“I think that in any language when you have a real relationship, and there is love and respect between people, infidelity is always something difficult to accept – whether you are Chinese, British, French. I think that is a universal concept… or problem.”—Jean-Michel Jarre.
It’s the classic situation; a couple’s happy and tranquil existence is ruined when it’s revealed that one or both of the people in the relationship is secretly seeing at least one other person. However, people’s views on infidelity and adultery are more varied than you would think.
Some of the greatest love stories in our culture technically involve an affair of some sort. Where do our feelings on affairs and infidelity stem from? Find out more in these 42 deceptive facts about affairs and infidelity.
42. It’s a Coin Toss
According to studies, around half of all Americans will have an extra-marital affair at some point in their lives.
41. Fame is Fickle
In the world of Hollywood, affairs are often the subject of scandal which millions of fans are eager to eat up. It should surprise nobody that an affair made public has led to very negative reception in the past.
Of course, the response, as well as its impact, has often depended on the specific people involved and the era in which they lived. Where one person’s career has died, another person’s career has endured despite any personal issues.
40. Social Climbing?
In older eras, the idea of a mistress was seen as a common thing among those who were wealthy enough to maintain a mistress on the side. Mistresses could work their way to positions of power and influence, even as their positions were open secrets.
39. Love is Burning Thing
One of the most famous love stories of country music is the one between Johnny Cash and June Carter. They were married from 1968 until Cash’s death in 2003. As some people will know, the story of their path to true love was portrayed in Walk the Line, which was careful to include the detail that Cash was very much a married man when he began an affair with June.
38. Get a Grip, Hank
It’s safe to say that Henry VIII was never the most faithful husband, but when he became besotted with Anne Boleyn, he went one step further than normal. In the desire for a male heir—and, we’re assuming a frustrated Anne trying to secure a future for herself—Henry VIII attempted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon.
When the Pope refused to allow the divorce, Henry broke from the Catholic Church and formed a new one, with himself at the head of it. English history, and to a lesser extent world history, was changed forever, and all because of a man’s affair.
37. Anonymous Affair
Not all affairs require physical contact. One aspect of infidelity which has emerged more prominently with the rise of the Internet is online infidelity, in which the people involved may not even know each other. In this case, it is the connection and investment which matters rather than physical actions.
36. Beware the Office
A study carried out by the University of Washington concluded that of those married people who had had extramarital affairs, 46% of women and 62% of men had such affairs with people whom they had met at their workplaces.
35. Let’s Have the Numbers!
According to a study done by the National Health and Social Life Survey, sexual infidelity was carried out by 4% of married men, 16% of cohabitating men, and 37% of dating men. By contrast, the same behavior was only found in 1% of married women, 8% of cohabitating women, and 17% of dating women.
34. Helen of Troy
In one of the most famous examples of an affair in the world of fiction and mythology, Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, is persuaded, either by human or god interference, to abandon her husband to run away with Paris of Troy.
This sparks the Trojan War, which launches a thousand ships in the name of a ten-year war to avenge honor and retrieve the wayward wife.
33. The Trojans of Old Hollywood?
One of the biggest scandals in Old Hollywood involved the five-year marriage of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher’s marriage ending when their friend Elizabeth Taylor, grieving for the loss of her husband, found some comfort in the arms of another man. That man was Eddie Fisher, and things turned romantic between them. When Reynolds and Fisher split up, Fisher promptly got married to Taylor instead.
32. Doubling Down on the Brangelina Comparison
As if that scandal wasn’t enough for Elizabeth Taylor, she eventually ended her marriage to Eddie Fisher when she embarked on an affair with acclaimed British actor Richard Burton. Both Burton and Taylor were married when they began an affair on the set of Cleopatra (ironic).
The film famously became one of the most expensive ones ever made, which was only made more controversial by the scandal around its co-leads.
31. Changing Times? I Think Not
Some people have argued that the emergence of technology has made it much easier for people to commit adultery or infidelity without being caught. However, despite such websites as Ashley Madison actively helping people to cheat and get away with it, studies have failed to see an increase in cheating from two decades ago. Maybe everyone is just getting better at lying?
30. You’ve Got Mail
Despite the lack of evidence that technology causes the number of affairs to increase, one study claimed that around 10% of all affairs begin online.
29. Player Prince
Before he became King Edward VII, Albert Edward was incredibly well-known for his many affairs. His wife, Princess Alexandra, was said to have been fully aware of his infidelities and found her peace with them.
28. Prodigal Son
There were at least two people who never really came to peace with Edward’s playboy status: his parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
By 1861, the Prince of Wales was gaining his army experience in Ireland… while smuggling a mistress along for the ride. However, word got out to his ailing father, who ignored his medical situation to travel to Ireland just to give his son a personal lecture.
