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Science Behind Cheating

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Infidelity can be a hot topic of debate. Does going to a strip club count as cheating? Does an emotional Facebook affair that was never consummated count as cheating? Do bachelor parties even count? What about an emotional relationship with a close friend that never turned physical but involved racy texts or direct messages?

There is no shortage of studies about infidelity, and not surprisingly, what one couple thinks is cheating, another couple may not think is cheating at all. For example, one couple may think that one-night-stands that occur in different states or different countries don’t count as cheating. Meanwhile, another couple may think that even chatting with a friend of the opposite sex via text or a direct message is a form of cheating.

Business Insider decided to look into some of the research conducted by psychologists and relationship experts, who have spent years studying the science behind infidelity and it showcased some of the “most compelling results” for readers. We found Business Insider’s findings so interesting, we thought we’d share it with our readers too.

What We Learned About Cheating

According to Business Insider, a 2015 study, published by the American Sociological Review, looked at around 2,800 people who were all between the ages of 18 and 22. Interestingly, the study found that when someone is economically dependent on their spouse, their chances of being unfaithful are higher.

And you know what? Men who are dependent on their wives are even more likely to cheat than their female counterparts. The study found that about 15% of men who are financially supported by their wives are likely to cheat, compared to only 5% of women who are entirely dependent on their husbands.

“Here’s the really interesting part: Men are less likely to cheat the more money they make relative to their spouse – until they bring in 70% of the household income, at which point they become more likely to cheat again,” Allana Akhtar wrote in Business Insider.

The Sex of the Other Person Matters

Have you ever told your spouse that it would bother you more if he or she cheated with someone who was the same sex or the opposite sex? If so, you’re not alone. Another 2015 study, but this time published in the journal Personal Relationships, found that when men and women were asked about how they felt about their partner cheating with someone of the same sex vs. the opposite sex, the sex of the other person apparently, matters.

When men were asked by the researchers how they felt about the sex of the other person, men were more likely to be angrier if their partner cheated with someone who was the opposite sex, but they were more inclined to find their partner cheating with someone of the same sex to be arousing. The women were the opposite, however. They were more inclined to have a negative reaction if their partner cheated with someone who was the same sex. For example, most women would be angrier if their boyfriends or husbands cheated on them with a man vs. a woman.

Sexual Infidelity vs. Emotional Infidelity

As it turns out, straight men are more concerned about sexual infidelity and straight women are more bothered by emotional infidelity, according to 2013 research form the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

According to the study, most heterosexual men were more upset if their partner had sex with someone else, even if they hadn’t fallen in love with that person. In contrast, most heterosexual women had bigger problems with their partners having emotional affairs where they fell in love, despite them never involving sexual contact.

Chance of Cheating Higher with Big Birthdays

When the Ashley Madison (a dating site for people who are in relationships with other people) hack occurred several years ago, researchers decided to look into the activity of its members and they stumbled across something quite interesting, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The men studied were more likely to seek an affair outside their marriage when their age ended with the number nine, or more specifically, the big 4-0 or 5-0. Something about turning 40 or 50 led the men studied to stray from their partners. The researchers did see a similar effect on women, but it was smaller.

Women Are as Likely to Cheat as Men

Cheating has long been customary and associated with men, until now. While men have been the ones to cheat historically, now women are just as likely to cheat as their male counterparts. Could it be because of feminism and the number of women in the workforce who no longer need to be dependent on men for economic support? While we don’t know for sure, those are probably two big factors.

Older Americans Are More Likely to Cheat

If you previously believed that people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s had to be the largest age groups who cheated, think again. According to the Institute for Family Studies, Americans age 55 and older are more likely to cheat on their spouses than Americans under the age of 55. According to Nicholas Wolfinger, the author of the study, one of the reasons for the rising trend is that people who in their 50s and 60s came of age during the sexual revolution. He also added how older Americans aren’t as disapproving of extramarital sex as they used to be.

Next: The Kind of Person Who Divorces


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