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Why do women cheat? The real reasons women have affairs

Loneliness. Boredom. Alcohol. Excitement. Power. There are a number of reasons why a person might cheat on their partner, from the most malicious to the most careless excuses.

But one thing’s for certain: when we think of a cheater, we often assume it to be a man; rarely ever a woman.

So why exactly do women cheat in relationships? Is it for the same reasons as men, or is there more to it that men have difficulty understanding?

In this article, we delve into the differences between a woman committing adultery from a man, and discuss what can be done to improve relationships from both sides.

Why We Think Women Don’t Cheat 

If you were asked to imagine a cheating spouse, the first image that comes to mind is generally a man.

In most cultures around the world, men are thought of as the lustful, cheating partners in broken relationships; men are out chasing other women, while women are at home, waiting for the return of their boyfriend, partner, and husband. 

We are conditioned to think of men as cheaters and women as those who are being cheated on, but why does the burden of infidelity always fall on the man? Why is it harder to believe that women cheat as opposed to believing that men cheat?

There are a few factors to explain this:

Power: In most cultures throughout history, women have been considered the weaker or less privileged sex.

Men have typically played the role as the breadwinner; women as the caregiver, the house-runner.

It’s difficult to argue that in a man and woman relationship, the power dynamic has historically skewed in favor of the man.

This makes it more difficult to believe that women have the same ability and circumstance to cheat on their partners the way men can. 

Culture: Sexuality has been a contentious topic throughout history. Open and liberal sexuality has had its moments in some cultures, but for the most part, conservativism has often suppressed cultural sexuality, particularly female sexuality.

For centuries we have pushed away the possibility of women being openly sexual. Women are thought of as only being sexual if they are married, in a committed relationship, or deeply in love, but to be frivolously sexual as a woman was sinful. 

 Visibility: Perhaps the best reason is that women are simply better at hiding their infidelity. Recent studies have found that men have much more difficulty seeing the signs of cheating from their partners, while women can pick up on signs of cheating quite easily.

This stems from the previous two reasons: we simply find it more unbelievable to think that women might be cheating, even when the signs are right in front of us. 

Why are Women Cheating More Often Than Before?

It can be unfair to argue that women are cheaters while men aren’t; for most of history as well as recent history, men have notoriously cheated at higher rates than women.

However it should be noted that the rate at which women cheat has grown significantly compared to men over the last few decades: according to a recent book by psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg, the percentage of men who cheat on their wives has stayed stable for the last 20 years, at around 20%.

For women, this number is around 18 or 19%, however it has grown by over 50% over the last 20 years. 

So why are women cheating now more often than ever before? What has led to this sudden closing of the adultery gender gap?

The main reason that researchers suggest is that we have underestimated female sexuality. The notion that women are less sexual than men is simply wrong – women find the idea of lust just as exciting as men do.

And now that circumstances of men and women are equalizing in the Western world, we see the rates of women committing adultery rising to the level of men. Some of these major changes in circumstances include:

Higher Salaries – Men no longer have to act as the sole breadwinner for the family. With women earning higher salaries and climbing up corporate ladders alongside men, women are beginning to appreciate similar financial freedoms that men have experienced for decades.

Sexual Openness – The West has become more sexually liberal over the last few decades, meaning women are more likely to push against cultural norms related to sex and their bodies.

Women have become just as inclined as men to have all their demands met, including sexual demands.

The Internet – Online dating has made cheating easier than it has ever been, with websites like Ashley Madison acting as platforms for married individuals to cheat.

While men always had much greater opportunity to go out and find partners to cheat with, women now have the chance to share that same freedom simply by going online. 

For men who have been cheated on by their wives, it can be easy to blame the points discussed above for their wife’s infidelity.

But it is crucial to understand the difference between the circumstances that lead to higher rates of cheating, and the reasons why people cheat in the first place. 

In other words, you can’t blame the rise of female sexuality and female freedoms for the infidelity of your specific partner.

While the opportunities to cheat have grown, this doesn’t explain the reasons leading women to cheat in the first place.

This requires understanding female sexuality for what it is, and debunking the myths surrounding it. 

Myths Around Female Sexuality 

1) Myth: Women only cheat when they are emotionally unsatisfied

The myth: For a long time, psychologists and relationship gurus have been peddling the advice that men cheat for sexual, physical reasons, while women cheat for emotional reasons.

We tend to assume that men, being the more physical and lustful gender, are simply in it because they want another “notch on their bedpost”. 

On the other hand, we visualize women as the gentler and more emotionally-driven gender.

As we said above, we don’t tend to think of women as being sexual unless they’re deeply in love with their sexual partner. If women cheat, it’s because they are unsatisfied emotionally, and are looking to fill an emotional void that their partner has neglected. 

The truth: Recent data has found that this doesn’t seem to be the case.

While this might have been true in the past, when women had fewer opportunities to engage in extramarital affairs and thus valued every opportunity much more greatly, times have changed, and women are now cheating for generally the same reasons as men.

