Friday Flashback: Why Women Cheat

Author Charles Orlando interviewed men and women to find out why they cheated sexually. Men overwhelmingly cheated for sexual reasons, while most women who cheated did so for emotional reasons. The women’s reasons for sex outside of their relationship included “Lack of emotional intimacy”, “Reaffirm her desirability” and “To re-experience feelings of romance”. All of those are things a husband could and should be taking care of for his wife.

Friday Flashback: Why Women Cheat

I’m not suggesting that when a woman cheats it’s her husband’s fault; we’re all accountable for our actions. However, reducing the temptation to have an affair seems wise. Beyond that, understanding why women cheat helps us to understand what is really important to them. She’s not looking for mind-blowing sex; she doesn’t need you to last all night or know thirty different positions. What she needs is to feel loved and desired. And while she wants to feel desired sexually, she needs to connect with your mind and emotions far more than she needs to connect with your body.

[This post first appeared April 3, 2010.]

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16 Comments on “Friday Flashback: Why Women Cheat

  1. The following was my response to someone who suggested that if men were to simply take responsibility, be more Christlike the wife will respond. That person literally suggested that she is a acting out because you are not doing your part. Which is in fact blaming the husband for the wife’s behavior.
    Either a tacit if not overt, “she’s only doing this in response to what you are or are not doing.”

    Frankly, we have too much of that in the church. We don’t blame rape victims for being raped. But we manage to blame men if their wives make the choice to break their vows.

    I’d like to remind people that Christ was very resistible. During his ministry on Earth, people had no problem resisting him. Yet we keep hearing, be more Christlike, meet needs, etc, as if it were some magic bullet.

    The reality is, that it is not. Am I saying DON’T be Christlike. Of course not. But I am saying have no expectations, or at the very least, be realistic about those expectations, that Christ was more often rejected and resisted than he was truly followed.

    And now my recycled reply from April 2010:

    My experience differs vastly from what you are saying.

    When my ex-wife had her affair, I immediately took all the responsibility. I told her I had failed her as a husband and leader in the home and asked her to forgive me. Did that lead her to end the affair and return home.


    It fueled a sense of entitlement.

    She was offered the grace of Christ and rejected it.

    The results were definitely far from the awesome you promise. The marriage never became what God intended marriage to be. She got the divorce she wanted, primary custody of our child, even though she was the one engaged in marital misconduct and the church blamed me and refused to act in accordance with the Matthew 18 process when I asked them to help end the affair and restore the marriage. In fact, the pastor went as far as to suggest it was my fault she chose to have an affair.

    Sorry, I don’t agree with the Ken Nair school of thought that if something is bad in a marriage, if a wife is behaving badly, it’s because her husband is deficient. If a wife is behaving badly, it’s because she made the choice to follow sin, not Christ.

    We would not accept such excuses from a man who has an affair. If one were to say it wasn’t his fault, his wive’s actions drove him to an affair, we would run him out on a rail.

    But if a wife does the same thing and offers such an excuse, we accept that her husband was at fault?

    I think not.

    I did treat my ex-wife as Christ treated, and doubled down when she had her affair. The results were indeed far from awesome.

    • Well, relationships are unique so the reasons for affairs are unique. And even a bad relationship is never an excuse for an affair or sin. We own our own choices.

      That said and speaking generally, a spouse can make an environment that makes it harder or easier for their spouse to resist sin. It’s not a wife’s fault if a husband chooses to look at porn or have an affair, but it is her fault if she refuses him sexually or is cold or contemptuous. And her sin can feed his.

      In the very early days of my marriage, when I was constantly being rejected sexually and my husband was acting incredibly cold and critical, I felt absolutely rubbed raw. I felt so bad about myself and so lost in my relationship, that I suddenly understood how easy it could be to fall into an affair just because I wanted my husband to treat me kindly so desperately, I would have been vulnerable to kindness from almost anywhere. Recognizing that, I immediately made a commitment to myself to watch all of my interactions with coworkers or people at church, so that I never even had a temptation (or opportunity) to cheat. And there wasn’t anyone I was even interested in. But it still came as a shock to realize I could love my husband and still be vulnerable to that level of temptation — and, honestly, I was only so broken emotionally because of him. If I had cheated, my sin would have been 100% my own fault, but, in that case, he also would have had a lot of sin and responsibility, just not as visible.

