There are many reasons for infidelity, such as revenge, boredom, the thrill of sexual novelty, or sexual addiction. But experts say that a large majority of the time, motivations differ by gender, with men searching for more sex or attention, and women looking to fill an emotional void.
“Women tell me, ‘I was lonely, not connected, I don’t feel close to my partner, and I was taken for granted,'” says Winifred Reilly, MA, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, Calif. “They say they wanted to have someone who would look into their eyes and make them feel sexy again.”
Reason 1: A Need For An Emotional Connection
Every affair is different, and so are every woman’s reasons for her involvement.
That said, men are more likely to cite sexual motivations for infidelity and are less likely to fall in love with an extramarital partner, says Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and the author of Why Him? Why Her? and Why We Love.
Women tend to have an emotional connection with their lover and are more likely to have an affair because of loneliness, Fisher says.
“Women tend to be more unhappy with the relationship they are in, while men can be a lot happier in their primary relationship and also cheat,” says Fisher. “Women are more interested in supplementing their marriage or jumping ship than men are – for men, it is a secondary strategy as opposed to an alternate.”
In one of her studies, Fisher found that 34% of women who had affairs were happy or very happy in their marriage. 56% of men who had affairs were happy in their marriage.
Reason 2: It’s Genetic
The theory that adultery is “natural” for men, fulfilling their Darwinian need to spread their seed, has been around a long time. But the connection women look for when having affairs may have evolutionary roots as well.
That theory, Fisher says, is that from the earliest days, women paired with a primary mate to have children. But as women went out to gather food, they slept with other men, creating an insurance policy — to have someone who would help rear children and provide resources, should their mate die.
“Women who slept around collected more meat, protection, and resources from their lovers,” Fisher says. “She might even have an extra child to create more genetic variety in her lineage; if some children die, others will live on.”
That theory is controversial. But experts say that women’s motivations to have affairs are typically more than sexual. That’s not to say that