According to Table I from the General Social Survey (2005)1 on American Sexual Behavior 4.7% of married men and 2.3% of married women had sexual relations outside of their marriage within the last 12 months and 21.7% of married men and 12.6% of married women had sexual relations outside of their marriage during the course of their marriages; 4.2% of men 40 to 49 admitted to sexual relations outside of their marriage within the last 12 months and 19.8% admitted to sexual relations outside of their marriage during the course of their marriages. Though this survey is highly respected, other figures from unscientific polls and surveys report figures that are significantly higher: the website www.infidelityfacts.com reports that 53% of marriages in America end in divorce, 57% of men and 54% of women admit to infidelity in at least one relationship, 31% of couples do not divorce upon discovery of infidelity and the average affair lasts 2 years.2

Table I: Infidelity Rates by Gender & Age

Adultery in Last 12 months Adultery Ever
Gender
Men 4.7% 21.7%
Women 2.3% 12.6%
Age
30-39 3.5% 14.7%
40-49 4.2% 19.8%
50-59 2.6% 20.0%
Ave. 30-593 3.4%

Carl Jung placed the age range for midlife between 35 and 50.4 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-2007 American Community Survey5 there are 56.2 million married Americans between 35 and 54, 2.8 million (4.8%) of whom are separated. Within that same age range, 7.4 million (15.7%) are divorced. The average for the adultery in the last 12 months for the age range 30-59 (Table I), can be used to approximate that 2.0 million men and women between 35 and 54 have had sexual relations outside of their marriage within the last 12 months. The figures for infidelity versus divorces make it clear that infidelity does not include abandonment in all circumstances. But when infidelity and abandonment occur together almost everyone believes that divorce is inevitable and unpreventable, such couples are assumed to be part of the 69% that divorce. The left behind spouses in such situations feel abandoned not only by their spouse, but also by hope; counselors and friends tell them to give up because their marriage is over and their family pastes the cheating spouse’s face on the garage dart board.
Infidelity without abandonment is devastating, but when it includes abandonment and replacement, the abandoned spouse collapses physically and mentally and the recovery may take longer because the action that brought the pain continues, often in taunting public displays. When witnessing the behaviors of the infidel and his new partner it is understandably hard to believe that rebuilding the marriage is possible. In Private Lies Frank Pittman said that “the more in-love romantics end up back in the marriage than married to the affair partner a few years later. …Most of the deserted husbands and wives do get to choose whether or not to return to the old marriage.”6

Sources & Notes

  1. Smith, Tom W. American Sexual Behavior. National Opinion Research Centre, University of Chicago. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/american-sexual-behavior-trends-socio-demographic-differences.
  2. Infidelity Statistics. Infidelity Facts. May 23, 2009. http://www.infidelityfacts.com/infidelity-statistics.html
  3. This average was calculated by me since the age ranges of this survey were different than the Census data age ranges.
  4. Jung, Carl Gustav. Modern Man in Search of His Soul. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc. 1955.
  5. United States – Marital Status. US Census Bureau. May 14, 2009. May 23, 2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/STTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-qr_name=ACS_2007_3YR_G00_S1201&-ds_name=ACS_2007_3YR_G00_&-redoLog=false
    Data was not available for the specific age range of 30-50 because it was only offered in 10 year increments.
    Numerical values were calculated from percentage data.
  6. Pittman, Frank S. Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc. 1989. page 240.

