With the Ashley Madison hack, Josh Duggar and multiple other high-profile cases of infidelity, it’s hard to believe that anyone is staying faithful these days.
Indeed, a recent study commissioned by online legal marketplace Avvo, Inc. found that one in six Americans has cheated on a partner at some point in their lives. Noted sexologist Pepper Schwartz at the University of Washington consulted with Avvo on the study and helped to interpret the data that was collected. The results, she explains, were illuminating about the state of relationships and fidelity in the United States.
Here are the highlights of the study, Schwartz’s interpretation and a personal conversation I had with Schwartz, which might give us a glimpse into American relationships and their associated bedrooms.
1. Americans are more open to open relationships
Times are changing, folks, and our attitudes about relationships have taken note. According to the study, only 45 percent of men and 62 percent of women are morally opposed to open relationships. These are just attitudes, though. Schwartz states that couples are far less likely to feel comfortable with an open relationship in practice, since human beings tend to be territorial and jealous about the partners they love.
2. Midwesterners are the most faithful
Oh, Midwesterners. Your winters are hell, but you’re so easy to love. The study found that only one in 10 Midwesterners reports cheating on a partner, compared with the one in six national rate. It was the lowest regional rate of cheating in the entire study. The number of cheating Midwesterners dips even lower when only accounting for married respondents.
3. Northeasterners are most likely to date a married partner
Northeasterners, on the other hand, are the most likely to date a person who is already married. In fact, over half of the study respondents from the Northeast were not opposed to the idea of dating a married partner.
4. Relationship satisfaction doesn’t equate to faithfulness
Here’s an unfortunate fact that many won’t like to hear. First, the good news. Seventy percent of U.S. adults are currently in a relationship of some kind, and more than nine in 10 of these couples are satisfied with their relationship. Great, right? Sure, except that cheating rates are the same across relationship satisfaction levels — so satisfaction isn’t exactly tied to monogamy.
5. Cheating rates spike in big cities and the coasts
When in Rome, I guess. Schwartz has found that cheating rates tend to vary by location, and can reflect the values of the city or region in which a couple lives. “Of course it is true that cheating tends to occur more frequently on the coasts and big cities like New York City and Los Angeles,” she explains. “They have a higher population which generally hold more liberal values.” Case in point? The West Coast is the most accepting of open relationships.
6. A man’s social status influences cheating
Your guy’s social status and upbringing might just influence the way he views cheating, and how he would carry it out if he did it. “There are some older studies that indicate men from working class backgrounds cheated more when they were younger but quit when they were older,” Schwartz explains. Men with more advanced education and higher status jobs, however, tend towards monogamy when they are young, but are more likely to be non-monogamous than blue collar guys by the time they reach 40.
These were just a few of the study’s fascinating findings about relationships and infidelity in the United States. If you’re still curious, check out the entire study, its methodology and interpretation by visiting Avvo’s press release.