Who cheats more? Men or women? And why do partners sometimes feel the need to cheat? When it comes to infidelity, the reasons vary for men and women. In fact, gender often plays some role in what led to the indiscretion. For example, one reason men often stray is because they don’t feel respected by their partner. In a conversation with The Cheat Sheet, Lesli Doares, couples consultant and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage, told us cheating among women is often due to unmet emotional needs. “I’m not sure that women are more likely to cheat than men but the percentages are getting closer as women have been in the workplace in force. And the reasons they cheat are often the same,” Doares said. What are those reasons? Feeling underappreciated and failing to have their emotional needs met are common.
To learn more about infidelity among both men and women, The Cheat Sheet spoke some more with Doares as well as psychologist Dr. Jeanette Raymond. Their answers to our questions might surprise you.
The Cheat Sheet: Despite the common belief that men tend to be cheaters, is it a possibility that women are more likely to cheat than men?
Dr. Jeanette Raymond: Absolutely. Women who have outgrown their dependency on their partners often cheat just for the exhilaration of being free and in control of their lives. They don’t want to rock the boat too much, nor do they want to feel trapped and forced to restrict themselves to a narrow lifestyle. Cheating is a great way of having that balance. [I know someone] who is married with young children who goes out dancing, picks up guys and cheats. She wants freedom because her husband is clingy and wants her to devote herself to him (which she did in the early days of their relationship). She wants to explore parts of herself that she suppressed earlier in order to get a guy.
CS: What are some reasons women cheat on their partner?
JR: Some women who change and grow but want to maintain their relationship status choose to be self-indulgent and let loose. Some women cheat to get their partners jealous so that the relationship becomes exciting again if it was in the doldrums. Others cheat because their mothers did. Many women grow up in homes where their mothers have multiple partners, often simultaneously. It becomes a norm.
CS: How can a man make a woman partner feel more loved and accepted?
JR: Noticing, acknowledging, and facilitating their partner’s psychological, emotional, and social growth is the essence of the capacity to love. Encouraging your partner to be who she is, and to fulfill her personal goals as a woman are the best ways to honor and accept her.
CS: What advice do you have for a woman who is tempted to cheat?
JR: She should take a look at what’s missing in her life and try to discuss it with her partner. Then she should consider what she’s aiming for by cheating. Is she wanting to feel power, feminine, control, have the thrill of a secret? If her partner is not up to talking and discussing her change and growth, it would be a good idea to think about going to therapy to explore her personal needs and her choices. Then she doesn’t have to use cheating to force the issue of needing to grow and develop.
CS: What lesson can a couple learn from cheating?
Lesli Doares: Cheating is often a symptom of the state of the relationship, not the cause of problems. But once it occurs, the infidelity overshadows those real problems and becomes the focus. While the original problems can often be effectively resolved, the violation of trust that occurs with infidelity makes that resolution much, much harder. Cheating is almost always discovered, despite the participants’ best efforts. It’s much healthier to deal with one relationship at a time. So, fix the one you’re in or end it because relationships that begin as affairs rarely work out.
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[Editor’s Note: This story was updated February 28, 2017.]