Comments

Infidelity Statistics498 Comments

  1. It is the age of NARCISSISM, instant gratification and the “feel good” culture. IMHO what is the seed or root of the dysfunction in our culture in relationship to marriage is that marriage is not held SACRED by our western culture. The happily ever after syndrome. Buddhists are instructed right from the beginning that marriage is difficult and you will suffer as the First Noble Truth in Buddhism is LIFE IS SUFFERING. In the western culture when life presents difficulties or suffering we find a way to divert our attention from the cause of suffering and find an escape. Same holds true for western marriages, they get tough and cause suffering and what do we do, we go out and find another or an object that will make us “feel good”. All along avoiding the real cause of the suffering, we even go so far as to BLAME our spouses for our suffering. The cause of all suffering is ignorance and desire. “To know others is wisdom but to know oneself is enlightenment”, Lao ~ Tzu. To take the journey of knowing oneself is a painful path and quite frankly most westerns I find to be impatient and lazy and prefer to remain ignorant. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to remove our projections (and I might add: find a really good Jungian Analyst), but then how many people even know that what they do all day is project? Ignorance is certainly not bliss, it’s an illusion. Midlife is natures wake up call to our ignorance, it’s now or NEVER time!

  2. Yes… it is now or never… and many very clear eyed individuals opt to end their marriages based precisely on that insight. People change, evolve… and not always at the same pace or in the same direction. As one who has decided that ending my marriage is necessary to go forward, I find it incredibly tiresome to have the very words (and philosophers, psychologists, etc) turned inside out and used to tell me that "I don't know what I'm doing/ talking about". I have struggled mightily to arrive where I am. While I understand what you are trying to do by "standing" it frequently sounds as though you negate the other person and their thoughts/feelings entirely. I also think that often, what I read on this blog and the website, is contrary and one-sided — you talk about how the other person is blind/deluded without considering the veil through which you see everything as well. I take full responsibility for myself, my decisions & my actions. While I no longer desire a marital relationship, I have nothing but respect and love for my stx. That said, it is incredibly frustrating (and, I believe, detrimental to our children and our future interactions) to be faced with someone who is entirely unwilling to discuss what needs to be discussed to end our partnership… to basically have to fight for the acknowledgement that we are, indeed, over… how can I, being on the "other side" help him see that standing is actually not in any of our best interest anymore.

    • Yes, this blog is going to be rather one-sided. It is geared toward Standers and in the vast majority of situations the MLC spouse has left for an adulterous relationship. In many or even most, the changes were sudden with complete personality changes coming in days or weeks. The MLCers act so completely out of character and often behave irrationally. Sweetheart changed his mood and sometimes mind every few minutes in the weeks after Bomb Drop. Many LBSs of MLCers say that it is the suddenness and immensity of the behavioural changes that leads them to believe this is not about their marriage and that something is not well within their spouse.

      But validation is paramount to Standing. Within days of Bomb Drop I initiated specific and noticeable changes in our household–Sweetheart noticed and commented. I took his complaints to heart because many were valid. But I really don't think my having frizzy hair was valid as complaint.

      You think that it is detrimental to be faced with someone unwilling to discuss ending the marriage. But it is just as detrimental to the marriage to discuss ending it. Many of those marriages that end could have been saved. And many Stander do discuss ending the marriage. They discuss terms of separation and divorce as is necessary for their children and financial security. I didn't discuss. But Sweetheart and I don't have children yet and I did not need to for our financial security. Had he spent like and MLC or continued with the divorce process, that may have changed.

      I think there are many marriages that end without infidelity and without the MLC turmoil of blame and personality changes. I think that many give a lot of thought to ending their marriages beforehand and that the decision is painful. I still think that most divorces are unnecessary. But I also think that since people frequently do not seek help through counselors until the problems have gone on and on for years, that often they may be too far gone. That to me means the divorce that results should have been unnecessary and yet they let things fester.
      And to confuse even more, I am wary of counselors because so many steer people toward divorce without considering or knowing how to help them bloom within their marriages again.

      My recent post Infidelity Statistics

  3. I appreciate your response… and much of what you say as applied to your specific situation. I stick by my statement that being not willing to discuss necessary decisions regarding dissolution is detrimental to our children and to our future relationship… I don't think it can be construed as detrimental to the marriage… yes, it is "destructive" or, as I prefer "de-constructive", but detrimental implies it can injure our marriage and, in truth, there remains little to be injured. Instead, my concern is that this refusal means that in order to move forward everything becomes — unnecessarily — a fight. And that indeed is extremely injurious to our children AND it poisons future interactions between us (co-parenting or otherwise).

