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Women sometimes cheat on their husbands - but not for the reasons you think

Business Insider | Dec 3, 2017, 02.04PM IST

  • Sociologist Alicia Walker researched why women cheat on their husbands.
  • She found out that the cliches about what women look for in lovers is not necessarily true.
  • Women told her that they often cheat to stay married to husbands they loved, not to leave them.


If you ask someone the worst thing their partner could do to them, most of them would probably say "cheating."

Finding out your spouse has been unfaithful is heartbreaking, devastating, and can ruin someone's self-esteem.

When Alicia Walker, a sociologist and researcher at Missouri State University set out to look into why women cheat on their husbands, she expected to find results in tune with what people often assume about them. For example, people tend to talk about how infidelity happens when women want to seek out emotional support, or they fall in love with someone else.

However, as laid out in her book "The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women's Infidelity," her findings were anything but cliche. She talked to 46 women in total, through the adult dating website Ashley Madison, and none of them were looking for anything other than physical connections.

They weren't looking for anyone to support them emotionally - they just wanted men who were sexually compatible.

"They were very practical and methodical in their decision making and then their vetting of who they were going to get involved with," Walker told Business Insider. "And they were very clear it had nothing to do with whether or not he was a nice guy ... So none of the sentimentality that we seem to want to assign women. They talked a lot about how participating in this was sort of this exercise of power and freedom for them."

The women weren't looking for love elsewhere, because all but two of them said they still loved their husbands. They were simply looking to be satisfied in bed.

"The women I spoke to are cheating to stay married," Walker said. "They're not cheating for revenge, or to get out of a marriage, or to get the husband to notice them through bad behaviour. It's none of those things."

Walker explained that they no longer had sex with their husbands at all, or at least their partners weren't bothered about giving them orgasms.

"They very much presented this scenario that their marriages are either completely sexless, or orgasmless - at least for the women themselves," she said. "They very much convey that: if I don't do something to address this, I'm going to end up leaving. I'm going to end up breaking up my family, breaking my children's hearts, breaking my husband's heart, and I just don't need that."

Overall, the women felt like cheating was working, and they were all very careful to ensure their husbands never found out about the infidelities. They spoke to Walker about all the positive things their lovers brought to their lives, without having to commit to anything other than sex.

"Most of them said that none of the men they were involved with outside their marriage were as good as their husbands are, at least not as good a person," Walker said. "They talked a lot about the ways that doing this had benefited them. It had made them more relaxed, less stressed, and there was less tension in the marriage. A lot of them talked about how before they started doing this they had all this resentment for their husbands, because of the sexual failure.

"By outsourcing the sex, they were able to come home and be more like the wife and mother that they really wanted to be."

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