July 28, 2006

Intriguing, and slightly worrying…

Writing about web page http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/mg19125591.800.html

In a recent New Scientist article about the practicalities of polygamy as a lifestyle choice, a psychology professor said:

Infidelity in monogamous relationships is estimated at 60 to 70 per cent, so it seems that attraction to more than one person is normal.

I found that statistic quite surprising, if not slightly scary… is it really true???

On a different, but not unrelated, point… is the divorce rate going up because more relationships are actually failing? Or is it just because relationships that would previously have been maintained due to the stigma attached to divorce, but that had really failed, are being actively severed? How can we tell?

- 25 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. anonymous

    if you're worried flip a coin; more than half the time you'll be right.

    29 Jul 2006, 00:07

  2. Divorce rate up because it's socially acceptable. Also couples are having kids later in life so more marriages are probably ending because there's no "stay together for the kids" element.

    29 Jul 2006, 01:23

  3. I think divorce rates are up because it's now acceptable, as Holly said. I think relationships have always been difficult and I don't think modern life on the whole makes them more or less difficult; the difference is when things are bad divorce is more of an option than it was, so people take the easy way out rather than working at their problems and putting in the time and effort to stay together.

    29 Jul 2006, 08:18

  4. anonymous

    so people take the easy way out rather than working at their problems and putting in the time and effort to stay together.

    Or people get out of an abusive relationship, or any other dead end relationship where nothing would have improved. It's not all negative, you know.

    29 Jul 2006, 13:56

  5. I'm not saying it is all negative – in a minority of cases, where the circumstances are as you suggest, less phobia of divorce is most definitely a good thing and in this respect should be encouraged. However generally I do view it as a negative trend, as people don't seem to take the commitment of marriage and lifelong partnership as seriously as I think they should.

    29 Jul 2006, 15:25

  6. anonymous

    speaking from personal experience, wtf? i dont know where people find all these people who want to be in a secondary relationship or whatever, i have a hard enough time finding one woman to talk to. but i dont see any reason to. which is really a part of the general problem that anonymous said. hm. i am a jerk in a hole; but i think that if you're in two relationships at once, you have more problems than not being in one in between.

    29 Jul 2006, 15:44

  7. Hmmm, it's a difficult one. I'm with Siggy in upholding the importance and seriousness of marriage, but I can't quite decide where the balance should be between personal happiness and the wish to preserve a commitment. How difficult does it have to get before you call it quits?

    Why do we expect that we'll be able to maintain a relationship with another person throughout the entire length of our lives? Is it just another unnatural rule apparently inflicted on us by society (as those in the above article maintain that monogamy is).

    29 Jul 2006, 19:01

  8. Divorce rates are up because people are shittier than ever.

    29 Jul 2006, 20:09

  9. This reminds me of a statistic I've read: apparently about 15% of children have a … discrepancy between their legal and biological fathers. Which seems like a pretty interesting statistic (albeit one I can't source: I think I read it in 'some book').

    In any case, I have to wonder quite what that statstic means. Is it the proportion of relationships in which their is infidelity? The proportion of people that have at some point practised it? Also, do people tend to 'slip' once and never again, or to do it either not at all or a lot?

    As for monogamy, why is there an expectation that you can only love one person at once? Anyone that suggested it was only possible to love one of your children would likely be surrounded by irate mothers (and fathers) pretty quickly; is there really such a difference? On the other hand, I doubt polygamous relationships would work well in general because getting two people to stick together seems difficult enough, and I suspect adding others would only make things more volatile.

    29 Jul 2006, 22:11

  10. I think a possible cause not yet mentioned is more independance. I'm not sure divorce rates have gone up because there are now more acts of adultury (I have no ideas what the figures are) but perhaps because women are now more independant, and so will put up with less shit then before. A woman no longer needs a man to put food on the table. I think I am right in saying it is women that seek divorce more than men, and the predominant reason is "unreasonable behaviour", which is different from adultery. This to me suggest that women are no longer "afraid" to be on their own. Just so I am not misunderstood, I am not saying women are to blame for more divorces, they may seek divorce more often but it does not mean they are at fault for the relationship breakdown in the first place.

    Is a rise in divorce a bad thing? I don't know, I think it's hard to say, I doubt divorce is a pleasant thing for any party involved (possibly including kids) but then neither is be forced to be with someone who makes your life a living hell or growing up in an unstable, un–loving environment. Ideally there would be no divorces, seeing as that will never happen then I would hope divorce occurs before kids become part of the equation.

    Also, I don't think the seriousness of marriage is determined by society as a whole, but by the individuals getting married.

    29 Jul 2006, 23:47

  11. Jenny

    The old adage "the grass is always greener on the other side" comes to mind when I think of monogamy and why I find fidelity easy in my long term relationship. The grass may appear greener at times but I know in my heart that it's much more lush on my side of the fence… a simple philosophy that works for me. I mentioned this to my partner recently and he said "but that implies that you don't think our relationship is perfect" to which I replied "I think it's about as perfect as it can possibly get!

