COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - One in five married men admit to cheating on their wives. That's 20 percent of men. But men are not alone, 14 percent of married women admit to infidelity and studies suggest that infidelity, especially among women, is on the rise.
So what is driving this trend? Some blame social media and television shows like the extremely popular "Scandal" on ABC, where adultery is an integral part of the storyline. Many say the show glamorizes home-wrecking and has some longing for the "scandal life".
"Scandal" is the hottest show on television right now. Millions of viewers tune in each week to watch the drama, intrigue, politics and scandalous sex featured on the show. "Scandal", starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, is groundbreaking TV. It is one of the first to have an African American actress in the lead role, and an African American woman as its creator.
But for all its accolades, the show has also received its share of criticism over the romantic relationship between characters Olivia pope and President Fitzgerald Grant. They carry on a torrid on-again, off-again love affair even though President Grant is a married man. Many people say the show glorifies infidelity.
"It used to be if you cheated on your husband or wife it was shameful, it was disgraceful, but now it' not," says a girl of Girls Inc, a nonprofit that focuses on giving confidence to young girls.
Has "Scandal" and shows like it made us more accepting of adultery? When it comes to the case of Olivia Pope and the president, many viewers are not only accepting, but are actually rooting for the mistress.
"I think people want to root for people they want to be together," says Courtney Loving, a family and marriage counselor.
Loving believes it's not so much the infidelity that people are attracted to as it is the love and longing the characters seem to have for each other. It's a feeling she says most people want. But unlike what you may see in a television show, she says in real life infidelity can devastate everyone involved.
"I think it's tragic, I think it can be so traumatic just like any other major trauma depending on what's going on in the relationship," continues Loving.
Loving says society's view of marriage is expanding due in large part to shows like "Scandal" and the easy opportunity to "hook up" with someone on social media. While more couples may be exploring the idea of an open relationship, Loving says it's important to be careful. Open relationships that can lead to even bigger problems in a marriage. She says if a partner is looking elsewhere that usually means something is missing at home.
"I think it's an opportunity really to talk about who's feeling good about the relationship and who isn't, and what are the needs that aren't being met that are being met somewhere else."
But the teens at Girls Inc. aren't buying into what they see on TV and movies. In fact, they are all part of a confidence program that encourages abstinence until marriage. They admit that it's a difficult notion in a society where sex permeates almost every aspect of our lives.
"Marriage gets a bad rap on TV…We have a high divorce rate so its portrayed as something you do in the moment and its pretty and nice and as soon as something happens you can get out of it. And that's not what marriage is supposed to be," says Seychelles Hercules of Girls Inc.
These girls say they're waiting for the real thing.
"You just don't want to be with someone for the wrong reason...because that person is not really for you because he just looks good...because you like him one day and the next day that may not happen," says Alana Daniels.
"You should wait because it's generally the right thing to do. You shouldn't wait because rushing into things means you're not thinking about them," says Rowlanda Hercules.
"Know who you are, know yourself and when you know yourself you know how valuable you are," says Kyla Buckner.
And Loving says to know that what you see on shows like "Scandal" may make for good TV, but that doesn't mean you should try it at home. However, she does see one way the show could positively impact your relationship.
"It could be something that brings people closer together, because a husband and wife or two partners might sit down and love the time they spend watching that and they get a good giggle over it so anything that creates a better dialogue I think is a wonderful thing."
About 6 percent of couples participate in an open marriage where they are free see other people. They believe having that freedom to have multiple "loves" helps them stay married. Many therapists, including Loving, disagree, calling an open relationship a recipe for hurt and break-up.
If you need help with any of these issues or want to talk to a therapist about your marriage, you can contact The Family Center in Columbus. Click here for their website link.