No one singular act is quite as capable of extinguishing the love and trust needed within a marriage as adultery. Victims of adultery are likely to feel betrayed and unloved whilst perpetrators will often find themselves battling immense guilt, and possibly depression, due to the damage their disloyalty has caused.
But why do people commit adultery? Scientists at Charles University in Prague recently put forward their own theory – it's hereditary!
A study of 86 married couples revealed that men were more likely to 'play away' if their fathers had done the same regardless of whether or not they were happy in their marriage. Women were not influenced by their parent's fidelity, however, and were only likely to engage in an affair if they were extremely unhappy in their marriage.
These findings will not surprise many. We all know that we are socialized from a young age and witnessing – or even only being aware – of their father's infidelity is likely to effect a male adult's perceptions of what is and what is not acceptable. Also, many would argue that the manner in which we procreate results in men being biologically predisposed to adultery. With men being capable of fathering many more children than a woman could give birth to throughout the course of her life, human physiology dictates that men will crave more sexual partners because of a subconscious desire to breed.
On the other hand, isn't it reasonable to argue that men have evolved beyond this? That as an evolved and intelligent species we should be aware that it is not necessary to persistently procreate in order to ensure the survival of our species? There are currently several billion people populating this planet and breeding is the last of our problems. In fact, we're constantly told that overpopulation is causing us no end of problems.
The research also revealed, however, that men are still likely to engage in extramarital relations even when they also reported that they were happy in their marriage. Women will more than likely only be unfaithful if they are extremely dissatisfied with their marriage, suggesting that there may be some validity to theories rooted in biology and genetics. Still, I can't help but feel there's more to it than that.
The stigma that comes with engaging in an act of infidelity has mellowed greatly in the last few decades and whilst such an act would have seen its perpetrator ostracised in the fifties, such an act is now far more likely to be condoned; in fact, it may well be encouraged.
Type 'adultery' into Google and amongst the obligatory links to pages containing marital advice and Wikipedia articles, you will find others offering access to online communities specifically designed for married individuals seeking affairs. Such sites are hardly subtle, either. With names such as “http://www.illicitencounters.com” and “http://www.lonelyhousewives.com” it isn't hard to work out just what these sites are offering. Cheating partners can even now rely on a mobile phone app that immediately deletes call and texts from a specific number in order to hide their infidelity from their spouse. So, not only is adultery now more socially acceptable, technology is also making it much easier to find an extra marital partner and then hide your actions from your current partner.
Changing attitudes, developing technology and biology aside, affairs ultimately take place because one half of a couple decide that such an act will make them happy. Ironically, this happiness is likely to be short lived before it gives way to guilt and anguish – feelings that will only be exacerbated by the marital problems, and likely divorce, that are likely to follow any act of adultery.