    I also take issue with applying hindsight as a standard to current situations. Perhaps our marriage could have been saved had we intervened earlier… however, the fact remains, we did not… for a whole variety of reasons I am only beginning to understand. Even then, it may have been inevitable anyway. It is illogical to me — and a bit of magical thinking –to say that since it could have been saved at some point in time that there must necessarily still be a chance. Buildings that could have been preserved, decay… it is a tragedy but also a fact. Some of the vacillation that occurs is because it is such a huge decision… I for one do not want to hurt anyone and yet I know my actions/decisions will cause people I love pain… and being responsible for that (and responsible in general) sucks. I also know that in leaving I (a SAHM for the past 20 years) will face pretty crummy statistics with respects to finances, romance, you name it…. you make deals, try to figure out how to make yourself stay… but deeply present inside you is a voice that resists because you know it would you annihilating yourself. I understand and display(ed) such erratic behavior. I have tried to be as honest as I can with my spouse but we are incapable of communicating with any level of understanding (he to me, or vice versa). Realizing this was my pivitol moment… and, in a way, it has released much of my anger at him. He is who he is and who he has always been… it is more a case of extreme mismatch than that either one of us is an idiot. Why did it take so long… geesh… sublimation? childhood issues? exegencies of life? pregnancies? constant moving? isolation and anger? denial?

    I think you understand that things aren't simple… your story represents the spectrum of complexity… I admire you for sticking to what you believe to know. Things aren't so simple… people stray for many reasons. Think of the definition of that word itself. I regret that my involvement with another man hurt my husband and has made it impossible for him to understand the real reasons for my desire to separate… that said, I don't entirely regret the relationship (which I ended, completely… but for myself and no one else… it was essential for me to work through all my feelings alone AND to leave my marriage for no one but myself). I learned a lot about myself — not all of it good but not all of it bad either. It gave me strength, it woke me to myself. After that, I didn't (in Jungian terms) need it anymore….

    I tried to engage my spouse in conversations about my "process" but he is so stuck in his belief that "I am not I" that it is suffocating. He is also (understandably) upset about my betrayal… I can't defend it (it is indefensible)… and thinks I am under an "evil spell". I have not contact with this gentleman any more… but I'm unwilling to give my spouse carte blanche access to all my accounts and information to prove this… not while I'm in the process of trying to legally separate… AND not when I feel entirely disconnected from him. He sees himself as a saint for standing… something I think that is important for him. I read your blog (and write you) because I know he is a fan of yours and visits these pages. Funny, to me, that you are wary of counselors and I am wary of your "counsel"…

    Best of luck to you. I do feel for your situation… I feel for my husbands' too. It is awful to be faced with losing what is most special to you… to have lost your "dream" — your past and your imagined future. I've lost all those things as well.. just from the other side of the river. I do think you do a tremendous job of speaking to validation and to the need to build yourself up and complete yourself. Also, I think you do a great job telling people to respect themselves and be strong (and conscious) about what they are willing to accept and what is unacceptable…. again, ironically, those same pieces of advice apply precisely to MLC-suffers… they are what led me not to standing but to leaving…

    I respect your board and your community… it isn't my intention to be contrary only to let you and your readers know that maybe, just maybe, your spouse really isn't completely crazy and that by standing in the way of leaving you create problems too…

    • Inevitable,

      Thanks for writing back! I’ve written quite a long response—quoting you and responding. So let’s see if the entire thing can post. For anyone reading and wondering, I’ve learned that in Internet Explorer the system will not let you post many words—about 160 words in a response. UGH. But I tried it in Firefox and it did not cut-off. So try that! Okay, at almost 2000 words, it was a bit long! I’ll try and split it.

