For decades, men have been considered the most likely to cheat in a relationship. They’ve topped the charts for supposedly cheating more than women since the dawn of time. However, new research is showing that the gender patterns are changing; the infidelity gap is closing as more women stray from monogamous relationships in similar numbers to men.
And it’s happening across the globe.
How common is infidelity?
Research providing statistics on infidelity shows it’s more common than most people think. One study suggests that around half of long-term relationships will involve an affair. Another source suggests that up to 70 per cent of all marriages will have experienced an affair, whether the affair is a one-off, or ongoing. The same source reports that up to 60 per cent of married men and 45 per cent of married women have had an affair at some point.
According to recent data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, American women are now 40 per cent more likely to cheat on their husbands than in 1990.
It seems infidelity even flourishes in a pandemic; notorious extramarital affair dating website Ashley Madison reported that 17,000 new married members had joined the platform each day since the onset of COVID-19 – that’s a 1500 person per day increase on the previous year.
Why do people cheat?
A survey of 5000 people carried out in the UK found striking parallels between men and women’s reasons for infidelity, and, perhaps surprisingly, neither prioritised sex.
The top five reasons for women related to a lack of emotional intimacy (84 per cent), lack of communication between partners (75 per cent), tiredness (32 per cent), history of sexual abuse (26 per cent), and a lack of interest in sex with their current partner (23 per cent).
The reasons cited most from men were a lack of communication between partners (68 per cent), stress (63 per cent), sexual dysfunction with one’s current partner (44 per cent), lack of emotional intimacy (38 per cent) and fatigue or being chronically tired (31 per cent).
The rise of female infidelity
But now, more women than ever are cheating – or are willing to admit that they are cheating. And while this is interesting information, what is the significance of the rise itself? What does it say about modern-day marriages or lifestyles; what has changed about monogamy or family life in the past 30 years that accounts for the closing gap?
Maybe it is quite simply the fact that the opportunity to cheat is a lot more common now. There is no doubt that the rise of digital friend-finding and dating platforms opened up new horizons for all ages and genders.
The internet holds a certain allure for wanting to seek out old flames or new liaisons and, if you have a full name, people are often very simple to find.
Approximately 1800 people responded to an online survey from Relationships Australia in January 2018. Threeâquarters (76 per cent) of survey respondents identified as female, with more females than males responding in every age group. Of the survey respondents, 89 per cent were aged 20 to 59 years and more than half (56 per cent) of respondents comprised women aged 30 to 49 years (inclusive).
Relationships Australia reports that:
- Tinder claims 15 per cent of Australia’s population (almost 3.5 million people) use their app
- matchmaking website RSVP boasts that 1200 new singles join the site every day, while eHarmony claims it is responsible for 11,000 Australian marriages since 2007
- 75 per cent of millennials (23 to 38-year-olds) using online dating are looking for a serious relationship
- 18 per cent of Australians have paid for dating services – equivalent to $80.7 million each year.
The Relationships Australia survey of more than 700 respondents revealed that more women than men had used dating sites.
“The types of relationships sought through online dating were not significantly different for men and women,” Relationships Australia said.
“More than one-quarter of survey respondents used online dating to find long-term relationships, followed by relationships for fun.”
Of the men who responded, 10 per cent admitted they used dating sites for a quick affair and 7 per cent of women claimed to search out a bit of fun online.
Who typically cheats?
The answer may surprise you. According to research, the most common group of offenders is actually those that have been in committed relationships for decades. Middle-aged men and women, who have raised children and grown close together, are at a higher risk of infidelity.
Infidelity rates for men peak at the age of 55, whereas for women, it’s around 45 years of age.
Even more surprising is that often those who are unfaithful, say that they genuinely love their spouse. Furthermore, 80 per cent of those people say that they would still choose their same spouse if they got married all over again.
What’s worse – emotional or physical?
The survey by Relationships Australia revealed women were more hurt by emotional infidelity while men were more hurt when the infidelity was sexual.
More than half of heterosexual men surveyed would rather have their girlfriend fall in love with someone instead of having sex with them, while only 35 per cent of women felt the same way.
What could be driving the rise of female cheating?
There are many possibilities, ranging from the fact that many women now have increased financial independence so can ‘afford’ the potential consequences of an affair, to cultural shifts to the introduction of the internet and extra temptation.
Women’s changing attitudes towards their place within a relationship, as much as in society generally, is also seeing more of them becoming promiscuous, some researchers claim.
This has fascinated scientists no end, with behavioural studies faculties all over the world trying to understand if there is a biological rather than a sociological reason behind the trend.
University of Queensland researchers led by psychology professor Brendan Zietsch studied more than 7000 Finnish identical and non-identical twins to ascertain if genetic factors contributed to unfaithfulness.
The results showed that 63 per cent of unfaithful behaviour in men was due to inherited genes, and 40 per cent in women – rates that surprised the scientists, who then looked for the genes responsible, a report in The Telegraph said.
“They found women with certain variations in a gene called AVPRIA were more likely to be unfaithful.
“The gene is involved in the production of the hormone arginine vasopressin, which is known to be involved in the regulation of social behaviour and has been linked to differences in philandering behaviour in voles.”
Are women’s genes evolving in line with their changing role in society? Could this be behind their greater inclination to seek out new couplings? No doubt, the scientists are busily trying to come up with answers.
Do you think there has been a shift in the way women experience desire? Do you believe that more women are becoming inclined to seek out sex partners? Have you ever gone on an online dating site?
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