When we imagine hot, passionate affairs - we usually vision a married man slipping off his wedding ring and his young mistress enticing him upstairs to the hotel room. Then the next day, he returns home to his loving family and doting wife who is none the wiser.
Tiger Woods, Brad Pitt, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are just a few of the high-profile male celebrities that have been exposed as engaging in scandalous affairs, often leaving behind a heartbroken, loyal wife so they could see out their selfish desires. However, more recent studies have found that married women are actually having more affairs than their male counterparts. Sex and relationships counsellor Paula Hall told The Telegraph, "Traditionally we believe a woman who has an affair is looking for emotional intimacy, whereas men are looking for sex. But that's outdated."
Although the actual number of married men and women having affairs will never be known (some understandably like to keep this secret), but The Telegraph did prove that a nationwide survey conducted by Relate showed that 34% of female respondents admitted to being unfaithful, compared with 32% of men.
So why don't we hear more about married women having affairs? Dr David Holmes, a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, revealed to The Daily Mail, "The biggest difference is that women are much better at keeping their affairs secret. If you look at the studies into paternity, even conservative figures show that between 8-15% of children haven't been fathered by the man who thinks he's the biological parent."
The other big question we want to answer is why do so many married women have affairs? Here we look at statistics, psychological studies and female confessions to find out what drives married women into the arms of another man.
15 They Are Seeking Revenge
Shockingly the revenge affair does exist and married women are indulging now more than ever. The idea behind the revenge affair is that a married woman will want to forgive her cheating husband as much as she has been hurt. Dr Pam Spurr psychologist and author of The Laws of Sisterhood, told The Telegraph, "We expect more men to have affairs. So when a woman does, it’s an unexpected twist that men may take particularly badly and seen as an even greater humiliation."
Model Jerry Hall confessed to having an affair after she discovered her husband Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger had done the dirty on her. Actress Sienna Miller cheated on her partner Jude Law when she discovered he had been in bed with the nanny, Miller chose Law's best friend, James Bond actor Daniel Craig, to cheat on him with. Ouch.
Suzy Miller, author of The Alternative Divorce Guide, also told The Telegraph, "The first reaction (when hearing your spouse has had an affair) to infidelity is fury and deep hurt.) Your self-esteem is so smashed that having a relationship with someone, hearing them tell you you’re beautiful, is an antidote. It can feel healing."
14 They Have Just Had A Makeover
Every woman has her own personal grooming rituals, but when she has had a full head-to-toe makeover then her confidence levels will have reached their ultimate peak. For obvious reasons - the more attractive you are the more opportunities you will have to cheat on a spouse. A University of Texas report revealed that physically attractive women might not only have more alternatives, but also have higher standards that are difficult for their spouse to satisfy.
Dating expert and relationship coach, Laurel House, told Fox News, "Fact is, men want to feel like they won the prize, like they are dating the head of the cheerleading team. They want to feel like they are the luckiest guy in the room." So when a woman is looking like a million dollars the men will come flocking - for some ladies the temptation is just too much and she falls into the arms of another man.
13 They Don't Feel Special Or Loved
AshleyMadison.com, a website designed specifically for cheating spouses to hookup online, reported that their busiest day for women signing up to use their services was the day after Valentine's Day. According to their website, "The most prolific traffic came the day after Valentine’s as 439% more people signed up to find what’s missing in their marriage. The huge spike in signups on the 15th was mostly driven by married women: their membership increased by a whopping 977%."
The huge spike in female users could be down to a miserable Valentine's Day where their spouse didn't treat them as nicely as they would have wished for. Experts determine that the love hormone known as Oxytocin drops dramatically for couples after six months of dating and most people turn to affairs to get that initial buzz pack.
However Mira Kirshenbaum, author of When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships warns against this. She told Time, "Things always seem great with the lover, it's always so romantic and sexy, special, sporadic and, most of all, new and exciting. But guess what? New gets old. I wish I had a nickel for everyone who married their lover and found they replicated what they had with their spouse, with the added poverty of a post-divorce lifestyle."
12 They Are A Narcissist
Another reason a married woman may feel compelled to have an affair is because deep down she suffers from the personality disorder that is narcissism. They are able to happily play the doting wife and mother at home, and then keep a dark secret to themselves over the weekend. Shamefully they won't even feel guilty about it as it serves them and that twisted side to their personality. Marriage just serves the narcissist's appearance, they trick people into thinking they are happy and settled when in reality they are natural philanderers.
Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love, explains, "Marriage, monogamy, and child-bearing and rearing are common activities that characterize the average person. The narcissist feels robbed of their uniqueness by these pursuits and coerced into the relationship and into roles that reduce them to the lowest of common denominators. This narcissistic injury leads him to rebel and reassert his superiority and specialness by maintaining extramarital affairs."
