Yeeeeah. If there was ever an article that needed the disclaimer "Hey, don't shoot the messenger" before it, this would have to be it. Not because I am someone who is shocked by what I'm about to share (when you're a marriage life coach, you tend to hear it all); it's more that, when it comes to the topic of cheating/infidelity, and who participates in it, it really does seem a little one-sided when it comes to gender. C'mon. I know I'm not the only one who can honestly say that, whenever most people think of cheaters and cheating, who they think of is men. But oh, baby. As you're about to see in just a moment, women definitely do their fair share of creepin' around. More than a lil' bit, actually.
But before I dive into all of the stats and whatnot, let me just share a bit of what I have seen from my personal experience and interaction. As far as personal experience goes, one day I'll get into why a lot of women are willing to help a man to cheat. As a former-sometimes-side-chick-in-recovery, I can definitely offer up some insight into that, chile. For now, as far as my married friends and clients go, I'll be really real with y'all. I'd say that as far as who has cheated on whom, it's the wives that have had the upper hand; especially when it comes to micro-cheating, emotional affairs or "oral sex infidelity".
Why? The reasons vary. Some feel emotionally disconnected from their husband. Some are sexually bored and uninspired in their relationship (bookmark that, I'll circle back to it in just a bit). I can't emphasize enough how many don't know how to leave an ex alone. Some aren't sure if their husband is cheating or not, so they decide to sleep around, "just in case". Some are just flat-out delusional because they think that, so long as they only go out with ole' boy (the other man) from time to time or, if they do mess around, no actual penetration transpires, it's not "really cheating".
First of all, yes it has. Secondly, it really is baffling how some folks will justify their own reckless behavior but will find the very same acts inexcusable if they are on the receiving end. But relational hypocrisy is also another topic for another time.
For now, let's look at some of the findings behind why women cheat. Let's not stop there, though. If you happen to see yourself in any of this copy, let's also touch on what you should do to get your own love life back in order.
What the Experts Say About Women and Cheating
Ever since I caught a tweet that simply said, "Black women don't cheat", I've been following it to see what the responses to it would be. They've been interesting, to say the least. While the men have been going ham, I found it fascinating that the author of it seemed to finally get fed up after a couple of days or so. At least this gave me the impression that she is—"Before I mute this, ima just say idgaf who hurt y'all. Don't come to my tweet with negativity against black women, this tweet is not that deep and is in response to black men don't cheat."
I'll say this—a part of the reason why a lot of us struggle so much in relationships is because of the "idgaf who hurt you" mentality that far too many of us have. As much as we don't, we should. Both men and women should. Lord, have mercy. Apathy is gonna be the death of intimacy for a lot of folks out here. But that too is a PSA for another time. My main point for bringing this up is, I wonder if a lot of women have even asked the men in their lives about what led to his first (or second) real heartbreak. I have. 7 times out of 10, guess what it was? Cheating. He didn't do it. She did. And whether it's ego, fear, a very low threshold for emotional pain or all of the above, it had so many of the men shook that many of them still haven't fully healed or recovered from it. And an unhealed person trying to love anyone else is going to result in a lot of emotional turbulence in their future relationships.
Back to how many women cheat. If you just read all of that and was like "7 out of 10, Shellie? You sure you're not exaggerating?", I'll say this—although I am sure that I'm not, let's look into what the stats state, shall we? According to The Institute for Family Studies, 20 percent of husbands and 13 percent of wives have admitted to having sex with at least one other person over the course of their marriage. As far as race goes? It's truly a "SMH" when I say that we take the lead (Blacks sit at 22 percent, whites at 16 percent and Hispanics at 13 percent). While you might want to assume that it's the young folks who do it the most, that isn't the case. Only 11 percent of individuals between 18-34 cheat while 17 percent of people between 35-64 and 18 percent of those over 65 do it. Some other interesting findings are those who are Democrats with some college who did not grow up with both parents and basically only go to church on Christmas and Easter are also the biggest cheaters.
OK, so that's some of what I found about married people. Let's look at some other stuff I discovered that specifically relates to millennial singles. In the article "Why Are Millennial Women Cheating More Than Men?", the author shared that, although via another study she also found that 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women cheat, when it comes specifically to the 18-29 demographic, women slightly cheated more. When she asked 30 of the women why, the reasons ranged for relational dissatisfaction to being under the influence.
However, another author that was interviewed for the piece said, "Women are known to be more sensitive to social pressure than men, and there has always been more pressure on proper sexual behavior in women. Also, they traditionally had fewer opportunities because they were more likely to stay at home with the kids." In response to that, the writer of the article added, "Basically, several decades of feminism have eroded some of the stigma surrounding women's sexuality and given them more financial and social freedom, empowering them to behave like men — and sometimes like dirtbags."
Hmph. I will say this. Although a lot of women that I talk to think that being cheated on is basically the unpardonable sin, if they or a female friend has actually cheated on their partner, suddenly there is so much insight, compassion and—dare I say it?—justification. While when a man does it, he's a dog, end of story, when a woman does it, she has a reason and it should be heard. Hmm…is that empathy or hypocrisy? Y'all tell me.
