Infidelity

Since Rewriting the Rules was published I sometimes get asked to do email interviews with journalists on various topics. Some of these get published in an edited form and some never see the light of day, so I thought I’d post some of the original interviews here.

Here’s one I did on infidelity.

Do you think there has been a rise in infidelity culture? 

It is very difficult to know exactly how much infidelity there is because, of course, people tend to keep it secret and may not even admit it on an anonymous survey. Evidence from research studies go from around 10% of married people having affairs at some point up to as many as 50-60%. Certainly quite a few research studies are reporting an increase (there’s a summary of some recent articles here ). Also there is now a market for dating sites specifically for people who are already married or in a monogamous relationship.

Why do you think it’s so easy/tempting/likely for people in relationships to seek excitement elsewhere?

I think that there are many reasons. People are living longer which makes a life-long monogamous relationship more of a commitment. Also, as I explore in my book, people are under a lot of pressure both to find The One perfect partner, and – at the same time – to reach their own goals and dreams in life. People might be tempted to have affairs if they start to worry that their partner is not The One and that they might be missing a better relationship elsewhere. Alternatively it might be that they begin to feel they’ve given up too much of their freedom in their relationship, and infidelity is a way of finding parts of themselves that they thought they’d lost. There are many different reasons for infidelity.

Do you think old(er) models of fidelity are becoming a bit outdated?

Older models are struggling to keep up with some of the changes that we’re seeing. For example, in relationship therapy, couples are struggling with issues like whether cybersex counts as cheating, or how to remain friends with an ex with whom they have children at the same time as having a new relationship. Some younger people are engaging in hook-up culture (having several, more casual, relationships) or forming monogamish couples which are somewhat open to other relationships.

What do you think are contributing factors to people ‘cheating’? Is social media a factor?

Certainly things like social media enable us to have many more relationships in lots of different ways, and it can be hard to determine where the lines are.

Research suggests that people often tend to draw their lines around monogamy in different ways. They don’t communicate about this up front, which means that it can be painful for everyone when the lines are unwittingly crossed.

What is the main angle that you’re setting out in your book? And can you relate it to the cheating culture?

In Rewriting the Rules the idea is that relationships have changed a lot in recent years so we need to look carefully at our rules and maybe change them accordingly. For example, with cheating, I suggest that people think about where their own lines are around monogamy. Do they want just one emotionally close person in their lives or many? Do they want complete sexual monogamy, or are the open to flirting, physical contact, or even sex, with more than one person? Once they know where they are, they can communicate about this with new partners and find people who are on the same page, rather than being pushed into situations of infidelity and dishonesty and the pain and suffering that can cause.


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