Answers FAQ

Infidelity FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:Infidelity is the leading cause of divorce. True or False?

A:False. Although infidelity is the main reason unmarried cohabitating couples split, the same is not true of married couples. Married couples often cite being incompatible or unable to communicate as the cause of their divorce.

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Q:Most people are willing to forgive an unfaithful spouse. True or False?

A:False. According to a Gallup Poll about infidelity, most people are not willing to forgive an unfaithful spouse. Specifically, only about one in three Americans say they would forgive their spouse for marital infidelity.

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Q:Regarding infidelity, women believe which is worse: Sex with prostitutes or romantic extramarital affairs?

A:Sex with prostitutes. Men and women differ in their views as to which is worse -- women tend to believe sex with prostitutes is a greater betrayal, while men say a romantic extramarital affair is a worse offense.

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Q:Why do most men cheat?

A:Emotionally dissatisfied in marriage. What makes men cheat? Well, a survey of 200 men found that contrary to popular belief, only about a handful of men cited sex as a factor in their infidelity. The study also showed that a large number of men who had affairs were actually happy in their marriages. The true culprit: Most (nearly half of men surveyed) rated emotional dissatisfaction as the primary reason they cheated.

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Q:Why do most women cheat?

A:Lonely in marriage. Women tend to have emotional connections with their lovers and are more likely to have affairs because of loneliness.

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Q:Women commonly use affairs to get out of bad marriages. True or False?

A:True. In general, women's motivations aren't just about sex. Using another partner to transition out of a bad marriage is one of the common reasons women have affairs. In the world of break-ups, it's called "jumping ship."

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Q:Married people under the age of 30 are most likely to cheat on their spouses. True or False?

A:True. A University of Chicago study shows that married people younger than 30 are those most likely to have sex with someone other than their spouse.

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Q:When it comes to affairs, who tends to be less forgiving: Women or Men?

A:Men. Husbands are less forgiving than wives, making it more likely for a woman caught up in an affair to be slammed with divorce. New York psychiatrist Mark Epstein, MD asserts that, "The hardest thing for husbands of unfaithful wives to do is to let that situation be history. For some men, imagining our partner with someone else is too intolerable."

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Q:In South Carolina, adultery is a crime punishable by imprisonment. True or False?

A:True. In South Carolina, adultery is a crime punishable by imprisonment. It is also still a crime in Minnesota and Michigan. Laws against adultery remain on the books in many states, though they are rarely enforced.

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Q:A woman who is financially dependent on her husband is least likely to cheat. True or False?

A:True. A Cornell University study on income and infidelity found that women are least likely to stray when they are dependent on their male partner's income. They may have fewer opportunities to cheat and may decide it isn't worth it because their livelihood may be at risk.

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Q:What is Othello syndrome?

A:The delusion of infidelity. Othello syndrome is a psychiatric disorder characterized by the delusion of infidelity. It occurs more frequently among chronic male alcoholics and in demented patients. Othello syndrome is distinguished by jealous behavior such as: Recurrent accusations of infidelity, searches for evidence, repeated interrogation of the partner, tests of their partner's fidelity, and stalking;

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Q:What do unfaithful spouses usually blame as the cause for their infidelity?

A:Poor communication. In the 2008 study "Premarital precursors of marital infidelity," husbands and wives jointly cite low positive communication and high negative communication as causes for infidelity.

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