Sleezy Dude, All Like, “Whaaaat? I had pizza for lunch.”
A few weeks ago I was having a drink with a friend of mine; we were talking about relationships when he said, “I am actually surprised that you married an Italian man. You don’t seem like the type of woman who would go for one.” I asked him to explain further, he sighed and said, “Well, they are famous for being very high maintenance and for being unfaithful.” I wasn’t offended because it’s kind of true, they are high maintenance compared to an American guy, and it wasn’t the first time someone had brought up the “cheater” stereotype. Announcing that I’ve married an Italian man always inspires two different responses, either, “Oh my god you’re so lucky, they are so romantic!” or, “Why would you do that? You know he’s going cheat on you.” I find both stereotypes to be kind of true and kind of funny. Yes, my husband is romantic, but he doesn’t call me, “your majesty,” and take me on dates on the back of a unicorn. At least not yet, I’m still waiting. As for the other thing, well, there’s no way to ever know.
Italian men do seem to cheat more than American men, at least statistically. Statistics vary depending on the study but most of the studies showed that the infidelity rate for men in Italy is around 70%, whereas the rate for men in the United States is around 50%. Curious as to why the rate might be higher in Italy, I interviewed random Italian men in Florence. One of the men, a married man, said that he believes the statistics are high in Italy because there are no real consequences for cheating. He could be right since the divorce rate in Italy is only 11%, compared to the United States 53%, and the number one cited reason for divorce is actually issues with, “the mother in law.” Does that mean that cheating is considered okay in Italy? Of course not. Cheating is not really okay in most countries but it seems to be tolerated more in Italy than it is in the United States. People suffer but don’t seem to see cheating as a relationship ender. While, in the US only 33% of relationships will continue after the discovery of infidelity.
It’s not just men who cheat. Women entering the workforce has increased the infidelity rate for women in Italy which is quickly catching up with the men. The workplace seems to be the most common place for finding a lover. According to the marriage association of Italy, 60% of cheating happens at work during the lunch break. Your partner might be eating more than a pizza for lunch.
Moving to Italy in two-thousand-nine I remember being shocked by the prime minister and his sexual indiscretions. Berlusconi is famous for his misconduct and his affairs yet he keeps getting voted into office and is praised by his constituents. When I asked Italians who voted for him what they think about his sexual sneakiness they said things like, “well good for him.” Politics are often a reflection of culture. When President Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky he was nearly kicked out of office for lying about his weird and creepy cigar incident. Honesty is one of the most important things in anglo-saxon culture. The brits, the americans, the irish, hold honesty to a very high regard and seem to be less bothered with “fitting in”. It’s possible that Italian culture is more lenient because looking good, or maintaining “bella figura” is more important than being honest.
So how does one marry an Italian man knowing that he is statistically inclined to stray? Game Theory proposes a few different theories regarding defense mechanisms to prevent infidelity. One of them suggests that punishing infidelity harshly is an effective defense mechanism. My husband has admittedly cheated on most of his ex-girlfriends because according to him there was no real reason not to. I asked him if he would cheat on me and he said, “Why? So I can get divorced and possibly be murdered? It’s not worth it.” Does that mean he won’t do it? No. Statistics are never completely accurate and the national average doesn’t mean that my husband will for sure run off with his secretary during his lunch break either. But, just in case, I should mention that Lorena Bobbitt is a sort of hero of mine.
An iconic photo of the John and Lorena Bobbitt event in the United States in June 23, 1993 showing the trial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)