*My wife and I fundamentally disagree about the prevalence of infidelity. She believes that a majority, and probably a high majority of men are unfaithful to their wives.
My contention is that we only hear about relationships in trouble which leads to the incorrect perception that everyone is cheating. After all no one calls their girlfriends to announce that their husband came straight home from work for the 3000th consecutive time; it is only after he comes home at 3AM two Fridays in a row that a call is made and anyone outside of the relationship knows anything.
Even so a divorce rate of approximately 50% cannot be ignored and forces the conclusion that whether there is infidelity or not people are not staying married.
The answer to both why people cheat and why marriages are not lasting longer is rooted in the demographic phenomenon of the post World War II baby boom. If the generation that persevered through the Great Depression and fought World War II is the “Greatest Generation” then their offspring may well be the worst. Because of an unprecedented economic growth disposable income per capita was greatly increased. At the same time war rationing ended and new products and services were developed leading to a boom of spending. Children of the 1950s and 1960s found themselves being catered to in a way that had not happened in generations past. The result was a generation of people who grew up with a sense of entitlement. In some cases this entitlement was a positive for American society – leading to social movements of the 1960s when young people of certain groups realized that they were not in fact getting all they thought they should and changed that reality. In the case of committed relationships, that feeling of entitlement spelled doom.
Relationships only work long term when both parties are willing to sacrifice some of themselves for the betterment of their joint venture: the relationships. Unfortunately when someone has been catered to for as long as they can remember, it is very difficult to understand why this person isn’t kissing their ass. In addition when you believe that you should get everything you want, you believe that there is someone out there to give you everything you want, so when person #1 doesn’t fit your liking you move on to the second contestant. There is not real effort to make the relationship work because you have rarely put for a real effort in anything.
Ultimately the mental toughness of the baby boom generation was lacking. Not wanting to reform expectations, and/or the inability to reform expectations has led to the increase in the divorce rate. This lack of mental toughness and sense of entitlement has been passed down to subsequent generations so that today men in committed relationships feel they can pursue their impulses with impunity. When one woman doesn’t meet their expectations in one area they look for those desires to be met by someone else. The social and cultural changes of the 1960s were great advancements for American society. But the mindset that made those changes possible has also had negative implications. The question is how can this mindset be corrected?
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called This Seems Familiar. mYou can reach him at [email protected].