Women Breadwinners are More Likely to be Cheated On

CNN has released details of a new study that says men are more likely to cheat on women who earn more money than they do. (Think Sandra Bulluck and Jesse James.) The amount of the disparity seemed to change fidelity rates with men who were completely dependent on the woman five times more likely to cheat than men who earned similar amounts as their female partner.

The study’s author, Christin Munsch, says the income disparity may threaten traditional views, or it could be that these men just happen to be unhappy in the relationship.

Before you start feeling sympathetic for these under-earning men, the study reports that men who make significantly MORE than their wives or girlfriends ALSO are more likely to cheat because his job may require long hours or travel, and this situation may be more conducive to cheating.

Hmmm … sounds like a lot of excuses for why some men may feel it is acceptable to cheat. The men who were least likely to cheat are men in relationships with women who earned 75 percent of their income. Perhaps certain men feel this allows them to view their mate as a partner without feeling they have lost control?

Women in the study, unlike the men, were more faithful when they depended on the male for financial security; they were half as likely to cheat. Munsch says this situation may be more socially acceptable and nonthreatening, they may have fewer opportunities to cheat, or they may not feel it’s worth the risk.

(Studies have shown women are less likely to cheat. Do you agree with Munsch’s reasons, or do you believe women have lower sexual desire or greater control of their sexual impulses? Or do they care more about the morality or impact of their decision?)

The good news is that within the study of married and cohabiting couples, only a small number of them experienced cheating—3.8 percent of the male partners and 1.4 percent of the female partners.

I think it can be healthy to have either partner being the breadwinner, and I know some stay-at-home fathers who are very appreciated by their high-earning wives. Whichever spouse earns more, he or she should not pretend to control the relationship with the purse strings or claim to have more say because of the size of their paycheck. The partner who is earning less may be sacrificing for the family, with home and child rearing responsibilities, and that should be valued as much as the dollars earned.

I agree that high earners probably have more opportunities to cheat, particularly with travel and professional connections. (If you face temptations, put protective measures in place, such as not going out to lunch with a colleague whom you find attractive.) However, any partner who chooses to stray can find the opportunity. Both genders can and should have the capacity to be faithful to the commitments they have made.

That being said, I know many couples who have successfully overcome infidelity. If you or your partner has cheated, find a pro-marriage counselor to help you through the crisis.

What do you think about this study’s results and about men’s and women’s propensity to stray?

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13 responses to “Women Breadwinners are More Likely to be Cheated On

  1. My wife is sevaral years older and makes more money than I do. That doesn’t give me the right to cheat on her. My first thing is when I hear of those kinds of studies in this. Who is paying for the study?

    • Good question. Munsch is a PhD Candidate at Cornell University, so it looks like he did the study as part of his sociology doctorate degree. If there was a study sponsor, it was not published.

  2. So often these things come without saying who is paying for them. As you know that can make a big difference in the outcomes. I like your blog.

  3. Pingback: Study: Guys have a new reason for cheating (this one’s really awesome) | Dawn Donohoo

  4. Hey Lori:
    A few words from my practice. There are a lot of women who intellectually will accept a man making less than her but in her instincts she has resentment towards him and tend to take on the male persona at home and talk down to her husband because of the money difference. I personally experienced this as well. Men tend to cheat when they are being disrespected regardless of how much sex they are getting at home. I too am guilty of this. It was a bad way to feel better about myself, but humans are weak and most women don’t realize that respect is a man’s greatest need.

    I would disagree with sending anyone to a marriage counselor. They have a horrendous 75% failure rate. Instead seek out a marriage coach who has a goal for resolving problems rathern than talking about feelings. Talking about feelings is about as useful as a reporter going up to someone who is grief stricken and asking them how they feel?

    Blessing son you and yours
    John Wilder

    • I would suggest it is each partner’s responsibility to approach the other in love if they feel their needs are not being met. I agree that respect is probably a man’s greatest need, and if he is not feeling respected, he must bring that out into the open rather than stepping out to feel fulfilled.

      I understand that marriage counseling as a whole does not have a great track record. That is why it’s so important to choose a pro-marriage counselor (I have a post about how to do that) whom both individuals connect with and whose treatment philosophy is compatible with their needs. I’m aware of counselors who work to solve problems and focus on the marital strengths rather than just discuss feelings. (I am sure there are other less skilled counselors who are less effective.) In addition, for many couples who go to a marriage counselor, at least one of them have already decided to leave the marriage. They’ve often waited years to let problems fester, and by then have lost the motivation to repair what has been damaged. The most effective counselor may not be able to turn things around if a decision to leave has been made.

  5. Someone does that to me and they better duck.

  6. I do think that both men and women who cheat sometimes get by with lame excuses. As a married man if I do not feel respected that is no excuse for me to cheat. None. The odds are that respect is probably not the issue. These men and women probably do not respect themselves. If that is the case then how can they expect respect from others?

    • I agree that there is probably a deeper issue involved, and that it may be within. I also agree that feeling bad is not an excuse to break the marriage promise. Well put.

  7. all relationships have ups and downs. Its called life. I do think it would help if men were more open in public forums about these issues. Just be honest about it.

  8. Pingback: Who is sowing or investing spiritually into my life?

  9. Pingback: Stay-at-Home Dads Have Higher Divorce Rate | Marriage Gems

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