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.
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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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
I married my wife because she has multiple personalities. I get to cheat on her with her. It's a lot cheaper, too. You can feed the boring personality macaroni, and avoid taking the interesting one to dinner before completing the deal.
It turns out that one of her personalities has Tourette's, which is awesome. I love it when they talk dirty in bed.
You made me laugh! Thank you! I needed it.
I really should thank each of you for the times when your wives have strayed. JimBob's been there to comfort them, have some fun, then leave you holding the bag when they want to make up. JimBob's pretty sure none of them would do those nasty things if he were married to them. Thank you kindly.
Really? I've done some pretty nasty things to MY wife! :-D~~ And I bet most husbands would too, if their wives would let them. So let's put the blame where it's due, m'kay?
Like the article says, I've found that women cheat just as much as men. I know several women who've admitted to infidelity, a surprising number, even women I assumed would never cheat or who I thought had strong relationships. Contrary to the article, several women have told me they cheated simply because they gave into temptation, they wanted the physical attention but were not emotionally invested, nor did they wish to leave their partner, and some didn't feel any guilt whatsoever. I think it's difficult for society to accept that women cheat for similar reasons as men but I think the blame lies on both ends of the spectrum and women are just as guilty of cheating.
You cheat, you out and vice versa!
Really???? Women cheat, men cheat, everyone cheats. Marriage itself should be outlawed. The worl would be a better place... 🙂
Like it or not, it's harder for women to find a decent guy that can earn a living than the other way around. I let my husband have some extra action, but I insist that I'm always included so that I can control if things are moving beyond the funzone. Other women may think that's wrong, but my man is home every night, on holidays, vacations, etc. Small price to pay and I would be lying if I said that women didn't enjoy it a little, too.
Ian, Your article has a bit of merit. Unfortunatley your foundation that "female infidelity is often much more damaging to a marriage" – killed what little merit it has. 1950's thinking might get you readers, but will not get you respect as a columnist. This may be true, but you forgot to mention the real reason-
Why can a husband cheat multiple times (opportunitstic one-night stands) and get almost immediate forgiveness from his spouse – yet struggle with forgiving his wife's single affair? It's because of a double standard – which is reinforced by ariticles such as yours.
Articles like this totally reinforce why I always cheat on my women. Despite their tears when they find out, they were bound to cheat on me and I just got ahead of them.
Whats your point? Is this an International Article? Last time I check in AMERICA, OUR PHILOSOPHY ON CHEATING stands as immoral. Pat yourself on the back for your brilliant observation, not. Cheating is cheating dude! Regardless of race, creed, or gender.
To all married women,
If you need your cooches stuffed, just call me.
I personally believe in being monogamous but to be fair many animals in nature and probably the ones that we evolved from practice polygamy. The alpha male essentially had a harem of females for which he provided. It is the evolution of our intelligence and subsequently our emotions that made people want to stay with one person for their entire life.
Sick of hearing we are evolved from polygamous chimps – alpha male, harem and all that. In fact polygamy was one of things we left BEHIND in our evolution from chimps to humans. Pair bonding was essential to raise human kids who undergo a long period of development. Our intelligence is a result of monogamy not that monogamy is a result of intelligence.
Biology only tells us that we are serially monogamous with a bit of opportunistic mating here and there. How many serial mates we have in our lifetime or how many opportunities we cash on is strongly determined by our personality, culture and society. Culture plays a big role here. American society today flinches at incest, yet it was okay for the Egyptian Pharaohs – even when behavior like this has a clear evolutionary downside. What is tolerated by society and what is not varies a great deal over time – one set of rules is not necessarily better than the others.
So, basically what this boils down to is: "But it's different when it happens to ME!" Grow up.
A cheater never wins and a winner never cheats.
I've never cheated. Shame on everybody that has.
A cheater never thinks that he is cheating.
Son! You have inside information of a woman.
Wow, lots of views here, I would think that overall "in a perfect world" we could be happy with the grass on our side of the fence but honesty is a quality in short supply. Time to rise above the jealously and do the right thing overall. We all know whats right and wrong and we should stay in communication with partners we care about. Maybe that would work for you, I know it works for me.
