Though you may choose to turn a blind eye to it, infidelity can rear its ugly head in any marriage. The consensus is that men cheat to fulfill lustful desires, gain the physical intimacy they might have been lacking, and use infidelity as a supplement, not an alternative. However, the reasons why women cheat can be starkly different.
Is it true that despite the presence of ample physical intimacy with their spouse, women might still cheat to fulfill an emotional need? Are the reasons as temporary as they are for men or do the reasons why women cheat stem from a more meaningful train of thought?
Let us try to comprehend the major reasons why women have extramarital affairs with some insights from counseling psychologist Kranti Momin (Masters in Psychology), who is an experienced CBT practitioner and specializes in various domains of relationship counseling.
8 Major Reasons Why Women Have Extramarital Affairs
Gone are the days when women used to hide under a five-inch veil and obediently play the various roles of a chaste wife, a devout daughter-in-law, and a libido-less mother. As the modern woman embraces her sexuality and freedom, the need to feel satisfied and fulfilled is now much more aggressively pursued.
“Low relationship satisfaction has been heavily linked with extramarital sex,” says Kranti. While affairs may be something that “just happens” for men, most women might have a different approach toward cheating. As a result, the answer to why women cheat is usually a bit different than why men opt to do so.
“Insecurity is another driving factor behind infidelity,” says Kranti, “Those who experience attachment anxiety usually feel their needs aren’t being met and can look elsewhere to fulfill those needs.”. The reasons for infidelity can vary depending on the situation.
Even so, let’s take a look at the most common reasons why women cheat, so we can attempt to scratch the surface of the complicated ray of emotions that go through one’s mind whilst cheating.
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1. Desire makes a woman look outside a marriage
Desire is the mother of all sins. It is not a new fact that in all marriages, sooner or later, the charm of the youthful days fades. Women desire to rekindle something new and passionate in their relationship. Noel Biderman, founder and CEO of Ashley Madison, has said: “It’s not so much a seven-year itch as a three- to four-year itch – that first bump in monogamy being post-first child. At the heart of it all is desire, someone who tells you that you’re the greatest thing and wants to spend his/her life with you.”
When your partner doesn’t want to look at you, touch you, talk to you, it can understandably get overwhelming. But you have economic stability – a home, kids, family. You don’t want to walk away from it just because you feel less desired. People think, “I’ll just put myself out there in an anonymous way.” They want to rekindle that object of desire.
Jeanette believed her partner had stopped contributing to their marriage long before she committed infidelity. Once an old friend was reintroduced into her life, it eventually turned into something physical after a bit of quiet consideration. “I knew I wasn’t satisfied in my marriage, I was tired of trying. When an old friend came around who gave me attention in a new, exciting way, I decided to pursue what my marriage had been lacking,” says Jeanette.
Kranti tells us how most affairs take place with someone the woman already knows pretty well. “When it comes to extramarital sex, women are most likely to be unfaithful with someone they know well. Such as a close friend. In a few cases, perhaps the neighbor, a coworker, a long-term acquaintance, and so on.”
The notion that women have extramarital affairs for emotional support may just hold true since it’s the support and attention that usually ends up being the driving factor behind the affair.
2. A neglecting, careless husband
Not everyone is blessed with a caring, and loving partner. When men take their wives and marriage for granted, it can end up causing severe problems down the line. Halfway in their marriage, women realize that they are not being given the love, respect, and companionship they deserve.
So, they simply start looking for it elsewhere. Sometimes, someone places these thoughts in their minds and they start to be overly critical of their husbands. This gives the other person an opportunity to kindle the flame of an extramarital affair.
A lot more goes on behind the scenes when a married woman has an affair with a close friend, suggests Kranti. “It could mean that the new partner has inherent qualities that the primary partner may lack. For example, support, emotional intimacy, etc. It usually reflects that a woman isn’t feeling satisfied in her marriage,” she says.
Emotional affairs can be a driving factor behind why women cheat since the emotional intimacy they get from a new partner can end up feeling a lot better than the neglect they’ve been facing over the years.
Cheating on the husband varies from woman to woman. While some women give up on their partner and enter into an affair, others try to think about future consequences. In this scenario, they choose to remain loyal to their husbands instead.
3. Suppressed sexuality
If a man couldn’t suppress his sexual passions or was dissatisfied with his wife, he could easily spend the night in a brothel. No one would ask him any questions because he was the head and caretaker of the family. After a few years in a marriage, a man’s desire wears off and he starts to take things easier, while the wife may still be very keen on making love.
It’s not a surprise that a woman’s sexual needs have always been suppressed. She was (and still is) taught to preserve her chastity and virginity. And women did so because they were uneducated and not capable of standing up on their feet. But times have changed.
