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Infidelity in France: 'One in two Frenchmen cheat'

Published: 21 Jan 2014 11:03 GMT+01:00

The latest survey on infidelity in France might make a few expats with French partners a little bit nervous.

The French have long had a reputation, although some say an unfair one, for not being faithful to their partners and a new survey published on Tuesday is only likely to bolster this view.

A majority of French men, 55 percent, and nearly a third of French women admit to cheating on their significant others, an Ifop study has revealed.

The behaviour has been growing since the 1970s, when the percentage of cheaters stood at around 19 percent, according to the study that was carried out for extramarital dating website Gleeden.

"People have more partners these days, women are much more in the working environment so they come into contact with other men, there's technology and social media, meaning people can communicate in private. There's basically much more temptation around now," Ifop researcher François Kraus told The Local.

"The interesting stat for me was that 35 percent of French, more than one in three, say they are prepared to cheat on their partners as long as they were sure they wouldn't find out," he said. 

Is the French reputation for infidelity a myth?

"Another of the key findings of the study showed a difference in perceptions of infidelity among men and women: women are much less accepting of "mistakes" than men," Kraus said.

The survey is timely given it comes a little more than a week after the country was abuzz over President François Hollande's alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet. Claims that Hollande was allegedly cheating on 'First Lady' Valérie Trierweiler drew worldwide attention for France's fading practice of ignoring the private lives of elected officials.

One particularly pertinent stat from the survey that strikes out is that almost half of those who cheat on their partners (46 percent) identify themselves as on the left politically. 

Although upper middle class men aged over 50 were most likely to step out on their partners(66 percent), the study found. But the tendency to cheat isn’t confined to wealthy, older men.

One in two French people, without going all the way, have kissed someone other than their partner. While three out of four French men and two out of three French women have fantasized about being in the arms of another.

But what exactly is cheating?, the study asked. The poll found that two out of three French women didn’t believe a kiss is just a kiss: it’s cheating. Most respondents, 57 percent of both sexes, agreed sexting is infidelity.  

Despite the messy reality, most French people, 68 percent, believe it's possible to remain faithful to one person for life. They remain realistic, however. About 63 percent of French believe they can love someone even if he or she has cheated.

These results line up with a Pew Research Center study from 2013, which found that of the 39 countries surveyed, the French were the most forgiving. About 47 percent of French people reported that infidelity was morally unacceptable.

Americans, on the other hand, came in at number 27 on the list, with 84 percent of people believing that cheating was morally wrong. Other European countries viewed infidelity more harshly. Sixty percent of Germans, 65 percent of Italians and 64 percent of the Spanish were morally offended by affairs.  

The Ifop survey published on Tuesday was carried out over two days with 804 people interviewed. Just in case anyone with a French partner might be interested, the names of those surveyed have not been released.

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Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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