This Is the Real Reason Women Cheat, Psychologists Say
Experts explain why women step out on their relationships.
Long-term romantic relationships are some of the most meaningful ones we can cultivate. But make no mistake: They require a lot of work. From ensuring your partner feels loved and understood to splitting the housework and parenting responsibilities in a way the two of you see fit, communication is key.
If you neglect these things—and, sometimes, even if you don't—infidelity could come into the mix. And that, of course, can spell disaster. Read on to discover the real reason why women cheat—and learn how to keep your connection healthy and strong in the process.
Women cheat because of a lack of emotional connection.
According to our experts, including psychologists and therapists, the number one reason why women cheat in relationships is that their emotional needs are not being met. "Emotional attachment is the foundation of satisfaction in any relationship," says Lea McMahon, LPC, licensed counselor and adjunct professor of psychology. "Women crave attention, support, love, and care. When these needs go unmet, they feel frustrated and annoyed."
So, why does this issue impact women more than men? McMahon says it's because women tend to place a higher value on this aspect of their relationship. "Men often let go of issues like lack of emotional attachment and lack of communication while focusing on physical needs the most," she says.
However, there are many reasons why infidelity occurs.
Unsurprisingly, the reasons people cheat are varied and complex. One 2017 study published in the Journal of Sexual Research aimed to shed light on the issue. In it, 495 participants who had cheated on their partners were asked to reveal why.
An analysis of their responses found eight primary reasons: anger (for example, saying "My primary partner had previously been unfaithful"), self-esteem ("I wanted to feel better about myself"), low commitment ("I was not very committed to my primary partner"), one-off situational factors ("I was drunk and not thinking clearly"), neglect ("my primary partner was emotionally distant"), sexual desire for the person they cheated with, a need for sexual variety, and lack of love in their primary relationship.
The research found that women tended to have longer affairs on average than men. They were also more likely to confess the affair to their partners.
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Communication is essential to fixing these issues.
If there's an issue with emotional connection—or anything else—in your relationship that you fear could lead to infidelity, the most important thing to do is talk to your partner. "Humans aren't mind-readers," says Noelle Benach, LCPC, a sex therapist at Space Between Counseling Services. "Sometimes our partner(s) need reminders and directions in order to care for us. Communicating your needs directly in an assertive manner is one way to influence the possibility of them being met." Set aside a dedicated time to talk to your partner about the issue at hand and see if the two of you can work out an effective solution.
Finally, try a couples therapist.
Sometimes, an issue is too big for you to tackle on your own. If that's the case, consider finding a couples therapist. "Couples therapy can provide you and your partner(s) with a safe space to communicate your wants and needs with some tools to do so more effectively," says Benach. "Be sure to seek a couples therapist who has specific training in working with relationships."
Benach notes that reputable trainings for this specialty include The Gottman Institue, the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT), Relational Life Therapy (RLT), and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). By learning to convey your needs with help from a professional, you'll be able to find trust and connection with each other again—and be better suited to navigate any bumps in the road.