Facts and Statistics About Infidelity

Given the secretive nature of infidelity, exact figures about cheating and extra-marital affairs are nearly impossible to establish. But listed below are some of the most well-supported facts about cheating. All cited sources can be found on our reference page.

  • It is estimated that roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage (see Buss & Shackelford for review of this research). And these numbers are probably on the conservative side, if you consider that close to half of all marriages end in divorce (people are more likely to stray as relationships fall apart; also see, who is likely to cheat).
  • Research consistently shows that 2% to 3% of all children are the product of infidelity (see Anderson). And most of these children are unknowingly raised by men who are not their biological fathers. DNA testing is finally making it easy for people to check the paternity of their children (see paternity issues).
  • Infidelity is becoming more common among people under 30. Many experts believe this increase in cheating is due to greater opportunity (time spent away from a spouse), as well as young people developing the habit of having multiple sexual partners before marriage (see young and restless – Wall Street Journal).
  • There are no definitive signs of cheating. But, in hindsight you will always find them (see signs of infidelity).
  • Some cultures have adopted extreme measures to combat infidelity: female circumcision, allowing only limited contact between the sexes, and even death as a punishment. Other cultures view infidelity in a more nuanced way, and may not see it as a serious marital problem.
  • Men are more likely to cheat than women. But as women become more financially independent, they are beginning to act more like men with respect to infidelity (see cheating wife, cheating husband, why men cheat, and why women cheat).
  • In many cases, infidelity is never discovered (see cheating spouse quiz).
  • Emotionally, it is possible to have feelings for more than one person at a time. Pragmatically, loving more than one person is difficult to do (see polyamory – Truth, Lies, and Romance Blog).
  • As more and more women enter the work force, office romances are becoming more common. Spouses often spend more time with coworkers than with each other.
  • The internet, e-mail, and chat rooms are making it easier for people to engage in infidelity (see online cheating).
  • The initial decision to be unfaithful is rarely if ever a rational choice; instead, infidelity is usually driven by circumstances and one’s emotions. In fact, most people are surprised by their own behavior at the start of an affair (see decision to cheat).
  • Emotional infidelity, compared to pure physical infidelity, can inflict as much if not more hurt, pain and suffering. And to make matters worse, most infidelity involves both physical and emotional betrayal (see what counts as cheating).
  • Unfortunately, many people find a more suitable mate (someone they love more than their spouse) after they are already married.
  • Biological evidence (i.e., research on biology and reproduction) indicates that long-term monogamy is difficult for humans to achieve—NOT impossible, but difficult (see Barash & Lipton or the myth of monogamy – Salon.com).
  • Almost everyone admits to having fantasies that involve someone other than a spouse (see our indecent thoughts survey).
  • Jealousy is such a fundamental, universal emotion because infidelity has been a part of our human nature for a very long time (see Buss).

For recent research on the topic of infidelity, visit our blog.

Related Information:

Truth About Deception – back to our home page.