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Infidelity Science

An alert chump sent me a TED talk by Helen Fisher, someone who researches the brain science behind infidelity and love. The article is entitled “10 FACTS about Infidelity.” Just in case you were thinking of challenging any of it, okay? Apparently all of this is irrefutable.

This blog post is not intended to challenge any scientific findings, because that’s way beyond my pay grade. I am but a mere blogger. Fisher points out several interesting things about humans and infidelity — that there seems to be a genetic disposition for it, that despite people universally condemning infidelity, it’s terribly common, and that our brains are capable of different sorts of love, and there are different sorts of impetuses for infidelity (romantic kibbles versus sex kibbles).

I would just like to say…. and so what?

Every time one of these studies come out, it seems like someone writes a cheater apologist article  to say “See? The poor sausages can’t help themselves!” Monogamy isn’t natural. Our brains can compartmentalize (so the cheater DID love you while they were cheating on you — HAH!) And it’s genetic! (Should we discriminate against people on the basis of something they cannot help?)

Here are Fisher’s 10 findings: (The full text with citations is here.)

1. Pairbonding is a hallmark of humanity.

2. However, monogamy is only part of the human reproductive strategy. Infidelity is also widespread. Current studies of American couples indicate that 20 to 40% of heterosexual married men and 20 to 25% of heterosexual married women will also have an extramarital affair during their lifetime.

3. Brain architecture may contribute to infidelity. Human beings have three primary brain systems related to love. 1) The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek copulation with a range of partners; 2) romantic love evolved to motivate individuals to focus their mating energy on specific partners, thereby conserving courtship time and metabolic energy; 3) partner attachment evolved to motivate mating individuals to remain together at least long enough to rear a single child through infancy together. These three basic neural systems interact with one another and other brain systems in myriad flexible, combinatorial patterns to provide the range of motivations, emotions and behaviors necessary to orchestrate our complex human reproductive strategy. But this brain architecture makes it biologically possible to express deep feelings of attachment for one partner, while one feels intense romantic love for another individual, while one feels the sex drive for even more extra-dyadic partners.

4. Infidelity has been a reality across cultures.

5. There are different types of infidelity. Researchers have broadened the definition of infidelity to include sexual infidelity (sexual exchange with no romantic involvement), romantic infidelity (romantic exchanges with no sexual involvement) and sexual and romantic involvement.

6. Myriad psychological, cultural and economic variables play a role in the frequency and expression of infidelity. But one thing is clear: infidelity is a worldwide phenomenon that occurs with remarkable regularity, despite near universal disapproval of this behavior.

7. Mate poaching is a pronounced trend.

8. Infidelity doesn’t necessarily signal an unhappy relationship. Regardless of the correlation between relationship dissatisfaction and adultery, among individuals engaging in infidelity in one study, 56% of men and 34% of women rated their marriage as “happy” or “very happy,” suggesting that genetics may also play a role in philandering.

9. Studies show the possibility of a gene that correlates to infidelity.

10. Several scientists have offered theories for the evolution of human adultery. I have proposed that during prehistory, philandering males disproportionately reproduced, selecting for the biological underpinnings of the roving eye in contemporary men. Unfaithful females reaped economic resources from their extra-dyadic partnerships, as well as additional males to help with parenting duties if their primary partner died or deserted them. Moreover, if an ancestral woman bore a child with this extra-marital partner, she also increased genetic variety in her descendants. Infidelity had unconscious biological payoffs for both males and females throughout prehistory, thus perpetuating the biological underpinnings and taste for infidelity in both sexes today.

I believe that most of these findings could be observed on any internet infidelity board. Cheating is really common, certain cultures tolerate it more than others, there are emotional affairs and sexual affairs, it happens to people who believe themselves to be in happy marriages. And I would even argue that most of us would agree there is a genetic component to it — a lack of empathy (or “callous unemotional traits”), but okay, maybe there is a horndog gene too.

None these findings absolve cheaters of personal responsibility.

Replace infidelity with murder — something humans also do with an alarming frequency throughout history. Murder has been a constant across cultures. Despite universal condemnation, people still commit murder. There are different types of murder (premeditated, defensive). Some people have a genetic disposition for murder. This is a real thing by the way — the MAO-A gene, or warrior gene. You can read how a guy used a genetic defense to avoid the death penalty for hacking his wife to death with a machete.

None of this research invalidates my opinion that murder is wrong.

Same with infidelity. In fact, I believe studies like Fisher’s really underscore what people like Lundy Bancoft or George Simon say — people do bad things to gain advantage over others. They have throughout history. We can be a pretty despicable bunch. Some groups feel entitled to colonize other groups, or take their resources. (Mate poaching?) They can be pretty sneaky the ways they go about it. They rewrite history. They rationalize it in their heads. Our brains are clever and let us rationalize things. Perhaps there was an evolutionary imperative to be an asshole. (More resources for me! Fewer for you!)

While all of this is observable phenomena — the science doesn’t ask the harder questions. Are we culpable for what we do? Do we have agency or are we the sum of our genetic cocktail? If humans are capable of deceit, are they not also capable of nobler virtues? Self sacrifice. Loyalty. Humility. Service. Kindness. Compassion.

Don’t we aspire to more than our basest evolutionary traits, to procreate and steal? Are we just kidding ourselves that we can be better than that?

I don’t think so. We are better than that. Science should study chumps. Explain to me the expansive heart that tries to forgive betrayal. Explain single parents working three jobs to support their children. Explain the compassion that spills out over the pages of this blog, where total strangers reach out to one another to offer comfort and support.

Did we evolve to be so kind? Is there a chump gene? Have there been chumps across history and different cultures?

I don’t know, I’m just glad you exist. If science can help us at all, perhaps it can identify cheaters so we can avoid them and chumps can stick to their own kind.

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  • I have to laugh at the stat that mentions how many cheaters are happy in their marriages. Of course they are! They are cake eating! Why wouldn’t they be delighted?

    I wish we could identify a chump gene. We could make our potential partners go for genetic testing as well as STD testing. You don’t have the CL-412 gene? (I named it after you and the start date of your blog, CL.) That’s a shame. NEXT! 🙂

    • Genetic testing sounds like a great idea! This study just sounds like another excuse for poor behavior. My family has all of the traditional markers for high blood pressure. If I don’t eat or exercise guess what???

    • A chump gene named after this blog? Aww. I’d be so flattered. We need some chump geneticists…

      And on the earlier subject of cake… yes it is so very delicious. I’m sure there some evolutionary imperative on cake eating. The Selfish Gene. More for me (through trickery), less for you. It is Good to Be King.

      • I’m a biology teacher, but not an evolutionary biologist, so some of my assertions may be wrong, but I’ll give it a shot..I think the centers of the brain that are probably at work in infidelity might be those dealing in pleasure and emotions (could be the same ones involved in drug abuse as well, but don’t quote me on that). These are some of the more primitive centers of the brain, likely preserved through evolution from human ancestors. So any gene in humans could possibly be found in the same (or similar form) in other primates such as apes, chimpanzees, for example. Also, new information is coming up quite a bit recently about us modern humans obtaining significant portions of our DNA from Neanderthals, but any talk of a Neanderthal infidelity (or chump) gene is way premature. I think I would want to give the Neanderthals more credit anyway.

        Still doesn’t justify anything – Just because you might have a genetic predisposition to something doesn’t mean you’ll develop it.

  • No scientific evidence precludes the need for self-knowledge and honesty. In fact, it mandates both those things. Know yourself and present yourself truthfully to others. Period.

    • That’s actually why I cut people a bit of slack for stupidity in their sexual/romantic relationships when they’re young and don’t know themselves well. By the time you’re of marrying age, you should have figured out whether you actually WANT monogamy, what you’re willing to do to get it, and whether you’re likely to be able to manage it.

      But whether you’ve figured that out ahead of marriage or not, when you realize you can’t or don’t want to be monogamous, honesty and respect are still perfectly manageable.

