Could Gwyneth Paltrow be right about cheating?
Good Golly Miss Gywnnie! Life style guru and occasional movie star Gwyneth Paltrow caused rather a furore by suggesting infidelity need not spell the end of a long-term relationship.
Promoting her new movie Contagion -- in which she plays a cheating spouse who comes down with highly virulent, albeit fictional, strain of Avian flu -- Paltrow said she was understanding and forgiving of friends who had cheated because, well, life is messy.
"I am a great romantic -- but I also think you can be a romantic and a realist. Life is complicated and long and I know people that I respect and admire and look up to who have had extra-marital affairs," she said.
"It's like we're flawed -- we're human beings and sometimes you make choices that other people are going to judge. That's their problem but I think that the more I live my life, the more I learn not to judge people for what they do."
So could she be right? When a spouse cheats, can a marriage ever be saved?
According to experts it depends on the couple.
"People who have experienced infidelity in their relationship are likely to feel anger, hurt, disappointment, mistrust, confusion and fear," says Catherine Keers who runs a counselling and psychotherapy centre in Dublin.
"In order to avoid dealing with these feelings it is common to try to paper over the cracks and decide to start again without dealing with the issues that caused the affair and also the pain and damage that it has caused."
The stereotype that Irish people are less forgiving of such behaviour than our Continental cousins would seem to have some grounding in fact. In her 2007 study of infidelity around the globe, Lust In Translation, American author and Wall Street Journal reporter Pamela Druckerman found that the United States, the Philippines and Ireland were the three countries least forgiving of infidelity.
But it would be naive to think infidelity isn't a huge problem here says counsellor and psychotherapist Emma Murphy. "At least one in four couples presenting for therapy come after an infidelity. It's now becoming more common to see women who have cheated."
Why are more women cheating? Murphy suggests it's because they have greater opportunity to. "Previously, women were economically dependent. Now they are out in the workforce. They have a lot more chances to meet other people."
Research from the UK suggests that a majority of affairs start in the workplace, she points out.
Plus, there is the fact that, in this era of working couples and spiraling mortgages, marriages are under huge stress. It is really not surprising that women, no less than men, are tempted to escape the pressure and drudgery via an office fling.
"It's really about the stress a couple are under. Instead of doing the responsible thing and talking about it, we may look for that fantasy escape," she says.
"At work, the girl may be sitting next to a guy and there's a bit of banter. Then she goes home and the kids are whining and everything is stressful. There is definitely evidence a lot of extra-marital relationships originate in the workplace."