Sunday, May 17, 2009

Infidelity: Readers critical of marriage have focused on women being at fault for divorce. Let's take a second and look at infidelity, a common reason for divorce. I looked GSS data for the years 2000-2008 in order to get a large enough sample size (N = 10,871). The question is whether you have ever cheated on a spouse. For women, it's 11.1%, and it 16.6% for men. So men are 1.5 times more likely to have cheated. The helpless men among my readers will no doubt claim that guys can't be blamed because they are programmed to spread their seed around.

Worried that if you get married, she'll eventually leave you? The answer is simple: don't be a dick.


Jokah Macpherson said...

If you are a "dick," though, and recognize this fact, isn't it more moral for you to not get married than to take a vow you know you're likely to break?

Ron Guhname said...

JM: Yes. If you know you're going to be a bad husband, don't get married. But also don't impregnate any women either.

Jason said...

Well that's a relief. For a while there I thought this might be a complex problem based on social trends. Turns out it was just guys being dicks. Problem solved!

Anonymous said...

It's simplistic of you to think that just being a good husband will guarantee a wife will not cheat.

Anonymous said...

It's Anon11:48 again

Besides, the difference in self-reported cheating rates isn't that large. 1.5 is significant, sure, but it's not a monstrously huge margin. And I would think women are slightly less likely to admit scandalous behavior than men.

Ron Guhname said...

Jason: Where was you're "that's simplistic" when commenters were claiming that the fault is with selfish women?

Anonymous said...

You're using a subset of divorce cases, and a relatively minor one (compare to no-fault etc) to prove a general case.

Hasn't Jason Malloy effectively addressed your arguments in the comments thread?

Jason said...

If you're giving advice to family-minded young men on entering the marriage market, it's not simplistic. For that audience, it is the problem.

Telling these guys, "If you want a wife and family, don't cheat" is pointless, if not insulting. Akin to giving a traffic safety seminar to a bunch of religious tea totallers and starting off with "Don't drink & drive." That might be good advice in general, but it was already the last thing on their minds. What they need is advice on how to protect themselves from those who do drink & drive. "Stay off the roads late at night and buy the largest Volvo you can afford."

You can not abstain and still die on the road. You can not cheat and still get divorced. What people are looking for is some advice on what additional steps a man can take to avoid that fate.

So far you've come up with the inanity "don't be a dick", "marriage is only as dangerous as Russian roulette with a S&W J-frame," and the admission that you'd personally consider a divorce and crushing alimony a "win". ie. "Lay back and enjoy it." If I were contemplating marriage, I would not find any of this encouraging. If this is the best its defenders have to offer, marriage is in deep shit.

Jason said...

I mean, "you can abstain".

Ron Guhname said...

Jason: The advice to worry about your own behavior is much more helpful to make a marriage work than "Don't do it--it's Russian Roulette."

CP said...

"What they need is advice on how to protect themselves from those who do drink & drive."

The advice is, "Choose wisely."

Assuming half of unfaithful women are lying, your odds of finding a faithful women are from 80% to 90%. Most guys would find that reassuring. Would you stop investing because you only have an 80% chance of a positive return?

What we need are "tells" -- characteristics that unfaithful women are more likely to have than faithful ones do. A close reading of the GSS should provide us with those. Armed with that information, a guy could reduce his risk even farther.

CP said...


What code did you use for infidelity?

Ron Guhname said...


Whiskey said...

Ron, Jason is correct, and IMHO your mental model won't allow to process how deeply and radically women have changed from your youth.

First, women don't want or need or RESPECT a "beta provider."

The WSJ has an excellent article here called "From Patriarch to Patsy" about how women do not RESPECT guys who play Dad. It's a one way ticket to patronized loserdom.

Look at the proliferation of "Cheating Wife" blogs and the popularity of "cheat if the guy is hot" TV and movies aimed at women.

Your GSS data is seriously flawed, because it does not restrict itself to men and women NOW just entering into marriage, i.e. men in their early/mid thirties, women in their late twenties.

Most women will have racked up considerable mileage and sexual partners by the time they marry. Around 3 in High School (yes, sadly), between 6-8 in College, and "averages" of around 3-4 a year between 22-32. [The partners will come in bunches, i.e. monogamy in a relationship followed by a burst of guys when the relationship ends, and interspersed with several guys at a time aka cheating.]

A woman with 50+, or 40+, or 20+ partners simply cannot bond with a guy, much less a "beta provider."

And short of hiring a private detective for thousands of dollars, there is no way to know how many and of what character a woman's sexual partners are and her baggage, ability to bond with a man or not, is.

It's a classic case of counterfeit currency. "Enough" bad bills and bad currency drives out good.

How is a guy considering marriage going to know if his girl has had 20, or 30, or 40, or 50= guys? If she has a tendency to cheat? If she has indeed cheated in the past? If she likes "bad boys" and finds "steady beta providers" dull and boring?

Absent expensive and inaccurate Private Investigators, there is no way to know.

Moreover, the biggest change is the obvious one which you missed: Women's income makes beta providers irrelevant and not needed.

