Cheating in committed relationships is more common than most of us would like to believe. Though the majority of Americans said in one survey that marital infidelity was always wrong, another survey found that a quarter of men and 15 per cent of women have cheated on their spouses.
Those numbers indicate that men are more likely to have cheated than women. When it comes to infidelity, are there other differences between how men and women behave? And how has that changed over the last few years?
Here are 12 things you should know about cheating and the sexes — some of them might surprise you!
More Women Think Infidelity Is Wrong
In the General Social Survey, which tracks how Americans think on a variety of issues, a majority of men and women both said that infidelity when married is always wrong — but more women agree. At least 78 per cent of men think cheating is never okay when you're hitched, while 84 per cent of women share that sentiment.
In the 1970s, those numbers were 63 per cent and 73 per cent respectively, so both men and women are more likely today to be anti-infidelity, and the gap between the sexes on the subject has narrowed over the time.
Men Are More Likely To Have Cheated
Data from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy says that approximately 25 per cent of husbands and 15 per cent of wives have had sex with someone else while married. However, the fact that people are not necessarily eager to admit that they've been unfaithful — even anonymously — those numbers could be higher in reality.
Women Are More Likely To Cheat Now Than They Used To
More women are committing adultery today than reported doing so in the past. A 2010 survey by the National Opinion Research Center found that women are 40 per cent more likely to cheat today than they were 20 years ago. Some researchers think this is because more of them are in the workforce, and because more women today have jobs that require them to travel.
Cheating Isn't Necessarily About Sex
When researching his book The Truth About Cheating, marriage counsellor M. Gary Neuman found that 92 per cent of men said that their infidelity wasn't about sex. The men said that their reasons for cheating were often emotional, such as feeling disconnected from or under-appreciated by their spouses.
It's Also Not Necessarily About Looks
Neuman's research indicated that 88 per cent of men who cheated didn't do so with someone more attractive than or fitter than their wives. But people who are perceived as more attractive — whether it's because they have looks, money, education, or power — are overall more likely to cheat.
Cheaters Rarely Tell
Fifty-five per cent of the men in Neuman's study either lied when presented with evidence of their infidelity, or just didn't tell their wives it had happened.
Men Are More Forgiving
A study from the University of Texas found that 50 per cent of men said they'd forgive their female partner if she cheated with a woman, but only 22 per cent would forgive if she cheated with a man. Women felt differently — 21 per cent said they'd forgive if their male partner was unfaithful with a man, but 28 would forgive an affair with a woman. The researchers indicated that the difference may be because many men find female-on-female sex to be erotic, and because a woman's affair with another woman can't result in pregnancy.
Most Men Didn't Hate Their Marriages
In one survey, 54 per cent of men who had cheated said that before the affair, they thought their marriage wasn't bad — or was even good. Just 34 per cent of women who had cheated felt the same. The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2008, found that those who defined their marriages as "not too happy" were three times more likely to cheat than those who said their marriages were "very happy," and even people whose marriages they described as "pretty happy" were twice as likely to cheat as the "very happy" respondents.
Another study found that half of women said their marriages had problems before an affair occurred, while only a third of men felt the same way.
It Doesn't Have To Be Sex To Be Cheating
A recent American poll found that a large majority of both men and women felt that non-sex cheating was just as damaging to a relationship as sex. Eighty-five per cent of female respondents and 74 per cent of men said that sexting is cheating.
More Men Are Okay With Kissing Than Women
Sixty per cent of men in the YouGov poll felt that kissing someone other than your partner was fine, but only 34 per cent of women agreed. Younger people were more likely than older respondents to consider a kissing cheat a reason to end a relationship.
Women More Likely To Turn Affairs Into Relationships
A study published in the journal Sex Roles in 2007 found that women were more likely than men to start a new relationship with someone they cheated with. As well, men were more likely to say they cheated simply because the opportunity arose, whereas women cited problems in their existing relation as reasons for their infidelity — perhaps for women, cheating is more often seen as a way to get out of an unhappy relationship and into another.
Both Genders Experience Guilt
One study found that both men and women feel guilty about infidelity— but not for the same reasons. Men feel guiltier following sexual infidelity, the researchers found, while women feel worse about an emotional betrayal, such as falling in love with someone else.
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