      I hate that our culture tells such harmful lies and myths about love. It fixes all! It forgives all! It justifies any irresponsibility! It makes cheating legit! It cures people of their cheating ways! It cures people of their unhappiness/addictions/mental health issues!

      Sometimes I think arranged marriages are not such a bad idea …..

  • Oooh, I’d love the genetic testing! Although frankly, if I were just a bit more judgemental, I shoulda known! My ex came from a family of adulterers, his father the worst, but his mom finally left his father after finding out he was sleeping with her sister, and his mom (now 67 ys old and single) has been sleeping w/a married man for the past 3 years, too.

    Then again, the ex has three siblings who appear to have managed to have healthy, happy long-term relationships, without infidelity. So I guess we do need the test, to know which ones are the ‘right’ ones.

    I have the same reaction to the studies that show that infidelity is primarily a question of opportunity. Again this applies perfectly to my ex’s two affairs – women at the office hitting on him, the second one when he was working out of town. He’s too insecure and socially awkward to go looking for it, the opportunity has to land in his lap (HAH!).

    But see, I want the one who, when provided with an opportunity, walks away. And I know there are plenty of those, men and women. I want QUALITY!

    • ahhhhh I am stuck on this;

      “But see, I want the one who, when provided with an opportunity, walks away. And I know there are plenty of those, men and women. I want QUALITY!”

      that’s all I ever wanted too! but I guess its too much to ask. My POS ex took every opportunity that was presented and I mean every one of them!(all disgusting skanks) and it wasn’t just opportunity, he also went seeking out some of them (like one of my friends) and later I had found the sick fuck was using me as bait “look what I got” so those women went with him to prove themselves, that they were better than me, in a sick competition and if they could steal him away from me(I was the only one didn’t know about that there was any) . I was/am way out of his league but I gave him a chance because I was tricked into believing he was one of the good guys..NOT! even though he is a very smooth talker, the quality of women he attracts now after I dumped him went way way low, I don’t want to sound vain or conceited but I do turn heads everywhere I go, and the chances of him having a woman like me again is none to none. Therefore the dipshit is still lurking around after all this time, but it will never happen, not even in his wild dreams. I know for a fact, he will lie and cheat again. Here is the thing, I don’t care what cheaters or anyone else says, like ” I have changed, I will never hurt or cheat on you again” (I heard that before)the thing is they will cheat and lie again and again, they will just be more better at covering their tracks. They cant be trusted, EVER and I don’t care what anyone says otherwise.

      Like someone said before, Cheaters are a particular subgroup of society. Proven to be extremely dishonest by their actions. I believe their ability to change that dishonesty & become a truly honorable person is like teaching a lion to be vegetarian.

      • After his first affair, 6 years before the 2nd, final one, my ex wasn’t doing the stuff he needed to do, was all freaked out by marriage counselling, etc. He was reacting in such weird ways, at the time I started to think he was kind of Aspberger-y! I thought about what I needed from him, and what I really really needed was to know he’d never do anything like that again. Because he had actually told me just before having sex w/the OW (after months of an emotional affair), I thought there was a fundamental honesty in his personality.

        So I told him I really needed to know he would never cheat again. He promised SO sincerely that he wouldn’t. I asked him why he wouldn’t. He said it was because he loved me. I told him that wasn’t enough, because he could stop loving me, and I was not willing to invest any further in our relationship if was any chance of his cheating again. He told me he understood, that he would never do that. Even if he were very unhappy, he would end our relationship before getting involved with someone else again.

        This meant a lot to me. It’s what allowed me to reinvest, reconcile, forgive, all that stuff.

        So, several months after my discovering the 2nd affair and kicking him out, he was trying to come back. Saying he had realized what a mistake he’d made, that he was now a much better person! I asked him about that promise he had made.

        He said he didn’t remember having that conversation at all.

        “Cheaters are a particular subgroup of society. Proven to be extremely dishonest by their actions. I believe their ability to change that dishonesty & become a truly honorable person is like teaching a lion to be vegetarian.” THIS.

  • Nice post. I’d say you could equally read Fisher (or that small bit of her writing) to show that pair-bonding is an evolutionary essential. It’s all in how you interpret the data…or as the lovely Mark Twain said “lies, damned lies, and statistics” (please don’t burst my bubble and tell me he was a cheater!)

    What, for example, is the evolutionary advantage to swans or other animals who pair bond for life? Or Canada geese? who (I believe) go mateless for life after the death of their bonded mate…. that’s fidelity!

    Since I am the chumpy possessor of a Ph.D. in sociology of the family (…ok quiet down, no giggling in the peanut gallery..yes, I probably should have seen at least ghost handwriting etc.)… I have at least some expertise in evaluating these arguments.

    The relentless research focus on the whys and hows of infidelity gives it currency, legitimizes it, IMHO. As you and others have said, how about some studies of chumps?

    I can think of one evolutionary advantage right off the bat : chumps seem to make good parents: loyal, devoted, considerate, good at planning, good caretakers…. so even though I generally think 95% of arguments made about social behavior based on evolutionary biology are BS…there is a way to look at this situation that shines the light where it belongs: on the loyal partner, on the kids (what is the evolutionary advantage of kids with a fucked up cheater parent, eh? they aren’t fungible, after all.)


    • Very interesting, Dr. V. My asshat admitted he sought me out, courted me and married me because I was NOT like his mother, a co dependent mess cheated on by BOTH husbands. Asshat was attracted to me because of my backbone. And thought I was better wife/mother material than his mom. Ironically, asshat had a FT second life with his married GF while married to me. Happiness all around for him. But when questioned why he just didn’t leave to be with her, well….she was just too dependent on him. Weird.

      • “What, for example, is the evolutionary advantage to swans or other animals who pair bond for life? Or Canada geese? who (I believe) go mateless for life after the death of their bonded mate…. that’s fidelity!”
        Being a bird brain ain’t so bad.

  • I think all of this is just about respect for others. Some people have it, other people don’t. You know, character?! So monogamy isn’t for everyone and it might not even be natural. Fine. If you don’t want monogamy be honest. People who carry on long term affairs are selfish because they’re robbing their life partner of the chance to decide what type of relationship they want to have. It’s a unilateral decision. Also, the cheater often wants their partner to be monogamous while they’re out playing the field. That’s not always the case, but it seems to be so for many. We have plenty of social mores requiring people to act honestly in their dealings with others. It’s socially irresponsible to waste someone else’s resources (time, money, emotional investment, etc.). I could see MAYBE having a one time mistake, feeling terrible about it and never repeating the mistake. Ongoing lying is a character disorder, not some sort of evolutionary imperative. Besides, my inner cave woman really wanted to go slash the OW’s tires because she was stealing what I thought was mine. I had enough character to take the high road. Self control isn’t always a big bad boogyman.

    • KT

      (“People who carry on long term affairs are selfish because they’re robbing their life partner of the chance to decide what type of relationship they want to have. It’s a unilateral decision. Also, the cheater often wants their partner to be monogamous while they’re out playing the field.”)

      I definitely felt robbed of many years of not having the choice to have a marriage free of infidelity. This after I took him back for it 15 years ago. We did the counseling, moving etc. and according to him, he lasted all of a year with his promises. He just couldn’t help himself. According to him, he never, until recently, got emotionally attached to any of his conquests. They were all prostitutes. Until, I guess he had an epiphany. Felt sorry for a few of them, befriended a few of them and started “friendships” with them. Young and disadvantaged he his now on a mission to rescue them. Claims he has stopped using their services. Just gives them money to survive, and talks to them. Now that’s disordered…….And to add….the matter of extreme financial infidelity. Betrayal isn’t’ just sexual. Double whammy!
      We Chumps deserve honesty and choice. Not backstabbing and selfish behavior.
      There is nothing innocent or right about it! If you can’t be monogamous than for god’s sake, and your partners. Get out, and go sow your oats in freedom. Save us the pain of STD testing and worry. And let us have a life of happiness.

