The Real Reason Wives Cheat On Their Faithful Husbands

Photo: Getty
woman in pink striped jacket smiling

People cheating is not so bad if you're hearing a story, but it's a hard concept to swallow when you're involved.

We've all seen it in social media and heard the gossip around the neighborhood — the stereotypical cheating husband, philandering with other women, while the emotionally neglected wife cries at home. 

Well, what happens when these roles are reversed? Is there a reason why some wives cheat on their husbands, even when he's being faithful?

Women who cheat have just as much of a reason as men do, but no one really talks about it. 

The phrase is pounded into our heads: men cheat, be careful. But it's never that women cheat too — as if female infidelity is taboo. It's a known fact that both men and women cheat because both genders are human, flawed and make mistakes. 

But there's a new infidelity pattern in which more and more men have reached out for counseling upon learning that their wives cheat on them. These men report that they have remained faithful and loyal, hoping to work through the hurt of the affair and stay together.

It's worthwhile to note that many of these faithful men challenged gender norms, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and ask for help. They have high emotional IQs, articulately expressing themselves and identifying their emotions, feeling things deeply and passionately, and engaging in self-reflection.

RELATED: The Age At Which Women Are Most Likely To Cheat

Why do women cheat, in general?

Through my extensive research on gender differences in infidelity, traditionally and for different theoretical reasoning, women tend to cheat for emotional reasons, using falling in love or an intense connection as justification for their actions; whereas men tend to cheat more for physical reasons, such as being dissatisfied in their sex lives or finding someone very attractive.

On their own, these men often could not identify what was missing or what could be improved upon, feeling shocked by their partner's betrayal. To their dismay, the men said their wives never directly told them that they were dissatisfied in their marriages.

Clearly, there was some breakdown in communication. However, it's not always poor communication, a lack of companionship, or dwindling emotional intimacy that leads to straying.

Through my counseling experiences, I have witnessed contradictions to the stereotypical gender differences in infidelity. For example, there are wives who feel an intense emotional affinity for their spouses but fall for the passion and excitement of an affair.

These women often times cheat with multiple extramarital partners. I have heard them question, "What's wrong with me?" and "Am I flawed?" They have questioned whether they fit into the box of traditional marriage, or if it’s more natural to have multiple partners over the years.

Why do wives become unfaithful?

To begin, why do people cheat on their partners at all? There is no one definitive answer because it could be many things that lead people to cheat on their partners. It could be a simple desire to have sex, opportunity, or unmet sexual or emotional needs. 

But why do women cheat? Why do affairs happen in the first place? People are told that cheating or an affair happens because the relationship is damaged somehow, but wives have described their infidelity as an exciting challenge and break from marriage and family life.

I've heard wives say that their partners are too nice and give them too much control, acknowledging that when given an inch, they take a mile. They have cried, stating that they never meant to hurt their husbands, or that it was not malicious, but instead a selfish pursuit of their own desires. They have acted on instant gratification, rather than thinking through the consequences of their actions.  

I've also noticed that some of the straying women have a history of sexual abuse and depression, constantly searching for happiness with a "grass is greener" mentality, rather than learning how to find happiness in their current situations.

Sociologist Alicia Walker, author of the book "The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women’s Infidelity," had other things to say on the matter.

In her book, Walker interviewed 46 heterosexual couples where women used the website Ashley Madison to intentionally seek out and form affairs with other men, and what Walker found was that these women saw their affairs as "a release valve for the resentment, hurt feelings, and deprivation they experienced in their primary partnerships."

Walker also said in her research that “motive doesn’t vary much by gender, and you can find just as many women as men who cheat for sexual pleasure, revenge, attention,” among other reasons.

“There is no common reason,” Esther Perel said after asking people about their love lives for 34 years. “Definitely mortality, fear of aging, deadness. A fear of ‘Is it going to be like this for another 25 years? Nothing new?’ That’s one narrative. Of course, there are the others that find their justifications inside the relationship; neglect is probably the biggest one.” 