I just cheated on myself
I am happy to see this article because I tell my female friends the same thing every time. For some reason women have themselves fooled that there is a legitimate reason for women to teach. Providing some justification that they are sad or lonely or that their husbands are monsters when in fact it is some lame excuse. Now that my friends and I are in our 30s, I find more female cheaters than male cheaters but if a male friend of ours cheats, they think that it is the typical male wanting to have more women than he can handle. I don't know if it is in the water but there seems to be a lot more women cheating than men and sometimes not for very good reasons. It is the breaking of a relationship when the secret is out because men, unfortunately, are less willing to forgive infidelity while women for years have been asked to overlook their husbands indiscretions. Not to justify cheating by any means but the article it 100% true.
Perhaps Ian got dumped, or his mother didn't get along with him. Clearly this guy has problems with women, usually reflected by a rocky relationship with a maternal figure.
I'm usually willing to listen to almost anyone's views on almost any subject. But I couldn't make it through the first paragraph of this tripe. Talk about your weasel words. Just look at the first couple sentences...
"this is **even truer** when it’s the female partner who’s been doing the cheating" ... "**I’ve noticed** a precipitous rise in the number of **men who have been betrayed**" ... "female infidelity is often **much more damaging**" ... And the ultimate statement, made universally by all people who are hard selling their own agenda but trying to slip it by... "Don't get me wrong".
Unfortunately, there's no other way to "get" you, sir. You have quite obviously been through a bad break-up, and you wish to vent your anger for pennies per word.
Unfortunately, some people might actually think you have done some sort of research, without noticing the extreme misogeny that your double-standards reveal.
The plain truth: Men are more likely to engage in an affair. It is as damaging to the relationship when a man cheats as when a woman cheats.
Any article about infidelity, even ones like these that claim to be rooted in hard science, that attempts to refute these two undeniable truths is pure hyperbole, merely the ranting of a jilted lover hoping to turn his animosity into pennies per word.
No one should cheat. Human life is not worth for living for or with a cheater, male or female. There is only one life to live.
Honestly, I can relate to what so many of you are saying. Prior to finding out my husband strayed, I thought, "He cheats, he's gone!", or something similar.
That was before my world blew apart. Now, I am working through it with him. I love him, deeply, and yes I believe he loves me deeply. He is not a bad person, but he made a horrible mistake. It is completely opposite of what I thought I would feel and do if that ever happened to me.
My point is, you do not know what you would do in this situation, until you are in this situation. I always thought I would be done, but the truth is, the love is too deep and I don't want to be done. It is a myth that if you love someone deeply, you will never cheat.
The article is pretty spot on for at least our situation. You see, he cheated with my friend (best friend). He was not emotionally attached (at all), though she was. She had "checked out" of her marriage a while back and their innocent flirting became a slippery slope until the cheating happened.
I found out and was devastated. A little anger (yes, only a little), and a lot of pain. The pain was so deep, I had no room left for anger. Her husband on the other hand, was more angry than hurt. He is threatening retaliation constantly (with me, even though I have told him over and over I am not going down that road. In fact I cut all conversations with him because of this).), and can't get past it.
I think what the article means by a woman cheating being the "death knell" to a relationship, is that for a man, it hurts his ego...his pride...his manhood. When a blow like that comes, it is hard to deal. Especially since her side was emotionally invested.
I/we don't speak to them anymore, we are focusing on us, and healing our relationship. Some may think me weak for this, but trust me, this takes a *strong* person. This kind of situation and how you deal with it, can make or break you, both in your marriage and internally.
I am choosing strength.
The amusing thing about children is that they spend their life discovering what is already known by adults, and then proclaiming 'their' discovery. It's just so cute!
Women would never have the opportunity to cheat if they'd simply stay in the house / kitchen. Problem solved.
Ever heard of the milk man?
yeah but a lot of men dont make enough to support the household and she needs to work so they can have a 2income household. He wants the boat and his cable tv and his SUV ya know!
It doesn't matter who cheats, it is wrong. It destroys trust, love and families and leaves only pain and anguish. Once a cheater always a cheater, and if you think that the person you cheated with will never cheat on you just remember there was someone else thinking the same thing. In my line of work I see it every day and it is truly disgusting. From that point on you always worry about what (disease) the other person may bring "home" or worse. Although I am not Muslim, infidelity is one thing I think they may be on the right track with and it should be EQUALLY applied to both parties! And before anyone dares me to "cast the first stone", I have done many things but never adultery.