  • I can’t get over the illogical conclusion the jury drew in the murder trial. If you believe the guy has a genetic predisposition to violence and it’s been proven he already killed one person and attempted to kill another; why would you give that person a lighter sentence? I would be more inclined to do that if it was proved the killer was NOT genetically predisposed to violence. I was just thinking WTF? Logically, a genetic predisposition to violence coupled with proof the guy murdered someone seems like a win for the prosecution. If this could happen, it’s no wonder people are so happy to make excuses for infidelity…

    • Dat, this claim would actually work against the guy up here in the frozen north. Someone w/this kind of history and this kind of claim would probably be classified as a ‘dangerous offender’ – at high risk for re-offending in ways that are very dangerous to others. People like this get locked up, and we throw away the key!

  • My reaction to this sort of information: The cheating sickness runs deep! Regardless of genetic pre-dispositions, we are still responsible for our choices. Even alcoholics with genetic predispositions are still responsible for their behavior while under the influence, and they still have the responsibility to ask for help/get treatment. Why not make the same case here for cheaters? If someone gets divorced because of his/her philandering, why not court order him/her into psychological treatment for his/her cheating issues before he/she wrecks further societal havoc through more cheating. Probably not going to happen because I suppose that would mean having to actually call it a problem first 😉

    My second point: I wish those who studied infidelity would study and publish the real damage infidelity causes families and society. Besides society generally standing against infidelity on a moral basis, it may be good to point out why this is the case from the cost perspectives. Society has a vested interest in stable families and infidelity is a direct threat to this interest, of course.

    Well, I understand that is is just one TED Talk, and it is easy to harp on it not addressing enough. As CL points out, this isn’t an argument FOR infidelity but rather a description of its dynamics. That said, I do not think there is enough out there debunking the “glamour” of cheating. Maybe researchers should start getting on that bandwagon!

    • Probably not going to happen because I suppose that would mean having to actually call it a problem first.
      And that is the issue..calling it a problem! Hell, for those of us who live in a “no-fault” divorce state, we get screwed over by the ex and the courts, because they don’t recognize that what they did to destroy a family is wrong. So basically, you can go screw around on your partner, turn your kids’ lives into nightmares, and have no repercussions. The cheaters are the ones who get it all..they get their money; they get the one that is their “soul mate and one true love”, and they get to have no responsibilities for anything anymore. And yep..we get to sit back here, watch them run off with the OW/OM, live happily ever after..while we struggle each and everyday. Fairness? Justice? Nope.

      • A consolation to me in this matter is reminding myself that I retained my integrity whereas my ex did not. At the end of the day, we have to live with ourselves, and that is hard to do if one is a cheater–i.e. provided a shred of conscience remains intact in him/her. If it doesn’t bother the cheater, then we got the prize of escaping a dangerous relationship with a psychotic person. That is a mercy.

        Plus, I am a firm believer that no one really escapes addressing the consequences of their actions ultimately…even if a judicial system is less than helpful in handing out justice and facilitating the process of “righting” wrongs.

        • So true, Mister…..
          “Where ever you go, there you are…..” Divine justice is the best!

          Forge on, friends…..

  • Excusing poor behaviour is so irritating. You know, even by the ‘normal’ (probably overblown) statistics, 60% – 80% of men DON’T CHEAT.

    75% – 80% of women DON’T CHEAT.

    My psychology text book put cheating at 4%.

    Looking around my friends and their 20+ marriages, that cheating is the minority looks kind of right to me. Why is my cheater asshole in the minority, and why does he have to be mine?

    • My daughter and I, discussing the prevalence of cheating (which both her dad and the family therapist they saw together were discussing as ‘very common’), realized there’s another statistical factor to keep in mind; disordered cheaters usually cheat on several partners, one after the other. So even if you keep in mind that in X percentage of marriages there is cheating, that often means that each ONE cheater cheated on 3 or 4 or more partners in a row.

      So in the three major relationships my ex has been in in his life, there was cheating in all of them (his). Whereas there were at least 2 and possibly three women involved who did not cheat. That makes it look like cheating is at 100% for those 3 relationships, whereas 3 of the 4 people involved never cheated.

      And he’s only 45 years old! At his current rate, if he keeps finding chumps and he keeps up the cheating as long as his father has, he’ll have been involved in 7 relationships ‘with cheating’ before he kicks the bucket; but only one cheater there.

      • Where did this idea that cheating is so very common come from? What a dumbass therapist. Although I suppose they are more likely to have people come to them to deal with infidelity and so it would be a lot more common in their world. But that’s sort of like an MD assuming that people spend a majority of their time sick. I don’t think it’s as common as a good portion of the statistics circulating out there say.

      • Actually describes my asshat to a T. Every.single.committed.relationship- he cheated on them ALL. Including me. His bio Dad, cheated on every single committed relationship too. His stepdad , cheated on his mom.

        Nature or nurture? Who the fuck knows. Of course all this was never revealed to me. He didn’t think it was important.

        I can name handfuls of men and women who do NOT cheat or lie to their S.O.’s I can’t accept data stating most people will cheat in their marriages.

        • All the data I’ve seen doesn’t even say that ‘most’ will cheat; it’s usually just a significant minority, somewhat higher for men than for women.

          I hate that cheaters use even those ‘minority’ stats to say that what is dishonest and disrespectful is ‘normal’ and ‘ok’, and us chumps are just too unsophisticated and judgmental.

          In the end, in the end, it wouldn’t even matter if honesty and fidelity were rare. It’s what I offer, and it’s what I’m looking for! The ex led me to believe that was what he wanted and offered too, told me what a jackass his cheating father was. He knew what I wanted and expected before he cheated the first time, and certainly knew it loud and clear before the second time.

          He just didn’t care what I wanted, and didn’t care that he’d have to lie to me to get what he wanted. That’s grounds for divorce, right there!

  • 1. I married a male.
    2. I guess his reptilian brain ruled over his human brain.
    3. He humped some chick and decided she was it.
    4. I dumped his ass because he sucks and I don’t.
    5. Being evolved rules over being primitive.

  • I read this study and similar, and my response is, “Big fuckin’ deal.” There are all sorts of behaviors that are very widespread, have been around as long as humans have existed and seem to be a hardwired part of our behavior. Stealing, laziness, murder, lying and cheating in a nonsexual sense immediately come to mind. Yet those are all either illegal (at least in some situations) or commonly understood to be undesirable behaviors that we can NOT DO IF WE CHOOSE. Why is adultery unavoidable and instinctive, but stealing food can send me to jail? How come I’m expected to control myself and not cheat on my income tax, yet apparently I have no ability to stop myself from balling some guy who is married to someone else?

    Adultery takes a LOT more planning and effort than grabbing a candy bar at the grocery market without paying, or looking over at your neighbor’s test paper in chemistry class. Yet humans are expected to pay for the candy bar, might be prosecuted for stealing it, even though casual theft is very widespread, has been around forever and seems to be part of our nature. You can be expelled for cheating on a test. If society cracks down on THOSE behaviors, why the frig is infidelity made the big exception? My guess is the researchers interested enough to study it either are cheaters themselves, or are bereft of much internal restraint when it comes to right and wrong.

    The fact that none of these researchers seem interested in why some people manage to be GOOD, seem to have self RESTRAINT, seem able to SACRIFICE and stick with their COMMITMENTS is just further comment on the sorry state of our narcissistic, “I got mine so fuck you,” self-entitled society, IMHO. People are more interested in further justification for their selfish, ugly and entitled behaviors.

    • Preach it Glad!

      I’m so tired of hearing justification for non-monogamy and how those of us who expect it are non-evolved. The truth is I haven’t yet met one of these anti-monogamy advocates who isn’t also a selfish person. When did we start holding up sexuality and sexual behavior as a justification onto itself??? It’s sexuality-therefor it’s natural-therefor it’s justified? We need to stop looking at cheating as a sexual activity and look at it as an act of abuse.