Sadly, Prince Albert succumbed to illness two weeks after his visit, leading a grief-stricken Victoria to blame her son for Albert’s death. She would even later write to her eldest daughter, complaining she was unable to “look at him without a shudder.”
Way to break your parent’s heart, Eddie.
Perhaps the funniest story of Albert Edward’s infidelities involves a legendary exchange between him and Lillie Langtry, a courtesan who became a royal mistress. An exasperated Albert Edward was alleged to have exclaimed “I’ve spent enough on you to build a battle-ship!” whereupon Langtry retorted “And you’ve spent enough in me to float one!” Frankly, there’s not enough ice in the world for that burn.
26. It’s… Complicated
There is a strong belief that if somebody cheats, they will likely do so again in the future. However, while there is a case to be made about repeat cheaters, another strong factor is the reason why someone cheated in the first place. Hm, seems like life is too complex for a simple proverb to summarize!
25. I Won’t Miss Him
Just after Sandra Bullock won her Oscar for The Blind Side in 2010, rumors emerged that her husband, motorcycle builder Jesse James, had had several affairs without her knowledge. After initial denials by James, he ultimately came clean in what can safely be called the worst way. In an interview with Men’s Journal, James stated “I took full responsibility. I cheated on my wife. Guess what? So do millions of other men… To be honest, it was unfair for me to even be in a relationship.”
24. Employee Conduct
According to the records of the cheating website Ashley Madison, the most frequent occupation for men who use Ashley Madison’s services is the financial sector. With women, the most frequent occupation is education.
23. Literary Challenge
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre was a very controversial book when it was first released. The ways which it portrayed issues of sexuality, feminism, and class were incredibly progressive for their time, but the book also gives a surprisingly balanced portrayal of Rochester’s conflict between seeking a relationship with Jane and dealing with the fact that he is already married to a woman, who is admittedly insane.
22. You Scamps
No less a figure than Napoleon Bonaparte was caught up in scandal when his beloved wife, Josephine, had a series of affairs while her husband was busy conquering wide stretches of Europe. Incredibly, Bonaparte forgave her when he found out. Perhaps it was partly because he’d been sleeping around as well.
21. You’ve Been Out-Cheated!
Speaking of Napoleon Bonaparte and his own mistresses, he was ultimately one-upped by arguably his biggest rival in western Europe. Not only did the Duke of Wellington spearhead the British campaigns to defeat Bonaparte on the battlefield, but he also took the time to seduce two of Bonaparte’s former mistresses when Bonaparte had been exiled for good. Safe to say that Wellington was a sore winner.
20. Motivation, Such an Aggravation
According to studies, the most common reason for women to embark on an affair is a feeling of emotional dissatisfaction, while the most common reason for men is sexual dissatisfaction. Marital dissatisfaction was the overarching reason given by both groups.
19. John, Meet Yoko
It was an affair that’s become a punchline in popular culture. The Beatles were famously broken up Yoko Ono, or so everyone claimed. This avant-garde artist was labeled a homewrecker for causing John Lennon to leave his wife to pursue Ono instead—we would hope that criticism was also aimed at Lennon, since he was the one doing the cheating. Ono was also blamed for The Beatles breaking apart and going solo, even though it’s now known that The Beatles were going to break up anyway, with or without Lennon beginning an affair with Ono and getting interested in new styles of music and political protests.
18. Star-Crossed Lovers
One of the most famous affairs of antiquity took place between Roman general and politician Mark Antony and Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Antony was smitten with Cleopatra, causing him to abandon his wife, who happened to be the sister of Octavian, Julius Caesar’s heir and Antony’s biggest rival. Octavian used the affair, along with Antony’s fraternizing in the East to completely discredit and vilify him in Rome.
17. The Falling Stars
Things eventually led to open war between Octavian, with full backing of Rome, and Mark Antony, who could rely on Cleopatra and the power of Egypt. Sadly, this was a war that the lovers could not win, and it ended with their mutual suicides and Octavian eventually becoming Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome.
16. Hi, Hypocrites
A whopping 81.7% of all American adults maintain the belief that an affair would always be a bad thing to do. Of those people, however, 62.7% have had affairs of their own. Nothing like a self-loathing hypocrite.
15. Testing, Testing
In 2002, a study was done to test how people valued sexual fidelity, using a pool of “48 homosexual women, 50 homosexual men, 40 heterosexual women, and 49 heterosexual men”. Of those people, sexual infidelity was considered the worse form of betrayal by the heterosexual group, as opposed to emotional infidelity. The reverse situation was found amongst those of LGBTQ identity.