And as counselor-author P.V. Vaidyanathan has pointed out, “As the woman of today rises, she is willing to take a look at her own needs and, if necessary, honor them, be it inside or outside the house.”
4. The modern attitude toward marriage
There is a fundamental flaw in the very nature of married couples. Everyone hungers for quick satiation. Everyone wishes to speak, but no one is willing to listen. Intolerance is on the rise, and hypocrisy is ruling marriages. People are more into flaunting their love lives on social media than having a heart-to-heart conversation.
If one relationship doesn’t work, they plan and plot to develop another. The values of commitment, sacrifice, love, companionship, forgiveness, and, moreover, the attitude of “fixing a broken thing” have been lost. So instead of making a marriage work, women (and men) look for a new alliance that offers them love, attention, and sex without the boredom of the bedroom and the responsibilities of a house.
“Several socio-cultural aspects have also been linked with extramarital sex,” says Kranti. “Work-related opportunities, a new, different social group, or even not adhering to a religion,” she adds. While it can be said that women cheat for love, not every extramarital affair ends up being a hunt for love.
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5. The bane called the internet
The internet has always been a boon and a bane. While you can see many men glued to their mobile screens and not giving an iota of their attention to their wives, the wives have taken to the internet as well. It does offer a lot, doesn’t it? You can get in touch with your exes, stalk their profiles for hours and approach someone at the click of a button.
We’ve already seen that if a woman is looking for an emotional affair, connecting with an old flame through the internet might be the first thing she does. It has made it easier to flirt over texting or online chatting tools, adding a glint of tech to the glamour of seduction. That’s why women are also getting into affairs very easily.
Dr. Vaidyanathan added: “A lot of affairs owe their existence to electronic communications. The sheer ease and secrecy of mobile communication is an enabling factor.”
To aid women (and men), extramarital-affair websites like Gleeden.com, AshleyMadison.com, and Extramaritalaffairs.in are making it easier to have clandestine online affairs. In fact, Ashley Madison was launched in 2014 with the motto “Life is short, have an affair.”
6. The working woman and opportunities
Chances of extramarital affairs increase when both the partners are working. Women don’t find that time to nurture their marital relationship with their husbands at home. It is the same routine day after day, and there is no time (nor intention) to bond between cooking, cleaning, working and eating.
Rather, the same bonding happens with their colleagues at the workplace. Both men and women work the same number of hours and often travel together for business trips. “As a result, there are more instances of extramarital affairs in the corporate sector,” notes marriage counselor A.R Tulalwar.
7. Narcissistic tendencies may be the reason why some women cheat
It’s no surprise that a narcissist will cheat in most relationships they may be in. Regardless of gender, this personality disorder leads the affected person to have little to no consideration for how their actions will affect the partner they are with. Studies have proven that the reason for infidelity in such cases may be markedly different from the usual factors such as having extramarital affairs for emotional support or to feel desired.
They need more excitement in their lives, and seeking it by putting their marriage at risk proves to be the ultimate thrill they were looking for. And no, not everyone with this personality trait will make it blatantly obvious that they love themselves. Since it exists in different forms, they may even not hold themselves in high regard.
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8. To transition out of a bad marriage
Jenna realized that the emotional abuse she was going through in her marriage had left her with trauma and mental health issues. Years of being gaslighted, abused and ignored had left her unsatisfied and struggling with insecurity issues. Since she was in a loveless and sexless marriage for almost a decade, she decided to look elsewhere for fulfillment.
“When I established an emotional connection with a friend, I knew physical intimacy wasn’t too far away either. As I started cheating, it presented itself as an opportunity to get out of my abusive marriage and pursue something more fulfilling with this person who cares for me,” she says.
Leaving an abusive marriage, especially for those women who aren’t financially independent, is a lot harder than it seems. Through cheating, they can often transition out of a bad marriage by already establishing a connection with someone else. Abuse and extramarital affairs go hand in hand since most going through abuse would actively be looking for a way out.
How common are extramarital affairs?
Now that you know the reasons behind why women cheat, the next question naturally becomes trying to figure out how often it happens. According to the American Association For Marriage And Family Therapy, 15% of women and 25% of men claim to have been involved in extramarital affairs. According to the American Psychological Association, the number rests between 20%-40% across all American marriages.
Whatever might be the reason, extramarital affairs are never healthy for a relationship. At times, they leave irreparable scars on both the cheaters and their partners. Therefore, as adults, it is the duty of every married woman to make conscious and informed decisions. If your marriage isn’t working out or your relationship with your spouse isn’t fulfilling, there are healthier alternatives to cheating that you can lean on to improve your quality of life.
You can communicate your needs to your partner, make a conscious effort to reconnect or consider going into couple’s therapy to work through your issues. If you think your marriage needs an expert intervention, reach out to licensed experts on the Bonobology panel today or find one near you.