There’s an old saying that if not for double standards, some people wouldn’t have any standards at all.

A new poll from the Survey Center on American Life lays bare the ongoing moral inconsistencies in the culture when it comes to judgments about extramarital affairs.

According to recently released data:

“Seventy percent of women say that a married man who has an affair is always morally wrong, while fewer (56%) say the same when married women have relationships outside their marriage.”

The gap is even wider when the question is posed to younger women, with 71% thinking a man having an affair is wrong, compared to just 51% if the woman is the offender. Women with post-graduate degrees are even more permissive, with just 41% suggesting a woman having an extra-marital affair is always wrong.

Why the glaring double standard?

Presumably, some of the explanation may be attributable to the perception that women are straying from their marital vows because their husbands have strayed from theirs.  That’s a big assumption, and one that brings the popular adage to mind: two wrongs don’t make a right.

Another consideration may be the tragic prevalence of pornography, an addiction which tends to enslave more men than women. Women whose husbands are addicted may then feel permitted to strike back with an affair.

In a moment of unfiltered candidness, Jackie Kennedy, wife of the 35th president, once said, “I don’t think there are any men who are faithful to their wives.” Research across the years suggests otherwise, indicating that upwards of 25% of men cheat in their marriage as compared to 15% of women. It’s impossible to know how accurate or reliable those numbers are, but given divorce rates, it might not be too far from the truth.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the Bible is clear that adultery is morally wrong. It offers no exceptions or excuses. It was one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14) handed down to Moses. In Proverbs, it states that the one who commits adultery “lacks sense” and “destroys himself (Proverbs 6:32). Jesus also speaks and warns about infidelity in numerous passages in the New Testament.

Perhaps even more jarring or disconcerting than the disparity of opinion concerning adultery’s moral wrongness, though, is the fact that the numbers would seem to suggest that such a high percentage of people polled see nothing wrong with it at all.

The cold and tragic truth is that adultery has caused incalculable harm and heartache to untold individuals and families. It’s stolen the innocence of childhood, trampled on vulnerable men and women, and sent many to early graves.

Adultery is more than a violation of trust and the breaking of a sacred bond. C.S. Lewis once said, “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.”

Whether male or female, extramarital affairs are always wrong, predicably devastating and destructive – and wholly and surely avoidable. As a young seminarian, the late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers kept a little sign on his desk that read: “He who will not fall down should not walk on slippery surfaces.”

As feeble and frail sinners vulnerable to temptations of all types, that’s awfully good advice.

Focus on the Family stands ready to help those struggling with marital infidelity. Please don’t hesitate to reach out via phone, email or visit us online.


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