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Female infidelity: It's different from the guys
April 7th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Female infidelity: It's different from the guys

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.


In a committed relationship nothing hurts more, or is harder to recover from, than infidelity, and this is even truer when it’s the female partner who’s been doing the cheating.  In recent years I’ve noticed a precipitous rise in the number of men who have been betrayed by adultery, and while there’s an overall consensus among professionals that female infidelity is on the rise, the trend doesn’t garner nearly as much attention as male infidelity  That’s surprising, because female infidelity is often much more damaging to a marriage. Don’t get me wrong: Male cheating is definitely harmful. But when a woman fools around, it’s often the death knell to a couple’s relationship.

It's often said that men cheat for sex, while women cheat for love, the theory being that men can more easily compartmentalize sex and emotion, while women typically need to experience an emotional connection to a person before feeling sexual desire. Without those pesky emotions to stand in the way of a potential mistake, a guy is much more likely to get himself into trouble (especially if alcohol is involved and inhibitions are down) or to get involved with someone for whom he has no feelings.

That’s not to say that men don't cheat  because they're unhappy, in search of an emotional connection or simply bored in their relationship (a topic we’re currently analyzing at Good in Bed), but  many of the men I've encountered who have cheated on their wives often have no desire to leave their primary relationship. Many of them even characterize themselves as happily married with satisfying sex lives.

That’s one of the reasons there's often a better chance that a couple will stay together and try to work things out when it’s the man who’s doing the cheating, rather than the woman. For men, cheating often tends to be opportunistic—they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and the cheating doesn’t necessarily mean anything emotionally—whereas with women the desire to cheat is often less opportunistic and more deeply felt.  It’s often more a matter of the heart than of the genitals. Sure, some women cheat for the sex, but many also cheat for another chance at love, or to confirm to themselves that their primary relationship is really over. A woman who cheats is often a woman who doesn't want to work it out. She's already invested time trying to work it out, and she's done. It's too late.

While there aren't any hard statistics on female infidelity, most experts agree that it's on the rise, especially among women who have their own careers and a degree of financial independence. A University of Washington study found that people who earned $75,000 or more per year were 1.5 times more likely to have had extramarital sex than those earning less than $30,000. And with so many women in the workplace, it’s no surprise that  among the spouses who cheated, 46 percent of women and 62 percent of men did so with someone they met through work.

Another big factor in the rise in female infidelity is the Internet. Sexual infidelity often starts with emotional infidelity, and digital technologies offer an abundance of opportunity for emotional (and thrilling) connections: The return of an ex, a workplace flirtation, a Facebook friendship that becomes more than "just friends."  Women are extremely susceptible to “emotional infidelity,” which starts as friendship, often with colleagues or seemingly harmless online relationships, and slowly progresses to something more. A gradual blurring of the lines between friendship and deeper intimacy draws even happily partnered people into relationships they never saw coming.

So what are some of the signs that a woman could be cheating or thinking about it?

–         She shows less general interest in her partner's comings and goings

–         She dresses up for work, but seems to care less about whether her partner finds her attractive

–         She has less interest in sex with her partner

–         She's keeping an irregular schedule and spending more time at work

–         She seems happy, except when she's around her partner

–         She shows less tolerance of her partner's friends and family

–         There are unresolved issues in the relationship that have either been ignored or not resolved in a way that's satisfying to her

–         She's in a child-centric marriage that prioritizes parenting and neglects a couple's relationship, with few opportunities for romance and alone time

Guys, think your wife would never cheat? Think again. When men get angry about something, they tend to lash out, but women often self-silence and bottle up their emotions. As Helen E. Fisher, research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, says, "Men want to think women don't cheat, and women want men to think they don't cheat, and therefore the sexes have been playing a little psychological game with each other."  Maybe this isn’t so much a game as a reflection of the double standard and culture of forgiveness that favors men—“boys will be boys,” as the adage goes—when they cheat. But as we’re learning, cheating is an equal opportunity sport, one that women are just as likely as men to play.


