Why Infidelity May Not Be Cheating Anymore

Cheating implies some sort of deviation form the norm — staying faithful. But as new research suggests, the chances of infidelity in a relationship now varies between 40 and 76%; and this implies that infidelity itself could be the new norm.

“It’s very high,” according to researcher Genevieve Beaulieu-Pelletier, a PhD candidate at the Universite de Montreal’s Department of Psychology and author of this new study. According to her findings, people with avoidant-attachment styles are particularly likely to have multiple sexual encounters, and they are afraid of intimacy. She collated her results from two different studies, one on 145 students and the other on 270 adults with the same results.

CoupleThe explanation for avoidance-attachment is often sought in childhood, as a direct result of inadequate parenting. In adult life, in order to prevent commitment-phobia many of these individuals in relationships cheat to reassure themselves of their own space and freedom. As a followup to the previous studies, two further studies revealed that the number one motive quoted as a reason for infidelity was a conscious will to distance oneself from commitment and one’s partner.

Does this imply that frighteningly, large segments of humanity have become attachment avoidant, which could increasingly become a universal trend. It is quite possible that things may shape that way in the future with increased emphasis on personal freedom, and less on one’s ties with the community and family. The study found that men and women were equally likely to display infidelity, and for exactly the same reasons.

With such high numbers of self-confessed “cheats” in the study, it is clear that infidelity no longer provokes the same kind of moralistic sentiments than it used to, even 50 years ago. And if it becomes an accepted norm, it might well usher in the next step in our social evolution — universal attachment — avoidance.


Infidelity dissected: New research on why people cheat. University of Montreal, September 8, 2008.

Sudip Ghosh, MD

Sudip Ghosh, MD, is a surgeon at the University of Manchester, UK and a medical writer.
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