Cosmopolitan spoke to five women to find out why they were unfaithful in their marriages, and while they found that the underlying issues were all emotional, each woman pointed to a very different impetus for her infidelity.
When men cheat, it’s most often just about the sex act itself – and they’re a lot more likely to be the ones cheating, too. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy found that about 25 per cent of married men have had extramarital sex, compared to 15 per cent of married women.
But women do, of course, cheat, and they’re 40 per cent more likely to do so now than they were even 20 years ago, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center.
A study by the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that a woman is 2.6 times more likely to cheat on her husband if she’s unhappy in the relationship. That statistic implies that female infidelity is more about finding an emotional connection than a pure physical pleasure.
The first woman, 49, said her husband was a workaholic with no time or energy for her. ‘I was totally committed to my family and gave it my all, but knew in my heart that I certainly did not want this for rest of my life,’ she said. She etched out an independent life while they were still married, but that wasn’t enough. After ten years, she ended up going out with a male acquaintance name Tom and sleeping with him. In just a few weeks, she left her husband, and two years after that, she married Tom.
She said that meeting him was the best thing that could have happened to her, because it made her realize how ‘precious’ life is – especially because he died of a heart attack a week after they tied the knot.
The second woman also continued to have a relationship with her affair, though hers worked out more favorably. The then-35-year-old had a ‘loving husband’ and two kids but didn’t feel like she fit in in her town, and was mostly just bored with her suburban life.
So when she met an Australian man named Bob who was in town on business, she flirted – and ended up keeping in touch with him. Unable – or unwilling – to restrain herself, she booked a flight to visit him down under to ‘get him out of her system’. She ended up falling in love and leaving her husband and hometown to live with Bob. The two are still married 25 years later and have five children – and ten grandchildren.
The third woman, 28, has been married for six years – but not all of them have been blissful. This woman and her husband had planned to have children immediately, but once they were married, she changed her mind. She wanted to focus on her career – a change of heart that led to a lot of resentment from her husband.
“I wanted to know that I was still desirable to other men,” she pointed out. The tipping point was when she caught her husband trying to surreptitiously slip off his condom during sex in order to get her pregnant without her knowledge or consent. That’s when she cheated with a man she met online, an affair that lasted for roughly a year and only ended when she got caught.
The two ended up going for counseling and worked on their problems: ‘The biggest lesson I learned was that if I was unhappy in my marriage, my husband was only 50 percent to blame’
The fourth woman, 33, said that her husband cheated first, which she learned about a year into their marriage. Feeling a whirlwind of emotional – anger, sadness, inadequacy – she ended up being unfaithful herself. ‘[It was] mostly for revenge, but in retrospect, it was also because I wanted validation. I wanted to know that I was still desirable to other men,’ she said.
He found out, and the two saved their marriage after going for counseling.
The fifth woman, 50, was also mistreated – only her husband was actually abusive, and she realized immediately after marrying him that she’d made a mistake. She had an affair with a man she worked with about a year in, and though she wasn’t in love, she realized that she could be with someone who actually made her feel good and happy.
‘The affair helped me find myself and proved to me that I could live a life independent of my husband. It also gave me the courage to ask for a divorce,’ she said. ‘Twenty-five years later, I’m married to a wonderful man. We love making each other happy, and never try to change who the other person is.’