Women don't want or need some boring, steady, and "nice' guy, see stuff like Mercy or Grey's Anatomy and so on where dependable = boring (and cheated on with "hot" but unpredictable and irresponsible men). Why would a woman want a boring beta guy when Rosa the illegal Alien Nanny from El Salvador can take care of her kids and she can have "exciting" affairs with as many hot guys for as long as she can?

For Working class women, grandparents take the place of Rosa. They tend to have kids earlier and more of them. They do like multiple fathers for their kids.

What you cannot process, because it's a shift so large and alien to your experience (which speaks well of you personally but requires willful blindness to the data) is how separated love and childraising have become.

For women, sex and love is something entirely separate from the business of raising kids, which is either outsourced to grandparents or Rosa the Illegal Alien Nanny.

No this is not sustainable, since it leaves lots of beta provider men losers in the sexual marketplace. Nevertheless it is the female sexual utopia that women wanted and got.

Whiskey said...

Let me add, that in the case where women don't want or need beta providers, because they have their own resources, "spread your seed" is the only successful reproductive strategy for men, and men compete on impressive displays of masculine macho behavior and violence.

Steve Sailer has noted that correlation, as have others. And once a society goes down that path, it's almost impossible to retrace one's steps. It's a one way street, no exit.

CP said...


Unless I set up the filters wrong, in the decade from 1996 to 2006, among white women between the ages of 18-30, the level of reported marital infidelity was >less< than the level reported for all ages.

Kyle Eliason said...

The guys I know that have gotten divorced, although all admittedly older than I, didn't see it coming at all and I don't think their former wives were having affairs at the time. I think they just did get bored and left.

First, I'd be interested to see how often men and women cite infidelity as the cause of divorce. I'd be even more interested to see if it is more often women or men filing for divorce. (One side files on their own to get things started, right?)

Jason said...

The advice to worry about your own behavior is much more helpful to make a marriage work than "Don't do it--it's Russian Roulette."Not when it is Russian roulette. When you see someone pointing a gun at their head, you don't tell them how to angle it for a glancing shot. You tell them to put the damn thing down. Or at least I do.

CP said...

The EVSTRAY question includes three answers: “Yes”, “No”, and “Never Married”. So among white women who have ever been married, the odds of her infidelity is at least 14.5%, not 11.1% (and it’s probably higher than that since people are likely to lie about their infidelity in an effort to cover it up). Assuming that half of unfaithful wives are lying, that brings the odds of a faithful wife down to around 71% -- not bad, but not great either.

So what are the characteristics of a cheater? The results reported here are confined to white women between the ages of 18 to 50. Reported infidelity appears to be higher among girls from broken families. Higher among self identified Democratic women and Independent women than Republican women -- a woman who identifies as a “Strong Republican” reduces the risk of reported infidelity by nearly half. A woman with a bachelor’s degree is a better bet than one with just a high school education or less -- reducing the risk by about 40%.

Note that these characteristics are independent, not cumulative, so if you marry a staunch Republican girl with a bachleor’s degree your odds will -not- necessarily fall by 70%. (50% plus 40% of the remaining 50%).

With a little more time, I’m sure you could come up with other indicators. PartyID and a bachelor’s degree were among the strongest I cold find at a glance. A lot of the religious identification questions seemed to cut the data too thin to be worth making predictions from.

Silas said...

"it is Russian roulette"

Neither analogy is perfect, but marriage is more like investing than Russian Roulette. Divorce is costly and destructive, but it is not death.

Rohan Swee said...

Jason: "Not when it is Russian roulette. When you see someone pointing a gun at their head, you don't tell them how to angle it for a glancing shot. You tell them to put the damn thing down. Or at least I do."

Jason, you are looking at this as if marriage were merely another cost/benefit investment decision. It's not. To want to be part of a marriage, to found a family, is a fundamental human impulse for most. That a minority can take it or leave it doesn't change that. Men who want to marry, want to marry, in a way that is fundamentally different from choosing between this risky investment or that less risky investment. To apprise men of the risk of failure is good advice. To come up with metrics or criteria for choosing a good mate and reducing risk is even better advice. Simply repeating "don't do it, it's too risky", to people for whom marriage and family is the sine qua non of the life well-lived, is neither good advice nor bad advice - it isn't advice at all.

Jack said...

Choosing to marry, nowadays, really is the most important decision a man has to make. I'm not ready for marriage yet, but I have things that I am specifially looking for - closeness with her family, not being a leftist, liking children, positive personality, doesn't drink excessively, etc. It isn't that hard to judge on the proper qualities. PROBLEM IS: there are few quality white women in the major metropolitan areas, so competition for them is likely fierce. You can't get what isn't on the menu, and most of the menu is the kind of vapid sluts that Whiskey describes.

Jason said...

Men who want to marry, want to marry, in a way that is fundamentally different from choosing between this risky investment or that less risky investment.Um, exactly? That's a double-edged sword, isn't it? The more you want it, the more devastating it will be when you lose it. The guys whose self-image is completely tied up in marriage and family are the ones for whom divorce is a serious loss. Ironically, the risks of marriage are lower for a cynical player who doesn't even want it all that much.