    • Oh, and guess what. I AM wired for monogamy. That is something I learned in my thirties. Even if my partner offered to be loyal and let me roam I couldn’t do it. Where are the frickin studies on that? Maybe that’s the chump gene CL is talking about.

      • Absolutely, Kat! I didn’t cheat.

        At ths momnent, I think the Islamic Republic of Iran (or whatever it is called) has the perfect solution for cheaters: hang them slowly from a crane.

        (I might get to the land of Meh in a few years)

    • EXCELLENT, Glad! Just excellent comment! Short, sweet… summed up the whole freaking thing right here!!

      Forge on, friend….

    • Wow my stbx has ALL the traits in the video. His ED is due to a medical issue, so fresh meat didn’t cut it. However OW was ok with old man porno sex!

      • My ex hit all but one of the traits. However this video is a crock. Cheaters cheat because they feel some sense of entitlement that they can. It has nothing to do with deep voices, erection problems, high end jobs, broken homes or religious affiliation. It has to do with them making a conscious choice to stray outside their marriage.

  • I can accept that some individuals are not capable of monogamy. That’s not the issue. If you aren’t able to be monogamous, then don’t marry. Set up partnerships with like-minded people. That’s what the polyamory folks advocate. I’m completely okay with consenting adults forming relationships in whatever ways make sense for them, assuming that such relationships are not exploitative in nature.

    The problem with infidelity isn’t the polyamorous nature of some people; it’s that the cheater broke the promise. It’s the “unfaithful” part of infidelity. If the cheater were open with his/her spouse and either asked if the spouse were okay with a more open relationship or if the spouse wanted a divorce under these circumstances, well, there would be no infidelity.

    In this context, regardless of whatever biology comes into play, the decision to lie, to betray, to cheat–that’s a character issue.

  • While all of this is observable phenomena — the science doesn’t ask the harder questions. Are we culpable for what we do? Well, to be fair here, Science isn’t a morality play. If you observe an animal eat its own young, offering “That’s wrong” isn’t a testable hypothesis, for example :)With cheating, an observer could stay very well within the scientific method and point out “Cheating exists” and that it very often has adverse consequences to both cheaters and their mates.Invoking the word “culpable” (deserving blame) implies there should ,/b> be a moral stigma;whereas, a purely scientific observation would state whether or not such stigmas existed and with what frequency and what were the effects of such stigmas. Science leaves “should” and certainty to philosophy for the most part. At best, science might be able to provide you with Bayesian odds that behavior x is likely to have some given odds ratio of invoking response y within social context z, and even that’s a reach.

    • I should probably add, that while Science doesn’t provide you with an ethical value system, it can inform your ethics.

      For example, in my ethics… racism is bad. From a Scientific standpoint, racism is just stupid (it involves bias and being misinformed) because it involves unreliable generalizations and assumptions which are demonstrably false.

      Science doesn’t say racism is bad, but it does provide evidence it’s stupid.

  • Just because someone is married does not imply that they become blind to the opposite sex. Science on infidelity is a no brainer. My 90 year old grandma doesn’t have a science degree to know that cheaters cheat if they can get away with it.

    Cheaters especially endorse any study that relieves them of personal integrity and embrace the theory that monogamy is unnatural and are helpless to the genes they’ve inherited.

    I’d like to see a scientific study done on chumps as they seem to be an outlier in the general gene pool and why cheaters chose to marry chumps and then have affairs with other cheaters who are come from the same gene pool.

    Also, I’d like a scientific study on why is it that cheaters embrace their cheating genetics but cannot abide being cheated on.

    Most crooks would never tolerate being robbed. Esplain that to me Lucy….

  • Dr. I Can’t Believe I’m a Chump here. As a social scientist in the works, I always consider studies and statistics to be a snippet of the picture that can better inform a particular field, discipline, or audience. Good research results and finding should never be considered a finite answer but rather information that contributes to a working body of knowledge. It is never all-inclusive nor embodies all facets and nuances. That is where art comes in.

    Dr. Fisher is an anthropologist, so she is looking for social and biological reasons for particular behavior. That is her slant or lens. I have a few of her titles in her library, but have not read them in their entirety. I always considered her work to be information; it is up to me to decide how I want to process it.

    My take is that we may have certain biological programming but as critically thinking individuals who are able to act morally and ethically, we can overcome it and do the right thing. As a society, we determine what is acceptable and unacceptable, infidelity is considered offensive, and thus there is no “excuse” for it.

    Having said that, I did not watch the TED talk because I am busy with other TEDs right now. . .

  • its just another excuse for cheating, like my POS ex tried to tell me, “every men does it” with smile on his face, ummmm NO, the last time I checked the REAL men with morals, integrity, who truly loves his woman don’t cheat. Only disordered, lacking in character with no integrity, no morals, low life liars, scum of the earth etc cheats. But the POS cant handle if a woman cheats on him, because he will end it right there and then. Double standards?

    • I think everyone is tempted to cheat but for chumps they have a built in stop sign. As a male chump I could have easily bought into the herd mentality. The thing is my circle of male friends were not getting lap dances and or giving each other high fives if any of us had a dish on the side.

      Humans are not as complicated or deep as we’ed like to believe. Basically, the cliche, “show me who your friends are I’ll show you who you are” is by far a more scientific explanation than jargon about infidelity genes.

      • We both choose our friends and are chosen by them, influence them and are influenced by them.

        My ex told me (during one of his ridiculous attempts to get me to try to reconcile) that his only actual friend talked to him for years about his own cheating, about how ‘natural’ it was, how it was ‘just something that happened in relationships’. And this guy was re-married to his chump, after 10 years apart, apparently fairly happily.

        So he was a GREAT example for my ex, totally normalized cheating, and reassured the ex he could have cake, and not lose me in the end.

        But the fact is that the ex chose to be friends with this guy, chose to have those conversations, never argued the contrary. He never mentioned those conversations to me, although he told me about lots of other ones he and this friend had. He never discussed marriage or fidelity with other guys at all, like the family and family friends who were faithful and invested in their marriages.

        He believed what he wanted to believe, because he wanted to believe it. And he was pretty shocked that neither I nor the kids saw it the same way. Really, I thought I had made myself perfectly clear after his first affair, 6 years before the 2nd, final one.

        • Of course your husband didn’t mention his buddy being a cheater. If he did so, you’d not tolerate this friendship. It was all about controlling your reality. Your husband was drinking the cool aid and selling it too.

          I think infidelity science is misguided. I believe it should be titled the science of lying.

  • Infidelity *science*??? I thought that had been pretty much done to death by the people who study baboons.

    If it’s going to be *science* you have to have to have impartial observers and repeatable experiments. Otherwise, it’s just highfalutin’ theorizing to explain (as others here have said) a lack of character in themselves or others.

  • “Current studies of American couples indicate that 20 to 40% of heterosexual married men and 20 to 25% of heterosexual married women will also have an extramarital affair during their lifetime.”

    So then 60 to 80% of married men, and 75 to 80% of married women DON’T cheat. The vast majority of married people manage to keep it in their pants despite the supposed instinctive drive to fool around. That seems to suggest that biology or instinct isn’t so overpowering.

    To me, the fact that most married people don’t cheat just further proves what all of us chumps know…….. cheaters cheat because they WANT TO, not because they cannot control themselves. It is not a matter of biology, it is a matter of CHARACTER. When you read the stories from chumps here, you see even further that the adultery is just one aspect of the disorder. These people are BAD on many levels. Even if my ex wasn’t a mind-boggling cheater, he would STILL be a pathological liar, crazy and abusive. And the same is true for so many other disordered cheaters.

    I’m not impressed with the studies showing infidelity is instinct, because there is so much evidence to show otherwise.

