When we ask who cheats more, we often already have an answer in our heads: many women think men cheat more. Some men think women cheat more. And then there are the mixed groups that can attest to themselves or folks they know fulfilling the phenomenon that women and men cheat the same amount.

Age-old research confirms that men cheat more often with an array of reasons to justify and/or explain the behavior. However, new research suggests that women cheat more often and the reasons are equally novel. Researchers have already come to the conclusions for us, but what remains true in our conversations, circles and communities? It’s hard to say, but here’s what we know when it comes to who cheats more.

What Is Cheating?

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Cheating is defined as being unfaithful to a partner or spouse, and being unfaithful includes both emotional and physical cheating. Emotional cheating can be described as being emotionally intimate with someone who is not your partner or spouse. It’s when a person shares details of their life happenings with an individual who isn’t their partner or spouse to the point of building a connection. This connection is fostered by both participants, a listener and a sharer.

Often the sharer feels more comfortable confiding in the non-partner or non-spouse than they do with their person at home. Physical cheating is when a partner or spouse engages in sexual activity with someone who is not their partner or spouse. And, while every couple has (and should tap into) the agency of creating their own rules, these are the most common understandings. 

Why Women Cheat vs. Why Men Cheat

It’s been understood that whenever women cheat, which was assumed to be at a lower rate than that of their male partners, it was always emotional. They connected with someone who listened to them, made them feel valued and who eventually became their sole, listening ear. Then there were the women who, after connecting emotionally, felt comfortable enough and aroused enough to share their body with a non-partner. Seeing as women are not a monolith and research has proven so, we now know that women cheat for an array of reasons including sexual dissatisfaction. Dr. Marta Meana at the University of Nevada found that long-term partnerships and marriages impact the libido of women more than men. It’s specifically the lack of variation of sex compared to the lack of frequency of sex that reportedly causes men to cheat. 

Men are perceived to cheat more often and it’s assumed to be because of sexual dissatisfaction, but that isn’t always the case. Self-proclaimed experts via social media believe that men cheat when they want emotional support. Their new partner provides a safe space for them to feel their feelings while also feeling supported in all areas of their life. 

Who Cheats More: Men or Women?

In seeking support, men are craving an emotional connection that then becomes physical out of comfortability similar to that of women. And while studies show that men are 20% more unfaithful than their spouse, women don’t fall too far behind. According to a recent survey, women are 13 percent more likely to commit infidelity. These surveys are based on self-reports although confirmed by a range of sources including the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Studies have also shown that these numbers change when we add marriage to the mix. Briony Leo, a psychologist and head coach at Relish, a relationship coaching company shared that her report revealed 26 percent of marriages had infidelity. Of those respondents’ cases of cheating, 23 percent was emotional, 21 percent was physical, and 55 was a mix of both.

How To Maintain A Healthy, Loving Relationship

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Modern research shows that women and men cheat around the same amount. It also confirms that 55 percent of those relationships end immediately after a partner shares they’ve cheated, with 30 percent deciding to push through and eventually ending things. Only 15 percent of partners are able to recover successfully. Experts across the board confirm that communication is the key to a healthy, loving relationship. More self-acceptance and a dating culture that has grown to be more open over time, cheating also has developing definitions.

It may be regional, situational, both or neither. This is a prime instance where setting those rules as a couple makes a difference. In any case, once rules are set, both partners can flourish knowing that they set the boundaries together and that clarity and compassion are their guides. 

Author and psychotherapist, David Richo, PhD, says there are 5 A’s to a healthy relationship: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing your partner to be themselves. We wish all partners and spouses relationships with (continued) open communication and growth!