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Low Infidelity, Shock Statistics, and the Forgiveness Factor

Why is the Internet hyping cheating statistics?

W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD, National Marriage Project

W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD, National Marriage Project

 Whenever infidelity makes headline news in Tinsletown or in the sports world, infidelity mavens hype marital discord. As with sex, infidelity is a topic that sells papers especially with claims of an "infidelity epidemic." In reality, infidelity has not increased in more than 20 years. However, when it happens at home, cheating is no longer a statistic, it is a heart break. The ability to reconcile is difficult, though not impossible.

How did infidelity become a headliner?

With the advent of the contraceptive pill, Dr. Ruth Westheimer warned: "I don't want to sound like a Jewish grandmother who said 'I told you so,' but I've said it over and over again: Unless the pill is coupled with education and sexual literacy, I predict a lot of troubles."

She was right. Freedom triggered indiscretions. And as she once said when I asked her at a Yale function, "Why do men cheat?" With voice escalating, she answered, "It's not only men! And put an exclamation point there!"

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Statistics from the National Science Foundation

Nonetheless fewer than 5 percent of men and 3 percent of women are statistically unfaithful on a yearly basis according the rigorously controlled General Social Survey (GSS) funded by the National Science Foundation, according to Dr. Tom Smith, director.

It turns out that the high cheating numbers (of over 50 percent) come from Internet infidelity mavens and a designated cheaters website. In talking with me, W. Bradford Wilcox, Ph.D., Director of the Marriage Project at the University of Virginia reaffirmed his scientific research noting that 22 percent of ever-married men and 14 percent of ever-married women have had an extra-marital affair over the course of their lifetime.

He said, "Despite the marital misbehavior of a few politicians and athletes, infidelity is becoming less popular, not more popular, in America." 

Reports that claim 50 to 70 percent of men are cheating are basically Internet hype. Prof. Edward O. Laumann, of the University of Chicago, calls the numbers "shock statistics" and self-reported figures from those who answer Internet surveys -- "just nonsense."

Despite the degree of acceptance suggested by infidelity headlines, Dr. Laumann also confirmed that most people say that it is morally wrong.

For couples trapped in infidelity, the real question is this: Is reconciliation possible?

Bill Mitchell is author of "The More You Know: Getting the Evidence and Support You Need to Investigate a Troubled Relationship" which he talked about on Dr. Phil.  He says that "After gathering info, you always have to ask the client, 'Where do you want to go from here?' You must always leave the door open for a couple to reconcile."

Michele Weiner-Davis of The Divorce Busting Center www.divorcebusting.com tells me the same thing.  She has been has been spearheading a movement to bring couples to a more peaceful place for more than 30 years.  It is her belief that "Divorce is not always the answer.  If you embark on a path of reconciliation, no matter how bleak things might seem, your marriage can be saved."

However, for any reconciliation to take place, forgiveness must often come first.  And those who are able to forgive are oftentimes those who can start by finding a way to be grateful for the good that did occur at one time in their relationship.

Interviews with the above experts are in "Infidelity and Marriage: Deal breaker or Wake-up Call?" an eBook at Amazon.com and at www.ritawatson.com

Copyright 2011- 2013 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

 

Rita Watson is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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