Heres a heads up to all the "temp studs" posting here – When I caught my wife cheating on me, I did my research and found the dirtbag who she was cheating with – followed him into a bar bathroom one night and while he was relieving himself I used a pony BB bat to break his knee-caps and elbows – leaving him crippled for life in a wheelchair – So instead of living in a half paid for house, with a union trade job set for life, driving one of three cars he owned and living "the good life" he now lives on disability in a housing complex and is transported around in a county welfare van. Truth be told, you violate another mans property be very wary of looking over your shoulder the rest of your life.
BND, I'd have to draw the line at the kneecapping, but I am 100% on your bus when it comes to your last sentence!
Women are not their husband's "property."
I agree with the article all the way. I live in a small community and I know of 6 couples getting divorced. Every one of them the woman didn't have the balls (no pun intended) to end their marriage before moving on. Every marriage has at least 2 kids and 80% of it was all done via FaceBook. The big problem is that the court system in this country still has it's head up it's bum and favors the woman no matter what. After all these years of women's lib wouldn't it be nice if the court system gave them the same rights as a man does in a divorce...none! I am not concerned with being PC at all about this. I think the average American woman has definitely slid down the moral ladder quite a few rungs. More men are looking after their kids and the women have this need to inject the new man into their children's lives as soon as possible. But the husband/father can't say a word and dare not have go at the useless morons who screwed up their families. In general I think American women are weak as p#!s. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it ladies you're way over-rated and it's about time the man/fathers got the same consideration you do/have. This 'no fauilt' garbage law that exists is just no on!
Bro, I totally agree with you. Not all women are like this, but I think it's probably a majority in Western society. I totally lucked out when it came to my bride - but if something ever happened to cause us not to be married, I would definitely not get married again.
Wives, how often do you deny your husband's advances? How often does he deny your's?
Crickets chirping. No surprise here...
we deny each other's advances about equally...which is, almost never.
Cheating is a reflection of emotional immaturity (emotionally mature people work it out or split up before resorting to cheating). So, women have become less emotionally mature. Men have always been emotionally immature.
Right, because women are known for their emotional stability.
It's not all one way or the other. Every relationship is different. If something doesn't work out, be rational and think of others as well as yourself. Emotional growth is often two steps forward, one step backward. Obviously, we all need to work on ourselves first to some extent, but life isn't always orderly, especially if you have kids.
Cheating can be very healing,... if done right. For both men and women, there is always the feeling.. what if? Cheating allows one to live out fantasies, try new body-types, etc. But unless the relationship was in trouble to begin with, cheating usually does not lead to a split up. So the trick, boys and girls, is to be discreet and honest (with yourself).
You are just stupid........................cheater.
what a ridicules comment.
That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard, evidently someone blew smkoe up your a$$ when you were younger.
Different strokes for different folks. If you and your spouse are the type that can handle a fling? Then more power to yah. I couldn't.
People get off your high horses; this is easily the most honest response I've seen. Cheating is bad, certainly. But why is it so unthinkable to put aside puritanical morality in order to fulfill a need outside a relationship and still keep a healthy relationship?
Hey,nobody even mention about Gods fear. Nobody even care , that commit adultery its a BIG sin.. if you all will continue to cheat, you all will panished by God,rermember that!
For you maybe
Sounds like to me that we have someone who obviously is an admitted cheater BUT is also espousing the BENEFITS OF CHEATING....(thumbs down)
SOOO lame–cheating is NEVER healing-EVER. This article hits it right on the nose–when a woman cheats, it's because she's tried every route possible to bring her partner back on board their sad marriage, and it's failed. I don't know any responsible woman who hasn't tried, for sometimes decades, to get her husband to fill her emotional holding bank, and when she is totally and completely drained, it happens. She needs that emotional connection that she so longs for with her husband, and if the right person comes along that fills that need, it's almost impossible to resist the hope of love. When a woman cheats, it IS a death-knell for the marriage. So GUYS! If you're wife is telling you over and over to go to counseling, that she's not happy, that she wants to feel as loved as she was when you first married–WAKE UP!!! If you don't do something NOW–you WILL suffer. And you WILL deserve it! You have been given more chances than you deserve. This will be your last one.
