Think you know a cheater when you see one? Chances are you’re wrong.
As husbands and wives periodically drift together and apart on their marital journey, one truth remains certain: every marriage is susceptible to infidelity.
While the definition of infidelity varies greatly, betrayal of a partner’s trust is arguably the most difficult marital obstacle to overcome.
If you think it can’t happen to you, you might want to think again.
Live Science reports that a 1994 longitudinal study conducted by sociologist Edward Lauman found that 18 percent of women and 24 percent of men engaged in extramarital affairs within their lifetime. While study results are dated, experts believe advances in communication and ease of travel are to blame for an increase in extramarital affairs.
Does this mean we’re becoming more accepting of infidelity as a society?
No. A 2006 Pew Research Center found that nearly 90 percent of adults surveyed believed it was morally wrong for married folks to have an emotional or sexual affair.
While our moral compass remains steadfast in the belief that infidelity is wrong, we can no longer cling to the notion that "happy" marriages are safe from the threat of infidelity. WebMD reports that 34 percent of women and 56 percent of men who engaged in extramarital affairs reported being happy or very happy in their marriages according to a study conducted by Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University.
So if over half of men who cheat are happy in their marriages, why do they do it? The answer is perhaps more disheartening than the statistic.
Psychology Today suggests a man’s decision to have an affair has more to do with opportunity than actual intent. How very comforting.
And while research suggests women are more likely to have emotional reasons for stepping outside their marriage, husbands are more likely to cheat when confronted with an offer they can’t refuse – happy marriage or not.
While we can argue over the role genes play in unfaithful behavior, we’re faced with the stark reality that infidelity doesn’t discriminate. Whether we choose to spy on our spouse’s emails and texts, put blinders on and trust unconditionally, or keep our wits about us and focus on strengthening our marital ties, suspicion and fear have no place as the respective third and fourth wheels in our marriages.
We owe it to our marital health to focus on the good, fight out the bad, keep talking, and keep loving. The way I see it, combining honest communication and loving support is our greatest and only defense.