      • Sunny-Dee is right about sharing the responsibility. I think of it as similar to contributory negligence in a court case. When I was being sexually refused, situations that would not have been tempting became tempting. Sure, if I have chosen to go that route, it would have been my choice and my responsibility. But I felt like I now had a bulls eye on me for Satan to aim at, instead of being protected.

        The problem with situations like this is that they spiral out of control. My wife refuses, I withdraw more, she wants more emotional connection, I’m hurt and withdraw more, she refuses more, and on and on. The only way out is to break the chain, and as the mess goes on longer and longer, the chains are wrapped more tightly. God can break those chains, but it takes a definite effort on our part to want to break them. When I confronted my wife about her refusal, she reacted badly, and I began to realize that I was refusing in other ways, like time and conversation. We both repented, and God began the change.

        Now the bulls eye is off me. Stop the blame game, take responsibility where appropriate, and allow God to change you. And regard your intimacy, in all the ways that happens, as a shield and protection for each other.

      • So then how would one fix it it when presented with the following sorts of “logic”

        – If you loved me, you would have known what to do.

        – He is my soul mate, it was a mistake to marry you.

        – (Silence)

        Throughout the marriage, I was asking questions like, “What do you want?” Or “What does that look like? Was there a time when I did that or something close so I would know what that means to you?”
        “What would your ideal marriage look like?”

        When the response is either silence or something subjective like “more romance” it’s hard to hit the mark.

        When you sit down next to her on the couch and she gets up, walks away, says nothing….

        Well, you get the idea.

        I’m a pretty smart guy. Top 25 university graduate with multiple degrees. So if someone is willing to take a little time to teach me, I can probably learn.

        But what I don’t do well is respond to hints or silence.

        And I had ample opportunity to cheat. The first half of the marriage, I travelled extensively while she could be the stay at home mom she said she wanted to be.

        But she did want me home, so I changed jobs where I was home. I think things go worse, not better. We didn’t connect anymore than when I was on the road. Not emotionally, not physically.

        So while I am pretty good with abstract as well as concrete ideas, I was a horrible mind reader.

        She was unwilling or unable to paint a picture of what she wanted.

        But somehow, that gets twisted and distorted into being my fault. If someone isn’t willing to take the time to be with you. If they are not invested enough to even tell you what it is they want. If they just expect that you read their mind. Well, that is destined to fail.

        I’m not saying I wasn’t a sinner. Still am a sinner, saved only by grace.

        But I am tired of seeing all of what I would call tripe surrounding the notion that if you were meeting her needs, she wouldn’t have cheated.

        We can wind that back even further. If she would have been unambiguous about her needs, wants and desires, maybe someone could have met them.

        But we seem to stop at the hapless husband who is unable to read someone else’s mind.

        We were both in the same marriage. It’s not like it was any better for me than it was for her.

        The difference was, I was looking to make things better IN the marriage. She had the same data and same experience and decided her solution was outside the marriage.

        I think we often forget in a marriage where someone betrays their spouse that BOTH were in the marriage. So why do we excuse the one who chose to cheat and blame the victim?

        • I didnt see anyone blaming the victim. Sometimes, there really is nothing more that you can do. Often, tho, a little effort can turn things around. You mentioned working on the road. Been there, done that. If I had to do it over again, I would have stayed home. To my knowledge, my wife never had an affair, but it did force a lot of lonely nights on both of us. That can be a hard thing to come back from.

          I wont describe those years other than to say that we both should have been more intentional. We spent years married in name only.

          It may be that your wife just couldnt come back from that, despite her intentions. I know that in a lot of ways, I can find myself sitting next to my wife on the couch, and still my mind drags me back into one of those lonly motel rooms, when all I really have to do, is reach out my hand.

          Im sorry for your loss and for your pain, but it might be time to release your wifes sin.

          • Frankly, these days, it’s not her sin, but those who are most like Job’s friends who cause the real pain.

            Sorta like my former pastor who asked, “What did you do to force your wife to have an affair?”

            I get it, people are insensitive and say stupid stuff. I do too.