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soundoff (2,086 Responses)
  1. John

    Men do NOT cheat more than women. Men and women cheat EQUALLY. Men just show it more. Think about it...if men cheat, who are they cheating with? WOMEN!!!

    April 7, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patrick

      I know its hard to imagine, but single women do exist.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      Just because one is cheating doesn't mean both are. I could go and cheat on my logic with stupidity, but stupidity is (always) SINGLE.

      Get it yet?

      April 7, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • mag

      idiot.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • disclosure

      John, many men (and women) who cheat cleverly remove their wedding band and decline to offer their marital or relationship status when they court other women. Not all women (or men) who end up with a cheater do so knowingly. I pity those people who unknowingly help people cheat. I despise those who knowingly enter trysts/relationships with those who are cheating.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • WOBH

      Isn't a single person who knowingly gets involved with a married person just as much to blame and the married person?

      April 7, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  2. sniffanus

    "She has less interest in s * x with her partner" bring another hot lady into the equation with her. Maybe a hot secretary from work or your kids teacher. Maybe the three of you together will peak her interest.

    April 7, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. riomarcos

    You can sum up this entire article with this quote from it:

    Women are extremely susceptible to “emotional infidelity,” which starts as friendship, often with colleagues or seemingly harmless online relationships, and slowly progresses to something more.

    April 7, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Odner

      And here's how you interprete that: When a good guy picks up on that
      succestibility, and wins her heart, she also wins a little something called happiness; but when it's bad guy, a player, which is often the case– she's scewed. She's poor Mary...

      April 7, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
    • Odner

      oops– susceptibility* (had success in mind)

      April 7, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
  4. aizen

    i ahve multiple partners cus i want to, there is a reason why there are more females than males on the planet...i like having fun and not be bogged down in serious relationships...maybe when im 45..for now, i will enjoy life to the lee and if they cheat who cares, i will get another one...1 lost 10 gained...if u r in serious relationship and your wife cheat well leave her and that goes the some for women.....cheating is more common cus there are no moral values and people are just easy and loose..women are worse than men nowadays..i dont even have to do the effort i did 10 years ago

    April 7, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • aizen's mom

      The fingers on your hand do not count as "multiple partners", honey.

      Why don't you call once in a while?

      April 7, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • aizen's doctor

      Hey, chief. Those test results are in and I need you to make an appointment. We can get you fitted with a prosthetic that will dangle just like the real thing.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
  5. Seaburger

    "..female infidelity is on the rise, the trend doesn’t garner nearly as much attention as male infidelity."
    That's because women want to maintain the fallacy of the poor "working Mom". Today both parents work & take care of the kids equally ... you don't hear the phrase "working Dad" because Dads don't need or want sympathy.

    April 7, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lanolate

      Get over your stereotypes. Everyone works hard. You must be old and stuck in the 50's.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
  6. tjc360

    yeah.. right..Frank

    April 7, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. eegur beevur

    you're all wrong. each and every one of you.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mezzanoche

    Paul is the winner. 🙂

    April 7, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. bob

    Cheating is cheating, no matter what your race, color, or age is.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. peter north

    lol

    April 7, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. IQ195

    Never been married. Have a girlfriend for 30+ years. I don't want the emotional BS of todays liberated women, their luggage, or their STDs. Why do you think it should be "TILL DEATH DO YOU PART". If that does not apply...don't get married......go to the red light district.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jposto

    I'm not offended by this article as a woman. I'm offended by this article as a psychologist. This is b.s.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Freemaan

      So, as a psychologist, your opinion is that women don't cheat?

      Men and women, equally guilty of cheating. Next issue.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • Suunistaja

      Thank you! I was stunned that this lightweight collection of generalizations was written by a fellow licensed professional. It is not helpful and even misleading, in my opinion.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • IQ195

      A psychologist offended.....I would think a psychologist should be curious about human behavior. Was that an on-line course in psychology?

