans to collect real facts from life, primarily to explore both sides in a couple. Do our partners see us as more unfaithful than we really are? Do they consider innocent flirting and so on as betrayal? nine0011

However, one thing deserves attention. While the likelihood of cheating in your lifetime is quite high, the chances that this will happen to you at a certain time are, on the contrary, low.

And, therefore, it is obviously not worth spending your time on this right now.

You can read the original of this article in English at BBC Future .

Would you like to share your life stories with us? Write about yourself at: [email protected] and our journalists will contact you. nine0150

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Women have more reasons to cheat Rosbaltu, Chief Researcher of the Department of Sexology and Therapy of Sexual Dysfunctions of the Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry (a branch of the V.P. Serbsky National Medical Research Center for Psychiatry and Narcology of the Ministry of Health of Russia), Doctor of Medical Sciences, sexologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, doctor of the highest category Mikhail Yagubov. nine0011

- There is an opinion that 100% of men cheat, just not everyone admits it. What do you think of it?

- Perhaps not everyone admits this, but still there are men who, due to personal, cultural and religious attitudes, do not change, so it would be wrong to talk about 100%.

— Who cheats more often: men or women?

— According to statistics, 75% of men and only 25% of women cheat on a partner. But these figures also apply to official marriages, and civil, and simply long-term relationships without cohabitation. If we talk about official marriage, according to statistics, 60% of men and 40% of women have affairs on the side. nine0011

— According to these figures, do women cheat more often in marriage than in relationships in general?

Yes. Apparently, this is due to the fact that before marriage there are no problems in the relationship related to living together, everyday life, and finances.

- Where do these numbers come from? How much can they be trusted?

- Statistics - the result of sociological surveys. Therefore, even the figures of Rosstat will not be absolutely accurate. After all, people can lie in their answers. But, despite some error, they reflect the overall picture. Even if you look at divorce statistics, cheating remains one of the main reasons. At 19In the 80-90s, adultery was in the first place, now it is in the second. Modern research shows that today the main cause of divorce has become a material factor.

Attitude towards betrayal changed from sharply negative to tolerant and vice versa. If society treats cheating negatively, this will affect the behavior of specific people. For example, in Eastern countries, only 3% of women cheat, because there it is very strictly punished. However, the picture is different in European countries.

What is the dispute about the "new ethics" nine0008 — Are polygamy, polyamory, open marriages considered cheating?

- Formally, relationships with others are not considered treason, if the partners have agreed on this. Cheating is cheating when the partner does not know about it. There are open marriages where the spouses agree that each can have sex on the side. Such couples do not consider this practice to be cheating.

Another question is how acceptable it is for them. In my practice, there have been cases when a couple invited a third partner to bed in order to diversify their intimate life. And then the man fell into such a severe depression, he could not forgive this either to himself or to his wife, who agreed to this. And this despite the fact that the decision was mutual. And there are many such patients. nine0011

— Do the same reasons push men and women to cheat?

— In a long-term relationship, the desire for the same partner decreases, so men have affairs on the side in search of diversity. But to explain this by polygamy and trying to find a purely biological basis for infidelity, in my opinion, is wrong. It's more of a psychological phenomenon.

Sexual dissatisfaction plays an important role here. I mean both the frequency of intimate relationships and their quality. Took a patient who is embarrassed to discuss his sexual fantasies with his wife, despite the fact that they have been married for 7 years. As a result, he realizes these desires on the side and during masturbation. nine0011

The quality of sex is both the duration of the act itself and the duration and quality of the foreplay. Men, due to their characteristics, are less prone to long foreplay, and women need it more. But in addition to physical caresses, they need attention, tenderness. If they do not get this in marriage, they can look for such an attitude towards themselves on the side. For a woman, this is a very important moment. It is important to her identity that she be lusted for, but this is not just about sexual intercourse. Words, behavior, attitude are also important. nine0011

— That is, if a man commits adultery in search of sexual diversity, then a woman is more about emotions?

- That's right. Although for women, not only emotions are important. For example, the financial situation in the family can also be important. When a man earns little, conflicts begin that affect his intimate life and push him to search for a new one.

The reason for betrayal can be both a long separation and a new love. This happens when there is dissatisfaction: psychological, material, sexual. There is that emptiness that a new love can fill. Logically, women are more prone to this, since they have a higher need for a sensual component. But how this is implemented in practice is another question. And we again return to the accuracy of statistics. nine0011

- It turns out that everyone changes for the same reasons, and there are no gender differences here?

— Not really. The material factor often pushes women to cheat. For them, it is also about a sense of confidence, reliability. When he is not there, the search for a new partner and relationship begins. This is not very common for men.

Treason out of revenge is also more typical for women. The lack of attention from the spouse is also a purely female reason. In general, women have more reasons for cheating than men. nine0011 Is non-genetic homosexuality a scientific fake?

But the lack of sex is more of a male cause. Lately I have been observing that many women do not want sex in marriage. But they don’t want to, because they don’t feel attention, tenderness from their partner.

Recently, a significant cohort of men has appeared in Russia who have completely gone into virtual sex. If at the beginning of the relationship, during the first year, the couple is still having sex, then then the men just watch porn and masturbate, because it's simple, fast, you don't need to make any effort and please anyone. And the woman remains practically out of work. nine0011

— But a woman can do the same, can't she?

— The emotional component is very important for a woman. The man looked at the pictures and that's it. In Japan, many have given up sex in favor of masturbation. In our country, the same trend is observed among men.

- It turns out that women have more reasons to change, but they do it less often.

- In principle - yes.

- So, soon men and women will be equal in the number of betrayals? nine0176

- I don't think so. In recent years, the value of the institution of the family has been growing again. And since women are more likely to be in a relationship, despite the number of reasons for cheating, they still cheat less often.

- Which of these reasons can you work on to keep the relationship, and when is it better to leave?

— If people ask for help, it means they want to keep the relationship, they have motivation. It is clear that sometimes they come for show, to shift the responsibility to a specialist: “We went. See, it didn't work." No problem can be solved if there is no desire.

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