            The difference is I try to not make the same mistakes over and over again. It seems others are unwilling or unable to learn from the pain they cause.

            Just think of the difference between the typical Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons.

            Mother’s Day: “We need to step up and honor all these mothers amongst us.”

            Father’s Day: “Men, you are not measuring up, do better, try harder, be Jesus.”

            No wonder men don’t want to go to church anymore. They are not welcome.

          • Tony, such examples as you wrote are no doubt true, and they must hurt good men as much as, “are you giving your husband enough sex,” hurts a woman whose husband seeks out porn over her despite her high sex drive.

            In my own marriage, I WISH churches would push men to man up, put down their entertainment devices, be involved fathers, and cherish their wives.

            To you, you’ve heard too much. To me, I haven’t heard enough.

            People like you and me feel trapped and a bit resentful because we do the homework, we say the prayers, we have the faith, we push past the hurt, we endure the accussations and we don’t get the answers.

            Sometimes, life just sucks.

        • @Tony – The thing about free will is some things are beyond our power to change.
          I would suggest your situation is not the norm. That won’t make you feel any better, but please don’t paste this on all women.

    • @Tony – As I said, “I’m not suggesting that when a woman cheats it’s her husband’s fault; we’re all accountable for our actions.” I will assume this rant is not about this post.
      In general we can make it more or less likely that our spouse will engage in adultery, or use porn. But some will do it no matter what, and some won’t do it no matter what.

      • Actually, it is, in part, about the post.

        The word “however” is little different from “but.” Both mean an exception. The difference is how they are used. But is a conjunction while however is an adverb and one can begin a sentence with “However, ….”

        So when one says, “I’m not blaming men. However, here’s an exception…”

        An exception to what? If the previous sentence stated you are not blaming men, when you introduce an exception, you are saying here is an exception to what I just said.

        So if you are introducing an exception to not blaming men, logically, you must be blaming men.

        That’s the way the words work. Words like “but” and “however” negate what was previously stated.

        • @Tony – I didn’t say “However, here’s an exception. I didn’t say anything like that! I said it’s not his fault, but doing all we can to prevent it seems wise. That’s not at all the same as making an exception.

        • @TGH,

          You may not have meant it that way, but that is how language works.

          I presume you’ve heard the idea that anything before a “but” in writing is negated by what follows.

          The same holds true for however. What follows the however is by definition of the word however, an exception to what comes before.

          That is the very use for the word however. It denotes that what follows it is an exception to the idea that was before.

          Therefore, you literally wrote, men are not to blame. However, here is how men can be to blame.

          Again, that is what however means and does in English. It serves the same purpose as “but.” The only difference is it is an adverb that can be used at the beginning of a sentence. One is not to start a sentence with But….

          • @Tony – If I say “I didn’t go the store, however, I did go to the bank” I am not making an exception. If I say “The sky is blue, however, the grass is green” I am not saying the sky is anything but blue.
            All the wordplay aside, I said, “reducing the temptation to have an affair seems wise” and I stands by that.

  2. I don’t want to cheat, but I have wondered why I didn’t become a nun, instead.

  3. You are absolutely spot on. A few years into our marriage I had an affair. Let me say first off that I knew it was wrong and I have since confessed to my husband. At the time my husband was working 60 hours a week and seemed to have no time for me. I remember as the man I had the affair with and I flirted more and spent more time together that I would even hint about it to my husband. I think I wanted him to stake his claim and see that I was still desireable. The sin was mine, but it was never about sex. The couple times we did have sex I didn’t even climax. It was completely about a man being interested in what I had to say and being attracted to me. He had time for me and desired me.
    I still can’t believe how lucky I am that my husband forgave me and let us truly move forward. I know I’ll never do it again but I still wish my husband would make more of an effort sometimes. Even after we’ve talked this through I can’t get him to complement me or tell me he’s attracted to me. He still has a tendency to give everything he has to his work as well. Please know I’m not making excuses. I just wish our love languages matched up better sometimes. He is acts of service.
    To the men who have been cheated on I would say that I hope you too can forgive and move forward. I never stopped loving my husband but in my 20s I guess I was immature and thought he would naturally know what I needed (quality time and affirmation) now I realize the work you put it makes the marriage that much more precious.

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