3 ways science can help couples be informed and faithful to one another.
Some studies estimate that anywhere from 50-70 percent of married men cheat. The fairer sex, while better, is far from perfect at about 30-40 percent. Granted, figures like these are notoriously hard to track (one particular study says 80 percent of men won't even admit to cheating), but how on earth are we to trust our significant others when the chance of extramarital sex is the same as landing 'heads' on a coin toss?
New York Times blogger Tara Parker Pope's book, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, attempts to scientifically answer why many of us cheat and some of us don't. Here are three bite-sized facts to remember when the next Tiger Woods or Jesse James makes you question your own relationship's chances of remaining faithful. Cheating How-To: Tips From A Mistress
1.) Cheating isn't in our genes (but a tough relationship may be): While using the "I'm a man" excuse isn't good enough (and a pretty lazy cop-out), Pope's book found that men who carry a variation in the vasopressin gene (also known as "the bonding gene") have a much more difficult time with marriage and commitment in general. In fact, double (compared to those who have vasopressin) reported a "serious relationship crisis." While having a variation of the gene doesn't necessarily predict infidelity, it does increase the chances of having a stormy relationship that could lead to cheating.
2.) Women automatically feel guilt, men may need training: Several studies have sought to answer if certain guilt reflexes are instinctual or learned when confronted with the offer of extramarital sex. After 150 heterosexual men and women were asked to imagine a hypothetical situation in which suggestive flirting occurs, more men than women experienced guilt after taking a word test designed to measure uneasy relationship feelings. Researchers think women have developed a "kind of early warning system for relationship threats" while men (who may just simply put it out of their mind) haven't. However, researchers then tested a group of happily coupled-up men and told them to imagine a weekend away where they meet an attractive woman. Half were told to figure out an exit plan in order to preserve the relationship the other half weren't. When later tested using a virtual reality game, only a quarter of the Exit Plan group proved still open to cheating, while over half of the other group were. Bottom line: men may be so primed for sex he might just need to pound it into his head to walk away. Infidelity 101: What Is An Emotional Affair?
3.) Go on The Amazing Race together: Lastly, scientists think couples who challenge and learn from each other fare the best against infidelity. After a series of tests where couples worked together on problem-solving and team work, those who experienced a victory together felt higher levels of commitment then those who were given a series of mundane tasks. In other words, you have a better chance of marital satisfaction if you keep things fresh, lively and challenging. Not too surprising. So, worried about infidelity? Maybe you two should finally go skydiving together. You've been talking about it for years, after all.
Readers, do you think some people are more likely to cheat than others?