Kids make you cheat on your spouse?

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:

till death do us part is obsolete
Today Show’s Hoda Kotb with Samantha Boardman and Melissa Levigne-Delville

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?

support marriage vow renewals
Kotb, Boardman and Levigne-Delville discuss Marriage Vows

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?

2 comments on “Kids make you cheat on your spouse?

  1. As an married person with no children I find this statistic fascinating, although not surprising.

    I have lost friends who have had kids because their kids become their lives. I was suddenly left out of their lives and it’s not surprising that a spouse may feel similarly left out. I see moms (especially moms) get so wrapped up in their kids that they forget their longtime friends – so is it a stretch that they would forget their spouse? I’m not saying it’s a justification for cheating, but I can see it being a very real reason for cheating.

    This is why parents need to be careful not to lose themselves in parenthood. As a non-parent I’m sure some people think I’m unqualified to have any opinions on this, but I’ve seen it happen over and over again. I think it’s important to maintain connected to your original self when you have a kid, otherwise all of your adult relationships will suffer, including the relationship with your spouse.

  2. Interesting justifications. No personal responsibility.Then there’s those pesky vows (promises) that you wouldn’t want getting in the way of immediate gratification. It makes me wonder how these same people treat the other aspects of their life. I would guess the same way they treat their marriage. I also wonder if these same people wonder why the world is like it is.

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