Perhaps because the premise of its new original drama series about a cheating married couple, Satisfaction, is not depressing enough for couples, the USA Network conducted a survey on cheating and marital satisfaction among Gen X and Y.
Some of the survey’s findings are not surprising. The arrival of children and the subsequent triangulation of the relationship and lack of bandwidth, time, money and energy makes a couple far more susceptible to the desire to stray. And the rise of the social networks make such straying much easier: easier to start, easier to arrange and easier to hide. (It may make it a little harder to end quietly though, especially if one of the parties feels aggrieved.)
Some other findings are a little more unexpected, however. For the vast majority of folks 18 to 49 years old, at least in Austin, Omaha, Nashville and Phoenix, where this study took place, cheating is an absolute dealbreaker. A full 94% of respondents would rather never marry than end up with a person they knew would cheat and 82% of them have “zero tolerance” for infidelity. Yet 81% of people admitted they’d cheat if they knew there wouldn’t be any consequences and 42% of the survey takers, in equal parts men and women, admitted to already having cheated.
If people must seek out some strange, the participants in USA’s survey suggest they really take it elsewhere; 81% believe it’s better to cheat with a stranger than a friend.
Why would it ever be O.K. to betray a spouse? More than half of the respondents (54%) believe cheating could be justified, particularly if the other party had already cheated first. Presumably, many of those were also in the group that already cheated.
The idea that monogamy “is a social expectation but not a biological reality,” as the survey put it, was true for more than half of all the Gen X and Y respondents. (The survey apparently didn’t ask if it was neither of those, but a learned skill, like, say, reading, gymnastics or coding.) But somewhat surprisingly, only one in five men preferred the idea of what could be called a “monogamish” relationship—where people are mostly faithful—over a monogamous one.
In other findings, the study—which, as an opt-in internet survey of only 1000 people has not been peer reviewed, lacks rigor and should not be used to make life decisions—also uncovered these nuggets:
*More than 40% of men 25 to 34 have discussed having a three way with their significant other. (No details, alas, on how these suggestions were received…)
*Almost three quarters of the GenX and Ys questioned think a few more hoops to jump through before people get married wouldn’t hurt, including living together for at least a year beforehand (35%), being required to finish high school (24%) and genetic testing if the couple wants kids (9%).
*Should that not prove to be enough, that’s O.K. More than half of the survey participants think a marriage that doesn’t have to last forever to be considered successful.
*And finally, in a sign that no celebrity behavior goes unnoticed, the Paltrow Martin style of split is getting some traction: a third of the survey takers say they’d rather “uncouple” than divorce.