Today’s article is a little different from my usual opinionated relationship diatribe. Instead, I decided to take a closer look at the objective, statistical world of cheating, and how it measures up to modern stereotypes about men and women.
Personally, and consider this my gut-instinct hypothesis, I’ve always held that the occurences of cheating are relatively equal in men and women (perhaps giving men a slight edge due to their alleged genetic predisposition towards promiscuity).
Am I wrong? Are we all wrong? In order to get a clearer picture, untainted by my glaring personal bias, I have decided to start by doing some some preliminary statistical number-crunching and then move gradually on to other gender-related facts and differences that drive and influence cheating. Still with me? Great. Onwards-ho!
Why I was both right and wrong
Research conducted at the Indiana University in Bloomington in 2011 revealed that there is only a 4% discrepancy between the sexes when it comes to admitting to having cheated (23% of men and 19% of women). While on the surface this may seem to match-up fairly well with my initial hypothesis, there are — as always — angles that I had not considered. The first is historical context.
The gender gap is rapidly closing
As cultural disparities narrow between the sexes (such as more women having access to a career-oriented lifestyle), so does the percentage of cheating. Similar research conducted only 10 years ago shows that the amount of women in relationships ranging from 3 months to 20 years that admitted to having cheated on their long-term partner was an astounding 50% lower than it is today (around 10%). Could this indicate that the motivation for cheating is identical for both sexes? Not so fast!
While it seems clear that statistics indicate that the likelihood of cheating seems to be converging towards a gender unifying plateau, the reasons for cheating continue to show some contrast between men and women. Here are some interesting tidbits my digging unveiled:
- Women who claimed to be in an unhappy relationship were two and a half times more likely to cheat on their partner than their male counterparts. This figure rises to almost three times more likely when the unhappiness stems from sexual incompatibility.
- Men are less likely to be driven by a motive, and — if you’ll permit me to summarize the concept bluntly — appear to be driven more opportunistically.
- Women, according to Dr Holmes, a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, are far better than men at keeping an affair secret.
- Men are more prone to seek risk-seeking scenarios and often undervalue their partner’s ability to sense that an affair is occurring.
If we consider the last two points, where statistics indicate that women remain more rational during an affair, and men tend to less cautious, there may be enough evidence (at least in my opinion) to suggest that the percentages are even closer to parity than I initially thought.
Something we all agree on
Despite the doom and gloom of discussing cheating, even if it is not personal but statistical, I am willing to openly concede that I am positively surprised by how low the percentages are across the board. Both men (78%) and women (84%) agree that cheating is wrong in any scenario while in a relationship, and this number continues to grow as time goes by (this number was almost a full 10% lower in the wild 70’s).
My resounding impression is that we are conditioned to believe by popular culture (and now I sound old and weathered), that our collective predisposition to cheating is far higher than it actually is. Would you agree with this?