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How Men’s and Women’s Affairs Are Similar and Different

~ May 2021 ~Researchers Selterman and colleagues (2020) investigated men’s and women’s motivations when beginning an affair as well as their experiences during and after the affair. The authors found some similarities among men and women as well as some important differences in both feelings and behaviors.

Participants of the study

The participants included nearly 500 individuals: 259 women, 213 men, and 23 individuals reporting a non-binary gender orientation. The respondents were about 20 years old on average and 88 percent identified as heterosexual while 12 percent reported other sexual orientations. To participate in the study, individuals must have had an affair either in the past or in their current relationships. Most of the respondents were college students, however, the sample also included some participants who were recruited via Reddit. More than 94 percent of the participants reported that their affairs included sex.

The motivations of having an affair

The authors explored eight different motivations for beginning affairs including

  1. Anger
  2. Sexual Desire
  3. Lack of Love
  4. Low Commitment
  5. Esteem
  6. Neglect
  7. Situation
  8. Variety.

Although the authors did not report gender differences in this sample in initial motivation to begin the affair, in prior research the authors found that men were more likely to begin affairs due to feelings of sexual desire and interest in sexual variety while women were more likely to begin affairs due to feelings of neglect in their current relationships.

Findings of the study

With regard to their experiences during and after the affairs, women reported affairs that lasted longer than men’s. Although most affairs were sexual, women were more likely than men to report affairs without sex. Interestingly, women reported more intimacy than men with their primary partners prior to their affairs. However, for both men and women, intimacy with their primary partner was not related to feelings of intimacy with their affair partner.

Men were more likely than women to report sexually explicit conversations with their affair partners. Men were also more likely than women to report receiving oral sex during their affairs and to say that sex with their affair partner was better than sex with their primary partner. However, men and women reported similar levels of sexual satisfaction with their affairs overall, and men and women did not differ in their self-reports of the sexual frequency with their affair partners.

In this project, about 20 percent of individuals reported breaking up with their partners due to the affair, and there was no gender difference between men and women in the tendency to break up after an affair. However, women were more likely than men to confess their affairs to their primary partners.

Implications and future directions

The implications of this research are limited due to the sample being comprised mostly of college students. As the authors report, college relationships are less serious and college students may be more prone to infidelity than other samples. Future research should replicate these gender differences in other adult samples.

References

Selterman, D., Garcia, J. R., & Tsapelas, I. (2020). What Do People Do, Say, and Feel When They Have Affairs? Associations between Extradyadic Infidelity Motives with Behavioral, Emotional, and Sexual Outcomes. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 1-14.

 

A version of this article originally appeared here on psychologytoday.com

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