Sex & Relationships

What Are the Chances Your Partner Will Cheat on You?

It takes more than crying at the altar to signal a potential cheater.
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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Statistics show that many of us will be victims of cheating at some point in our adult lives. 

I had a law professor who once joked that the best advice she could give to the men in our class was to “deny, deny, deny, even when you get caught on top of the other woman.” The entire class burst out laughing.

But what really caught me off guard was when my professor added, “Tawa tawa kayo. Ganyan yung mga daddy niyo.”

I thought, that’s interesting. So having a parent with an extramarital affair isn’t a unique experience. In fact, various studies show that experiencing infidelity either directly or indirectly is common all over the world.

A global study identified the top 10 countries where infidelity was prevalent; Thailand ranked first with 56 percent of its adult population admitting to sleeping with someone other than their partner. In many European countries, the rate of infidelity ranges between 30 and 50 percent. In the U.S., the 2017 General Social Survey by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) also showed that 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women admitted to having sex with someone other than their spouse.

Definitions and Reasons for Cheating

Infidelity can mean different things to different people. It could be sex, kissing, emotional intimacy or flirting. The reasons for doing it differ as well, with some people cheating because of a desire for new sexual experiences, a need for validation, a lack of emotional satisfaction or overall relationship dissatisfaction. Whatever the unfaithful act or the reason for it, infidelity is a painful and personal experience each time.

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Cheaters in the Philippines

In the Philippines, we despise cheaters. We also can’t help but snack on the details of infidelity piece by piece. Stories on cheating, mistresses, and break-ups have been repurposed all too often in Filipino entertainment for many years. Why? Because the story hits close to home. Cheaters have always been among us—in our relationships, social circles, and the homes where we were raised. Chances are, you know personally of someone who has cheated (or maybe you’ve been a cheater yourself). 

Indeed, marriage is no assurance of lifelong loyalty. A survey conducted by Ashley Madison, a dating website for married people, showed that 32 percent of members had their first affair between the ages of 30 and 39. This means that some people who marry in their late 20s or early 30s violate their vows not long after getting married.

While this survey involved Americans, infidelity among newly married Filipino couples is nothing new. The most recent cheating story we’ve been munching on is that of singer-songwriter Moira dela Torre’s husband, Jason Marvin. After three years of marriage, the couple called it quits because someone cheated. 

It’s therefore not surprising to see an increasing volume of annulment cases in the Philippines. While these break-ups could be a result of a myriad of factors, infidelity is certainly one of the most common reasons.

In a 2009 report, 36 percent of men and two percent of women admitted to engaging in extramarital affairs. With the ease of mobile communications and discreet participation in dating sites coupled with the pressure that the pandemic has placed on many relationships, these figures could be an understatement of the real state of Filipino marriages today.

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And if beautiful celebrities are not immune to the wreckage of infidelity, where does that leave us common folk?

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Predictors of infidelity

Can we predict if our partner will cheat on us? Not exactly. But we do have research studies providing key insights that can help us understand our chances of falling victim to a cheater. These include a person’s sex, age, family conditions, and personality as well as relationship characteristics.

Men are more likely to cheat than women

According to the 2017 survey by IFS, 20 percent of men said they have had sex with someone other than their spouse while only 13 percent of women said the same. Among people between the ages of 60 and 69 who are currently married or have been married in the past, 24 percent of men admit to infidelity compared to 16 percent of women. And between the ages of 70 and 79, 26 percent of men and only 13 percent of women have had extramarital affairs. These figures show that men have a higher propensity for cheating than women.

Baby boomers cheat the most

Age could play a part in infidelity. Men and women have a comparative tendency to cheat in their younger years, but the tendency of men increases as they get older while the tendency of women decreases over time. 

In the 1990s, the highest rate of men admitting to having an extramarital affair were those aged 50 to 59 (31 percent). A decade later, between 2000 and 2009, the highest rate shifted to men aged 60 to 69 (29 percent). It appears that the peak years for cheating among men is between the ages of 50 and 69. Even as they enter the ages of 80 and beyond, the rate of men cheating remains high at 24 percent.

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This trend may have something to do with the generation to which a man belongs. Researchers surmise that baby boomers born in the 1940s and 1950s typically show the highest rates of extramarital affairs because they were the generation that came of age during the sexual revolution.

But does this mean male partners of the younger generations will be less likely to cheat as they approach their retirement years? Only time will tell.

Having a parent who cheated

Family experiences also affect a person’s infidelity behavior. Growing up in a home with a parent who had an affair influences how a person approaches his or her own romantic relationships. A 2015 study found that people who had an unfaithful parent were twice as likely to engage in infidelity than those who did not.

Having a narcissistic personality

Narcissists project an image of themselves that may differ from who they truly are inside. They speak in absolutes, which in the context of relationships means they constantly claim they are “trustworthy,” “honest,” and would “never EVER lie to the one person who meant the world to them.”

Narcissists have a deep need for attention and typically rationalize that their partner does not fully appreciate them. In a way, they are dependent on others for affirmation and are attracted to partners who would be willing to “give their all” to managing the relationship.

Being in a long-term relationship

Longevity is a source of pride in the relationship world, but it could also be a source of paranoia. A 2021 study showed that relationship length is a predictive factor of infidelity; the longer you are in the game, the more likely you become a cheating player, and the more work needed to keep the relationship solid and exciting. In lifelong commitments, sexual desire could also diminish, which is a typical reason why many elderly married men engage in extramarital affairs.

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Love can still win

While cheating is a considerable problem for both men and women, the factors listed above are only predictors. Studies also suggest that addressing relationship difficulties early could reduce the likelihood of infidelity. Communication, relationship management and mutual respect remain to be effective preventive measures against cheating and a resulting break-up. 

Chances are you will be a victim of cheating at some point in your adult life. But don’t fret. All hope is not lost. It’s still quite possible for you to find your happy ending.

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Chiara U. Mesiona
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