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This Is the Number One Reason Women Cheat

Hint: a little attention goes a long way.

While men and women are both guilty of straying from their marriage, the reasons behind their respective infidelities tend to differ. While men are more likely to be motivated by physical urges, women are more often driven to cheat for emotional reasons, such as feeling neglected by their spouse. In fact, a recent survey of over 2,000 European and American men and women found that while American women listed "My partner stopped paying attention to me" and "The other person was really there for me" as their primary reasons for cheating, men listed "The other person was really hot" and "People were hitting on me." The same survey also found that 27.8 percent of women considered "getting very emotionally close to someone" as cheating, versus only 18.8 percent of men.

And while there's thought to be a close link between male ego and sexual performance, women's egos are more likely to be satisfied by attention. And, just like with men, women who have self-esteem issues are more likely to crave validation in the form of attention from others than those who are naturally more self-confident.

"As a feminist, it pains me to admit that I got so much validation from male attention," one anonymous woman wrote in a New York Times advice column entitled "I'm In Love. But I Still Crave Male Attention," adding that, despite entering into a healthy relationship with someone who accepts her for who she is, she still felt "haunted by the shallow desire to be adored by other men."

Of course, the big difference in these two drives is that women frequently don't have to actually engage in sex in order to get the validation they seek. This might be one of the reasons that, statistically, women cheat less often than men. However, from a historical perspective, this may also be because adultery has always been deemed more acceptable with men than it has been with women—just ask virtually any monarch before the 20th century. And while micro-cheating, like texting with men who are interested in you on Tinder, might seem like enough to scratch that itch initially, experts warn that this kind of behavior can often lead to actual cheating.

It's worth noting that, attention seeking aside, there is also recent research that indicates that women are actually more likely than men to feel stifled by the long-term monogamy they were raised to want. It's just that—whether due to lingering societal norms or greater self-control—women seem to be less likely to act on the desire to have sex outside of a relationship…at least for now. And for more on women and infidelity, check out This Is the Age When Women Are Most Likely to Cheat.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more