Why Women Cheat vs Why Men Cheat – They Cheat For Different Reasons

men-women-cheatingWhy do men cheat? Why do women cheat? Are the reasons different? Or are they the same?

These are the questions explored today on CNN Health by sex therapist, Ian Kerner in his latest column entitled Female infidelity: It’s different from the guys.

The answers in Kerner’s article parallel many of the findings from my in-depth infidelity research which started over 17 years ago, and still continues today.

Why Men and Women Cheat

As an infidelity expert frequently called on by the media to comment on popular infidelity issues in the news, one of the most frequent questions I get is this:

What makes a man or woman cheat on his or her mate?

The answer to that question depends on whether the cheater is a woman or a man. Numerous infidelity studies, surveys and polls have found that the reasons why men cheat differ from the reasons why women cheat. Each gender has different motivations for getting involved in an affair.

Sexual vs Emotional Reasons for Cheating on One’s Mate

Below are the top 10 reasons cheating husbands and cheating wives use to justify their extramarital affairs. You will notice, when you compare the two lists, that for cheating men, sex is the primary motivating factor.

For cheating women, the key factors are dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or unmet emotional needs. In his article, Kerner states:

“It’s often said that men cheat for sex, while women cheat for love, the theory being that men can more easily compartmentalize sex and emotion, while women typically need to experience an emotional connection to a person before feeling sexual desire.”

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Cheat

- more sex – the desire for a more active sex life

- sexual variety – the desire for different types of sex or a particular sex act

- opportunistic sex — he’s presented with an opportunity to have sex without getting caught

- to satisfy his sexual curiosity about having sex with a particular person

- to reaffirm his sexuality

- a feeling of entitlement (the belief that it’s a man’s prerogative to cheat)

- the “thrill of the chase”

- ego embellishment – the desire to feel important or special

- peer pressure

- sexual addiction

Top 10 Reasons Why Women Cheat

- to fulfill an unmet need for emotional intimacy or a desire close emotional bond

- dissatisfaction with her mate

- dissatisfaction with her marriage or relationship

- a desire for male attention

- reaffirmation of her desirability as a woman

- to re-capture the feelings of romance or passion

- a desire to feel “special”

- boredom or loneliness

- feelings of neglect or being taken for granted

- sexual excitement

Differences in the Reasons Why Men and Women Cheat

Men tend to cheat largely for sexual reasons, while women cheat for emotional reasons. There are several infidelity studies that bear that out. One study, in particular, found that 75% to 80% of the men who admitted to having extramarital affairs said that sex was the primary reason.  Yet, only 20% of the women who were having extramarital affairs said they cheated on their spouses for purely sexual reasons.

Of course, top 10 reasons listed above for cheating men and cheating women by no means the only reasons why married men and women cheat on their mates. But these are the reasons most frequently cited by cheating husbands and cheating wives who participated in infidelity studies conducted to find out why men and women cheat.

However, you’ll find numerous other reasons in the articles cited in this section, and in the articles listed below. (Scroll down to the end to see the complete list.

More about Why Men Cheat

As you can see, unhappiness or dissatisfaction is not a major reason why men cheat, but it’s one of the primary motivating factors for women who cheat on their mates.

Many people believe that a happy husband will not cheat on his wife, and that a good marriage or relationship is immune to infidelity. My ongoing independent research, as well as recent infidelity studies prove that this is not true. See Happy Husbands Cheat Too, and Even Good Marriages are Susceptible to Infidelity

Kerner concurs, stating in his article:

“Many of the men I’ve encountered who have cheated on their wives often have no desire to leave their primary relationship. Many of them even characterize themselves as happily married with satisfying sex lives.”

More about Why Women Cheat

As I have stated in numerous TV interviews, in many of my articles, and in the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) documentary on female infidelity entitled A Passion for More, women tend to cheat as a last resort.

A woman will usually attempt to convey her dissatisfaction or unhappiness to her mate. If he ignores her or takes her complaints lightly, and it becomes clear to her that nothing will change, she will usually have an affair.

Kerner confirms this in his CNN article, in which he writes:

“A woman who cheats is often a woman who doesn’t want to work it out. She’s already invested time trying to work it out, and she’s done. It’s too late.”  Unfortunately, as widespread as female infidelity has become, many unsuspecting men have no idea their wives or girlfriends are having an affair.

The Infidelity Victim is the Last to Know

Regardless of the reasons why men and women cheat, one thing holds true across the board: The victim of infidelity is still the last to know — despite the presence of many subtle and obvious telltale signs.

In one study found that 70% of the married women and 54% of the married men had no idea their spouse was having an affair.

Another study found that 60% of the cheating spouses said their partner was unaware of their affair.

The best strategy for anyone who hopes to save a marriage or relationship from infidelity is to educate oneself about infidelity, and learn to recognize both the subtle, and the obvious signs.

In this day and age, anyone who has the misfortune to be a victim of infidelity, cannot afford to be the last to know.

Ruth Houston is a New York-based infidelity expert who is frequently called on by the media to comment on high profile infidelity and popular infidelity issues in the news. She is the founder of www.InfidelityAdvice.com, the author of Is He Cheating on You? – 829 Telltale Signs, and publishes the Infidelity News and Views blog. To interview infidelity expert Ruth Houston, or have her speak at your next event, call 718 592-6029 or e-mail InfidelityExpert@gmail.com.

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan  www.Askinyourface.com LLC

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  1. Great article. Thanks.


  1. [...] not unhappy with them. And while it's slightly different for women, who tend to cheat when they are dissatisfied with some aspect of their monogamous relationship, it doesn't always mean the end of said [...]

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