      “I also take issue with applying hindsight as a standard to current situations. Perhaps our marriage could have been saved had we intervened earlier… however, the fact remains, we did not… for a whole variety of reasons I am only beginning to understand. Even then, it may have been inevitable anyway. It is illogical to me — and a bit of magical thinking –to say that since it could have been saved at some point in time that there must necessarily still be a chance.”
      That is not what I said. Here is what I said.
      But I also think that since people frequently do not seek help through counselors until the problems have gone on and on for years, that often they may be too far gone. That to me means the divorce that results should have been unnecessary and yet they let things fester.
      I said the divorce ‘should’ have been unnecessary. I did not say that it was unnecessary. Sadly a divorce may become, as you say, inevitable. But just as sadly there are a lot of divorces out there that people think are inevitable when they are not. Which is which?
      Which is which also applies to discussing divorce and whether doing it or not doing it is detrimental to children. The person leaving may think it is detrimental, but the person being left may disagree. Who is right? Well in one situation the leaver and in another situation the abandoned. Is it more often one who is right? Who knows. I do know that I deal with very specific situations of MLC usually involving infidelity. The behaviours of the MLC spouse is often volatile and completely different from their ‘normal.’

      “Some of the vacillation that occurs is because it is such a huge decision…”
      Oh, I absolutely agree. Break-ups are frequently back-and-forth regardless of whether it is MLC or not. People don’t get that.

      “I for one do not want to hurt anyone and yet I know my actions/decisions will cause people I love pain… and being responsible for that (and responsible in general) sucks. I also know that in leaving I (a SAHM for the past 20 years) will face pretty crummy statistics with respects to finances, romance, you name it…. you make deals, try to figure out how to make yourself stay… but deeply present inside you is a voice that resists because you know it would you annihilating yourself. I understand and display(ed) such erratic behavior. I have tried to be as honest as I can with my spouse but we are incapable of communicating with any level of understanding (he to me, or vice versa).”
      I don’t know you and I don’t know your situation. I don’t know if you are in MLC and I’m not trying to assume or assuming you are—not in the least. But the ‘everyone leaving is MLC’ diagnosis is common among LBSs—especially newbies. So I can tell you that some people will read what you wrote and apply an unfair blanket diagnosis that you sound selfish and deluded. I’m a Stander and I support marriage. But I also feel it is one of my jobs to help people see what is there, not what they want to be there. Sometimes a rose is just a rose and I do tell them that. Mirror work is a big part of Standing—okay, it is a big part of life whether Standing or not. I will help a person in their Stand, but if it seems to me they are applying MLC interpretations (or other) where they don’t fit, I will call them on it. I usually need to be pretty familiar with a situation to be able to tell—since in the beginning an LBS may be just as clouded and confused as an MLCer.
      LBSs will say that they can’t win with their MLCer. He or she will twist everything they say. They twist what the counselor says and they twist self-help books. Ironic since the same is true of us. We twist things to fit our interpretation of narcissistic behaviours. Hey, sometimes it may not need twisting, but you can say the same words as an MLCer might say and here in text without tone, or in a retelling by your LBS others will automatically interpret you as selfish. I’m not. I hope you get that and I see some tell-tale things missing in your words. You are not telling me that you are doing this because you have a right to be happy and that your husband should give you a divorce because he should want you to be happy too. I see an MLCers words in your phrase that you would be “annihilating yourself.” But that’s what I mean by with some you can’t win, because those are also the words of a person who has thought through her actions and feels that they are the best thing she can do for herself and her family or that it is inevitable and she only makes it harder by avoiding the inevitable.