  • I personally think all of this is rolled into this “paleo” zeitgeist we are going through culturally. “caveman strength”, “primal” eating or exercise, etc… the exploration into what we humans were put on this earth to do and be biologically–which from a physical fitness standpoint is great–but from an application for living is completely misguided. As a woman, this larger application of thinking bothers me because it’s tendency is male dominated, chest thumping and one layer below all of this is this “primal” urge to spread the male seed to as many women as possible. Add pop anthropology like this TED talk and books like “Sex at Dawn”, and you have the perfect groundwork for cake eating motherfuckers to suddenly feel justified in their cheating, because it’s now a part of the larger cultural discussion and NO JUDGING!!!

    I read “Sex at Dawn” and “The Ethical Slut”, “Mating in Captivity” all at the urging of my cake eating motherfucker, and what I learned is that some RURAL cultures do allow for openness when it comes to sexual fidelity, but those societies/tribes are matriarchal, clearly NOT where I am living in the good ole’ USA. In the first-world open relationships discussed in these books, there is honesty, and an acknowledgement of jealousy. Each partner knows what they are signing up for and is not afraid to discuss attraction to an outside person with their SO. Acting on it without discussion is plain old betrayal As for polyamory, I don’t know too many women who are okay with polyamory, in fact, I know about 2 of them, and after a while, they call it quits in lieu of a more conventional 1:1 partnership, and then maybe dip their toes back in, but it is typically after a breakup and they are back on the market again.

    Anyways, it’s so fucking slimy for a man to supposedly want a life partner and “commits” to that person and knows that person’s expectations for a relationship. Then they get caught, or know they are going to get caught and start trotting out anthropological studies that 1. are not applicable in our 1st world culture, 2. lame justification for their unethical behavior, 3. point to all of these studies as the way of the future (that monogamy is an unsustainable old wives’ tale), and if you believe otherwise, you are a stick in the mud.

    • I read “The Ethical Slut” and found out I wasn’t a slut ethical or otherwise. These open relationships work in theory but not in reality. It’s a sort of “I’m happy you’re getting yours as long as I’m getting mine.” And as I stated above I believe a good portion of the people attracted to this lifestyle are inherently selfish or have a very serious underlying sexual issue including intimacy issues. There are always exceptions to the rule but I think it’s rare. I remember reading Starhawk’s book “The Fifth Sacred Thing” where they had open group sexual experiences and thinking how unlikely that really was. As a hedonist experience sure, but as a part of a normal healthy realistic non jealous society? Oh hell no. MJD my experience is the same as well with women I know who tried Polyamory.

      It’s frustrating as fuck to have worked so hard to have a good strong sense of my self as a woman and a healthy sense of sexuality and then to have that slowly and insidiously undermined by someone I loved and trusted. I think that’s part of that Narc grooming though. They slowly pushed us into things we weren’t comfortable with. It is creepy as hell to recognize my ex grooming other women too. I felt more violated and less respected by my ex than any other man in my sexual history. And it all happened like that frog in the pot who slowly gets heated up and then boiled to death.

      • Thank you , Kat. Your last paragraph hit me—because it’s exactly my situation. Groomed, pushed, violated and boiled. Fuck them.

        • EVERY SINGLE RESPONSE MAKES ME FEEL LESS AND LESS CRAZY! I swear serial cheating makes you feel like you are going INSANE! Like, KAT said, you have a strong sense of being who ypu are as a woman, confident in your sexuality. That started dwindling away pretty early, Insert my alcoholic ex ..Jekyll/ Hyde persona, Mr. nice guy when we are alone…as soon as we started going out, he was a caveman asshole to me in public…especially around his awful friends…but he wpuld talk so much shit about what they were doing to thier girls was so wrong, nd how he HATED his mom for cheating, His friends would be out with other women in front of me, so i thought, man that is shitty! Im glad mine is so vocal about being against it…but, tbese same guys i found out after the fact would let him bang girls in their beds while i was at home or at work..#1 Here is a guy thst is going to an adult college to get his bachelor’s after being in the military, making straight As & Bs to make a better life for US..( yeah right) but, cant make the decision on wether its morally right or wrong to cheat repeatedly on the woman who your playing house with…tbey give the excuses once his Ex who is catching feelings tells me all his dirty laudry because she probably getting promised hes going to leave me, and after he fucks up on my birthday he leaves, goes and stays with her, and then decides life aint so grand without his security blanket… Its who u hang out with, i always hated his friends & fam because they were toxic & unreliable. The VERY WKND of his graduation which happened to be my birthday as well, i called him on the way home from work, he was already buzzed, so decided i would go out with some friends, so i didnt have to worry about if i was going to have a nice time, he was out with friends already, i didnt even get a call or message to see how i was or if i was going to be ok getting home or WHERE HE WAS for tht matter, i got home at 3am he wasnt there, i couldnt get a hold of him, he drinks and drives so i was worried… the next morning i wake up still hadnt heard from him, by noon still nothing, i had his friends and fam looking at jail websites and calling hospitals, they all knew where he was ,he decides to finally call me at 2pm the next day! That was it!! After i told him where to fucking go! I was over it, he still went out on OUR boat and had a grand ol time, while i sit in yoga school completely pissed , somewhere im supposed to be learning , relaxed meditating…looking forward to celebrating a big weekend for both of us, i was waiting for 4 years for him to be done wih school, instead im wondering how the hell, someone who i care for fpr so much, and who i have suppofted for so long could have ZERO RESPECT for me!! Andcto top it ofc, i came home after yoga school at like 8 pm to findxa house full of wasted people that were out with him since the night before! ! I had to come home and kick everybody the fuck out, and argue with him about how messed up this was instead of enjoying MY OWN BIRTHDAY! I kept saying in the beginning ..this is a phase…it got worse & worse, by the end i was so worn.,only to discover the YYEARSSSS of serial cheating….i was like wtf was it all for?? It was absolutely fucking.pointless!!! He made me feel like i was “Nagging” him when i would be pissed at the end of the nights when wede go out for leaving me sitti.g alone while he would go hit on girls, then resentment built up, then a few years into us togther, i was turned off & wasnt having sex. #2 the shitty part is, while hes out hving all these good times, im depriving my own sexuality, and need to be feeling needed & attractive.Why would i want to give it to you, when u dont act like i exist until we are home alone? I think he saw me a mile away the first night, i didnt give it up for amonth or so, hes thinking, o yeah, i got me a good girl right here, (because he was charming and knew how to use it) shes got a good job, has morals where i dont have to worry about her if she goes out….and then.once i was hooked, he started sabotaging us, by then i was too far invested, emotionally & financially and we got a dog together, so i think thst was part of the plan to keep me locked in, bcuz he knew i couldn’tleave him or split them up..when i came home from work, everything that was of any value retail or emotionlly was GONE. And he just already had a place so i had zero idea where these things went…JUST GONE, i was devastated, i called him crying hysterically, he left his bed, and t.v and a bunch of his meani.gful shit there, which created a hige turmoil between us fighting, i lost 15 pounds in one week, couldnt sleep, couldnt eat, my hair was falling out, it was like a nightmare, , and i just kept finding out more & more stuff each day ,i would be at work trying to rehabilitate patients and help them exercise and sty motivated and slowly fallibg aprt from the the broken soul/heart to my outward appearance. I hsd to quit my job and leave the state, and th a t still didnt help, then i moved back to my home state & im still finding stuff out! Its been years and im still really messed up from it…boat, dog, 4 wheeler, the big jacked up truck i just loaned him my life savings to buy to get him to not have truck payments thst where killing our financial freedom ….all in the same weekend he graduated and my birthday…life events that are huge to people with partners that care….like gift giving, maybe planning a surprise trip or party for them…nope not this CHUMP…it terrifies me of my lack of judgement, to look at someon. Everyday and have ddiscussions on where are future is heading, talksxabout marriage, traveling abroad, then hving kids…and our life was really great when hexwas sober or it was just us drinking at the house, it was as soon as he hsd beer number 3 i could see the other guy strt to come out…and it was a disaster , i created my very own monster and let him destroy me….now, i have to rebuild everything i thought i knew about myself and my world, but this thread has been the most helpful by far out of the countless hours and sleepless nights i have come cross…thank you all for helping me see there is some sane people out there, that have started to shed some light on these people are

  • I’ve read that people with ADHD are more prone to infidelity due to their impulsiveness and need for excitement. My ex was extremely driven and couldn’t sit still, he sought excitement and always believed he was heading for “the next big thing.” He saw himself as a mover and shaker, but underneath all his bravado was a lot of insecurity and shame.

