Adultery has near universal disapproval. Yet still, it has become more visible and prevalent across society. It challenges our established morals of what is acceptable behavior in relationships and marriage. Government officials, celebrities, and the like are not immune to the terrors that infidelity can put on a family.
Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not a spouse. History has always considered the practice to be immoral, and most religions forbid against it. However it's something that isn't looking like it will stop anytime soon. What has changed over the years to make it become a more acceptable part of today's society?
The History of Adultery
The rise of infidelity didn't just start in the modern 2000 years. There are many points throughout history where cheating spiked for one reason or another. This can help us understand why infidelity is on the rise today.
- Ancient Greece: The Ancient Greeks did not view sexuality in the same way we do today. Back then, they viewed it as something more open and fluid. Sexual freedom became more acceptable as woman became land owners and their position in society rose. They considered it a gift from God.
- Beginning of Christianity: The earliest Christians did not understand the Christian doctrine in the detailed way we do today. They believed that because their sins were forgiven, that they were able to freely commit any sins they were once denied, including sexual morality. The Apostle Paul later addressed this in his teachings to help clarify the Bible's text.
- Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, men in the upper class were expected to marry a virgin and marry someone that was of high ranking. Before getting hitched, though, there was an expectation that they would have to prove their virility with others.
- Early U.S. History: If you lived in America when it first started, there weren't many laws in place. No divorces were allowed because there was no legal way for a couple to end their marriage. Therefore adultery became commonplace. In Maryland in 1701 there was the first divorce law put into place, but it was only granted to those whose marriage went through adultery.
- Early 1900's: Divorce rates were low during this time, but higher for women than men. This is most likely due to adultery, since that was the only reason one could get divorced.
- 1930's: The stress of the Great Depression is believed to be a huge factor in divorce rates quadrupling during this time period. Furthermore, the 1920's celebrated a much looser lifestyle than before.
- World War II: Many marriages during this time were the result of young people feeling pressure to get married since males were quickly being shipped off to war. This led to marriages where the couples didn't know each other well, which caused a spike in divorce rates.
- 1950's: Divorce, during this time, was still only allowed on the grounds of adultery. Due to this, there was a steady increase of divorce rates (twice as many as the Great Depression).
- 1960's and 1970's: Society was going through some major changes during this time period. With the Vietnam War in full swing, this was the era of "free love". Civil Rights and Women's rights were being fought for like never before. History tells us that sexual exploitation was increased during this time.
This now all leads us to the 2st century. Once again, society has been going through some major changes and shifts. People are viewing marriage and relationships differently, which is causing rates of infidelity and divorce to increase. The disillusionment of marriage and our disposable mentality seems to be at the root of it.
Changes in the 21st Century
Though many religions are very against infidelity, the social normal and laws have changed to be more lenient. Adultery continues to be strictly prohibited in some countries like Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, yet is decriminalized in nearly all industrial societies. The United States is one of the only developed countries where it still can be a criminal offense. Various forms of adultery can be a misdemeanor in Florida and Utah, for example. Other states consider it a felony. Prosecutions, however, are very rare.
In a global survey across 40 countries that covered more than 75 percent of the world's population found that 78 percent believed in some form that married people having an affair was unacceptable morally. Due to people believing it to be immoral, it can be hard to get accurate numbers on the rate of adultery in today's society. It is believed that the estimates which are mainly based on self-reporting are likely to be lower than actual levels, because those involved are reluctant to admit their wrongdoings to researchers.
Despite these challenges, it appears that 2005 rates were around 22 percent while 2016 surveys suggest it's now closer to 33 percent. Men are more likely to commit adultery than women, but that gap is closing slowly.
One reason for these increasing rates is because the way marriage is looked at has changed quite a bit from the last few decades. Marriage is no longer considered the permanent, sacred institution that it once was. Today, there are increased incidence of premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, separation, remarriage, blended families, single parenthood, and individualistic social values and expectations. This leads to overall increases in adultery.
In general, overall changes in society feed into the reasons why infidelity is on the rise. Today it is easier than ever to get on social media and contact old flings, despite being in a monogamous relationship. The easy access to communicate with others, decreased rates of religion, overall lack of respect for marriage, and an increase in an individual-focused culture are just a few of the many reasons this change has happened. Your marriage doesn’t have to end in this pain, though. Open communication, trust and compatibility will help you to keep your own marriage away from this destruction.