Married people who cheat don't regret it, reveals study
Washington (US), May 23: Married people who have affairs find them extremely satisfying, express little remorse and believe the cheating did not harm their otherwise healthy marriages, a new analysis of the psychology of infidelity has revealed.
The extensive survey of people using Ashley Madison, a website for facilitating extramarital affairs, calls into question commonly held beliefs about infidelity, specifically concerning cheaters' motivations and experiences. The study had been published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
"In popular media, television shows and movies and books, people who have affairs have this intense moral guilt and we don't see that in this sample of participants," lead author Dylan Selterman, an associate teaching professor in Johns Hopkins University's Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences who studies relationships and attraction, stated.
"Ratings for satisfaction with affairs were high - sexual satisfaction and emotional satisfaction. And feelings of regret were low. These findings paint a more complicated picture of infidelity compared to what we thought we knew."
The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the psychological experiences of persons who seek and engage in extramarital affairs. Researchers collaborated with Selterman and surveyed nearly 2,000 active users of Ashley Madison, before and after they had affairs.
Participants were asked about the state of their marriage, why they wanted to have an affair, and how they were feeling in general. Respondents, who were mostly middle-aged and male, expressed strong feelings for their relationships but little sexual satisfaction.
Participants expressed strong feelings for their marriages, yet over half of them indicated they were not sexually active with their partners. Sexual dissatisfaction was the most often mentioned reason for having an affair, with additional reasons being a desire for independence and sexual variety.
Fundamental relationship issues, such as a lack of affection or anger toward a spouse were among the least-cited reasons for wanting to cheat.
The research also revealed that having great marriages didn't make cheaters any more likely to regret affairs.
According to Selterman, the findings imply that infidelity isn't always the outcome of a deeper problem in the relationship. Participants pursued affairs because they desired fresh, interesting sexual experiences, or because they didn't have a strong commitment to their partners, rather than for emotional fulfilment, according to the report.
"Sometimes they'll cheat even if their relationships are pretty good. We don't see solid evidence here that people's affairs are associated with lower relationship quality or lower life satisfaction."
"The take-home point for me is that maintaining monogamy or sexual exclusivity, especially across people's lifespans is really, really hard and I think people take monogamy for granted when they're committed to someone in a marriage. People just assume that their partners are going to be totally satisfied having sex with one person for the next 50 years of their lives but a lot of people fail at it. It doesn't mean everyone's relationship is doomed, it means that cheating might be a common part of people's relationships."