Gender stereotypes breed all kinds of misconceptions, including the belief that good girls don’t cheat. No one is surprised when a man, particularly one who is good-looking and successful, strays in their relationship. But come to find out a woman is unfaithful and the shock and dismay are palpable.
In the past 20 years, women have been catching up to men in their extramarital escapades. Research by a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University found that 20 percent of men were having an affair compared to around 15 percent of women. Of course, any attempt at putting science behind cheating relies on self-reporting, which means these numbers are likely much higher for both genders. Some polls suggest that as many as 50 percent of married women have cheated.
What is driving more women into the arms of other men?
#1 To Feel Wanted
Women may not be as sex-driven as men, but they do crave intimacy. As real life, complete with jobs, kids and bills, sets in women may begin to feel less desired. Sex used to include touching, kissing and quality time together, but now it’s just another task to cross off the list. The attention of another man may become irresistible if she doesn’t feel that same passion and connection at home. Low self-esteem may exacerbate the problem as being pursued by another man or engaging in a steamy sexual relationship can, at least temporarily, be a real ego-booster.
#2 To Feel Heard
Women like to share their feelings and be heard. Some men have a limited capacity for listening, especially after years of marriage and hearing the same stories over and over again. When another man lends a compassionate ear and asks all the right questions, a woman may begin sharing her most intimate thoughts and feelings with him instead of her husband. The “emotional affair” can quickly escalate into a physical one.
#3 To Feel Appreciated
Most women play many roles in their family, bouncing from mother and wife to housekeeper, wage-earner and chauffer. For many years, a husband may show gratitude for his wife’s contributions, but as day-to-day life gets busier, he stops noticing and thanking her for all that she does. She feels ignored and taken for granted, making it more likely that she’ll get seduced by the attention of another man.
#4 To Feel Connected
At various points in a relationship, one or both partners may check out emotionally. Perhaps they haven’t spent enough quality time together and their interests have diverged. They have begun living like roommates rather than husband and wife. When she reaches out to her husband to share her frustrations and loneliness, he is too complacent or emotionally bankrupt to work on the relationship. All of a sudden, she starts noticing other men at work or the gym, and is excited to discover that they notice her, too. And they don’t have the emotional baggage that prevents them from establishing an intimate connection with her.
#5 To Feel Excited
She remembers when her face lit up every time she saw her mate, when the sex was thrilling and when a twinge of nervousness surfaced every time he called. Living and having sex with the same person for years can get boring and predictable if both parties let it. She may feel that sizzle of new love with another man who makes grand romantic gestures to win her over. Disillusioned by her partner’s flaws or the drudgery of daily life, she may begin looking for someone new to spice up her life. Even though the marriage may be pretty good and it’s unrealistic to expect excitement around every turn in any long-term relationship, she gets lost in the magic.
#6 A Mid-Life Crisis
Some studies show that women are most likely to cheat between the ages of 30 and 50. As a certain age approaches, women may long for the days when they felt vivacious, alluring and confident. Once the kids get older and they have more time and energy, women may try to revisit their youth. For some, it starts as innocent fun whereas others may be trying to cope with a major life change, such as an “empty nest” or a job change, by seeking the affection of other men.
#7 The Sweet Taste of Revenge
Maybe her husband cheated, or perhaps he was unfaithful in others ways. He blew the kids’ college fund during a gambling phase, or he told a lot of lies that year he drowned his sorrows in alcohol. Whatever the reason, his wife feels hurt and betrayed and feels entitled to do a little soul-crushing of her own.
#8 To End the Relationship
She has been unhappy and checked-out for a long time. As a young girl, she imagined what her grown-up life would be and the reality has fallen far short of her hopes and dreams. Rather than break up or ask for a divorce, she uses an affair as her exit strategy. In her mind, it’s easier to let infidelity be the reason to call it quits than to deal with the real issues. Moving on to another partner right away also prevents her from being alone.
#9 To Prove a Point about the Relationship
A woman may desperately want to save her marriage, but nothing she says or does grabs her husband’s attention. She has an affair to show her husband how bad things really are and to convince him to go to therapy and work on the relationship.
#10 Opportunity Knocks
In the past few decades, more women have joined the workforce, which creates greater opportunities and financial means to meet and pursue potential lovers. Those who are curious about straying need look only as far as pro-adultery websites like AshleyMadison.com, online chat rooms or smartphone apps to have an intimate encounter with another man.
Women are also better at hiding their affairs. It isn’t that unusual for a woman to have an affair for years without telling a soul or giving any indication of a problem. The secrecy may stem from cultural and social norms which demand that women remain loyal to their husbands and avoid sleeping around to protect their reputations.
Women cheat for a variety of reasons, most of which stem from unmet emotional needs. When a woman cheats, there’s a good chance she’s unhappy in her relationship and has given her situation a lot of thought. Studies show that women are more likely to fall in love with their affair partner, which makes reconciliation complicated. In addition to listening attentively and making the relationship a priority, partners should be alert and responsive to the first indication of a problem rather than letting the momentum of an affair destroy the marriage.