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Why is there a 'Generation Gap in Extramarital Sex?'

Divorce among couples in their 50s and older has increased in recent decades, while the divorce rate has dropped for millennials. Another generation gap of sorts has been occurring, according to a recent study: More older couples are engaging in extramarital sex than their younger counterparts.

The research brief that discusses this phenomenon was published this month by the Institute for Family Studies. It showed a general upward trend (despite a few significant dips) since the early 1990s in the percentage of married Americans over 55 who reported having an affair. Meanwhile, there was an overall decline among those between 18 and 55.

Couples in their 50s and 60s who had been married for two to three decades led the pack, reporting the highest rates of infidelity.

Of course, perhaps predictable that extramarital affairs would be common for couples who have been together for many years and are now likely empty-nesters than those who haven't been married as long and are still raising their children.

However, the professor who authored the brief, titled America's Generation Gap in Extramarital Sex, has another possible theory: "Perhaps the propensity for extramarital sex is a product of what people experienced while growing up, not a question of how old they are."

Many older couples came of age during the 1960s and 1970s when the Sexual Revolution was in full swing. By the time the next generation came along, "free love" wasn't so free. Many younger couples grew up in the midst of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, hearing that sex could literally kill you.

It remains to be seen if there really is a new trend toward monogamy or if these younger couples, after they've been married for many years, will fall into the same patterns as the older couples of today.

Of course, extramarital affairs aren't a deal-breaker for all spouses. Many continue in the marriage for a number of reasons after their partner has admitted to infidelity.

However, for divorcing spouses who have been stung by a cheating spouse, anger, jealousy and a need for revenge can cloud their decision-making process about what they want to seek in the divorce. That's why it's essential to have cooler heads around you like your attorney, a therapist and a financial advisor who can help you make smart decisions as you prepare for this new phase of your life.

Source: KSL.com, "Extramarital affairs more common among baby boomers than millennials," Liesl Nielsen, July 14, 2017

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