Maybe there's less understanding for men because, when a man cheats, women think that it's purely a carnal and selfish act—full stop. But when a woman cheats, automatically, it's more complicated in their eyes. At least that's what the article "The Reasons Why Married Women Cheat on Their Husbands" implies. In it, the author shares that the reasons for women's cheating are as layered as each woman is. But what did come up quite a bit was sexual dissatisfaction; the same thing that I hear in my sessions. Ah, so maybe a part of the reason why more women are cheating is because a lot of them are not tolerating not getting their needs met—both in and out of the bedroom. And when I say, "more women", I mean just that. Just peep what, Alicia M. Walker, an associate professor of sociology at Missouri State University, stated in the article:
"Way more women are cheating than we think. We just don't like to talk about it, and we don't like to think about it. You don't want to think that your neighbor, your Sunday school teacher, or your friend is doing this. But the reality is, you know a woman who's cheating, you just don't know that she is."
Hmph again. The more that all of this is unfolding, it sounds like the whole "If a forest falls and no one is there to hear it, does it actually make a sound?" question.
Is it really that men cheat more? Or is it that women get caught less?
Because just because no one knows what may have went down, that doesn't mean that cheating did not occur. Right?
Now here's what's "funny" about all of this. Even with all of research that I've read on this particular topic (which is far too much for this article), as a woman, I'm not offended in the least. As someone who is working on deactivating some of my triggers in other areas, none of this applies to me personally, so there's nothing to get all bent out of shape about. If anything, I think stuff like this is a wake-up call to whether we want the cheating that goes on in relationships to stop period, or if we simply want to keep playing the blame game despite what data reveals to us? Or, do we want to do what our current administration does daily—deflect to "the other team" so that we don't have to take a long hard look at our own behaviors? (Ouch and amen.)
What If YOU Are the One Who Cheats?
So, what if you read all of this and saw some of yourself in it? What should you do? Although that is its own article series, I will do my best to share three ways to get you started on the road to faithfulness:
1. Don't justify the behavior. One couple I worked with, the wife was cheating on her husband with an ex. Her justification was her husband wasn't romantic enough. Then it turned into her needing to go to her hometown (where her ex lived) to see her family. While she was there, she would "happen" to run into her ex. Then it was, "We kissed a few times, but it's not like we've had sex or anything. Besides, if my husband was more affectionate, this wouldn't be a temptation for me." It was a steady decline from there. Listen, one of the easiest ways to not take responsibility for your own actions is to justify your own behavior. All of us have reasons for the good and bad that we do. But as long as you've got excuses, you'll never really be able to do the next point so that you can break free of the pattern. That is, if you want to break free. Do you?
2. Get to the root cause. I already know what some of y'all who've been reading this are thinking—"This is stupid. If you're gonna cheat, just be single." In theory, you are exactly right. But some people—especially married people—don't think that way. It's because, to them, ending the relationship would cause more complications, not less. This is oftentimes the case if there are children involved, things that both people's names are on, or even if both individuals still have strong feelings for each other, but certain needs aren't being met. In other words, they're not dissatisfied enough to leave; they are just unhappy enough to cheat.
This is why getting to the root of the cheating is so important. If it's relational dissatisfaction, are you and yours open to counseling? If it's sexual dissatisfaction, have you relayed that to your partner? What effort have you put in to make things better? If it's boredom, when's the last time you and yours have tried doing something new? If it's an ex, what is unresolved that needs to get resolved?
Although there are some people who cheat because they're simply horny jerks who are too emotionally immature for a relationship, for many individuals, that is not even remotely the underlying issue. Cheating is a Band-Aid to a wound, but there is definitely a wound that exists. A lot of folks are out here ranting about the Band-Aid rather than peeking to see what it's covering up.
3. Accept that cheating CHEATS you. I've helped people cheat. And, as karma would have it, I have been cheated on. In all of the scenarios, no matter how "good" the sex with the other person may have been for the cheater, it certainly didn't make anyone's life less complex or convoluted. All of the sneaking and lying and deceiving can be utterly exhausting. It can also desensitize you and even cause you to go numb, just so that you can quiet your conscience. What kind of existence is that?
If there's one thing that all of this revealed, it's that cheating doesn't prefer a gender. It's down for whoever wants to do it.
But if you're out here thinking that it only affects—or potentially infects—the person you are cheating on, or that somehow your mindset for why you are doing it isn't "that bad"…pardon the pun, but you are cheating yourself out of so much.
One thing that cheating does is makes us settle. If we're not getting our needs (or wants) met, rather than fix our relationship or wait for the one who can truly fulfill us to come along, we sacrifice time, energy, resources and emotions on what has a slim chance of ever getting right—let alone lasting. I'll be honest. I know a couple who cheated on their spouses, got married and are still married some 20 years later. They will be the first to tell you that they are dealing with some consequences that they never saw coming—like being able to fully trust one another.
Personally, I am over the whole "Black men don't cheat" and "Black women don't cheat" narrative. I actually like what one of the people said in response to the tweet that I shared earlier. All he did was add a comma and it changed everything—"Black women, don't cheat." Same goes for Black men. Shoot, men and women, in general.
Don't do it simply because of what cheat means—defraud, swindle, fraud by influence, violate rules, trick, victimize, deliberate dishonesty. Again, there's no way you can cheat on someone else and not cheat yourself in the process. This applies to men and women. Not one more the other either. As you just read.
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