14. The Prequel to the Main Event
Long before Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign for the 1992 election was shadowed by allegations that Clinton had had an affair with Gennifer Flowers. Flowers claimed that she’d spent 12 years in a relationship with him, while Clinton later admitted in his 2004 autobiography that he’d had an affair with Flowers, but he claimed that it had been only once, two years after he’d married Hillary.
13. Charlie and Camilla
The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana made for one of the biggest fairytale marriages of the 20th century. However, while the details are disputed, it’s been clear for a while that Charles had been pining for Camilla Parker Bowles the entire time that he was married to Diana. Charles’ affair with Bowles was a devastating scandal which splintered the Royal Family with divorce. The public immediately sided with Diana as the injured party, even as Charles was determined to live with Camilla, whom he’d previously been allegedly prevented from marrying despite their mutual attraction.
12. Judged by a Higher Power
Say what you will about the differences in the main religions of the world, but a lot of them agree that it’s bad to sleep around with someone who isn’t your spouse. Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam all have laws which strictly condemn affairs and infidelity as sinful behavior.
11. Fear of Financial Inadequacy?
Some studies have revealed that a lack of self-confidence can be a key factor in whether someone will have an affair or not. If men earn less than their partner, they are allegedly five times more likely to cheat on said partner.
10. Fires of Passion?
One of the most tempestuous marriages in the art world would have to be that which existed between Mexican artists Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Both of them would have multiple affairs during their marriage—Rivera would even sleep with Kahlo’s sister—only to separate several times, and even divorce in 1939. Ultimately, though, they would remarry in 1940, and Rivera would be at Kahlo’s side when she died in 1954.
9. Call Me Don Juan
In a time where the idea of “free love” was highly frowned upon, British writer Lord Byron was pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle which led him to break hearts left and right. Byron was reported to have had many affairs in his short life, including one with a choirboy with whom he was acquainted. His lifestyle eventually became so scandalous that he was driven from England, forcing him to live abroad in the European continent. One of his lovers actually referred to him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
8. Impossible to Identify with Certainty
There are many factors into why people have affairs, and while some studies claim that certain types of people are more likely to become unfaithful in their relationships, other studies have proved that infidelity does not belong to one specific group of people. By the same token, attempts to moralize infidelity are doomed to fail because people have had affairs regardless of their background, intellect, criminal past, and position in their respective society.
7. Helena With the Awful Hair
When the British press dubs you the “Golden Couple,” you know you’ve made an impression. After meeting on a film set, Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson were married in 1989, working together in Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Again, and Peter’s Friends. However, their marriage ended in 1993 after it had been revealed that Branagh had begun an affair with Helena Bonham Carter on the set of Branagh’s film Frankenstein.
6. Method Acting?
Despite the anguish that Ken Branagh’s affair brought to Emma Thompson, she was eventually able to make her peace with him and Helena Bonham Carter, saying much later that it was “blood under the bridge”. Years later, Thompson played a role in the film Love, Actually where her character finds out that her husband has been having an affair. According to Thompson, her experience with the real thing helped her portray it in the film with more heart-breaking poignancy.
5. Good to be the Queen
In a rare reversal of rulers picking lovers to enjoy on the side, Catherine the Great allegedly helped bring about the overthrow of her husband and became a ruler in her own right. She also made sure to keep power for herself while also having multiple lovers, including Grigory Potemkin, the man who historians claim was the love of Catherine’s life.
4. Lost in a Crowd
The divide in opinions about affairs and infidelity can be found between those who live in small, rural towns, and large, urban cities. The larger the community, the less impact an affair would have, as opposed to a town where everyone’s more likely to know each other. As simple or obvious as that sounds, it leads to very different attitudes on what sort of places are appropriate for married or unmarried people—usually women, because society has inherently sexist standards.
3. Someone Grab a Dictionary
Interestingly, the word ‘infidelity’ doesn’t have as clear of a definition as you would think. When a survey was done to see what people felt constituted infidelity, 97% of people approved that sex with someone other than your partner counted as cheating, but 50% considered a deep emotional bond as infidelity as well.
2. It’s Not About Looks
There is a misconception that cheaters seek out people who they consider to be more physically attractive than their spouses. However, a study revealed that only 12% of men who were surveyed considered their mistresses to be more physically attractive than their wives. Everyone else believed that their wives were just as, if not more, attractive than their mistresses.
1. Taking a Trip
When it comes to infidelity, the scenario which convinces over a third of men and around 13% of women to give in to temptation is the business trip. This likelihood jumps up even higher when dealing with marriages that are in their sixth to ninth years—this is supposedly the frailest stage of a marriage. They don’t call it the seven-year itch for nothing!