      My recent post Love- Foundations and Seeds

      • Cont’d

        “I regret that my involvement with another man hurt my husband and has made it impossible for him to understand the real reasons for my desire to separate… that said, I don't entirely regret the relationship (which I ended, completely… but for myself and no one else… it was essential for me to work through all my feelings alone AND to leave my marriage for no one but myself). I learned a lot about myself — not all of it good but not all of it bad either. It gave me strength, it woke me to myself. After that, I didn't (in Jungian terms) need it anymore….”
        And of course you probably realize that infidelity is a big MLC flag. At the same time I have told my people that a person can have an affair and not be in MLC or they can have an affair and be a in a non crisis level midlife transition. Infidelity still happens. I think what will make Standers flinch with pain is when you say you still don’t regret the relationship. But if it’s true, then it is true regardless of whether it hurts someone else.

        “I tried to engage my spouse in conversations about my "process" but he is so stuck in his belief that "I am not I" that it is suffocating. He is also (understandably) upset about my betrayal… I can't defend it (it is indefensible)… and thinks I am under an "evil spell". I have not contact with this gentleman any more… but I'm unwilling to give my spouse carte blanche access to all my accounts and information to prove this… not while I'm in the process of trying to legally separate…”
        I don’t blame you. But if you were not trying to separate, that would be different. Well, should be—but I really hate using ‘should.’ MLCers who are not ready to end the affair—though some think they are—and who are not trying to get divorced will also not give their spouse access. Some refuse in order to continue the affair, some to keep the affair as an option and others because they don’t get it—they have to re-earn and rebuild trust, but they think it should be free because they said things their spouse wanted to hear.

        “AND not when I feel entirely disconnected from him. He sees himself as a saint for standing… something I think that is important for him. I read your blog (and write you) because I know he is a fan of yours and visits these pages.”
        Yes, many Standers can be self-righteous. But many spouses of Standers may also be guilty of twisting and interpreting their spouse as being self-righteous when that is not the case. It is more common with newbies. They don’t think they should be the ones to change.

        “Funny, to me, that you are wary of counselors and I am wary of your "counsel"…”
        Given that we are on opposing ends, that is understandable. I could stick in my Stander’s Coach mode and tell you to work on your marriage and a bunch of other BLAH BLAH BLAHs, but that wouldn’t work would it? So why waste my typing. And I’d feel funny doing that anyway. I know that would end the conversation.

        “Also, I think you do a great job telling people to respect themselves and be strong (and conscious) about what they are willing to accept and what is unacceptable…. again, ironically, those same pieces of advice apply precisely to MLC-suffers… they are what led me not to standing but to leaving…”
        Thanks. Not irony, it’s all a journey for both the Stander and the MLCer or Walk-Away. What most LBSs don’t often understand when they are new—and they don’t want to face it—is they will often make the final decision to leave their marriages. They will not do so because they think it is inevitable that their spouse will not come home, but because they have decided they no longer want their spouse—who may be trying to return. But Standing helps them get to that place in a healthier manner than simply giving up and demonizing their spouse.

        “I respect your board and your community… it isn't my intention to be contrary only to let you and your readers know that maybe, just maybe, your spouse really isn't completely crazy and that by standing in the way of leaving you create problems too…”
        Thanks. I was a bit worried that since I may post disagreements you might get upset—but I really just love debate and especially this topic. And you are right that sometimes Standing is in the way, but when is it and when isn’t it? You may think it is and your spouse thinks it is not. Maybe you are both right. Maybe if one of you shifted it would be beneficial or detrimental. Maybe those shifts are possible, but neither of you knows or neither of you are at present willing to shift positions. And for some, not all, Standing is a religious act of Covenant Keeping. In those cases it doesn’t even matter if Standing hurts the children (okay, I think it matters). But what I mean is the religious values for some are so absolute that they cannot not Stand. Most are not so strict—even I am not so strict and I am stricter than most!

