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Culture & Religion

Should Americans Tolerate Infidelity (Like the French Do)?

In France, it seems that respect for the institution of marriage carries with it a certain tolerance for extra-marital affairs. In divorce-happy America, should we accept cheating? 

What’s the Latest Development?

A dating website that markets extra-marital affairs says its most frequent customers come from France. The site,, reports that 53 percent of those questioned in France believe it is possible to cheat on your partner while still loving them. What’s more, infidelity is not always discouraged by French society. French psychologist Maryse Vaillant, for one, has said that women should consider extra-marital affairs a sign of a healthy marriage since a fidelity pact is ‘not natural, but cultural’. The promiscuity of high-profile Frenchmen, from Nicolas Sarkozy to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, remains more or less in plain view. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Vaillant explains that accepting infidelity is a question of priorities, not a lack of moral character. “Unlike divorce-happy Americans, French people prefer to keep families intact by finding a few ‘moments of adventure’ outside their marriage. And it seems to be working. Divorce rates in France are lower than the US, as well as many of the country’s European neighbors, including the UK, Germany, Belgium and Sweden. All you have to do, is “look outside the marital box.” Does tolerance toward infidelity actually demonstrate a greater sign of respect for marriage? 

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