Infidelity: Why is it Increasing?

February 11, 2013
Infidelity: Why is it Increasing?

If you believe everything you see in the media, cheating and cheaters are on the rise across society. It’s not uncommon to hear of famous married men who are sexting and neighborhood wives who are finding their own “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

So what’s going on? Have we become a generation of people who can’t keep a promise? Well, sort of.

In fact, two major cultural trends are contributing to the apparent increase in marital infidelity: The rise of sexual opportunity and the decline of sexual restraint.

Let’s take each of these trends apart.

Sexual opportunity involves two important factors:

1. An increase in exposure to possible sexual partners and a willingness of those partners to participate in infidelity.

2. Technology can certainly be credited for an explosion of contact with strangers.

Our hunter/gatherer instincts make us sit up and take notice when a human outside of our gene pool enters our eyeline, but that instinct evolved when novel pheromones were few and far between.

Today, we are exposed to thousands of sexual opportunities every day on Facebook, Twitter, crowded subways, Starbucks lines and on actual dating websites.

As for a willingness of partners to participate in an illicit sexual encounter, technology has a piece of the puzzle there, too.


“Modern cheaters have easy tools — cell phones with

locks and private messages on Facebook and Twitter.”

Participants weigh the risks against the convenience.

And cheating has certainly become convenient.

Today, every married person can be contacted directly — no need to hang up after two signal rings on the family phone.

Modern cheaters have easy tools — cell phones with locks and private messages on Facebook and Twitter.

Any spouse can literally lead a double life due to technology. And this low risk of getting caught makes partners participatory.

Let’s look at the decline of sexual restraint.

We are living in a high-supply sexual economy as a byproduct of the sudden rise in female economic power.

Think of it this way:

When a woman is disadvantaged in a culture, she is more likely to withhold sex until a provider signs on the bottom line and supports her and her children.

It’s an economic contract called marriage.

Disadvantaged women are also more likely to enforce the sexual double standard, thereby coercing other women to deprive men of sex so it will increase the number of men willing to marry. (Yes, one of the reasons many men marry is to have consistent sex.)

But when women rise in economic power, they no longer need a male provider, so they enjoy the pleasures of their body and put sex out in the economy in high supply.

Thus, we have a decrease in sexual restraint among single women who may have affairs with cheaters.

But what about the married partner?

Why has sexual restraint gone down among married people?

Some researchers speculate the decline of religion with inherent moral teachings is a factor, and they also blame our highly sexualized media.

Sexy television, films and online pornography arouse married people and give them the impression everyone is having lots of sex, something that may not be the case in long-term monogamy.

This makes them feel they are missing out.

It is the collision of these two trends, increased sexual opportunity and decreased sexual restraint, that results in a rise in infidelity.

Why do you think infidelity is increasing?

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Dr. Wendy Walsh is the author of "The 30-Day Love Detox"" (April 2013). Connect with her on Google+.

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13 Responses

    Good Article Wendy, I don’t know if infidelity is on the rise but I do theorize that with divorce rate being 50% of marriages, only 50% of what is left over is what I would call “good” marriages. I believe a lot of people stay together in “bad” marriages for economic reasons, sake of children, religious convictions or fear of being alone. Also, some people say they don’t believe in divorce. There was 1 well known personal finance expert from tv that I watch said he does not “believe in divorce.” ?????

      Your insight on marriages isn’t new. People sticking around for the sake of children, religion…fear, it’s been said and over done hundreds of times. Same with this article, TV has been out for a long time and so have pornographic magazines and tabloids. “Sex” is everywhere and we blame our infidelity on pressures that we claim are out of our “control.”
      If someone got married it was a choice (in most western hemisphere cases) so it’s hard to believe any reasons for “sticking around” are entirely justified…. my rant.

    “If you believe everything you see in the media, cheating and cheaters are on the rise across society.”

    Does anyone really believe the media these days? If anything, the growth of the media, it’s power, and the drive to replace ‘news’ with ‘entertainment’ has caused those in power positions to be more repressed sexually. The younger generations are starting to feel this and a sexual revolution similar to what happened in the 60s vs. the 50s is coming.

    “Some researchers speculate the decline of religion with inherent moral teachings is a factor, and they also blame our highly sexualized media.”
    Religion has inherent moral teachings? If anything, religion has been another major cause of repression, immoral acts, and dishonesty among spouses.

      C. Price
      Cynthia Price (

      To your media speculation, I concur. Kim Kardashian is recently pregnant and Justin Timberlake made a comeback during the Grammy’s this year… Entertainment has now fallen under Google’s radar as “news” and we’re all soaking it in. History repeats itself, in waves.

    “Why do I think fidelity is rising?” I think that is a loaded question with several answers. I agree with your article, but also I think that question could be the title of a book, and a 300+ page book answering that question could only begin to scratch the service. To name “a few”, the glamorization of it, the increase in temptation because of the accessibility of it, and the increased number of ways to get away with it. I think that our drastic leaps in technology that you get people both good and bad, then what is created will be dramatic leaps of good & evil. From when the internet first came out for the public up to present day we’ve all seen the good: being able to search for information that had once been harder to obtain, E-mail,e or in the case of online shopping you no longer had to leave your house! lol. Etc. Now The evil: offensive pornography, scams, more unmentionables, & SITES ENCOURAGING INFIDELITY! I believe that if I had to answer this question in a sentence, infidelity is increasing because the number of people succumbing to temptation. I think the question I think I might write a book called something like “Why do People Cheat?” Then have a few sequels called. How do You Try to Prevent it? & How Do You Handle it if it’s already happened. To me, those are also some mighty good questions that need to be answered.
    Good article though!

    If infidelity is on the rise I would have to say it is because marriage is an unnatural.

    I would have figured that women would show more restraint as they rose economically and got more independent? I would have guessed independent women would actually be more picky about who they want to have as a mate since they don’t need a man anymore like they used to.

    It is a long time coming. Marriage started when man became somewhat civilized as a means to handle the devise of property. If we allow any speck of veracity to Jean Auel’s theories in the Earths Children saga, once men had an inkling that children could arise from their seed, they wanted ownership as well as certainty that the children being provided for by their labors were theirs. Marriage then became a way to link property and families. Now as marriage philosophy has been decimated by gay marriage, economic equality for women, and loss of stigma for children born out of wedlock ( the term bastard is no longer linked to its derisive parental connotation). Loss of religious impact, increase in no fault divorce, and free love generations also contribute. Marriage is on a fast slide to oblivion. Hetero couples producing taxpayers will demand something different for themselves as they fulfil the promise to Government : get these benefits and clear property transfer in exchange for producing more taxpayers. All others getting married for “love” demean and deface the institution. I lump myself in this category as I haven’t bred children. I did not uphold my side of the bargain.

      Tim ,
      How has marriage been decimated by gay marriage? Why would my married gay neighbors have a negative impact on my marriage? That seems absurd. Thats like saying my interracial marriage decimated the marriages of white people

    I had been with my ex for 22 years and had been faithful to him because we had such a strong physical attachment . We didn’t split up over lack of sexual chemistry. When I started dating after divorce I was horrified by the volume of men who would look me in the eye and lie about their single status to try to get laid . I got smart very quick but it was a disappointing wake up call to me.
    Some of these guys I think are just bored and are looking for quick gratification that is external. May be porn has influence in depersonalizing a woman for sex outside the marriage while that wife remains the “madonna”

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