Cultural stereotypes tell us that it’s usually men who step out on their wives and girlfriends. However, research shows that nearly as many women cheat as men. Which makes sense, because it takes two to tango, so to speak. That said, men and women often cheat for different reasons, with the motivations typically (though not always) falling in line with our general understanding of male vs. female sexuality. Basically, men tend to be comfortable with a purely sexual experience devoid of emotional connection, while women tend to be more interested in sexuality that includes (or at least promises) a degree of emotional intimacy. So, both men and women engage in infidelity, but they often do so for different reasons.
Generally, a woman’s decision to cheat is driven by one or more of the following factors:
- A woman may have an issue with sex, porn, or love addiction. Typically, a woman with unresolved childhood trauma, especially sexual trauma, will compulsively attempt to self-soothe her emotional pain, anxiety, and depression with romantic and sexual fantasies and activity. For this woman, sexual behavior is not about having fun, it’s about numbing out.
- A woman may feel unappreciated, ignored, and neglected in her primary relationship. If a woman feels more like a housekeeper, nanny, or financial provider than a loved and respected wife or girlfriend, she may seek external validation through hookups and affairs.
- A woman may have an issue with alcohol or drugs—substances that affect her decision-making, possibly resulting in regrettable sexual decisions (including infidelity).
- A woman may think her partner should fulfill her every whim and desire, 24/7/365, failing to see that this is an impossible standard. And when her expectations are not met, she may seek external fulfillment.
- A woman may cheat because she lacks self-esteem. She may feel unattractive, or old, or disempowered, or whatever, and seek extramarital romance and sex to bolster her view of herself. She may reason, “If someone wants to be with me, I must be worthwhile.”
- A woman may cheat because she is reenacting or latently responding to childhood trauma—everything from abandonment to overt sexual abuse. Often, this is a way of trying to control or master abuse that she couldn’t control or master as a child.
- A woman may cheat because she doesn’t understand what love is. She may think the rush of first romance (technically referred to as limerence) is what true love feels like. She fails to understand that in healthy long-term relationships the neurochemical rush of limerence is replaced over time with less intense but ultimately more meaningful forms of intimacy and connection.
- A woman might cheat because she craves intimacy but isn’t getting it from her primary romantic partner. More so than men, women feel valued and connected through emotional interaction and communication. If a woman is not getting this need met at home, she may seek fulfillment elsewhere.
- A woman may cheat to alleviate boredom or loneliness. This is especially likely for a woman who finds herself at home for long periods of time (caring for young kids, keeping house, etc.) A woman in this situation may feel a lack of importance and meaning, and decide to fill the void with extracurricular sex and romance.
Sadly, women who cheat usually don’t realize how profoundly their secretive sexual and romantic behaviors can affect the long-term emotional life of a trusting spouse or partner. Infidelity hurts betrayed men just as much as it hurts betrayed women. The keeping of secrets, especially sexual secrets, damages relationship trust and is painful regardless of gender.
For more information about infidelity and how it can be overcome, consider reading Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating or Out of the Doghouse for Christian Men: A Redemptive Guide for Men Caught Cheating. These books are written to help men who cheat, but the information is useful in all cases of infidelity.