5 Myths About Infidelity Debunked

Infidelity is one of the last remaining sexual taboos since many people remain steadfast in their traditional views surrounding monogamy. But it’s 2019 and we have barely exposed the tip of the iceberg of infidelity.

It’s no surprise that more than three-quarters of cheaters believe that as a society people should be more open to talking about infidelity. The problem is, antiquated assumptions and beliefs lead many to classify all cheaters as inherently bad people without pause to examine the facts of why people might choose this path. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not open to the reality that they aren’t satisfying their partner and are unwilling to talk about how they can work on their relationship forcing infidelity to become a closeted behavior many turn to – often as a last resort.

For people who don’t understand infidelity, here’s what our members have to say:

Be open to understanding other people’s situations – 28%

I don’t care about what those people think – 22%

I love my spouse and we have a marriage that works for us – 14%

Divorce isn’t always the best or easiest option – 14%

Walk a mile in my shoes – 11%

Not every marriage turns out to be happily ever after – 10%

So, do people treat those who cheat so harshly because they genuinely think it’s wrong or because they simply don’t want to acknowledge the difficult realities of monogamy? In 2019, where other barriers are being broken down, we’re attempting to break down any and all barriers to allow a better understanding of why people cheat and why infidelity continues to be such a widespread phenomenon in modern marriages.

We surveyed our members to glean insights into the mind of a cheater in order to break down some of the common misconceptions concerning the controversial topic of straying outside ones marriage.[1]

Myth #1: once a cheater, always a cheater

More than three-quarters of cheaters believe that they would be treated worse if people knew they were having an extramarital affair. But how can they feel comfortable talking about their situations when they know it would be met with disdain? Cheating is a closeted behavior, however it’s not something people are predisposed to do. In fact, more than two-thirds (67%) of cheaters do not believe that once someone cheats, they will always cheat, it comes down to finding what they are looking for than being reliant on their need to stray.

Infidelity can be viewed as an immoral behavior, but when understanding the reasons why people cheat, we can see a different side to it. Nearly all respondents (96%) say they would not characterize themselves as having low or no morals. Consider this, if someone were to withhold sex from their partner in a relationship, that is breaking the bond and promise that was understood and made when agreeing to be married. How is that different than engaging in those activities elsewhere?[2]

Myth #2: men cheat in relationships more often than women

In 2018, Ashley Madison membership statistics showed that there were actually more women actively using the married-dating site than men were with a gender ratio of 1.11 active females for every one active paid male.[1]

“Women are successfully navigating their own affairs and their extramarital activity, as a perk of their emboldened desires, their empowered relationship with their own sexuality,”  says Dr. Tammy Nelson, sex and relationship therapist and author of When You’re the One Who Cheats and The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity. “This has leveled the  playing field that has traditionally belonged to men.

Myth #3: you will never be able to trust your partner after an affair

Some members of Ashley Madison have in fact found that going through an affair resulted in a stronger marriage with their spouse, ultimately improving their lives both sexually and emotionally. Infidelity can allow couples to finally have an honest and real conversation about their feelings, desires, and needs – a conversation that may have once been swept under the rug.

Cheaters are like anyone else, they have just found themselves in a position where they can no longer go on without having their basic needs met – like intimacy, affection, and physical touch. With 94% of respondents saying they do not believe cheaters are bad people, and 65% believing that cheaters have a bad reputation, there needs to be more compassion in the discussion around infidelity.

Myth #4: men cheat for sex and women cheat for emotional connections

Common assumptions lead us to believe that women only cheat for emotional reasons and that men only cheat for sex, but the reality is quite the opposite as more than three-quarters of married women (79%) say they cheat for more than only emotional reasons. While more than half of married men say they cheat for sex, 46% do admit that they cheat for more than that.

“Affairs are complex and people who cheat don’t fall into a single category of personality disordered cliché ridden perpetrator. They are people like you or I who are seeking something. What they are looking for varies from person to person and relationship to relationship,” says Nelson.

Myth #5: affairs only occur in unhappy relationships

An unhappy marriage is far from the sole reason why people cheat. In fact, when asked if they cheat because they are in an unhappy marriage, 61% of respondents said “no”. If people could be more open to talking about infidelity, why it happens, and how it can be prevented, a light can be shone on the realities of those who stray. More than two-thirds (69%) of cheaters say people they know are not informed about why people cheat.

“It’s easy to assume everyone is a bad person for even thinking about cheating, but our members have very human stories about their own personal struggles with monogamy, and we know a lot of people are facing these similar situations in their marriage,” says Isabella Mise, director of communications for Ashley Madison. “Many of our members tell us that they love their partners and the lives they have built together, but in many cases the intimacy has vanished completely in the marriage. Rather than abandon a relationship they’ve invested so much in, they see value in outsourcing some of their physical needs instead.”

Despite being villainized, 63% of cheaters say they are okay with people assuming negative things about those who cheat. And while for many, their infidelity will remain a closeted behavior to those they are closest to, almost two-thirds (62%) say they feel that the people on Ashley Madison are a community of like-minded people – which is why we continue to see people gravitate towards the platform.

AshleyMadison.com is the original destination for married dating and the global leader for affairs. With more than 60 million member accounts worldwide since 2002, Ashley Madison is the premiere destination for married dating.


[1] Based on signups to Ashley Madison in 2018


[1] Survey of 2,795 members of Ashley Madison between January 21, 2019 and February 13, 2019.

[2] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/behind-the-affair-the-real-reasons-people-cheat-9mwdf33tn

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