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Is female cheating really on the rise?

It’s in my perversely curious nature to look for the most salacious yet educational news stories to both enjoy and discuss every morning. So you can imagine my delight when I found the story “Female Infidelity: Why Women Cheat” on CNN.com this morning: sex and science! What a fabulous combination, like Glee and the mute button on my remote control.

Masterfile

It’s in my perversely curious nature to look for the most salacious yet educational news stories to both enjoy and discuss every morning. So you can imagine my delight when I found the story “Female Infidelity: Why Women Cheat” on CNN.com this morning: sex and science! What a fabulous combination, like Glee and the mute button on my remote control. 

Then I read the piece, and I wondered…

The column, written by sex counselor and author, Ian Kerner, offers anecdotal evidence to suggest that female infidelity is on the rise—he and his colleagues see it in their work more and more, apparently. More interesting perhaps, in Kerner’s experience, is that when women cheat the effects are far more destructive in a relationship than when the man strays.  

Why is female infidelity so damaging to commitment? According to Kerner, it has something to do with the differing reasons why women cheat. Generally speaking women cheat for emotional reasons—they’re unhappy—whereas men cheat for biological reasons—they’re pigs, er, men who want to have sex.

The possibility that both men and women cheat because they’re jerks doesn’t appear to occur to Kerner. I’m no sex counselor, but in my practice as reluctant auditor/friend, I’ve listened to enough cheating confessions from both male and female friends to recognize they share that common personality trait. Cheating isn’t just sex, after all. It requires deception, manipulation and stealth to succeed.  

As a woman, I think it’s nice that Kerner wants to let me off the hook morally, letting it be known that I’m not a mindless sex-seeker if I cheat. No, I’m just an emotional nightmare who destroys relationships because I’m unhappy! Wait, a minute, I don’t like that explanation either… can I voluntarily opt in to be a sex-obsessed creep instead?

But it’s when Kerner lists the signs that a woman may be cheating that he officially lost me. According to Kerner, the signs that your gal is stepping out, include: 

  • Lack of interest in a partner’s comings and goings
  • Working late
  • Dressing up for work but not bothering to dress up for her partner
  • Unresolved issues in the relationship that bother her
  • Lack of interest in the partner’s friends and family, etc.

If these are the criteria for female cheating then I’m not surprised Kerner thinks it’s on the rise because it sounds like almost every woman I know. In fact, I think these signs should actually exist under the subhead: “Signs a woman is in a long-term relationship.” 

Signs and symptoms and convenient gender differences, aside, I’m really beginning to wonder whether common sense doesn’t prove a little more helpful in sorting out matters of the heart and the naughty bits. In fact, as one 2004 study pointed out: the reasons men and women cheat are pretty similar. They boil down to desire and opportunity. Pretty jerky, right?