        My recent post Love- Foundations and Seeds

        • I just wanted to add that as a stander, I am standing for me, to give myself time to get used to the change in my life. Even if my partner is not in MLC (and I believe that even now, after months of separation where he still says and does nutso things despite the fact that I have left him alone, moved away, ensured his access to his children and been almost over-reasonable about finances with him, he is in MLC) I am standing because while he may have taken a decision to end our marriage and leave months before I discovered his affair, I have not had the benefit of that time to get my head around it. He wanted time to figure himself out (by screwing around – that age old method of self-discovery) and he chose to do it while we were still living together and I was cooking his meals and doing his laundry and looking after his kids. Well, in that case I will have my time to figure myself out on MY own schedule, even if it doesn't work on his divorce timetable. And who knows, in the end maybe my conclusion will be yeah, he was not right for me anyway, and I never deserved the treatment that I received and I can do better.

          • Standing, for me is not even about my partner (although I am sure he would think it is, because in his flawed way of thinking everything that is an inconvenience to him is about him – narcissism rules). I am not doing this to him, I am doing this for me. He is free of me, I never contact him. If he wants a divorce he can follow up on it. So far he hasnt since he left several months ago. Until he does, I will stand until I decide not to – maybe I will decide to divorce him before he takes any action. I am open to communication with him, but he never contacts me. He never contacts his kids. His parents intervene to try and get him to call his kids because he doesn't bother otherwise. Maybe that is normal and understandable behaviour, but I dont think so… I do not believe that this site states that all affairs or divorces are a result of MLC and most of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out if our partners are in MLC or not, we don't just accept it blindly.

          • Of course it is possible that my H just dislikes me, dislikes our life and wants out and if that is the case then his attitude to his children, his inability to follow a logical thought through from one day to the next, even now MONTHS after he left me, is bizarre. End the marriage, but don't make the children suffer. Exactly. Someone tell that to my partner so that maybe my kids might hear from him!

          • my MLC was bizarre he had panic attacks,impotency, then an affair ( he thought that would help ) then he changed his name then of course rewrote our history. He told the marriage counselor the work on the ,marriage was all up to me to do the work. That that was my job to make him happy. He has really alienated himself and shown colors after 4 years. he even thought filing for divorce would cause the OW to return to him even with the 25 year age difference. ( she had other guys on the side ) now he has no one, is miserable and has no friends or family. I am still on his radar as the "problem " and as being blamed for this being " my fault" Happiness is your own reward and they need to consider their role in the damage . Dont help them find their way ….they need to find the shovel and dig out.

  4. The single most destructive idea that we absorb being raised in the western world is that the pursuit of happiness happens OUT THERE. The truth of relationships, the truth of marriage is that they are NOT designed to make us happy. Marriage is about our life's work and marriage provides the deepest reflections (a mirror) into whom we are becoming. Long lasting marriages are WORK and it takes a lot of courage to bare our souls. Marriage is not about "completing" one another, if you are looking for another to "complete" you, you will be greatly disappointed. Marriage cannot fix what is broken in oneself. Marriage is a commitment to stand beside another. Marriage will not cure insecurities nor will it fill an emptiness. When you are "full" of "your-SELF" and take responsibility for your own happiness you will learn the ART of how to grow your capacity for love. It is one's relationship to oneself that is the "foundation" for ANY relationship. There is nothing OUT THERE, not another human being, parcel of land, or money that will fill me up as much as recognizing what is IN ME and HONORING what is in me, my BELOVED that lives within me.

  5. my MLC was bizarre he had panic attacks,impotency, then an affair ( he thought that would help ) then he changed his name then of course rewrote our history. He told the marriage counselor the work on the ,marriage was all up to me to do the work. That that was my job to make him happy. He has really alienated himself and shown colors after 4 years. he even thought filing for divorce would cause the OW to return to him even with the 25 year age difference. ( she had other guys on the side ) now he has no one, is miserable and has no friends or family. I am still on his radar as the "problem " and as being blamed for this being " my fault" Happiness is your own reward and they need to consider their role in the damage . Dont help them find their way ….they need to find the shovel and dig out.

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