Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship.
And that’s just for married couples. People are likely more apt to have an affair in non-married relationships, so the prevalence of “cheating” is probably even higher.
These statistics are not particularly surprising, viewed from an evolutionary perspective. None of the other primate species is monogamous—in fact, most are rather promiscuously polygamous. More generally, only about 7% of mammalian species mate for life.
Just because, from Mother Nature’s point of view, having an affair might be “normal” doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. I’m not being moralistic—just pragmatic.
Even if both partners in a relationship agree, in advance, to an “open” relationship in which each is free to have other sexual relations, the emotions involved can be difficult to deal with. The feelings become much more intense if duplicity, lying, and dishonesty are involved.
Given human proclivities and the reality that affairs are, in fact, fairly common, I believe couples should view an affair not as the absolute end of a relationship but as an important piece of data that suggests some kind of problem in the relationship. Could be a big problem (such as a real, fundamental incompatibility) or a smaller problem (such as a one-time lapse of judgment made under the influence of extenuating circumstances).
The point is that any affair is a kind of wake-up call for a couple, which they ignore at their peril.
I’ve seen cases where an affair, as painful as it is at the time, actually brings a couple closer together. It’s not as common as affairs that split people up, but it does happen.
As we have seen played out on a national stage, an affair doesn’t have to mean automatic divorce. Often couples will have deep attachments, or deep mutual interests, which lead them to resolve the emotional issues, seek outside help to heal their relationship, and continue with a loving partnership.