In February, MSNBC.com and iVillage asked readers to share their feelings about love, sex and fidelity.
Over two weeks, 70,288 readers — 93 percent from MSNBC.com, the rest from iVillage — completed the survey. Three-quarters told us they were in a committed relationship and the majority of participants have been with their current partner for at least 12 years. Fifty-four percent were men, with an average age of 43; 46 percent were women, 38 was their average age.
Here are some of the details:
What do you consider cheating? Not surprisingly, nearly all participants say sexual intercourse with another partner is cheating — ditto, for having oral sex. Eighty-nine percent of women and 77 percent of men say it’s cheating to romantically kiss another person.
We've got pretty strict definitions of fidelity even when it comes to flirting. The majorities of both men (53 percent) and women (73 percent) consider sending a sexually flirtatious e-mail to a co-worker cheating.
Only 6 percent of men say looking at pornography is cheating, while 16 percent of women think it is.
Two-thirds say that engaging on online sex talk or Webcamming with someone else is a relationship no-no.
When is cheating justifiable? More than 70 percent of people say it’s never OK to cheat for any reason. Still, 26 percent of men and 9 percent of women say it’s justified if the other partner has lost interest in sex.
Have you ever cheated? Nearly half of men and women have cheated at some point in their lives. Twenty-two percent of people have cheated on their current partner, but only 4 percent are in the middle of an affair.
Do open relationships work? Half of men and women say nonmonogamy destroys a relationship. However, another third of men and women feel that while it’s not right for them, it could work for other people.
How far would you go to find out whether your partner was cheating? Eighty-seven percent of men and women would try to trick their partner into confessing, but only 20 percent of them would directly confront their partner with suspicions. More than half would be willing to snoop on e-mail and the majority of respondents would check phone logs or phone bills. Sixty-nine percent of women and 57 percent of men say they would hire a private investigator to spy on their partner. In reality, few of the cheaters were actually caught by a private eye or snooping partner.
Did infidelity play a role in your divorce? Cheating was at least in part responsible for 54 percent of divorces.
Why stay faithful? Love is the most powerful reason for fidelity for more than three-quarters of participants.
Overall, 68 percent say they didn’t want to lose their partner, with men a little more worried about it than women (70 percent compared to 67 percent). Many survey takers say they had no desire for anyone else, although women were a lot more likely to lack interest (57 percent compared to 32 percent of men). Forty-one percent of men didn’t want to risk losing their children.
One in five men and one in 10 women were too afraid of getting caught. Lack of opportunity was cited by only 6 percent of participants.
Who's the lover?Overall, 40 percent of cheaters fooled around with a friend. Long hours at the office may be a reason that 35 percent of men and women had an affair with a co-worker. Men were more likely to cheat with someone they met at a bar (23 percent compared to 14 percent of women), but women were a little more drawn to old flames than the guys (22 percent compared to 20 percent).
How long did the affair last? One in four affairs was a mere fling, lasting less than a week. The majority of affairs (65 percent) ended before six months.
What about the kids? Thirty-seven percent of women and 40 percent of men cheated when there was a child in the home. Fifteen percent of women and 16 percent of men had an affair when there were children ages 2 to 5 living at home. More startling: 9 percent of men and 7 percent of women had an affair while there was a baby or toddler under 2 years old at home.
How long before you strayed? Half of the survey takers were in a committed relationship for less than three years before they had an affair. Another 28 percent were in a relationship for six years or longer.
How did your partners stack up? Overall, 61 percent ofpeople who cheatedsay their affair partner was more attentive to their sexual needs. Forty-eight percent of men and 41 percent of women think their affair partner has a sexier body, but 31 percent of men and women find their partner’s face more attractive.
Which celebrity would lure you to stray?Most survey takers wouldn’t break their vows to be with a celebrity, no matter how sexy. Still, 21 percent of women would take the plunge with Matthew McConaughey, while 17 percent of men would like to break their promise of fidelity with Jessica Alba.
Angelina Jolie was the object of desire for one in 10 men and women.
How did cheating make you feel? Almost half of cheaters felt guilty about it, although only 37 percent say they regretted it. An affair made more than half of women feel more sexually desirable and more attractive, a bit more so than men. Thirteen percent were glad they cheated. Women were slightly more likely to feel the affair was justified (23 percent compared to 18 percent), but they were also sadder about it afterwards (30 percent compared to 21 percent).
Why did you seek sex outside your relationship? Among men’s top reasons: 44 percent wanted sex more often, 40 percent wanted more sexual variety. Women’s top reasons: 40 percent desired more emotional attention; 33 percent wanted reassurance of their desirability. Physical attraction was a strong pull for about 42 percent of men and women. Revenge was more of a motivation for women, with 11 percent of them naming it as a reason they cheated, compared to only 5 percent of men.
Did technology play a role in your affair? One in five men and women who cheated used e-mail or text messages to arrange hookups. Eight percent of men found their affair partner at a dating Web site or chat room, compared to only 3 percent of women. But the large majority committed infidelity the old-fashioned way, no technology needed.
Did you get caught? Fifty-nine percent believe they totally got away with their affair and another 11 percent think their partner was suspicious. Fifteen percent of women willingly confessed to cheating, compared to 11 percent of men, but only 6 percent of men and women confessed when confronted. Only 2 percent were caught in the act.
Have you ever been cheated on? Forty percent of men and 53 percent of women say they've been cheated on at some point in their lives. Twenty-one percent suspect present or past infidelities, while 11 percent are sure their current partner has had an affair.
What happened after you found out?Thirteen percent of women and 18 percent of men got over it and stayed together. Forty-four percent of women and 37 percent of men either left the partner immediately or later when they realized they couldn’t forgive the infidelity.
How many times have you been the other man or woman? About 50 percent of survey takers say they’ve had a fling with someone else’s partner at least once.