      April 7, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
  13. NungaBIZ

    @ Frank
    "..women clients are frequently coming on to me, asking to meet after work, and do disgusting degrading things to them..." Oh, and then... you woke up, you should have taken the red pill Frank! What about the unmarried women, no offers, wonder why? I don't, grow up before you get hurt one way or the other, or worse hurt someone else, could you live with that?

    April 7, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jez

    This author has a problem. He's making it OK if men cheat, but if women cheat, the entire relationship is over! Chances are, if a woman cheats, its just the dumb man who doesn't know that the relationship has been over for a long time. I'm sick of men making excuses for playing around. The knife cuts both ways.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Guest

    To ALL men that think your wife will not cheat...they will! Maybe I say that because it happened to me and I never EVER saw it coming because everything seemed so perfect in our marriage. So my advice would be to.........get yours if the opportunity arises!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DDM

      Probably what your wife thought about men before she helped herself.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse |
    • My Two Cents

      HA! HA! Too funny LMAO!

      April 7, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  16. NungaBIZ

    Other guys don't count...

    April 7, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Scott

    Well, I'm faithful to my monogomous marriage. I guess I'll just have to endure my "religiously silly" relationship. And if my wife's cheating, she hides it well and it hasn't dampened her enthusiasm behind my bedroom door. A little effort and consideration of your partner's desires goes a long way towards keeping things erotic and exciting. I guess I just wanted to encourage those who still believe in monogamy that, despite what popular media and culture seem to suggest, it can still work out happily.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Bobby

    There is a new technology where men can tell if their significant other have cheated. Get the device and there will be no worries

    April 7, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. sniffanus

    I bang my wife so hard that she is too sore to go around banging anything else.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Down South

      Come on!! You are giving yourself too much credit. Do you honestly think you can hurt it? That "thing" is made to spit out babies of approx. 22 inches long weighing in at 5-10 lbs.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      Post of the year.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
    • w00t

      Giving the wife *both* inches, eh? You rascal.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
  20. Waxonwaxoff

    Selfishness is on the rise!!!Stupidity is rampant!!! Trust no one!!! They will cheat when your not looking everytime!!! So join em!!!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jesus m

    For me one Man and one Women please

    April 7, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Michael NYC

    In our hedonistic throwaway society, this story comes as no surprise. As one of those men who is still dealing with his wife’s infidelity 4 years after the fact, it is still painful struggle. I am far from perfect, but am a good man and have been faithful. I deserve better and if weren’t for my kids I would be long gone, But I can gut it out till they are older. My advice to anyone who is thinking about cheating, if you have feeling about your spouse at all, try to talk it out before you cheat. Some wounds never heal.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • idnar

      If she had left you before she cheated, you would still by whining and crying about how broken up you are over it... just end it already and TRY to move on with your life. It's over.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  23. jaosn

    haha, you are all having such a 4th grade conversation about this, the article is so 4th grade it's ridiculous. Who read that article and was blown away by such amazing information? really. I'm only commenting because i thought you all should know...

    April 7, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. I agree

    I am a female and I agree with this article. I think women are emotional cheaters for the most part and I beleive men cheat for the physical part. Even though I am in a relationship right now where I have eyes for no one else but my boyfriend I believe this to be true because I went through this before in a past relationship. I will explain that most women are in need of affection, we always give it and alot of times don't recieve as much in return. You have to nurture your relationship and go the extra mile to let your partner know how attractive they are, how much you love them, and so forth. All women love the attention from our significant other but if its just not happening and someone else is whispering sweet nothings to her and making her feel the way you dont anymore then there is a chance she will give it a shot even if its just for a fling. New love is always exciting. Make sure to keep your love as alive as possible. Relationships are like plants. You have to take care of them and water them everyday!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. MarciaMarcia

