Infidelity can be heartbreaking. Sadly, it’s often a part of life. According to modern estimates, about 25–72 percent of married men cheat. Yes, that’s a wide range, but researchers often have trouble getting accurate information from cheaters (for obvious reasons).
With that said, new research might shed some light on the subject.
According to a study conducted by the University of Tennessee,
The largest group of the participants claimed that they were unfaithful due to an interdependence problem. Aspects including poor communication, a lack of intimacy, or a lack of interest caused people to seek out other options.
Other participants cited the need for independence, noting that they wanted more control or autonomy. Finally, a third, smaller group admitted to cheating because they were attracted to someone else and couldn’t resist the rush and excitement of infidelity.
The study holds important implications for modern relationships.
However, it’s also possible that millennial attitudes towards long-term relationships have changed considerably.
More millennials are living at home with their parents than any other generation. Debt obligations, lack of job opportunities, and the cost of independent living have kept many millennials from striking out on their own, and with fewer financial resources, millennials are taking more time to get married.
There’s another issue: Some millennials simply don’t want to get married.
“Millennials aren’t big on tradition,” relationship expert and author April Masini told Bustle. “They prefer hanging out to dating, renting to buying and living together to marriage. It’s not that they don’t want a commitment—they do. They are having meaningful relationships and there have been studies that show they’re actually having less sex at their age than prior generations—so it’s not they want
Given that millennials are less likely to be involved in serious relationships than people from other generations, they may consider infidelity to be less problematic.
Another explanation of millennial infidelity? It’s a natural process.
“Emerging adulthood is a unique developmental stage in which young people have a lot of figuring out to do, and it’s important to consider the developmental context in which infidelity occurs,” said Jerika C. Norona, a graduate student at the University of Tennessee and leader of the infidelity study. “This way, our interventions can be specialized and consider what emerging adults are going through as individuals and as romantic partners.”
Despite all this talk about infidelity, there’s some evidence that millennials are actually more faithful than older generations. Surveys conducted by The Institute for Family Studies indicates that millennials might be less likely to cheat—once they’re actually married.
“Starting after 2004, Americans over 55 began reporting rates of extramarital sex that were about five or six percentage points higher than were being offered by younger adults,” says Utah professor of Professor of Family and Consumer Studies Nicholas Wolfinger. “By 2016, 20 percent of older respondents indicated that their marriages were nominally adulterous, compared to 14 percent for people under 55.”
In other words, while millennials may have different reasons for cheating than their predecessors, they’re potentially more committed when they do enter into long-term relationships.