Christmas Time, Mistletoe And… Infidelity

There’s A Season For Cheaters. And Here’s Why They Cheat.

In this article we discuss the following: 

  • How to define cheating 
  • Cheating statistics
  • Personality types and traits
  • Popular time of year to cheat
  • And what we can take from these findings.  

Christmas is a time for giving gifts, eating too much food, feeling fabulously festive and apparently locking lips with a stranger/colleague.

So why do people cheat and why are they more likely to be unfaithful in November and December? There’s a lot going on physically (ahem), but also mentally too. We’re about to explore the ways in which our brain can work (or not work) when we cheat during the holidays.

How do you define an affair, being unfaithful and cheating? 

The definition of cheating can vary from person to person and between genders. So we’ve decided to focus on one report that expands on past research to define cheating. 

In this report Yarab et al., analysed what men and women consider to be unfaithful. Some researchers asked participants to rate a hypothetical partner’s extradyadic (behaviours occurring outside of a committed relationship) sexual behaviour. They rated “committed relationships, sexual fantasies, romantic attachments, flirting, group and dyadic social activities.” Both men and women rated all the extradyadic sexual behaviours as “jealousy provoking” except within the group social activities. 

They rated all of them as unfaithful too, except in group social activities. Women “reported greater jealousy than did men in response to a hypothetical partner’s sexual fantasies, romantic attachments, and flirting behaviour. Women also reported a hypothetical partner’s romantic attachments and flirting behaviour as more unfaithful than did men.” 

After reviewing this information, for the sake of this article, we can classify cheating as having or acting out sexual fantasies, any romantic attachments, actions and flirting. Although, of course this is debatable! Especially when it comes to defining ‘flirting’.

The Stats

Biological anthropologist Fisher MD et al., explains that there are several “interpersonal, sexual, and biological factors that are associated with having extramarital affairs.”  

Fisher has a few confidence-crushing/insightful facts from an array of studies… Ready for this?

  • 1.5% to 4% of married men have extramarital sexual intercourse in any given year.
  • Foo et al., found that women are better at hiding the fact they’ve had an affair by the looks on their faces. “Taken together, both men and women showed above-chance accuracy for men’s faces but not women’s faces.” 
  • An estimated 23.2% of men have cheated on their current partner in the US.
  • The National Health and Social Life Survey found that 17% of women cheat when they’re in dating relationships.
  • YouGov report that 1 in 3 people have thought about having an affair. 
  • It’s reported that between 15% and 50% of men have had a “lifetime prevalence of unfaithfulness.”
  • Reports show that 20% to 25% of heterosexual married women will also have an extramarital affair during their lifetime.
  • Unfaithfulness in men seems to be associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular events. (Hello karma).

Are there traits or personality types of a cheat?

Dysfunctional Relationship 

Fisher et al., explains that people who have affairs or are unfaithful often have a “dysfunctional primary relationship, in both relational and sexual terms.” Get your relationship back on track to decrease the chance of any affairs. 

Family Conflicts 

Conflicts, unrest and disturbances within the family “seem to be associated with a higher risk of having an affair.” If you have issues at home, like an out of control teenager or no money to pay off the mortgage, the chances of an affair or two may increase. 

Larger Testes

It takes balls to have an affair, literally. Fisher explains that unusually “unfaithful men display a higher androgenization, larger testis volume, lower prevalence of hypoactive sexual desire, and better sexual functioning.” Just wow. 

Social Dominance 

A study by scientist Vincent Egan showed that “males were higher on the manipulativeness factor” scale. And those in the study who admitted to being unfaithful were males who “were higher in social dominance.” This was less so for females whose status didn’t matter. 

We may conclude that male and females have different sexual strategies depending on their personality types. 

And what is the brain’s role in all of this debauchery? 

Biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher shares her ideas with Ted.com and says that the architecture of the brain may contribute towards infidelity: 

“Human beings have three primary brain systems related to love. 

1) Sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek copulation with a range of partners. 

2) Romantic love evolved to motivate individuals to focus their mating energy on specific partners, thereby conserving courtship time and metabolic energy.

3) Partner attachment evolved to motivate mating individuals to remain together at least long enough to rear a single child through infancy together.” 

Fisher explains that these 3 “basic neural systems interact with one another and other brain systems in myriad flexible, combinatorial patterns.” This creates a variety of “motivations, emotions and behaviours necessary to orchestrate our complex human reproductive strategy.” Although this complex architecture of the brain can make it biologically possible to feel truly attached to your partner and yet at the same time, feel “romantic love” for someone else and have a sexual urge and drive for “even more extra-dyadic partners.” Naughty, complex brain. 

When’s the most popular time of year for cheating? 

It’s during Christmas. The season to be merry and all that.

Ever heard of IllicitEncounters.com? It’s a website which hooks up people who are open to having affairs. And they have a few stats which may shock you: 

  • They found that the Christmas season is the most popular time of year for being unfaithful. 
  • 57% of those surveyed by IllicitEncounters.com (why would you take part in that survey!?) said they had cheated with a colleague at the Christmas party. 
  • The reason for all this extra action? Apparently the festive period made them feel more passion and excitement, driving them to cheat. 

Rebecca Adkin, author, TV Expert, Therapist and Coach on all things sex related spoke to us about signs of cheating at Christmas:

“Office parties are rife for infidelity. It’s the time of year when everyone lets their hair down and casual flirting that’s been going on for months can end up with a cheeky snog or more. With alcohol people lose their inhibitions and are more likely to cheat. 

Signs for cheating:

– Being evasive over details of any social events 

– Being secretive with phone 

– Guilt presents

– Being distant 

– Changes in behaviour 

Cheating can happen a lot around Christmas because of the huge amount of stress people put on themselves at this time of year, so some people look for extra marital sex as a stress reliever.” 

So after that slightly demoralising read, what can we take from these findings? 

People are scumbags. No, only joking. 

We are human and our brain and biology control our thoughts, feelings and actions. This should highlight that it’s not a great idea to always act on our physical and mental desires. Particularly after seeing the stats showing that affairs on average last for less than 6 months and only 3 to 7% stand the test of time. 

Is it worth risking it all for a lustful few months? Perhaps. But know that your brain may be to blame, as its architecture can make you think you’re in love with someone, be sexually attracted to someone else and also want even more partners, when you’re actually quite content in the first place. 

However you spend your festive months, be sure to take your brain by the membranes and either try to take those urges with a shedload of salt, or embrace them and go with the flow. We’ll leave the consequences (good or bad) for you to deal with. 

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Sources Cited:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.181552

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886903001168

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1743609515340005

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1475-6811.1999.tb00194.x

https://rebeccadakin.com/

All information featured in Peak – Brain Training articles are provided for informational purposes only and are not substitutes for medical or physician advice.

Maisie Bygraves

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