    Peepul liek secks.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. sniffanus

    "She has less interest in s*x with her partner" clearly, these dudes have not given their ladies anul

    April 7, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. sniffanus

    I have cheated at Monopoly.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Waterwolf

      Like I said, "Go Fishin"!! I get laid more by accident than I do on purpose.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
  28. machahir123

    see now more here
    http://machahir123.blogspot.com/

    April 7, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Waterwolf

    It's become 'socially acceptable' to cheat and have no commitment or dedication towards one another. Marriage and relationships are becomming increasingly more passay: GO FISHING!!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sniffanus

      "GO FISHING!" what exactly do you mean by that? I'm fine either way. Just want to make sure I understand.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
  30. sniffanus

    Unfortunately, I have first hand knowledge that some of the women in this forum have cheated with the family dog. It can be hard to compete with that tongue.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. flow

    Well! It really takes a lot for a woman to go after another man especially when she is in a committed relationship irrespective of where she works & how much money she makes. So, even thou a woman is giving the time of her day to another man, she will still be going through a lot of emotional pain deep within. Trying to find some comfort & solace out of her committed relationship is the only way for her to stay balanced & keep it going especially when the so called "HUSBAND"/ "BOYFRIEND" material is not treating her right the way she is supposed to be. I think, it's men who drive women to that extent & later when it actually starts happening, they can't stand it.. DOUBLE STANDARD! Roll up your sleeves, be the man & treat your girl right. You will get what you want!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Joy

    Really good and realistic article!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sophie

    Most men are much sweeter and compliant during the dating stage, so of course the other guy treats you better than your husband. I like walks after dinner and my husband prefers TV and couch. While we were dating he’d walk to the end of the world with me. Now there’s always a reason not to. Women need to understand that the new guy will very likely turn out to be the same, and even if the grass does appear greener on the other side, it'll likely not last.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. DDM

    If I find out my man has cheated on me, I either leave or do whatever I want with other men from then on. Don't flaunt it, but don't care if he finds out or not. Don't owe him my fidelity any more.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Guest

    "A woman who cheats is often a woman who doesn't want to work it out. She's already invested time trying to work it out, and she's done. It's too late."

    Exactly. It feels much better when you stop beating your head against the wall. If he's not interested in keeping up his side, why bother wasting time, go ahead and live your life with someone who wants to invest in a relationship with you.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Otto

    Just remember Barry White "playing my game" It is a game and both sides play it. How mant men are tired of the constant complaints from women? How many women are tired of men spending most if not all out side of the home?

    Oh, don't forget the constant excuses...I am tired baby but can you take me to the mall? I want to see a movie have dinner and drinks, but I don't ever want to cook. But baby, things are hard and the bills are due; yeah, whatever, I want to go out or else!!!! Well baby, you can go without me and when you do, stay there!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. luvuall

    As long as you place the value of your own self-worth in the hands of others (or the actions of others) you are playing with fire. Infidelity is so damaging because we're trained to think it is -and it's a remnant of times where things like scarlet letters served a purpose. The commandment thou shalt not commit adultery wasn't written because adultery is inherently bad but it was written to warn potential adulterers that the wrath of their judgemental society could be deadly...

    April 7, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. touch'e

    care to dance in pale blue moonlight

    April 7, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. touch'e

    ?

    April 7, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Heather

    I am independent financially because I've been raised to be, but I am not careless with my emotions and I have respect for myself and whoever I choose to be in a relationship with. If I ever wanted to cheat on someone, the relationship is over and I wouldn't treat it as anything but. Not only is trust a base for a good relationship, but so is respect. There are decent people out there.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Tara CommitmentPhobe

    I'm not surprised at all that more women are cheating these days. No one takes marriage seriously anymore for the most part. I am happily single and have been for a few years, and a lot of my friends (male and female) that are in relationships or are married say they envy my freedom, and the ones who don't say it, think it.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Leopold

    I'm sure he's being sarcastic

    April 7, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Rocco

    Well when the woman of the house is late, there is always the MILF next door. Lightin up boys. If the gals on the hunt so you should be. Just keep good files on the wife and a PI on call. A couple of grand later and that perfumed palace the wife put together can be yours to change into the man cave you always wanted. Marriage is bizarre anyway. Just don't have kids.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Ken in NC

    I'm seeing all of those signs in my marriage that that my wife could be cheating. Oh well, Guess I'll pack up and hit the road.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. jim

    Its takes a Phd to tell us this...?

