Infidelity Statistics – Best Taken With a Pinch of Salt
Statistics can be helpful but when it comes to hot topics such as infidelity, statistics are best taken with a healthy pinch of salt.
This is not to say that most infidelity statistics are downright false but as someone with a background in research, I am well aware of how easily good solid data can be corrupted once it hits the streets, so to speak.
The reason this happens – with all types of statistics – is that they are a useful tool for selling more magazines, self-help books and encouraging visitors to click through to websites.
And of course when infidelity statistics are “startling”, “shocking” or “alarming” they do a better job of this.
Putting an attention-grabbing twist on genuine infidelity statistics is easy. It’s simply a matter of presenting them at face value or out of context with no explanatory details, or “happening” to misunderstand or misinterpret the data.
Adding to the problem is that attention-grabbing statistics on marital infidelity get copied over and over again, crowding out more reliable information about what’s really going on.
The end result is that most would have you believe that infidelity is a far greater problem than it really is and that marriage survival rates are much lower than they really are.
And this concerns me.
Many people looking for infidelity statistics are looking for help, guidance and reassurance of some kind. For instance, to find out the likelihood that their spouse really is cheating, or if there is any hope of saving their marriage. It is hardly or helpful or reassuring to be misled into believing that the answers are “yes, they most likely are” and “no, probably not”.
Unfortunately, identifying which statistics are reliable and which aren’t is not so easy. In most cases there are no references to the original research so it’s not possible to clarify the information or check if it was a quality study.
However, there are a few things you can do.
- One is to grab that pinch of salt – be skeptical about the most widely-published and “startling” infidelity statistics. For example, identify and question unexplained phrases such as “cheated”. Does this refer to intercourse only, to any sexual activity including a one-time drunken kiss at a party, or include emotional affairs too? Does it refer to the current marriage only or all relationships so far? Is there a reference to the source of the data and if so, was the study a quality study – was it scientific; was it large or small? Any data that raises questions like these is questionable.
- Secondly, dig deep and get to the quality studies that have been crowded out by the “attention grabbers”. Thankfully, there have been many large-scale quality studies conducted over the years, and their quality and reliability is reflected in the fact that their findings are quite similar.
- Thirdly, be aware that even the most reputable studies – regularly conducted with large numbers of people over several years – admit their limitations. The bottom line is, they rely on people admitting to acts of infidelity, and definitions of infidelity vary widely. All experts agree – 100% reliable statistics on infidelity are not achievable.
As a final note, infidelity statistics can be helpful, and they can certainly be interesting but at the end of the day, they do refer to other people. They are by no means a reliable indicator of how infidelity may or could effect your marriage.
An original article on Infidelity Statistics, exclusive to this site
Filed under: Infidelity Advice