SALT LAKE CITY — When you hear the word "affair," many names probably come to mind. In fact, former CIA director David Petraeus probably gained a place at the top of your list in recent days.
No matter who is involved, marital infidelity destroys careers, fracture families and grabs headlines. But in recent years, affairs have become less shocking.
"It's always been a problem, but (now there's) the proliferation of pornography and proliferation of things appearing in the media, normalizing activities, people seemingly without any kind of major harm," said John Murdock, a licensed clinical social worker at Lifestar.
Statistics are really low that an affair is going to happen … the media would have you believe it is everywhere and everyone is having an affair, it's becoming more accepted. It's not.
–Kristin Hodson, The Healing Group
On the big screen, infidelity is often glamorized. There are even websites that promote having an affair and tout high statistics that make you think everyone is cheating.
"But that is part of their business," said Kristin Hodsen, a licensed clinical social worker at The Healing Group. "Statistics are really low that an affair is going to happen … the media would have you believe it is everywhere and everyone is having an affair, it's becoming more accepted. It's not."
The National Science Foundation found in 2010, 19 percent of men had been unfaithful at some point; a drop from 1991. But the number of unfaithful women, on the other hand, increased from 11 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2010.
Many experts point to social media as one of the reasons for that increase.
"(One) attorney said that four out of 10 of her clients started their affair through Facebook and social media," Murdock said.
Changing workplace situations are also leading both sexes to stray.
"You have more men and women than ever before, and they show up wearing their best clothes, and they show up with an air of confidence, and they show up with a side of themselves they like," Hodson said.
So, how do you protect your marriage?
"I think people look for ‘rocket science' answers, and it is just the basics," Hodson said. "I recently saw a statistic where people were spending less than 10 minutes a day talking to each other, and that's just not enough to sustain a relationship."
"We are too much living in a society where everything is given to us instead of having to do hard work and fight through difficult adversities and problems in relationships," Murdock said.
Infidelity is one of the hardest things to overcome in a marriage. But a once-broken marriage can ultimately survive — and many do.
"It can give you a really big opportunity to look at the parts of your relationship that need to be restored and places you need to address, and actually create a stronger more resilient relationship for the future if both partners are willing," Hodson said.
According to CheatingStatistics.com, 78 percent of couples survive infidelity. The website was created by a woman who wanted to find facts and advice after her husband cheated.
Contributing: Nadine Wimmer