Coming to Terms With Infidelity: Men Versus Women
There is a school of thought that says if a woman cheats, it is more likely to signal an end to her primary relationship than if a man cheats. And this may in fact be the case, because men and women tend to think and feel differently about sex and relationships.
Men are generally more likely than women to be able to compartmentalize sex and intimate connections. For many men, sex is sex, and relationships are relationships, and the two do not necessarily overlap. Thus, a man who casually cheats may do so without feeling a significant degree of emotional connection to a mistress, while a woman who cheats could see things differently, with sex and emotional connection intermingled in ways that make compartmentalization more difficult.
Stated another way, when women cheat, there is usually an element of romance, intimacy, connection, or love. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to cheat to satisfy sexual urges, with fewer thoughts of intimacy. Of course, many men cheat because they feel love as well as sexual attraction for an outside partner, but many more don’t: For them, infidelity can be an opportunistic, primarily sexual action that, in their minds, does not affect their primary relationship. In fact, when asked, many such men will report that they’re very happy in their primary relationship, that they love their significant other, that their sex life is great, and that, despite their cheating, they have no intention of ending their primary relationship.
Women are less likely to operate that way. For most women, a sense of relational intimacy is every bit as important as the sex; often more important. As such, women tend to not cheat unless they feel either unhappiness in their primary relationship or an intimate connection with their extracurricular partner — and either could cause a woman to move on from her primary relationship.
Consider the results of a well-known study in which men and women were shown videos of two men having sex and two women having sex. Male test subjects’ responses were highly gender specific: Straight guys were turned on only by the videos of women, and gay men were turned on only by the videos of two men. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the women, regardless of sexual orientation, were aroused by both male and female stimuli — in particular, the videos that displayed or hinted at an emotional and psychological connection. This research is hardly an outlier: Numerous other studies have produced similar results, confirming that, generally speaking, women are attracted to and turned on by emotional intimacy (especially in committed relationships), while men are more turned on by sex acts.