Infidelity in any relationship is devastating. Trust is broken, faith is shattered, and the betrayal cuts deep. Given the emotional destruction that comes with cheating, many are left to wonder—why do people engage in affairs in the first place?
Some Startling Statistics About Infidelity.
· You may be surprised to learn that one in every four or five individuals will engage in sexual activity with someone who is not their partner or spouse at least once in their lifetime[AB1] [MOU2] .
· The American Psychological Association determined infidelity accounted for 20 – 40% of divorces in the U.S.
· According to the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), approximately 20% of men admit to cheating on their spouses, and married men are 25% more likely to have one night stands than women.
· The IFS found that 13% of women admit to cheating on their spouses.
· An extensive study conducted by AARP found that a whopping 46% of men admitted to cheating on their partners in the past, compared to only 21% of women.
Who is More Likely to Cheat?
Statistically speaking, men are more likely to cheat than women, and the ages at which men and women are most likely to cheat might surprise you. According to AARP, infidelity rates are highest among men in their 70’s and women in their 60’s.
This may be due to birth or generational cohort—many of the people in this generation were the first to come of age following the sexual revolution and are therefore more likely to engage in sexual activity with someone who is not their spouse.
Additionally, those who have cheated in the past are likely to cheat again. A study conducted by the University of Denver found that people who admitted to infidelity in their first relationship were three times more likely to report being unfaithful in their second relationship.
Research also indicates that adults who had unfaithful parents are 2.5 times more likely to be unfaithful themselves.
How to Prevent Cheating
Infidelity is not limited to marriage—it can happen at any time and in any relationship. While there is little you can do to prevent someone who is determined to cheat from cheating, there are things you can do to strengthen and nurture your relationship and reduce the likelihood that infidelity happens.
1. Take Ownership of Your Behavior
Contrary to popular opinion, an affair isn’t something that “just happens”. There are a million choices that take place leading up to the physical affair—emotional cheating has likely happened long before the physical relationship takes place.
If attraction happens outside of your relationship, be honest with yourself. Acknowledge your feelings for what they are and use them to determine your next steps. Decline the invitation to go out for coffee. Delete text messages rather than responding to them. Think about the ramifications of not changing your behavior. Play the tape in your head and imagine the hurt your partner will feel if you take things too far. Make a conscious effort to choose your relationship and your partner…every time.
2. If You Have a Sex Addiction, Get Help
Infidelity happens for a variety of reasons and not everyone who has an affair is a sex addict. Sex addiction is a compulsive behavior that causes an unhealthy obsession with sex. People with a sex addiction find their lives completely consumed with the need to plan and engage in sexual activity, often to the point that their careers, families, and social relationships suffer.
It is estimated that sex addiction affects 12 million adults in the United States, and many are reluctant to seek assistance because of the stigma surrounding sex addiction, but it is important to know help is available. Treatment can include therapy, medication, and/or support groups, and many former sex addicts go on to enjoy happy and healthy relationships.
3. Talk to Your Partner
Communication is key in any relationship. Talk to your spouse or partner, share your dreams and fears for your relationship, and encourage them to share their thoughts with you.
It may sound silly, but it is important for the two of you to discuss what behaviors you believe constitute cheating…and you might be surprised how different your parameters are. How far can flirting go before it has gone too far? Is going out for coffee with someone of the opposite sex ok? Dancing with a coworker at an after-hours event? Engaging in flirty text exchanges? Talking about such scenarios before they happen lays the groundwork for your relationship and prevents misunderstandings.
4. When it Comes to Your Partner…be Grateful
Remind yourself of all the reasons you love your partner, all the endearing qualities you’ve learned to love…then share them with him or her.
Each of us longs to be appreciated for what we bring to our relationships, so take time to share that with your spouse/partner. Is she an incredible listener? Does he sacrifice his own convenience and go out of his way to make your life easier?
Reminding yourself of your partner’s wonderful qualities will help you appreciate how special they are and sharing your appreciation with your partner will help them feel valued and strengthen your bond.
Gratitude does not mean indebtedness. Approaching your relationship with a grateful heart means to focus your attention positively on someone you love.
5. Eliminate the Victim Mindset
If there is trouble in your relationship, try looking at it from a bird’s eye view. Don’t get comfortable in the role of the victim, embracing the idea that relationship troubles are happening to you. Try looking at your relationship from your partner’s perspective and be honest about the role you play in the struggle. Honesty with yourself and your partner is the best way to mend what’s broken.
6. Grow Together
Don’t get too comfortable in your relationship. The best way to keep things fresh is by growing together, keeping lines of communication open, and trying new things. We all change as time marches on, and so do our interests, so share your ideas for new shared experiences with your partner and ask them if there is something new they’d like to try. Sharing such adventures and making memories together is a wonderful way to build a lifelong bond.
Growing a healthy relationship does not require the two of you to be joined at the hip, or to vigilantly review every move the other makes. No, a healthy relationship is a balancing act. As important as it is to do things together, it’s equally important to support each other’s personal freedom and autonomy. Celebrate your partner’s independence and individuality by respecting their personal goals and interests outside of the relationship.
Embrace the idea that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and give yourself and your partner permission to enjoy time apart. Doing so will make your inevitable reunions that much sweeter.