Does Opportunity Play a Role in Marital Infidelity?

Nothing kills a marriage relationship more quickly or thoroughly than infidelity. Despite living in a culture that doesn’t necessarily apply fidelity to casual relationships, it is an expectation of marriage. Vows exchanged at the altar are expected to be kept forever. When they aren’t kept, asking why is a normal reaction.

The counselors at Relationships & More in Westchester County, NY say that infidelity is something they deal with on a regular basis. They also say that it is fairly common for an unfaithful spouse to be unable to adequately explain the reasons behind infidelity. ‘It just happened’ is a common explanation.

Does this suggest that opportunity may play a role in marital infidelity? In other words, could it be that some unfaithful spouses do not actually go out looking for someone else? Rather, an opportunity presents itself and they take the opportunity.

  • Money and Marital Infidelity

A number of studies looking at the link between money and relationship breakdown suggest opportunity could be a bigger factor than many people are willing to believe. One particular study out of the University of Connecticut showed that:

  • men who are entirely financially dependent on their wives are five times more likely to cheat
  • men who make significantly more money than their wives are also more likely to cheat
  • the men least likely to cheat are those whose financial situations are roughly equivalent to their wives.

Interestingly, women who are entirely dependent on their husbands for their financial needs are not likely to cheat. The same goes for women who make more than their husbands. This lines up with other studies that show men cheat on their wives or partners at twice the rate as women.

  • More Opportunity to Cheat

Without even knowing it, the studies linking income to infidelity may prove that opportunity has something to do with it. For instance, men who rely exclusively on their wives for financial support do not have a job to keep them occupied 8 to 10 hours per day. Even if there are children involved, men are not likely to put the same amount of effort into housework when the kids are in school. That leaves a lot of hours during the day to do other things.

On the other end of the scale are men who make a lot of money. With their high-paying jobs come longer working hours, opportunities to travel, and many more new people to meet. This can all add up to more opportunities to cheat, even among men who are not looking to do so.

  • It’s Still Not Right

Now this is not to say that marital infidelity is okay if people are not purposely looking for it. It’s not. Marital infidelity is never the right thing. And yet, intent means a lot. Someone not looking to cheat but not actively working to prevent cheating can stumble across an opportunity and find themselves unable to resist.

Ultimately, couples have to determine what they want to do once marital infidelity takes place. Some couples inevitably decide that things are too broken to fix. Others try to work on their relationships but end up failing. Still others go from infidelity straight to divorce. There is no standard we can apply across the board.

Unfortunately, marital infidelity is a reality. It has been a problem for as long as men and women have been marrying. But maybe some of the problem can be traced back to opportunity. And if so, it could be that avoiding opportunities is the best way to avoid infidelity. Eliminate opportunities to cheat and cheating may be less likely.