The Lowdown on Cheating
How Men and Women Differ
In general, men are more likely to cheat for more superficial reasons, like the need for excitement, while women are more likely to stray if there is serious trouble in the marriage. But those lines are blurring, says Shirley Glass, PhD, author of Not "Just Friends": Protect Your Relationship From Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal (Free Press, 2002). "In the past, there were significant gender differences," says Glass. "The traditional male affair that was primarily sexual is changing because more men are having more emotional affairs (meaning their feelings for the "other woman" go beyond just sexual) with coworkers. Meanwhile, women are having more sexual affairs," says Glass. One reason: Women now feel more entitled to enjoy their sexuality, so if sex with their husband isn't satisfying they are more likely to look elsewhere than their mothers and grandmothers would have been.
Another trend: With more men and women working together side-by-side, as peers, there's an opportunity for deep emotional connections that didn't exist in previous generations. "You always had the boss who ran off with his secretary, but now I see many men who are in good marriages and are not traditional philanderers who form these deep friendships," she says. "They cross these lines and become more emotionally intimate than they are in their marriage. If there's some sexual attraction and chemistry, that's all you need for an affair."
Although affairs can and do happen to "good" marriages, in general an affair is a signal that something is awry in the relationship. "There are some cases when someone is just having sex with different people out of a need for variety, but most people really think before they go off in that direction. If you have a good relationship, you're less likely to jeopardize it," says Lonnie Barbach, PhD, co-author with David Geisinger of Going the Distance: Finding and Keeping Lifelong Love (Plume, 1993).