So I recently started reading For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed which links together journal articles and studies on all sorts of mating and marital studies. It’s fairly interesting thus far, and I’ll probably do a full review on it at some point. Nothing in it is earth shattering to me, but think it provides further scientific backing of the more every-man’s book on the pseudo-science of marriage and sex as laid out by Athol Kay’s The Married Man Sex Life Primer (highly recommended for anyone in a relationship).
There’s a number of topics that can be spun out from the book but thought I’d pull a few notes on marital commitment and infidelity. First, men are more likely to commit infidelity, and if the figures and women’s survey info is to be believed, it’s about 50% higher than women’s infidelity rate. According to the book, about 10% of people (7% of women and 13% of men if I remember correctly) were unfaithful in marriage in the last year. For married couples 60 years or older, in their lifetime, the rate of infidelity is roughly twice that (I think it was 16% of women and 26% of men were unfaithful at some point in their marriage).
What was interesting isn’t that the number of people cheating (seems about right to me, would be interesting to see how many of these were one time deal or a longer affair), but the conclusion by the author of the book (or perhaps the studies, I’m not sure which) that infidelity was usually symptomatic of a failing marriage and not the cause of one. That is, people don’t usually cheat unless there’s starting to be systematic failure in the marriage and they start to check out mentally. They also noted both in several animal studies and human studies that commitment-level has a strong impact to rebuffing advances from prospective suitors of married (or in the case of animals, pair bonded) individuals. If commitment level (I interpret this as strong structural marital strength and attraction) is high, the study said, you view members of the opposite sex differently and devalue them in some way so they aren’t as attractive to you.
They went on to imply that with more women in the workforce, adding in traveling for business and working late, there is more opportunity for infidelity. Published in 2011, they also noted that electronic emotional affairs (Facebook and the like) were becoming more common. I will say from my personal work experience (in the past), I’ve had women colleagues confide in me about the faults of their boyfriends or husbands or the state of their own relationships. As a STEM field guy, I’m not exactly a warm fuzzy person looking to comfort or anything nor did I seek out this type of interaction. I would basically just sit there and listen uncomfortably, but I’m nearly positive that the other party was exploring the possibility of how I would react, even if only subconsciously. I would never cheat on my wife, but I think opportunities in the workplace are out there and you don’t even need to look that hard probably. For me, in a relationship to someone who I am very attracted to, these interactions just made me incredibly uncomfortable and I would sort of be skeeved out by the person. However, if I was in a crappy marriage myself, I’m sure I would have viewed these interactions as a potential opportunity to get my needs met from someone else. All a matter of perspective I suppose.
So again, this book and the studies it references seem to indicate if you have a strong committed marriage, (and in my opinion can build a strong marital moat) you can make the likelihood of infidelity greatly reduced.