@ Soya...so its ok to go outside your relationship if you feel a need is not being met? Ever heard of such concepts as lets see: WORKING OUT YOUR PROBLEMS, or LEAVING THE RELATIONSHIP AND PURSUING ONE MORE SATISFYING or here is a more radical concept, how about DATING MULTIPLE PEOPLE IN NSA RELATIONSHIPS SO THAT WAY THERE IS NO CHEATING SO THERE IS NO COMMITTMENT AND YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT? There is NO EXCUSE for cheating especially since there is several other options on dealing with whatever shortcomings in your relationship. Another confirmed cheater here folks...thanks Soya
@ GardenGirl...you almost sound like you're condoning cheating for women. Cheating is NEVER the correct option. It's a selfish way of having your cake and eating it too or trying to navigate a soft landing for the end of your marraige. Why bring in a third party to make the situation 100 times worse if it is found out? If anyone (be they woman or man) has done everything to get their marraige on track (counseling, prayer, books, etc) to no avail...then they should consult a divorce attorney. It might have the affect of getting smacked in the face with a shovel when they are staring at divorce papers that were filed that just might get them out of la la land that their marraige is all hunky doory and they need to work at it. Cheating will only destroy whatever trust that had existed in the marraige and most likely make an evenutal divorce more ugly with bitterness that can last years if not decades. It's just not worth it.
What faith are you? I don't know of anything that allows you to sleep with (in mind, body, or spirit) someone other than your spouse, but are allowed to have multiple spouses, other than Atheism. But if it is oll korrect, then why be discreet? To even desire to seek out something from without the relationship means that it is wanting, but the one doing the cheating won't talk about it or is unable to resolve the issue and for some reason they are afraid to lose a relationship that they are commited to. Doing that not only is damaging, but opens up for it to become more and more frequent, then, in time, there isn't a relationship, just two people that won't seperate legally, maritally, and physically even though they already have emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
@Toshin You're comment about Atheists really bothers me. I'm Atheist and I have never cheated on my significant other nor have I ever felt the desire to cheat just because I don't believe in God. I don't cheat because its disrespectful.
Also, your comment "I don't know of anything that allows you to sleep with (in mind, body, or spirit) someone other than your spouse, but are allowed to have multiple spouses, other than Atheism." is completely blind. Have you never heard of Mormonism which allows men to have multiple wives at the same time? Polygamy is generally illegal throughout the United States with the exception of Utah. So unless you find an Atheist Mormon you are not going to find an Atheist with multiple spouses.
I was wrong. Polygamy is actually illegal in all 50 states but it is still practiced within some, not all, Mormons.
Toshin, the good news for me? When I travel and the nice hotels I stay at run out of toilet paper I can always get the Gideon's bible from the nightstand to take care of the problem.
If you don't want to be faithful to your spouse, don't get married in the first place.
Cheating married women? Go to a nice hotel bar in any downtown city and find yourself one. The corporate types love to get their grooves on away from home.
Great job on the article. Someone who knows what they are talking about.
is that sarcasm? i really, really hope so, as this is perhaps the most sadly misinformed article i've read in recent memory.
Been Dazed and Confused for so long it's not true.
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you.
Lots of people talk and few of them know,
The soul of a woman was created below.
wow......i never knew the exact words to that song. thanks.
Um, there is no difference between male and female infidelity. It is simple instinctual compulsion and the "rush" that comes with doing something forbidden. Deep down, in every single one of us is a potential dirt bag wanting to be set free. And let's be honest, being dirty feels awfully good, doesn't it? Now eat the damn apple...
My ex-wife cheated on me for years. It turns out there were at least seven different men. I worked hard to be a perfect husband and in our 13+ years of marriage was 100% faithful. She was so far gone by the time I knew about it, that she even walked away from our kids. Don't know what happened or what I could have done differently, but clearly she was gone emotionally.
Sadly she is now pregnant and married to a wife beating meth addict and rarely has any contact with out children. If that if was her perfect match, I am glad I was not the right one for her.
Sounds like she got what was coming my friend. Not to wish ill will on anyone but what goes around comes around. I hope you found an amazing woman for yourself now.
your kids are better off without her; it's one thing to make a forgivable short little liason, 7 men?? she is not sane.
