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October 29, 2008

Cheating 2.0

Filed under: News,Psychology — posted by Rose @ 1:28 pm

“In my day, if we wanted to commit adultery, we trudged 14 miles in the snow to the next farmhouse over, and we made love on a scratchy bale of hay. You’d get your rocks off, but you’d also get a low-grade infection from all the minor cuts and scrapes. And we liked it! We loved it!”

— My attempt at aping Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man routine

Time to dust off all your antiquated notions of who’s cheating, why and how. A story published this week in the New York Times says that marital infidelity is markedly up among the young and the old — never mind such well-worn scenarios as the Seven Year Itch or the forty- or fiftysomething midlife crisis:

“The lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006, up from 20 percent in 1991. For women over 60, the increase is more striking: to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in 1991. The researchers also see big changes in relatively new marriages. About 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful, up from about 15 and 12 percent respectively.”

And what are considered the culprits of all this out-of-wedlock canoodling? The more societal scourges change, the more they stay the same… drugs and porn! Researchers quoted in the article say that newfangled voodoo fixes like Viagra and hormone replacement therapies have allowed seniors to “express their sexuality into old age,” while the proliferation of Internet porn may be “affecting sexual attitudes and perceptions of ‘normal’ behavior” among the impressionable young.

Other modern trappings — such as cell phones, IMs, and that Holiday Inn Express you stayed in last night — may also be to blame for the significant rise in adultery among women: “…married women are more likely to spend late hours at the office and travel on business. And even for women who stay home, cellphones, e-mail and instant messaging appear to be allowing them to form more intimate relationships.”

If I were a sociology undergrad, I’d try to impress the bejeesus out of my prof by tying all this in to other examples of how modern society, with all its lifesaving/moneymaking innovations, seems geared towards isolation: Bowling Alone, dinner alone, etc. And that then, when an individual, even a married one, gets to a point where he/she feels isolated even from his/her own spouse, a more despearte lurch towards intimacy, such as an extramarital affair, is more likely to take plac.e

Then again, I never actually took any sociology courses, so you tell me what you think in the Comments section below.


  1. This topic is just loaded with material, so I’ll try to break it up.


    Centuries ago, the philospher Voltaire claimed that old men were no more virtuous than young men. He claimed that it wasn’t virtuous to no longer feel the urges that young men did. The virtue lay in feeling those urges, yet having the willpower to withstand them.

    The common sense behind his statements is obvious, but it’s taken a few centuries to conclusively prove him right.

    Comment by Karl R — October 30, 2008 @ 1:23 pm


    Only an idiot would base their moral compass on behavior he/she saw in porn (internet or non). However, I’m an elitist, and I believe there’s no shortage of idiots in this world. Therefore, I’m inclined to believe that there’s no shortage of individuals who base their decisions on what’s “normal” and “acceptable” on what they’ve seen in internet porn.

    However, I’m not certain that this is sufficient to cause a 25% to 33% increase. Things are rarely as simple as a single cause.

    Comment by Karl R — October 30, 2008 @ 4:11 pm


    People who feel isolated spend more money on material goods. They also pursue other ineffective ways of feeling less isolated: comfort food, alcohol & drugs, TV, or even a large quantity of superficial relationships (which could include spending time in clubs or engaging in promiscuous sex).

    But regardless of how people respond to isolation, there’s someone who is making money off of whatever they’re using to fill the void. That means there’s a lot of people who have a financial stake in keeping people isolated, and some of them have the means to influence our culture to encourage this isolation to continue.

    It’s not that modern society “seems geared” toward isolation. There are companies that are deliberately gearing it to be that way, because their financial futures depend on it.

    Become a counter-cultural revolutionary. Spend more time with people and less time with things.

    Comment by Karl R — October 30, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  4. I tend to think that people today have too high an expectation of the romantic relationship. In our grandparents’ and parents’ ages, people weren’t expected to give up friendships when they were married; in fact, it almost seemed that same-sex friendships were required IN ORDER to serve a function that a spouse could or would not perform. Nowadays, people want their spouse to be their lover, soulmate and best friend … and that’s a tall order. With sexuality so close to the surface in everything, our world offers a breeding ground for insecurity, and many people in committed romantic relationships either willingly or unwillingly break off or scale back platonic friendships once they enter the relationship, or as it progresses. I think this leads to a feeling of isolation and loneliness, because it is unreasonable to expect one other person to fill your every social and emotional need. In my experience, a lot of the people seeking affairs are just looking for some kind of extra connection, some kind of validation or understanding, that their spouse has not given them. Whether what they expected from their spouse was reasonable or not, the fact is that there is still a lot of loneliness among married people and a general confusion about needs for intimacy and acceptance. If it feels like cheating to want someone other than your spouse in your life, many married people rationalize that they might as well go for it all if they’re doomed anyway.

    In other words, I think that couples at the lowest risk for infidelity have a great trust between them, open communication, and extensive support groups of both male and female friends beyond their relationship – friends which DON’T necessariy have to be part of the romantic relationship – and trust within the marriage that either those friendships stay platonic or that the partner can be trusted to break off the friendship if it becomes inappropriate for any reason. That’s the model relationship, in my eyes.

    Comment by Katla Sanford — October 30, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  5. I stumbled on your website this morning through MSN.com link and have been looking for a good forum on relationships. I agree with Katia Sanford’s response at 6:57 pm Oct 20, that good relationships require trust, communication and friends outside the relationship. I’m a beautiful and healthy almost 57 year old woman and just broke off a 3 year love relationship with a New Zealand man who is 12 years younger. Great guy. Sexy – whoa! but closed in his communication skills (maybe cultural).Despite a really lusty sex life, the thing that started me pulling away from him was the discovery to which he is addicted to internet porn. Now, I’m no prude (a product of the late 60’s and early 70’s) but the ease and pervasiveness of internet porn is really doing some damage to relationships. I tried to play with him, got out all my great little lingerie, bought sex toys, rented videos we could watch together (he wouldn’t – saying that his time with porn was “personal and private”). He also admitted he was addicted and I explained to him it’s a stronger addiction than heroin or ANY other drug because it’s private, easy and quick. Yes, it sure is and soon, there will be virtual porn. Can you imagine??? There was also constant watching of reality TV shows – the skanky ones like Rock of Love and Flava-Flav where the girls have a collective IQ of 2. So, how does a real woman compete against all of this? Not easily, unless there’s open communication and a willingness to share on some level.It was a very sad break-up. He is devastated and I can only pray that something clicked (besides the button on his computer mouse)so he will approach his next relationship in real life. Porn and instant gratification of all kinds are taking our society down, down, down. It’s very sad and no end in sight. Kudos to all you men out there who keep one foot and one hand out in the real world.

    Comment by Christina Olds — November 1, 2008 @ 9:18 am

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