Infidelity Can Be Self-Care for Women
Social scientists have been trying to crack the code on why committed partners engage in infidelity for many years, mostly because an estimated 20 percent of married couples and 70 percent of non-married couples endure some level of cheating — and those are just the ones who admitted it or got caught.
Along those lines, a recent study tracked the relationships of 947 adults over a 12-year period in which 609 participants had an affair and 338 were cheated on. Men and women across the board committed infidelity after they felt a decline in their personal well-being, and “this decline might be a reason for starting an affair or even an intentional distress management strategy,” the study authors explained.
Simply put, people cheat because they’re trying to feel better about themselves.
The only problem is that for men, this impulse mostly backfired, and the more committed they were in their relationships, the worse they felt about themselves after an affair. On the flip side, women “seem to recover and even thrive after infidelity,” the researchers noted, echoing past findings that women are more likely to cheat when they’re unhappy with a relationship.
Basically, when women cheat, it’s possible they’re cheating their way out of a bad situation, often with someone they have a deeper romantic connection with, which improves their overall well-being. It might not be the most ethical form of self-care, but it can help some women who feel otherwise trapped.
Conversely, men tend to cheat more randomly, according to psychotherapist Robert Weiss, who wasn’t involved in the new research. “A man who casually cheats may do so without feeling a significant degree of emotional connection to a mistress, while a woman who cheats could see things differently, with sex and emotional connection intermingled in ways that make compartmentalization more difficult,” he explained in Psychology Today.
In other words, men don’t cheat because they want to hurt their partner or even because they want to end their relationship, but because they got caught up in the moment and thought they could get away with it. So even if they don’t get caught, it makes sense why they would feel worse after the fact, especially if they love the person they’re with.
Women, on the other hand, don’t feel bad because they’re too busy looking for the door.