    • Long-term or serial infidelity requires a LOT of planning and deception. That’s not impulsive. And if you like excitement and novelty, as many people w/ADHD do, you can get an exciting hobby; rodeo riding, sky diving, snowmobiling at night w/the headlights off!

      Don’t forget that some people w/ADHD are also selfish assholes, and it’s not the ADHD that makes them that way.

  • I’m getting pretty sick of this biological deterministic ideology that comes out of scientific study. Society at large has a habit of taking something simple from a biological study and just frikkin’ RUNNING with it, or seeing it the way we want to see it and running with it.

    Take, for example, PMS. Hormone levels fluctuate and can lead to, in some women, physical pain from cramps, slight increase in sensitivity to pain, some emotional stress, or irritability. Pretty simple stuff. Society, and a lot of the idiots in it, like to take that to mean that women go crazy while on PMS, flip out, scream at their partners and cry uncontrollably at the drop of a hat. Some people take that even further to mean that women can’t hold certain jobs because of being “too emotional.”

    That’s totally not what the original statement said at ALL.

    Or, as another example, there was a study about 6 or so years ago that found a chemical in marijuana in liquid form, when injected into the cells, can help slow the growth of cancer cells and, in some situations, cause the cells to go into remission. The study itself said that this was 1) Only a chemical found in marijuana. 2) It was in liquid form. 3) Had to be injected into the cells. And 4) Was NOT a cure by any definition of the word.

    A bunch of organizations that want marijuana legalized and a few media outlets (as well as countless morons on internet blogs) took that to mean that smoking pot cures cancer.

    Again, TOTALLY NOT what the original result of the study said at ALL.

    To the point: The problem I have with studies like this is our society, especially with the explosion of narcissism and cheater apologists as of late, will take this information and just fucking RUN WITH IT.

    This study doesn’t say that cheating is permissible. It doesn’t say that people who cheat are incapable of controlling themselves. It doesn’t say that the biological underpinnings of infidelity are absolute imperatives that must be met. It basically just says that there are different areas of the brain that communicate with each other for different things at different times. It means that some people are more prone to feelings for multiple partners at once. Be they sexual or romantic.

    CL is right in that this is not answering the question of culpability. But it’s not supposed to. It’s just going to the very basic root of brain functions in human partner selection.

    That does not. By ANY means. Mean that cheating is hardwired into our systems as a biological imperative. It doesn’t mean that monogamy is unnatural. It doesn’t mean that we are all supposed to be bouncing around between partners, fucking each other’s brains out. And it doesn’t mean that the old “I couldn’t help myself” excuse holds any water. But goddamn if cheaters and the Reconciliation Industrial Complex aren’t going to RUN to hell and back with it!

    Interestingly enough, I found out why sex addiction/porn addiction was removed from the DSM. It’s because there is no consistent or credible scientific evidence to support that it’s actually a thing. Most “studies” on it are so flawed in their methods or so biased in their focus, that it was seen fit to dismiss the “evidence” and remove it from the DSM.

    Which, to us chumps, is good news. Sort of. It means that there is just no fucking excuse for the shit that our exes have pulled. The sex addiction was not “addiction.” It was the shitty character. The willful and purposeful choice to continue to deceive us. There was no “I have a problem” or “I have issues I need to work on.” No. Just character disorder and the refusal to self-reflect.

    The same goes for this study and others like it. Some people aren’t meant to be monogamous, sure. But that doesn’t mean that they are actually, physically, completely incapable of being HONEST about it. That’s a matter of choice. They know what they want, they make the choice to not express it. They make the choice to obtain it falsely.

    • Skeptical psychologists have a name for the phenomenon you are describing, Kara. It’s called BIO BUNK (and it is reductionist and simplistic) Humans are the only known species who have the a highly sophisticated capability for META-COGNITION. (A few animal exhibit the ability but on a rudimentary scale compared to humans.)

      Meta-cognition includes thinking about how we think, thinking about what we are thinking about, thinking about what we have learned and what we may need to learn, analyzing our own thinking patterns and beliefs, being critical of them, and seeking to change them. Meta-cognition plays heavily in the development of morals, values, ethics, and the complicated social systems that human create and live within.

      Humans are and always will be more than the sum of our biological parts and instinctive urges. Humans are highly influenced by culture and modeling (social learning)…and some of our social learning is just plain dumb and wrong.

      Do we have genetic or “hard wired” tendencies. Yes. Some are mapped and some are not. HOWEVER, genetic make up (including temperament) is only ONE factor influencing our behavior.

      Our brains do shape us, but we also shape and train our own brains. AND we can be aware of it when we are doing it.


      Anyone who might like a good read with some serious theory about nature v. nurture with respect to mental health and mental pathology might enjoy this read.

      Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me” by Carol Tavris and Eliot Aaronson

      (critics blurb below)

      “Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell?

      In this terrifically insightful, engaging new book, renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification.

      When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right— a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

      Backed by years of research, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

      Turn the page, but be advised: You will never be able to shun blame quite so casually again.”

        • Dear notyou,

          Thanks so much for book recommendation!

          Sounds like a ‘must-read’ for all us chumps!

          Will check it out this evening……

          Forge on, friends

          PS: Don’t worry about the ‘typos’….mistakes were made!!! hehehehe

          • Morning notyou & fellow Chumps!!

            Checked out the book notyou recommended.

            I bought the e-book from KOBO and downloaded last nite.

            Have already started reading it and just wanted to say “Thank You!!” to notyou!
            Is an excellent, high-quality book!

            Forge on, friends……

  • Good grief. It boils down to one thing – character. But then if that’s all there is to it, then it won’t make it to a Ted Talk topic.

  • You know, they show find the “overcoming” gene–the one where you’re given genetic predisposition to all kinds of dumbass behaviour, but choose not to indulge in it.

    The Choosing Humane, Understanding, Moral Personality gene?

    If, however, we want to do full genetic profiles of all members of society, sure, go ahead. We’ll have chip cards allowing exclusive entry to bars based on whether you are a cheater or non-cheater. Won’t have to worry about glitches in our pickers.

    Murderers? Special island for them. They’ll wipe each other out, and we’ll have that gene out of the gene pool in no time.

  • I couldn’t believe the people who ‘looked the other way’ when they found out my husband was found cheating with his ho-worker. His ‘Christian’ boss turned the other cheek. No one acted like he did one damn thing wrong that I know of anyway. He sure as hell never lost his job. He was married before me and was screwing around with a work study student and STILL kept his job. Talk about the good old boys network at higher institutions of education. The really painful part was that people ignored ME and acted like I had done something wrong. It was all so horrible. This is the guy who told me I was his second wife and after we were married I found out I was his fifth. He’s still with his schmoopie after 6 years. I guess it was twu luv.

    • “He’s still with his schmoopie after 6 years. I guess it a twu luv.”

      Gio, it ain’t over til it’s over. Just because they’ve been together for 6 years doesn’t mean they’ll be together after 7. Or 16. Or 31.

      ANYONE can be in a relationship. ANYONE can ‘pair up’ with someone long term. Just think of how many men and women who are in long-term relationships with ABUSERS for 15, 25 and even 40+ years. Yet, the relationship is obviously dysfunctional.

