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Women's Health

Why Women Cheat

Most women have affairs for very different reasons than men.
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By Tammy Worth
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Marina Katz, MD

When Thea and her husband moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, she had no friends close by and was alone frequently while her husband worked long hours. Though Thea says her husband was the "best friend someone could have," the spark and sex were gone.

Seeking company and a little romance, Thea became a member of AshleyMadison.com, a website that connects married people wanting to have an affair.

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Thea began an ongoing affair after a few dates with a man. "He was giving me all of the stuff my husband wasn't -- attention and affection," she says.

There are many reasons for infidelity such as revenge, boredom, the thrill of sexual novelty, sexual addiction. But experts say that a large majority of the time, motivations differ by gender, with men searching for more sex or attention and women looking to fill an emotional void.

"Women tell me, 'I was lonely, not connected, I didn't feel close to my partner, and I was taken for granted,'" marriage and family therapist Winifred Reilly says. "They say they wanted to have someone who would look into their eyes and make them feel sexy again."

Searching for an Emotional Connection

Every affair is different, and so are every woman's reasons for her involvement.

Nevertheless, Rutgers University biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her?andWhy We Love, says men are more likely to cite sexual motivations for infidelity and are less likely to fall in love with an extramarital partner. Women, she says, tend to have an emotional connection with their lover and are more likely to have an affair because of loneliness.

"Women tend to be more unhappy with the relationship they are in," Fisher says, "while men can be a lot happier in their primary relationship and also cheat.  Women are more interested in supplementing their marriage or jumping ship than men are -- for men, it is a secondary strategy as opposed to an alternate."

Fisher has found that 34% of women who had affairs were happy or very happy in their marriage. 56% of men who had affairs were happy in their marriage.

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