I was reading through a review of the film Sex Tape by my friend Christian when I was startled by the research he cites from NBC’s The Today Show and Melissa Lavigne-Delville about couples and the incidence of (self-reported) cheating on their spouse based on whether they had children or not.
Knowing that having children puts an extraordinary stress on relationships, it’s no surprise that married couples with children are twice as likely to cheat on their spouse than those who don’t have children, but the other findings are startling.
I’ve talked about why men cheat before and it’s not only one of the most commented upon articles on my blog (almost 350 comments!), but it’s also a fascinating insight into the justifications men and women use to explain why it’s not inappropriate or immoral to be unfaithful. This recent Today Show survey shows things haven’t changed much: 54% of those surveyed believe cheating can be justified. More damning, 81% said they’d cheat if they could be guaranteed of zero consequences. 81%. Yeesh.
And then there are those marriage vows. No surprise, really:
40% of those surveyed think that the ’till death do us part clause of the traditional Judeo-Christian marriage vows are unrealistic. That’s consistent with what I’ve been writing about about the future of marriage too, in which I said:
The problem is making it “last a lifetime” rather than the more common approach which now seems to no longer be “until death do us part” but “until an argument or major hassle do us part”.
Sounds like what the Today Show survey found, doesn’t it?
More than half the Gen X and Gen Y respondents indicated that they believe monogamy is a “social expectation but not biological reality”, as fine a justification for cheating on a spouse as I’ve ever heard. No surprise, almost half also believe in the importance of marriage vow renewal ceremonies. You know, like paying for that extended warranty…
Other interesting findings include the thought-crime aspect of this: 75% of respondents admitted they fantasized about someone other than their spouse and 48% said they don’t feel guilty about it. Which means that 52% do feel guilty. About a fantasy. Seems to me that it’s the deed, not the thought, that’s the problem here.
Truly, there are no surprises in this qualitative research study and while I’m tempted to comment on the inherent errors in a self-reported survey, the fact is that this does capture a major shift in our culture and our views of marriage, relationships and the cost of having children. Kids by their very nature cause a relationship to become focused on their needs, particularly when the children are very young. Now we’re starting to really understand the cost too.
What are your thoughts on the findings of this research?