Almost half of all women who have sex outside of their marriage actually describe their marriage as “very happy”.

It’s true that women do require a more emotional connection for their long-term relationships, however they also enjoy fulfilling their own sexual needs, similar to men. 

2) Myth: Women don’t do one-night stands, just long-term affairs 

The myth: As we believe that women only cheat when they feel emotional dissatisfaction, we also believe that women rarely ever engage in meaningless one-night stands.

When women cheat, we think of them as having long-term affairs, with weeks or months of sexual tension before anything physical occurs, followed by months or years of secret encounters with the same partner. 

The truth: Research has found that women cheat in the same ways men do – some have one-night stands, and others engage in long-term affairs. It primarily depends on the reason why they are cheating in the first place.

Many women are in happy, long-term marriages with families they don’t want to break up, but find that their partner has stopped trying to be sexually exciting.

They don’t want to break up the marriage, and they find themselves emotionally satisfied.

This is when they engage in one-night stands, with quick bursts of sexual satisfaction, regardless of emotional attachment. 

One major difference between the two is that men have many opportunities to “micro-cheat”, or engage in sexual activities that don’t necessarily count as cheating.

Some psychologists refer to these as “infidelity gray zones” – activities such as happy-ending massages and strip club lap dances, in which the man can experience a kind of sexual experience without cheating in the active sense. 

Women lack these opportunities, making it more difficult for them to release their sexual frustration, which is why they have typically leaned towards stable affairs as opposed to one-night stands.

However, if presented the tools (such as dating apps and websites), they are just as likely to engage in one-night stands. 

3) Myth: Women don’t cheat as much as men because monogamy is easier for them 

The myth: With the traditional image of the wife sitting at home taking care of the kids and running the house in our minds, it can be easy for men to believe that this is their natural and happiest state.

It’s no surprise that many people deal with the difficulties of monogamy, and have trouble sticking to committing to a single partner for the rest of their lives. 

But society has typically rationalized that for women, monogamy is natural due to the need to raise a family and household with stability, and women lack the same sexual urges as they grow older; as opposed to men who find monogamy stressful and constraining.

The truth: Recent studies have found that monogamy is perhaps equally difficult for both genders. For example, we now know that women – even those who are in long-term committed relationships – still respond just as excitedly to the idea of engaging with new partners.

There is actually evidence that women possibly have more difficulty with monogamy than men.

In one study, it was found that women find themselves becoming bored of long-term relationships more quickly than men, with women being twice as likely to claim they were bored after a few years in a relationship. 

4) Myth: Women don’t need as much sex or adventure as men 

The myth: It’s a stereotype that women are more “vanilla” than men; while there are women who enjoy wild sex, we believe that this is much less common in females than it is in males.

Sexual satisfaction is thus easier to achieve, and requires less effort and less adventure.

The truth: Much of what we believe about female sexuality has been a byproduct of the way culture has traditionally repressed it, meaning it isn’t actually indicative of what female sexuality can be once it is allowed to express itself.

Which is why the belief that women are less sexually-dependent than men has been found to be wrong. 

Several studies over the last few years have found that women are just as sexually active and adventurous as men, if not more so, particularly in their 20s and 30s.

For example, one study found that women are twice as likely as men to attend a swingers’ party, an orgy, and other sexual public events.

5) Myth: Women cheating with other women isn’t “real”

The myth: The way we respond to our opposite-gender partner is different depending on whether we are male or female.

When women discover their husband being unfaithful with them with another woman, they feel betrayed and hurt; if the act is done with another man, they feel that the relationship can no longer be fixed. 

This is different for men: when men discover that their wife has cheated on them with another man, they feel disgusted; if they discover their wife has been unfaithful with another woman, they don’t consider it real, and actually tend to become aroused.

Men simply don’t take the idea of their wife sleeping with another woman as a serious threat, as another woman can’t replace the husband in the way another man could. 

The truth: Female sexuality is much more complicated than we have traditionally assumed, and a woman cheating with another woman should be taken as seriously as a woman cheating with a man. 

This might even be more dangerous for the health of the relationship because the primary motivation for cheating on a husband with another woman might be emotional, rather than sexual, which can lead to a greater impasse in the relationship than if it were otherwise. 

What Makes Women Cheat 

1) Dissatisfaction

Such as…

Sex with their partner has become bad, and the partner is showing no signs to improve or make it better

Their partners are neglecting them emotionally, making the sex feel empty and hollow

They have tried to spruce up their sex lives with their partner in the past, but these efforts have been in vain 

Getting to a point where you want to cheat can be an incredibly difficult and hopeless path, and for many people, the dissatisfaction that forces one to travel down this path must be long-term and immense.

We all have sexual needs, and keeping those needs satisfied is an important part of keeping a happy relationship. 

When those needs stop being attended to, it is more than just a physical longing that occurs within a person; it also becomes a personal dilemma, as they are forced to ask themselves: why does the person who married me no longer want to please me? 

