Oh Lovely – Married People Rarely Regret Cheating

'Til death – or that hottie in the office – do us part.
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It’s a tough time for committed monogamists right now.

There’s the side chick discourse, the endless situationship discussion, and on top of all that, it seems that married people who cheat are more than happy to do so.

A 2019 study showed that 46% of monogamous pairs admitted to cheating, and now recent findings from affairs app Ashley Madison show that wed wanderers don’t even feel bad for having affairs.

Discussing the latest piece of research, Dylan Selterman, an associate teaching professor at Johns Hopkins University, who studies relationships and attraction, said: “Ratings for satisfaction with affairs (were) high — (for) sexual satisfaction and emotional satisfaction. And feelings of regret were low.”

So, what’s going on here?

Why do people cheat?

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that cheaters commit acts of infidelity because they are unsatisfied with, or not attracted to, their partner.

But the study we’re talking about, conducted by Ashley Madison, reveals this may be a misconception.

The authors of the study, which was published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, said they didn’t observe low relationship quality (such as satisfaction, love or commitment) to be a major driver of affairs – “and the affairs did not predict decreases in these relationship quality variables over time.“

They did however find that participants who had affairs tended to be less sexually active with their partners. In fact, sexual dissatisfaction was the top-cited motivation to have an affair.

Other motivations included a desire for independence and for sexual variety.

Renowned sex therapist Esther Perel – author of Mating in Captivity – has long held that cheating on a partner does not mean you’ve fallen out of love with them.

“I see people in satisfying, happy relationships. They say, ‘I love my partner, I’m having an affair’. It’s not that they want to leave the person they are with, it’s that they want to leave the person they have themselves become,” she previously told the Guardian.

Cheating isn’t a level playing field

The Ashley Graham study suggests that cheating is likely to be one-sided.

“Most participants reported that they had cheated on their partners at some point in their relationship (65-70%),” said the study authors.

“In contrast, relatively few participants reported that their partners had previously cheated on them (14-24%); most reported that their partners had never cheated (32-43%) or they were unsure whether their partners had cheated (34-43%),” they added.

This is in line with other findings, like a 2020 study that showed 23% of men admitted to cheating, versus just 12% of women.

And while satisfaction might not be the main driver for cheating, it seems some people are more likely to do the dirty.

“Research on extradyadic romantic relationship experiences (including infidelity) has found links with personality factors such as sensation-seeking and attachment style,” says the Archives of Sexual Behaviour study.

OK. But wouldn’t cheating on someone you love make you at least feel a twinge of regret?

Apparently not. Or at least, not all of us, and not always.

The Ashley Graham study found that “participants generally reported that their affair was highly satisfying both sexually and emotionally, and that they did not regret having their affair”.

And between 79% and 83% of participants did not tell their partner about the breach of trust.

“Moreover,” they added, “participants also felt positively about themselves, scoring well on life satisfaction.“

In fact, many were in marriage counselling and actively trying to strengthen their relationship with their partner.

Ah, the joys of relationships.