      Longevity of a relationship is NOT a reliable ‘symptom’ of a HEALTHY relationship. It simply means that two people are willing to tolerate each others’ shortcomings for a spell…
      …until they don’t.


  • I don’t know if infidelity is genetic as much as it’s behavior learned from FOO.

    XFIL was a serial cheater who cleaned out the checking account and left town one day after 20 years of marriage. Ten years later, he married OW without divorcing XMIL. When XMIL discovered the 2nd marriage, she divorced him. He’s gaslighted and tormented her ever since, because he got off on keeping secrets from both women, and XMIL ruined all his fun – and almost cost him OW.

    XH condemned the manipulative behavior for decades.

    Yet, I’m seeing the same type thing from XH, albeit it to a much lesser (and legal) degree. He delights in giving me baked goods he gets from OW’s church. When he comes to pick up S11, he’ll stand in front of me and text other people. His new game is to not answer the phone when I (rarely) call, then call or text back late at night when he knows I’m drifting off to sleep. I don’t get it. I ignore it by and large, but can’t help but notice how much like XFIL he’s becoming.

    So, genetics…or just selective bad behavior?

    • Imprinting?

      This gets me too. The worst thing I could have ever said to the ex for many, many years (which I never said) was “You’re just like your father” He hated that coming from his sisters or mother. And he really wasn’t like his dad, until his dad died. Then he started wearing the same kind of hat his dad wore, talking like his dad, and “you’re just like your father” was a compliment!

      Well, I never wanted to be married to a man like his father, so it’s just as well.

      • Where did I hear that once you hit a certain age you become your parents? I don’t know. My ex was scared as hell of becoming his dad. He’s far worse. My parents both cheated on each other but are still together. My mom cheated on my dad when I was 18 and my dad was discovered having an affair with a coworker about three years ago. (I’m in my 30’s) Their relationship confuses me but my siblings and I are all loyal as heck to our partners.

    • my cheater ex-h was messed up in the head. He would just show up at my house, then call me while in my driveway between 9.30-10.30 pm on a school night and demand to see our children and cuss me out, knowing for a fact they were in bed by then. His latest time was after midnight, banging on my door and calling me, saying he wants to talk to me. He was doing that because he thought he was above the law and just to terrorize me, which he did for a long time, because he couldn’t handle the fact that I finally left him after his continuing abuse and cheating. He was nuts/ still is…He had found the #2 is out of the picture, so now he shows up my door whenever he feels like it..I don’t open my door and I turn off my phone..After the crazy ex-h I met my smooth talking, serial cheating asswipe ex #2, but this one wasn’t crazy like the first one, he was sweet, funny, caring, opposite personality, except serial cheating, gaslighting and lying part…I think that’s why it hurt more the second time around..It seems I have a bad picker and I wont date anymore. I am much happier being a single mom and so is my children. I will never allow anyone to abuse me in anyway ever again. Your ex-h doing that just to get under your skin and he will continue, if he thinks its getting to you. Turn off your phone and do not answer his calls/texts after certain time, hopefully he will get the message..

      and its a learned, selective and chosen behavior…

  • On a slightly connected note: here’s a clip from Inside the Animal Mind by Chris Packham. (copy and paste the link into your browser). Even the little, little Capuchin monkey, with it’s tiny little head, can figure out what is unfair, and a chimpanzee has a better grasp of empathy, fairness and justice than any ‘poor me’, gaslighting cheater!

    • oh cool – you don’t even have to copy and paste – just click on the link (didn’t look like it was going to work like that for a mo)!

  • “If science can help us at all, perhaps it can identify cheaters so we can avoid them and chumps can stick to their own kind.”

    So it would be kind of like a “Minority Report” for infidelity? Interesting.

  • I like this post CL.

    It’s tiring that we study f*ck ups and have bright people spend their lives trying to understand and make sense of them. I would be great to understand and learn from people who manage to keep their sh*t together, keep a job, budget, treat people kindly, take care of others, etc. I’d like to see a study on resilience. I’d like to see a study on folks that deal with unimaginable heartache and find purpose and happiness in life again. THAT is more interesting to me than trying to justify what is essentially, lying.

    I’d betcha that somewhere in my DNA, from waaay back in the day, there might be a lingering gene that makes me want to go out a club a cheater, but happily I have a developed brain that tells me, “No. Not. Ok.”

    Really, it’s not that complicated.

  • “Did we evolve to be so kind? Is there a chump gene?” Yes, there well might be. Evolutionary biologists have studied the existence of altruism in other species and believe it is hard-wired into humans also. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Helen Fisher–Social Darwinism doesn’t always mean humans act only in their own self-interest.

    Here’s a link to one of many articles on this subject:

  • I hate how these research studies focus on the outcome and not the character traits that leads to the behaviour.

    I don’t believe there is a “cheaters gene”. Defective genes don’t make people cheat.

    People cheat because, for whatever reason – genetic or environmental, they have the propensity to lie, manipulate and disrespect people who offer them nothing but love and kindness.

    That is all that lies at the core of a cheater’s stone cold heart.

    Love the murder analogy Chump Lady!

  • In the end, cheating is trying to get away with something immoral and unethical. It defines one’s character (or lack thereof). And it hurts, deeply. If you cheat, you tell the world you suck.

  • That’s nothing but junk fucking science combined with pure silliness and a decent vocabulary. The end result is smoke and mirrors designed to make cheaters feel real god-damned good about themselves and chumps who don’t know any better feel sorry for them.

    Number 8 was especially disingenuous. “Infidelity doesn’t necessarily signal an unhappy relationship. Regardless of the correlation between relationship dissatisfaction and adultery, among individuals engaging in infidelity in one study, 56% of men and 34% of women rated their marriage as “happy” or “very happy,” suggesting that genetics may also play a role in philandering.”
    Sooo… using words like “necessarily” and “suggesting” makes for valid, scientific results, does it? No. Yes, these asshats probably are happy – because they’re cake-eaters who learned their trade from their daddies. Whatever.

    Fuck You Helen Fisher.

    • Keep in mind , Dr. Fishers male companion/ lover/ mate/ husband/ w.t.f.ever/
      cheated ON HER. She decided to research infidelity to understand all the nuisances. They had “worked it out” and are still “happily together”.

    • Actually? Fisher’s finding about the happy marriage cheater? Echoes Pittman and his research.

      It should make a chump feel better- I do not understand why you think she deserves a fuck you for that.

      What the science of that means? Is that it really and truly is the cheater who is screwed up. Not the relationship. Not the chump. The cheater.

  • Hmm…two out of the three people who have cheated on me (yes I am 3x a chump!) were other women, in same-sex relationships…so, how exactly does that fit into this theory if it is all about “mating”? LOL. The fact that cheating also happens in gay relationships suggests it has nothing to do with reproduction.

    • Thanks BP for pointing out that often missed logic! I also do not buy the promiscuous cavewoman advantage. Even today it’s pretty plain to see that infidelity doesn’t end with children being better taken care of. They are often abandoned emotionally, physically and financially by one of their parents. Sure non monogamy allows for mating with more than one person, but it also guarantees doubt about who’s genetics are being passed on. If you want to guarantee your offspring it makes more sense to be exclusive and devote your resources to those kids. I’m not a caveman sociologist but I also doubt that cavemen and women didn’t suffer from jealousy, which is not an emotion that encourages safety of partners or their offspring. It also makes no sense that a woman who sleeps around when she is pair bonded would have a line of other men ready and waiting to take care of her or her kids in the event that her mate dies? Fisher assumes a dynamic within that community that is unrealistic to human behavior. They are both primitively driven yet more culturally enlightened than we are? I’m sure there is truth to the imperative to spread genes and create genetic diversity but I think anything that evolved because of that happened when we were still monkeys.

  • I’m happy to argue with the science. Helen Fisher is an anthropologist. She writes pop science books that are based on speculation. She advises a dating website.