Dissatisfaction is the major reason why women (and men) cheat – you are not only denying her the fulfillment and satisfaction of her sexual needs, but you are also forcing her to doubt herself, from her worth to her beauty, to the love that you supposedly share.

This makes them incredibly vulnerable, and the first opportunity to cheat – and thus reverse those feelings, at least partly – might seem to be their best option. 

Signs:

Your partner has a history of suggesting new things in bed, but you haven’t done much to change your sexual activity with them

They stopped asking for sex completely, and even find the thought of sex as tiresome or disgusting

They have become more distant outside of the bedroom, as if you have ceased to be a priority in her mind

2) Excitement

Such as… 

They aren’t happy with their lives as a whole. They’ve become bored and frustrated with their routine, and need something else to keep the spark going

 Their circumstances to cheat have become accessible and simple, such as an absent husband, long hours at the office, or an affair that is available whenever they want

 They are the type who like living in the moment and don’t think the consequences of cheating will be that bad

We often think that infidelity is a sign of dissatisfaction in a partnership, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

It doesn’t always have to be a negative reflection of the current relationship, but rather a positive reflection of an active movement within the person committing adultery. 

In other words, if a woman cheats on a man, it doesn’t always mean that the man is doing something wrong, but rather that the woman wants something more for herself than she is currently getting.

If this is the case, there is little the man can do to fix it, as the woman is discovering a need that he cannot possibly fulfill, at least not on his own.

Signs:

They have suddenly become happier and more joyful, even though their partner has done little or nothing to change their behavior

They talk about how they don’t feel like they’ve done everything they want to do with their lives

 It feels like they are hiding something, even if the relationship seems to be perfect. As her partner, you have a feeling that something is going on

3) Resentment

Such as…

They are completely or mostly financially reliant on their partner, meaning they feel trapped and shackled, so they end up resenting the partner and want to hurt them

Their partner has cheated or been unfaithful in one way or another, and they want to cheat as well to even it out

They feel that they jumped into a monogamous, long-term relationship too quickly, and didn’t get to “try everything on the menu” when they were younger

In the worst cases, cheating is caused by resentment, whether short-term or long-term.

Perhaps you cheated on your partner many years ago; though you have since “settled” the problem, she still feels permanently inferior to you because of the pain she experienced that you caused. 

In other cases, it could be something you didn’t realize you had ever done.

Partners can feel resentment when they end up in positions with no power, where they rely on their husband to provide everything for them.

Even the best husbands can end up being resented if their wife doesn’t feel like an equal.

Signs: 

You have a complicated history with your partner, with odd fights here and there, and some issues that haven’t yet been fully resolved

They are showing active signs of disrespecting you, as if to say that they no longer need you as their partner

When you fight or argue, they talk about replacing you or ending the relationship

You Caught Your Partner Cheating, or You Cheated as a Woman: Moving Forward

The discovery that one partner has been unfaithful to the other can be devastating to a relationship, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of it.

The first step is to let your emotions pass: the anger, the frustration, the feelings of betrayal. 

Give yourself the time and space to feel what you need to feel without making any real decisions. There is no reason to shape the rest of your life around urges that may last for only a short time.

You don’t want to live in regret simply because you acted too quickly.

Some tips on getting over these feelings include:

    • Flush your feelings out: Let yourself feel what you need to feel. Accept that your pain and sorrow are natural and unavoidable. Grieve if you need to grieve; shut in if you need to shut in. Don’t try to skip this step, or it will follow you for the rest of your life.
    • Think about you, first and foremost: Many people will say, “Think about the children.” But enough studies have found that children from unhappy homes can end up just as damaged and hurt as children of separated parents. Your ability to raise your children and pass on the best values to them will depend on your sanity and your happiness, same as your partner. Think about you: what do you want?
    • Don’t become your sadness: Grieving is important, but it’s not your identity. Don’t let alcohol or drugs or whatever else you do to numb the pain take over your life. There was a part of your life before your partner, and there will be part of your life after this event, whether you choose to stay together or not. Keep yourself grounded, for the sake of your future.
    • Seek counseling or therapy groups: Don’t be ashamed if you think you need help. If your friends and family aren’t enough, then find something else. A support group can do wonders for someone who feels lost, alone, and confused, because they help you realize that what you are going through is a process, as you see them at various steps of the process.

 

 

 

 

Once the initial onrush of emotions has passed, it’s time to sit down and think, both with and without your partner. Understand why your partner cheated.

There will be a number of reasons, surely, but both you and your partner must seek to answer the question: do they want to continue the relationship?

If you opt to continue the relationship, identify what needs to change to prevent this level of betrayal from happening again; whether that means improving the way you act, changing your behaviors in the bedroom, dividing power more equally in the relationship, or considering changes to what you consider acceptable in your partnership.

You will find that in most cases, cheating spouses generally still want to be in the relationship; just a few important adjustments need to be made.

Remember: life can go on, but only if you choose to make it happen. Understanding why your partner cheated might be the best learning experience you will ever have.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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