The author must be wrong, after all, men are wrong about everything right? Isn't that what we're constantly told?
Yes. It's a nearly universal refrain that men are always wrong, especially in pop media articles such as this. But that's wrong.
Men are always at fault, remember that.
"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"
LOL. WHAT. self silence and bottled up women?! where do i find one of those?
LMAO I know right.
You are either one of two people, the introvert, or the extrovert. The extrovert is the one yelling at the casher and letting his emotions out in a healthy way so he can retain his self from doing something he will regret. The introvert is the casher that just let's the people walk all over them until one day the container explodes and walks in and shoots up the store. We all need to learn to be in a happy middle, where we hold it in when it isn't needed, and we take that to a place where we can just let it all out, and do. Sadly, people don't understand how that whole policy works.
Signs are usually fairly obvious. Women have a harder time lying than men, I think. I'm married 8 years this July and my wife would know if I cheated or vice versa. When 2 people are out of tune is when you pay no attention.
It's not that the woman's cheating is more damaging to the relationship; according to the theory presented here, the relationship is already damaged. The woman's cheating is simply a sign that, in her mind, the relationship is already over.
I think another reason relationships don't last when the woman cheats is because most men view it as an unforgivable sin. I had a debate on this a couple of months ago and most of the men said a woman should not cheat, but that she should accept a man's cheating as normal. A few of the men said cheating was wrong for both parties and obviously, all of the women said cheating was wrong for both parties. Nearly all of the men said they would leave their woman if she cheated on them while nearly all of the women said they would give their man another chance.
Sounds typical. Women giving mixed messages. Yet again.
A woman always knows a baby is hers, a husband has cannot be sure so it makes sense that men would be hardwired not to forgive. What waste of time to raise someone else's offspring, men who did that did not leave a genetic trace. (just a theory)
i hate lies.
"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."
This line is why I cannot take this article seriously. Any time a journalist can't find the scientific facts to back their hypotheses up, they resort to "although numbers are difficult to come by..."
very insightful article. spot on. my wife of many many years developed an emotional affair at work which led to divorce. i thought we were both relatively happily married. i didn't see it coming 🙁 wish i read your article before.
Putting the personal insults and political blibber blabber aside, I thought the article was interesting and honestly I wish that there was a few more statistics to back up some of his statements namely the comment about women cheating more than they have in the past. Not that I don't believe that it is possible but I would like to see some research first before jumping to that conclusion. On the other hand, the part about the internet making it all the more possible to find yourself doing things that you wouldn't normally do, it is obvious that people are willing to do things such as call people names, make fun of the way others write, and even start less than fortuitous relationships when anonymity or lack of face to face interactions are occurring.
women want one thing. they want me
Is masturbation cheating?
in 99% of cases, yes
Only if someone helps you.
Only if you prefer it to the real thing. But if you'd rather whack the w a n g than get real 'tang - MAYBE you should leave the relationship.
what a man can do a woman can do better....... coz all they do is cheat and cheat and cheat.......
Exactly. Women DO cheat better. They're generally much harder to catch.
The average woman can't name three role models not involved in acting/singing.
That is ridiculous and misogynistic. Though I imagine you don't know what misogynistic means.
It's not "cheating" if you tell them about it first
@ Ali : Really. It is called "swinging."
No... It isn't cheating if you invite your spouse in on it regardless of the answer. Not affording them a chance to part of the action is what gets ya. (JK for all you... people that don't get scarcasm)
The article is spot on – I used to date a married female executive, who only stayed with her husband for the benefit of her two children (my choice, I broke it off). Now, 11 years later, her children are older and we are actually seeing each other again. She has been mortally unhappy in her marriage for the past decade – loves her family, even cares about her husband, but does not LOVE him. She will leave him, sooner or later, be it for me or someone else she has been having an affair with. And it is, as far as I can tell, strictly an emotional thing...her heart doesn't feel for her husband.
How can you live with yourself? Knowingly dating someone else's wife? Regardless of the problems in their marriage, it's THEIR MARRIAGE. It's none of your damn business and you have no right to come between them. I hope her husband has a few shots of whiskey and comes looking for you with a baseball bat.
Her husband is a cuckold and she's gone, mentally and emotionally. Get over it. What an ignorant response you gave to suggest he'd come with a baseball bat. LOL