    Her first book argued that humans are only designed to stay in love for four years. The theory was that when we evolved, we only needed the guy around for four years until the baby was weaned. How did she know this? Well, apparently in more modern societies, divorce peaked around the fourth year. Never mind that most people in those studies didn’t get divorced. Never mind that we had no data at all on what happened in the past or in societies that might look like our ancestors did.

    Guess what? Actual research done by some of Fisher’s colleagues shows that romantic love can lost more than four years! She was surprised to find that out, but maybe she should have looked for data before running around for years saying love only lasts four years.

    More recently Fisher has written about brain science. She came up with a theory that since there are four neurotransmitters, she could write a questionnaire to figure out which one you had the most of. Then she would classify you and help you find the right match on a dating website. The questionnaire has never been tested in any way to see if it classifies people well or makes good matches, but she promotes it as science.

  • Back to infidelity and science.

    The idea that people are hard-wired to cheat because it offers us advantages in evolution is speculation, not evidence of anything. It should at least be balanced with the argument that we are also hard-wired to be faithful and to be jealous because keeping our mate helps our kids survive – this applies to men as well as women, maybe more so.

    I am extremely doubtful that we know enough about the brain to find the brain architecture for love, whatever that would mean. There are three parts to the brain, but that applies to everything – stealing, killing, oppressing other people, etc.

    Guys with gene that made them more likely to be unfaithful were also less likely to hug or be nice to their partners. Gene Weingarten labelled it the “jackass gene” and I think he had a point.

    The best, most well-done surveys on infidelity found about 20% of people admit they have done it, slightly more for men, slightly less for women.

    While infidelity exists across cultures, it’s important to remember that how much cultures tolerate it varies. Maybe culture can affect our behavior!

    Of course, the bottom line is what CL says – so what? Even more than stealing and killing, we could make an argument that people are hard-wired to lie. Think about it – 20% of people have cheated on their partner, but 100% have lied at some time in their life. Lying can help you survive and pass on your genes. Lying exists across cultures, even though society tries to stop it. Happily, nobody tries to excuse it.

    • Tolerance for infidelity varies across cultures, but interestingly, it’s often related to power imbalances between men and women. In macho or patriarchal cultures, where the power and the money lie primarily with the men, men have the power to impose ‘acceptance’ of THEIR infidelity. I saw a lot of this when I lived in Brazil in the 70s; the women either consoled themselves with thoughts of how ‘superior’ they were, morally, or retaliated with their own infidelities, but had to be VERY discreet about them, because the consequences for them if caught could be huge – killing your wife’s lover was often still excused in the courts as a ‘crime of passion’, and certainly the wife’s adultery was a good justification to divorce her, leaving her with very little, WHEN the man wanted that.

  • Chump Lady, thank you for yet another excellent post. It counters our larger society’s current mindfuckery about infidelity. I saw Fisher’s TED talk some time ago, gave it some credence because I was trying to untangle the skein.

    I am now inclined to believe that we humans are divided into two general camps: either you give a shit about other people’s feeling or you don’t. I now firmly believe that a selfish person will always find a way to rationalize his/her behavior.

    • Yes, you are so right! I think it alot of it has to do with the excitement of being sneaky and feeling that rush of something new, if things get a little stale at home instead of focusing all that lustful energy on creating new ways to fullfill your partner, its easier to tell the person wjo is at home wjo seems “boring” now because they are either exhausted from work or dont feel like going out because the vdry person who is labeling their” boring” spouse doesnt have any excitement from the partner to take them somewhere new, or to suggest fantasy role play meet ups like they just met, or instead they sext message. Thier ex some crazy shit theyve never EVER said to you ( i found that before) that was devastating, because he MADE me befriend her saying they have is ZERO SEXUAL amytjimg between. Them,, yet nother ressom for a rush in something, shes aloud in my home and we can.go hang out, she hates it but, ive got her convinced, but thats way easier than to get ypur partner thsts bored a d fuck to get dressed up and be excited again. People forget, when ypur with someone for a while yes you can get comfortable and not be flashy like you did when you first met, and that is ok, but its ,not cool when ypu are verblly tell them what you need or want and they dontvlisten, its a recipe for disaster. I used to tell my ex serial cheater all the time the things i needed or wanted, and all I ever wanyed was him…EVER! And he just kept doing the same things over and over, to dipite me, i think he felt like theor would be too much competition for him if we went out, like for him to compete with other men andcwanted to kepp me sheltered in case a fling/s of his walkex up to him snd blew his cover but also incase ppeople looked & said something…i think its eeasier to just say oh, shes just boring , i would rather just tell her im going to a buddies house, or the gym or working late, so he knows u would nver question that, so its easy for him /her to either say” o im newly single, my SO nrglects me and doesn’t like to do anything tbey are boring,, or that they just got out of a long relationship and theyve only been split aboit 3 months” ive heard all this shit…or if you just asume because they are out there laying it on thick and acting single, you dont ask, they damn sure aint gonna mention it! And a few drinks later, they say they are too drunk to drive they staying at tgeir buddies house or they are in the bsthroom stall or the parking lot gettinit in…girls get real thirsty when theyve had a few drinks and a couple lines said the right way, and dudes get real confident when theyre budfies are stsnding in the sidelines waiting to seal the deal either for the ego trip or bcuz his buddy can have the drunk friend to easily manipulate. ..and if anyones paryner is out of town, they dont care if tbeir is pictures of yall two coupled up all over the house, they will be in your brd or the spare room …i fpund chicks clothes months afyer i went out of town, in my spare bedroom and he blamed it on his froend, i said ok, well i know no bktch is going to go to a guys house with a bunch of guys alone, WHERE. Was her friend and wtf didnt u tell me u hd females in my house while i was gone? I said nd what wss the other one doing JUST out here talking to u, most girls wouldn’t be down with tht either. …it was all lies…who knows how many and what really happened. …hecknowsci wouldn’t trip if he would’ve told me straight up, i was very, very cool about stuff…i trusted him with all my soul, its a rush to them to do something taboo…it does stem from messed up daddy mommy isdues, but come on man…of your with me you know where i stand on things straight up, i tell yoi from the start, im cool with alot bit, lying and making me look like damn fool is not on my plam….its just they dont give a shit about you, and you have status or something they are lacking , and thst msy very well b a good soul, misery loves company, if they cant be in control in some way, will get it by giving below standard peoplea chsnce bbecause those people think they like them, make them feel good for the few hours witch gives them a power trip, which helps them come home snd treat you better orcworse depending hpw twisted they are aboit it…then its. Vicoous cycle sorry for the typos…but i think its more the thrill of the hunt, and somethingvfreshvand new, tgey dontvwantvyou to know because then its competitive no mstter how u look at it…i think thstscreally tge science of it…ego boost, toxic friends, wrong environment with said friends, no respect bcuz what YOU dont know, wont hurt ya, and and thrill of the kill….

  • I don’t see the study as rationalizing cheating behavior — I see it as more support for the thesis of this blog — leave a cheater, gain a life.

    Despite one’s genes, inheritablity of cheating behavior, etc., of course one always has the choice whether to or not. However, if someone cheats even once, do not waste time on reconciliation, as they are likely to continue doing it.

    As has been expressed above, I do believe that someday they will be able to test for a gene that tells whether someone is likely to cheat.

    Cheater apologists (usually chumps who decide to reconcile) love to say that anyone can cheat — I don’t believe it. I had plenty of opportunities to do so, and many of my friends told me about situations they were in where someone wanted to cheat with them — but they walked away and told their spouses.

    Every time I read another infidelity board and see about someone who is reconciling, I always ask myself how long until the next affair is revealed. There are an astonishing number of people out there who take back their cheater and then years later — sometimes even a decade or more — the cheater cheats again.

    I think having science like this to point to may help some chumps get out of bad relationships earlier.

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