    30 Jul 2006, 10:55

  12. I believe Dan might have a very good point there. Also a woman seeking divorce has a good deal less stigma attatched to it now too, as is the very act of divorce itself.
    I'm not sure that people should always be expected to stay with the same person, especially those who marry very young. Considering how much people change as they get older (compare yourself to how you were 5 years ago – just the uni experience changes one… Ok that's a big one, but you get my point?) they aren't always going to change the same way as their partner.
    Two of my friends have married in the last year at ages 22/23. A little scary. Not that I've given it much thought but it was both their first major relationships, I wonder how long that will last…

    30 Jul 2006, 11:31

  13. Ello – the compulsory Lorna post on things relationship–based…
    Although I am hungover, so apologies if this doesn't make any sense.

    People do change. Yes, the stigma is less than it was, in fact almost non–existent these days, but to me it's still a big deal. I'm not sure if I believe in the concept of The One anymore – I was utterly convinced that Jon was, but it turns out he's not. So I'm unsure what to expect now – I had it all with Jon, fireworks, that sense of "just knowing" – but as Gav said, people do change. Jon and I are not the people we were 2 years ago, and we've both admitted to changing almost for the other person, which ironically has led to the end of our relationship.

    It's also about what is defined by "infidelity" – does it become infidelity the second you do anything with somebody else? Does it need to be a secret from your partner in order to be wrong? Do you need to find the other person attractive, or is it infidelity even if it's just in a game of Spin The Bottle or similar at which your partner isn't present. Or does it only become infidelity if it turns into an affair?

    These are questions that need to be answered before anyone can start judging.

    That's it for me, though – people change, the world is more liberal. It's up to us to decide if we personally want to fit into that statistic or not. Sometimes you just can't help it – a weak defence, but one which explains my track record.


    31 Jul 2006, 09:21

  14. James

    More breakdowns of marriages are inevitable with other changes in society, and it's not all a bad thing by any means. Economic independence (and the welfare state) has allowed women to escape from abusive or otherwise failed relationships when in the C19 it would have been impossible. The social stigma has decreased. People are allowed to be gay and lesbian now.

    Infidelity has always been around, but I fail to understand how anyone can arrive at reliable statistics for its frequency. It seems the last thing that people are going to tell the truth on. And how large is the pool of responses? Classic misuse of statistics. Rather like Kinsey drawing conclusions about the general population from interviewing prisoners, who are by definition a deviant bunch in at least one respect.

    As a side note I blogged over the weekend on a case of two lesbians involved in a child care dispute. The children were born to one of the partners, using artificial insemination. Should the resultant child care battle be treated any differently than if the non–biological 'parent' had been male? The courts thought not. All of these kinds of things follow with the general liberalisation of society which has prompted discussions such as this.

    31 Jul 2006, 11:06

  15. Is it such a terrible thing to be attracted to more than one person at a time as long as you don't betray the trust of the person with whom you are presently in a relationship? Or is it a case that you just don't admit to it, in which case you are playing a role instead of being yourself? And how much does that become an issue of control over one's partner?

    I read an interesting article recently where an identical twin was talking about her relationship with her boyfriend… one question was: did he find her twin sister attractive? Talk about an impossible question to answer!

    31 Jul 2006, 11:16

  16. I think being "unfaithful" or "a betrayal of trust", have no concrete definitions, it depends on the individuals involved and what they perceive to be acceptable or not. If, for example, the guy didn't want the girl holding hands with any other guys and she knew this but did it anyway then in my opinion she would be betraying his trust. Obviously such a rule is insane, but if someone is not willing to accept the the rules of a relationship, of what is and is not acceptable, then they shouldn't be in that relationship. Sometimes rules and circumstances change over time but if a solution can't be worked out then I think the relationship should come to an end. There is no reason, other than selfishness, that people our age would ever be "unfaithful", in my opinion.

    In regards to the twin question, there are many people who I find physically attractive but mentally repulsive, obviously calling someones sister mentally repulsive wouldn't go down too well. If it was me and I genuinely loved the girl I would have said something along the lines of "I like you for more than for just your physical appearance alone, you are unique in the person you are, and that is the person I love". I know it sounds kinda cheesy but it seems nearly all sincere confessions of love do (unless you're making or receiving them).

    31 Jul 2006, 15:05

  17. How is not having your girl holding hands with other guys "insane"?

    31 Jul 2006, 16:37

  18. anonymous

    before you've had sex with her? :P

    31 Jul 2006, 22:07

  19. Lol, perhaps "insane" is a bit of a strong word when used correctly, I just mean slightly odd. If my girlfirend told me she held "x's" hand today I'd be like "O… K… then, why did you tell me that?", if she said I kissed or slept with "x" today I might be less happy. Actually thinking about it now, some people may be uncomfortable with it, it just doesn't bother me and I simply wrote down the first thing that came in to my head. :)

    31 Jul 2006, 23:40

  20. If my girl told me she held hand with x today, I'd punch her in the mouth. Just so she knew who was lord and master.

    01 Aug 2006, 12:01

  21. lol, alrighty then.

    01 Aug 2006, 13:58

  22. ana

    lucky girl ;)

    01 Aug 2006, 23:22

  23. Jonathan

    On a personal note I don't mind if my girlfriend has the odd lapse but if she keeps having sex with the same guy it really does my head in. I have told her but I can't seemto get it through to her.

    02 Aug 2006, 05:08

  24. hahahaha.

    02 Aug 2006, 15:41

  25. Hamid Sirhan

    It'd be interesting to see the breakdown as to whether the majority of infedelities are committed by the men or the women. And if one or the other, would the prof. recommend polygyny or polyandry?

    02 Aug 2006, 17:18

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