Infidelity, believe it or not.
In recent years I’ve noticed a precipitous rise in the number of men who have been betrayed by adultery, and while there’s an overall consensus among professionals that female infidelity is on the rise, the trend doesn’t garner nearly as much attention as male infidelity. … While there aren’t any hard statistics on female infidelity, most experts agree that it’s on the rise, especially among women who have their own careers and a degree of financial independence.
He also claims, “cheating is an equal opportunity sport, one that women are just as likely as men to play.”
All I can say after a short search is that (a) men cheat more; (b) there is no evidence of increasing infidelity, among men or women, in the last 20 years; and, (c) there may be a small increase in infidelity among women with college degrees in the last 10 years, but if so it is quite slight. Here are the numbers I got, from the General Social Survey, which since 1991 has been asking, “Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?” For the overall trend:
Infidelity has been, and remains, more common among men than women, and neither group shows a significant time trend. And for the claim that it has been increasing among professional women:
For this one I pooled two survey-years of data at each end of the decade to increase the sample size. Still, the increase among women with 16 years or more of education, from 11% to 14%, is not strong evidence of an increase, especially when you look at the year-to-year fluctuations in the first graph. Education is associated with less infidelity among men, but shows no significant difference among women. In short, his empirical claims don’t match the “hard statistics” that I can find. Granted, the GSS is relying on self-reported bad behavior, albeit anonymously, so this is not proof (not as reliable as, say, the second-hand claims wronged spouses make to their sex therapists!).
That doesn’t mean he’s not seeing an increase among the people he counsels in his practice, which seems to focus on sexual problems and presumably is pretty expensive. That’s a select group — so maybe he should have saved the observations for his patient newsletter instead of spreading them all over CNN.
Even further from the “hard statistics” are his “signs that a woman could be cheating or thinking about it.”
- She shows less general interest in her partner’s comings and goings
- She dresses up for work, but seems to care less about whether her partner finds her attractive
- She has less interest in sex with her partner
- She’s keeping an irregular schedule and spending more time at work
- She seems happy, except when she’s around her partner
- She shows less tolerance of her partner’s friends and family
- There are unresolved issues in the relationship that have either been ignored or not resolved in a way that’s satisfying to her
- She’s in a child-centric marriage that prioritizes parenting and neglects a couple’s relationship, with few opportunities for romance and alone time
I could imagine these patterns apply to lots of women who are unhappy in their relationships, whether they’re having affairs or not. So when he says, “Guys, think your wife would never cheat? Think again,” Kerner might just be adding gasoline to a lot of smoldering fires.