Fidelity: Not a Lost Cause
We all know that cheating is wrong, don’t we? Most Americans believe that being unfaithful to a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse is morally wrong. However, after years of seeing tabloids in supermarkets, along with general media bombardment, many of us have probably begun to believe that fidelity in marriage is the exception rather than the rule. We’re constantly surrounded by examples of infidelity, whether in TV shows, movies, magazines, gossip, or on the internet. We may have heard the arguments that humans aren’t designed to mate for life, that we’re genetically wired to propagate the species and pass on our DNA however we can, that some people have a “cheating gene”, or that we just can’t be expected to harness our lustful desires. It’s almost enough to convince oneself that maybe fidelity just isn’t as realistic as we once thought.
Thinking adultery is rampant can leave one feeling ambivalent about fidelity in marriage. However, studies have shown that a vast majority of couples still believe cheating is wrong, and most married couples report being faithful! The General Social Survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which ran from 1972 to 2008 out of the University of Chicago, found that about 10 percent of married people report having been unfaithful in any given year. Furthermore, the study found that 15 percent of women over sixty and 28 percent of men over sixty admitted to having ever cheated on a spouse. That means that around 78 percent of people over the age of sixty report having remained faithful to their spouse during their whole marriage. Granted, it’s quite possible that not everyone who had been unfaithful admitted it, but researchers feel they get pretty accurate accounts when they use anonymous computer surveys. All in all, in this fallen world, that’s not such a depressing statistic.
“Almost without exception, men and women say they value fidelity in a marriage and plan to stay faithful to their husband or wife,” writes Tara Parker-Pope, in her book For Better; the Science of a Good Marriage. She goes on to give helpful tips for husbands and wives when faced with temptation. She encourages men to train themselves ahead of time on what they would do if they met an attractive woman when their wife isn’t around. She also instructs them to avoid telling themselves “resist, resist, resist”, which tends to keep them focused on the object of temptation, and to instead turn their attention to warm, loving thoughts about their spouse.
Infidelity isn’t as rampant as the media lets on. And just because we’re told that life is all about instant gratification doesn’t mean we need to follow suit. After all, if you compared the life of an average hedonist to that of an average person who practices self-restraint and selfless love, I’ll bet you’d find that selfish instant gratification bears no comparison to the long-term happiness of a faithful loving marriage.