If you've recently had an affair... or if you discovered that your wife or partner cheated... you're probably struggling to understand why.
Truth is, infidelity is common and I believe that most people who cheat are trying to deal with some pain they're experiencing.
Women cheat at about the same rate as men, but women's infidelity is talked about a lot less often... so if you're dealing with this issue... let's dive in and talk about it.
So, why do women cheat?
Many people think the reason people cheat is because of the sex or their craving sex, but that is almost never the case. People are actually seeking attention and affection.
Most of the time, affairs are a painkiller. In my experience, people are hurting and they want some relief from the pain, so they'll seek out or allow a new relationship to flourish because it takes them out of their painful world.
Over the years, I have found that affairs are VERY likely when three things happen at the same time: (1) the relationship is strained, (2) the person is not doing well, suffering from some type of depression or anxiety, and (3) some trauma or triggering event happens. That combo seems to put us in a world of hurt where we make impulsive choices.
For example, I can recall a client who had a very strained marriage, her business was struggling, she was pretty depressed and then... her father passed away. It was all so much, so heavy... and she started spending more time with a man from her networking group, they started talking more personally, and it drifted into an affair. She wasn't looking for it, she didn't seek it out, but.... she was in so much pain and was hurting so much, she let it happen. (Happy to say she course corrected shortly thereafter and is in a much better place with her husband now.)
Is there a No. 1 reason?
For everyone, it's being in pain. It's feeling unloved, hurt and alone... and wanting something (anything) to alleviate that pain. It's also feeling like your partner just doesn't care about how you're doing or feeling. You're craving attention, affection, someone to notice you and appreciate you. So if you're not getting that from your partner, you will be very drawn to it from someone else.
Now, most of the time, if we're in a healthy relationship, we can be attracted to someone else and we resist being pulled in too deep. If we're not feeling good and we've concluded our partner doesn't care about us, we don't try very hard to resist the pull of someone new.
(Need help healing from an affair or other trust injury? Start here.)
Are the reasons women cheat different than the reasons men cheat?
I think the core reason is usually the same, but it presents a little differently in women. Women will say they feel invisible, unappreciated, like their sole purpose is to take care of everyone and they want someone who takes care of them.
Women also want to feel like women, not just a mom or caregiver. They want to feel smart, attractive and interesting. They want to feel seen for who they are, i.e., someone who loves art and reads about Lincoln, and valued for their personality/thoughts. Women want to know that they uniquely matter to their partner... and are special in some ways.
Are there any red flags to watch out for?
If you're worried your partner might be cheating, there are three big red flags to look for.... being very protective/secretive with her phone, missing money (or regular large cash withdrawals from the ATM), and missing chunks of time. If your partner can't tell you where she was for a part of the day, or seems evasive about it, this is a clue that something interesting is happening. Having lots of random coffee dates or meetings with people you've never heard of or never met is also a clue. The biggest red flag is being wacky with the phone... if the phone is always locked and never leaves her sight, even when she's in the shower, I'd worry.
Red flags that you might be at risk for an affair.... you feel unloved, invisible, unappreciated. You feel like your partner doesn't see you and doesn't care. You aren't feeling good about your relationship and are starting to rationalize that your partner probably wouldn't even care if you had an affair anyways. You're hurting and you've tried to talk to your partner, to make your relationship better, and it's not getting better. You've had a recent loss or trauma and aren't dealing well. If you're in this spot, please reach out for help. We can make it so much better.
(Need help healing after an affair has been discovered? check out these free resources.)