9 Types of Non-Physical Acts That Are Still Cheating
7 Surprising Facts About Infidelity
Why people cheat is more complicated than what TV and movies depict. Here are the realities surrounding infidelity.
By Denise Mann
Medically Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
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Books, television shows, and movies — even an app — use infidelity for plot lines. Cheating is exciting if you’re to believe these cultural references but the reasons why people cheat are more complicated than getting a rush of adrenaline or arousal.
“Extramarital affairs are rarely about sex,” says Laura Berman, PhD, a sex therapist and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics/gynecology and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. “It almost always comes back to someone in the relationship needing validation. Maybe they are not feeling understood or are having problems at work, and that’s why they cheat.”
So while sex may sell entertainment and the affair storylines may be simple, the reality of infidelity is not.
1. It's more likely when one person is the breadwinner.
Some people — men and women — cheat on their spouses because they are not the breadwinners. “You would think that people would not want to bite the hand that feeds them, so to speak, but that is not the case,” says Christin L. Munsch, PhD, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, who recently studied the association between infidelity and economic support. “You are more likely to cheat if you are economically dependent on your spouse.”
Her research, published in the June 2015 issue of theAmerican Sociological Review,found that economically dependent men are more likely to stray than economically dependent women. Specifically, there's approximately a 5 percent chance that these women will cheat, versus the approximately 15 percent chance that men in similar circumstances will.
“We naturally compare ourselves to see how we stack up and don’t want to feel like we are on the losing end of the comparison,” Dr. Munsch says. “Men are supposed to be breadwinners, and although women may not like being dependent on a man, nobody is questioning her femininity as a result,” she says. By contrast, “men engage in compensatory hyper-masculine behavior such as cheating, which also allows him to punish the breadwinning spouse.”
2. It may occur when your workplace is dominated by the opposite sex.
Men who work in jobs where they are around lots of women may stray, but this is not true of women in male-dominated fields, Munsch says. “Women may be traveling more for work, but they are likely very aware that others will say that they slept their way to the top, so they go out of their way to avoid that scenario,” she explains.
3. Faking orgasms make it all the more likely.
There are reasons why people fake orgasms: to make sure that their partner feels satisfied or accomplished, or to make sure their partner doesn’t stray. However, this simple act could have an unintended outcome. A 2013 study published in theArchives of Sexual Behaviorconcluded that faking orgasms was associated with women having sexual affairs and men having lower relationship satisfaction. “Faking orgasm leaves a person more than just unsatisfied," Berman says. "It might also leave them bitter and more likely to seek satisfaction elsewhere."
4. Unprotected sex occurs.
Unfaithful couples are less likely than others to use condoms during intercourse, according to a 2012 study inThe Journal of Sexual Medicine. This finding is understandable if you dig deeper, Berman says. “They are not prepared, and there is something about stopping what you are doing and making a condom run to Walgreens that would give you second thoughts,” she says. “Couples in open relations are more likely to be prepared and have condoms.”
5. Facebook includes friends who had benefits.
Social media sites such as Facebook are playing an increasing role in infidelity and divorce court, Berman says. “Facebook is like your high school reunion on steroids,” she explains. Picture this: You have a heated argument with your spouse after a long day at work, then you log on and easily reconnect with your high school sweetheart. You start reminiscing and venting, and then one thing leads to another. “It’s more about who you were back then, but this can be a slippery slope,” Berman adds.
6. It isn't always physical.
Emotional affairs count, too, Berman says. “If you are speaking, acting, or behaving in a way with someone else that you wouldn’t if your partner was there, you're crossing a line," she warns.
7. Your marriage doesn’t have to end.
Infidelity doesn’t have to end in divorce, says David Straker, DO, an adjunct assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ Medical School in Hempstead, New York. “The trust may be fractured, but with open communication, couples can move past infidelity,” Dr. Straker says.
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