Is Monogamy On the Decline?

May 18th, 2011

I recently saw a segment on the Today Show that talked about a website that promotes infidelity in marriage. Their tagline: “Life is short, Have an affair.” The founder of the company says he is not inventing infidelity but just perfecting it. The website already has 8.5 million members in 10 different countries.

I haven’t been able to get this segment out of my mind. Are more and more couples really having affairs? And are they really thinking it’s okay to break vows and cheat on their spouses?

The National Marriage Project reported 21% of married men and 14% of married women in 2000 reported ever being unfaithful to their spouse. Though these numbers still reflect too many heartbroken spouses, they indicate a much lower incidence than the media portray in their stories of celebrities and politicians and their affairs.

Infidelity isn’t something to be overlooked; it strikes at the very heart of a marriage and destroys trust. There has been an increase in Americans believing that infidelity is “always wrong” based on a National survey. The number has increased from 84% of adults in 1973 to about 93% of adults in 2004. At least in our attitudes about infidelity, we seem to be more puritanical than our parents were.

There can be several types of infidelity: fantasy (chatroom relationships), visual (pornography), romantic (emotionally attached to another), and physical-sexual.

What can be done to prevent infidelity?

One quote I heard recently and love is, “The grass is greener on the side of the fence you water.” Meaning, you can make your relationship and life better than what it seems if you put forth the effort.

A common myth is that affairs are caused by dissatisfaction in marriage. But a troubled marriage does not cause nor should it justify infidelity. Infidelity has more to do with the individual and how they have decided to handle situations. Research also shows that infidelity occurs even in the early “honeymoon” years of marriage, not just 10 or 20 years down the road when things might get a little “stale.”

Marriage researcher and therapist Scott Gardner and Christian Greiner give 4 ways to help prevent couples from being unfaithful. They are: (1) create appropriate boundaries with persons of the opposite sex; (2) be fiercely loyal to your spouse; (3) control your thoughts; (4) and put your spouse first.

If I could add another guideline for preventing infidelity it would be this: promote openness and do away with secrecy. For instance, share passwords to each other’s email accounts, share your Facebook pages, and discuss your day and associations at work. These kinds of actions say, “I won’t hide anything from you” and “Let’s help each other stay true to our vows.”

I sincerely hope we can all keep these suggestions in mind to help strengthen our relationships. If we choose to put our relationship first and make it a priority, many marriages and families won’t have to end in such heartbreak and sadness.