So, the main reason wives make the decision to cheat is because they feel neglected... or are they just being loved in a different attachment style? Perel has been known to say, “Tell me how you were loved and I will tell you how you make love.” By “make love,” she means how you love. That is, how you approach closeness, intimacy, dating, and romance.

If your partner doesn't know your attachment style, of course you will feel neglected. It's important that couples share this information with each other early on to avoid possible emotional affairs that can quickly turn physical.

How common is it for wives to cheat?

Apparently, not as common as you would think. 

In general, men are more likely than women to cheat: 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women reported they've had sex with someone other than their spouse while married, according to data from the Institute for Family Studies.

The likelihood that your wife will cheat on you is around 6 percent, but that's out of 25 percent of married couples that see at least one incident of infidelity

The study also found that women in the age group of 18-29 appear slightly more likely than men of the same age to be guilty of infidelity in a marriage, and recorded women are most likely to cheat in their 60s.

RELATED: 18 Women Reveal The Brutally Honest Reason They Cheated

How do you know that your wife is cheating on you?

It can be hard to face the fact that your wife is cheating on you, so you subconsciously make excuses for her or refuse to see the red flags. You’ve gotten stuck in a loop of despair and are finding yourself feeling more paranoid with each passing day.

It’s not easy. And neither is thinking that your wife is sleeping with someone else. But here are a few signs that will reveal the truth you won't like:

1. She's suddenly not as available to you as she used to be.

This one is tricky because it could be that she simply has a lot on her plate with friends or work. But it can be a red flag if she'd rather stay home while you go to a family dinner party.

2. She's paying more attention to her appearance.

If she went from wearing jeans and a t-shirt to crop tops and heels, it might not be for your benefit. If she begins to trade in her sweat pants for something more revealing and sexy, it could be that she wants to impress someone else.

If she's having an affair, she's feeling sexually alive again and that will reflect in her wardrobe.

Pay attention to what she's doing to her hair or if she's putting makeup on to sit around the house. Unfortunately, it could be a sign that she’s dressing up for her lover since you didn't seem to mind her other look.

3. She seems guilty.

If your wife begins to seem guilty, most if not all the time when she's around you, it means she's facing the fact that she's doing something that's hurting you. Sometimes, guilt eats away at a person's subconscious, and eventually they may reveal the truth.

Even if she doesn't come clean, it still stands as a sign that she could be having an affair.

4. She spends more time with her friends.

It's okay for her to hang out with her friends every now and then, but if she no longer invites you to go along with her, you may want to be concerned. That's especially true if she insists you stay home while she goes out, and it's even worse if it's a friend you've never heard of. 

Each case is different, but the reality is that not all of these relationships can be saved.

Husbands and boyfriends come to me heartbroken, stating, "I love her, even for her flaws," willing to work through the betrayal. However, many have been greeted with ambiguity and pessimism from their unfaithful partners.

They say that they just want to hear, "I'm sorry, it won't happen again," but these wives have been reluctant, or perhaps realistic, that they cannot guarantee such a future.

The men find themselves doing the majority of the therapeutic work — going to counseling consistently, reading self-help books, asking for support from friends and family, and trying to spend more quality time together as a couple.

I've seen this go on for months until they reach a burnout point where they begin to question what they deserve in a relationship and start to prioritize their own needs, which are not being met. Oftentimes, they ask me whether they should stay or go, worried that their female counterparts will engage in similar behavior down the road.

The inspiring aspect is that through therapy and self-exploration, some of these men have walked away from their marriages with more confidence, a greater understanding of their relationship, and optimism about their future love lives.

RELATED: The Top 3 Places Where Women Are Most Likely To Cheat

Samantha Burns is a licensed counselor, dating coach, and the love guru behind Love Successfully. Sign up to receive Samantha’s free worksheet “Reframing My Negative Thoughts About Love."

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!