From bored moms to flashy celebrities, female infidelity is on the rise. It's often said that men cheat for sex, while women cheat for love. In general, men can more easily compartmentalize between sex and emotion, while women typically need to experience an emotional connection to a person before feeling sexual desire. Without those pesky emotions to stand in the way, a guy is much more likely to get himself into trouble (especially if alcohol is involved and inhibitions are down). In fact, most of the men I've encountered who have cheated on their wives or girlfriends have no desire to leave their primary relationship. Many of them even characterize themselves as happily married with satisfying sex lives! From their point of view, the cheating was purely opportunistic--wrong place, wrong time. This is not to say that men don't also cheat because they're unhappy, bored, or looking for an emotional connection that they no longer feel with their partner, but just as often the opposite is true: They were acting according to their little head, instead of thinking with their big one.
Yet there's actually a better chance that a couple will stay together and try to work things out when a man cheats than when a woman cheats. That's partially because there's still a double standard in our society--"boys will be boys," as the adage goes--and much less of a culture of forgiveness around female infidelity. But it's also because by the time a woman is at the point of physically cheating with another man, she has often emotionally vacated her primary relationship. Sure, some women cheat for the sex, but most cheat for another chance at love, or to confirm to themselves that their primary relationship is really over. A woman who cheats is often a woman who doesn't want to work it out. She's already invested time trying to work it out, and she's done. It's too late.
While there aren't any hard statistics on female infidelity, it's been my experience that it's on the rise, especially among women who have their own careers and a degree of financial independence. Another factor is the Internet. Sexual infidelity often starts with emotional infidelity, and digital technologies offer an abundance of opportunity for emotional (and thrilling) connections: the return of an ex, a workplace flirtation, a Facebook friendship that becomes more than "just friends."
The Internet doesn't cause people to cheat, but it's certainly an enabler, especially when a woman doesn't feel appreciated or emotionally connected to her spouse. With its quick hits of newness and novelty, the Internet enables us to easily tune out and turn off to our partners, when we should be making more of an effort to tune in and turn on. And unlike a one-night stand, emotional infidelity often blossoms over time into infatuation and romantic love.
Think your wife would never cheat? Think again. When men get angry about something, they tend to lash out, but women often self-silence and bottle up their emotions--so you may not even know there's a problem in your relationship until it's too late. As research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, Helen E. Fisher, says, "Men want to think women don't cheat, and women want men to think they don't cheat, and therefore the sexes have been playing a little psychological game with each other."
So what are some of the signs that a woman is cheating or thinking about it?
Ian Kerner is a sex therapist and New York Times best-selling author of numerous books including "She Comes First" and "Love in the Time of Colic." He is the founder of Good in Bed, and lives with his wife and two sons in New York City. He is the author of the Good in Bed Guide to Overcoming Premature Ejaculation.