    April 7, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. hdkimbo

    Men and women both cheat. The bottom line is that people these days do not commit them selves to anything anymore. They are not willing to dig in there heels and fight for what is important. It takes more than love to make a relationship work and people find it easier to run than deal with the problems. They are handling these issues as they handle all of their issues. Lets run away and then I won't have to address the real problem.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Miguel

    What about gay guys... How do they cheat? Do they see a hot tight pair of jeans on a man and want to rip it off? lets talk more about them.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      I have one openly gay friend and actually chatted about this over a few beers one time. He complained that gay men are just like straight men in that respect, it's just more complicated because you end up with both partners sleeping around on each other.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      Hmm, Miguel, why are you so interested?

      April 7, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      @ James – I think "cheating" can work better in a (male) gay relationship for the reasons alluded to in this article. It's much less about the emotion and more about the physical, and men can compartmentalize the two. Common sense tells me that there are more gay open relationships than straight ones. And of course if it's an open relationship it technically isn't cheating. And each couple can set their own "rules" (i.e., no repeats, always tell the other partner, always safe, etc.)

      April 7, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
    • Oh Fudge

      Well, um...I don't know...now here's a question, if a gay man decides to sleep with a lesbian, is that considered cheating or like if a hetero male allows his wife to sleep with another chick, is that ok...see, to many questions!

      April 7, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
    • Jokester

      @Jay: Sounds to me like cheating is still possible in an open relationship - it's just that the definition of cheating has changed.

      April 8, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
  48. rh

    This is a silly as the "why men cheat" articles.

    There are only two reasons people cheat – either they don't have the self-control not to cheat, or they are miserable in their relationship. And in both cases, they should not have married in the first place. There is no such thing as "the Internet" being responsible for cheating. And there is no such thing as "all men who find the opportunity will cheat".

    It is disgusting how human beings are so generalized by supposed "counselors". They are worse than talk-show pundits. I especially like "she prioritizes the children". If two people are incompatible, they shouldn't be together, and cheating is a symptom of THEM not the world.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      Yeah,
      all this rationalizing is so damn silly.

      Male of female if you screw around on a partner it is for on reason and one reason only. You are weak and too damn chickenspit to do the hard thing and file for divorce. Divorce is so easy in our society, so why is it that people cheat?

      The path of least resistance is the highway of choice for most people.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
    • WW

      ^word up.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • elleeik

      I agree with you whole-heartedly!!!!!

      April 7, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      some people cheat rather than divorce due to financial reasons... not a goo denough reason.. but I guess if you have a few kids, a mortgage, a career etc.... my sister-in-law is a divorce atoorney and she helps mediate the divorce settlements and she says so many of them end up back together,, for the money. So I think sometimes it's not so much a lack of courage that people won't divorce and get on with their cheating ways.. it's financial.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
    • croco3

      ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!

      April 7, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      nonsense. That is what people WANT to believe, but that is not true. The real reason why people cheat is because they watch too much Fox News .

      April 7, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
  49. WOBH

    I wonder if the reason relationships end more when women cheat is that men tend to be more territorial about their partners. Women respond to infidelity with sadness and men respond with anger.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patricia

      I would have to agree with you there. If I did that to my husband he would just shut me out... he'd never utter a word to me again except to mediate a divorce settlement.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
  50. sally

    you said it!

    April 7, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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