Why men and women engage in extramarital affairs is a question experts have been trying to answer for decades now. Though research has identified several factors that cause married people to take in lovers, the issue of faithlessness remains mysterious and complex.
Such issues have been explored not just by experts, but also by novels, films, and television shows. Through these works of fiction, various situations have been portrayed to shed light on the reasons behind affairs: money matters, lack of intimacy, or the inability to solve conflicts, to name a few.
In all these, unhappiness or dissatisfaction is often seen lying at the root of marriage infidelity. Does that mean, however, that men and women see eye to eye when they cheat on their spouses? Here are a few points where both genders converge and disagree when it comes to extramarital affairs.
When intimacy starts disappearing, married men and women may start looking for sexual variety, emotional satisfaction, or just any kind of diversion from boredom. They may even try to take revenge on their partners. Since unhappy partners can no longer find emotional and sexual satisfaction from their spouses, they try to satisfy these needs with someone else.
There is a popular notion that men cheat simply because of the urge for sexual conquest. However, a study by marriage counsellor M. Gary Neuman, author of the book The Truth about Cheating, shows that men primarily cheat when they feel unappreciated by their wives.
Neuman further explained that men have a winning mentality and are always in need of an ego boost. Despite such masculine pride, men can be as emotional as women—they just don’t show it most of the time. That is why when men take lovers, they look for someone who indulges their pride and makes them feel good about themselves.
Emotional dissatisfaction also happens to be a leading factor in why women engage in affairs, according to Robert Weiss, an international expert on intimacy disorders. Weiss enumerated several emotions that push women to cheat, including boredom, under appreciation, and neglect. It is these emotions, Weiss said, that spur women to engage in a constant stream of sexual activity.
Dr. Duanna Welch, author of the dating advice book Love Factually, reiterated this finding. She said that science identifies loneliness as the top reason why women cheat. When women start looking for and committing to someone else, it is because they want to escape the trap of a lonely married life, Welch explained.
His view, her view
When it comes to how they feel about extramarital affairs, men and women differ in what they consider as cheating. A survey on sex differences shows that for women, emotional infidelity is worse than sexual cheating. Men, on the other hand, think the latter is worse.
When does someone engage in an emotional affair? Here are some red flags according to psychiatry professor Gail Saltz: dressing up for someone else, spending a lot of quality time with another person, becoming dependent on an emotional relationship with someone other than the spouse, and feeling guilty when caught.
Despite these differences and similarities, the fact remains that infidelity can have a devastating effect on marriages—even on the lover in the long run.
Previous seasons of the television series The Affair showed that cheating can push unhappily wedded couples to take risks to free themselves from the challenges of their marriages.
Struggling writer Noah Solloway (Dominic West), for instance, takes an interest in a waitress to get away from the pressure imposed by his successful and wealthy father-in-law. And for the waitress Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson), this chance meeting with a handsome writer may be her only way to break free from the tragedy of her son’s death.
The two eventually left their spouses and tried living a blissful life together. Their relationship, unfortunately, went downhill from there. Alison later gave birth to a child fathered by someone else—a revelation that hurt Noah and pushed him to cut Alison off from his life.
The Affair’s third season shows Noah trying to put his life back together after serving prison time for a crime he did not commit. But even as he tries to move forward by teaching in a university, he seems unable to get away from another forbidden romance. Will he embark once more on a passionate—and turbulent—love affair, or will he end up welcoming Alison back with open arms?
The Affair Season 3 airs every Tuesday, 9:55PM express from the US, first and exclusive on RTL CBS Entertainment.