11 They Have Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem can leave people feeling inadequate, unacceptable, incompetent, unworthy and unlovable. Those who engage in affairs often have a low self-esteem and see their sexual adventures as a band-aid for how they are feeling inside. Couples therapist Esther Peel told Good Housekeeping, "It isn't because we are looking for another person, it's because we're looking for another self. It isn't that we want to leave the person we are with, it's the person we have become."
Nowadays we are constantly told to be the best we can be, have the dream career, stay in great shape, be part of a happy relationship - many people kind find this overwhelming and affairs often become the perfect mode of escapism. Peel added, "Never has the amount of expectations that we bring to modern relationships been the cause of so much divorce, infidelity, and collapse." Psychology Today suggests keeping a journal of your thoughts and feeling so worries aren't locked away in the subconscious mind.
10 They Are Thrill-Seekers
Quite often when women engage in affairs, love is out the equation and they are just chasing a huge thrill. Many women who have had affairs do confirm that it makes them feel alive again - they are no longer a wife and mother but instead a goddess in another man's arms. During sex, the chemical Oxytocin, also known as the 'love hormone', is released into the body and this leaves the person feeling that 'warm and fuzzy' feeling. Then add into the mix the adrenaline rush from getting away with it and a woman can be left feeling a boost like no other.
So what could the solution be? Couples Therapist Esther Perel told Good Housekeeping, "It's crucial to keep that sense of aliveness going in a relationship, and not just in the bedroom. Think about what "turns you on" - gives you energy, makes you happy, and fills you with life - and make sure you and your spouse are getting as much of that as possible."
9 They Work Away From Home
According to the insightful book Normal Bar by Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz and James Witte, they found that 13% of women have admitted to having an affair whilst travelling away on a business trip (Even if they were happily married). The top professions that have reported the most cheaters are IT professionals, engineers, real estate agents and company executives.
Forbes also reported that it isn't just extra-marital affairs taking place on business trips, but overall they found: "Some 94% of the people said "bad behaviors" occur among people travelling away from home to attend business trade shows and conventions, with 71% believing people drink too much alcohol while away. Additionally, cheating on a spouse (66%), spending too much money (54%), eating fatty foods (53%), not sticking to exercise routine (43%), going to bed late (42%), and taking illicit drugs (31%) were all mentioned."
Dr. Michael Santo, CEO of Rembrandt Advantage, a company focused on physiological testing of employees, revealed, "Business travel doesn’t cause infidelity per se, but instead, the travel itself provides an opportunity to do what there was a predisposition to already do."
8 They Find It Too Easy
The cold hard facts are that cheating is just too easy nowadays. We are no longer limited to our local area when trying to find a partner, dating websites and hook-up apps have turned modern day networking into a cheaters paradise.
Couples therapist Esther Perel told Good Housekeeping, "You can pretty much cheat on your partner while lying next to them in bed. Now you don't even need to leave your house to cheat, and that takes away barriers that used to exist to feeling a sense of intimacy with another person. They may have never touched the person, but the kiss they imagine giving is more powerful than hours of actual lovemaking."
Although the bitter truth is that quick flings won't leave the woman feeling sexually satisfied. A study carried out by Kim Wallen, a professor of neuroendocrinology at Emory University, found that 80% of men had orgasms during their hookups, compared to only 40% of women. By comparison, 75% of women in relationships had orgasms during sex.
7 They Seek Validation From Others
Sometimes we can't tell if we are truly, madly and deeply in love or if we are just seeking validation from another person. Having an affair is one way to secure someone who will adore you, but this obsession can be quite short lived as you are both experiencing the "Honeymoon stage" and reality hasn't set in. If we feel closed-off from a partner then we seek passion elsewhere because deep down everyone wants to feel desired.
Psychologist and author of Marriage Rules, Harriet Lerner, explains, "A big problem in marriage is that one or both people start thinking something is wrong with them because they’re not having sex as much as they think they should."
Letting go of seeking validation from others will vastly improve your marriage; waiting for your spouse to signal when you are looking good, doing well and are succeeding can only satisfy so much. You need to always check with yourself if you feel things are right and you are in a happy place, as depending on others will only lead to further frustrations.
6 There Are Unresolved Issues In The Marriage
Many married women have affairs as they are responding to the fight or flight mentality that is embedded in us all. If regular fights are happening at home and there are too many unresolved issues, they may feel it's better to flee into the arms of another person then stay and work things out.
Mira Kirshenbaum also told Time, "I call it the Ejector Seat affair. People use the relationship as a way to get out of the marriage. That is a real reason. They're afraid to leave the marriage, and they're hoping that an affair will end things. Either the spouse will kick them out or the lover will give them the courage to quit."
However this can lead to further distress down the line, as often the grass isn't greener on the other side. Understanding exactly what the main issues are and accepting responsibility if any of the problems have been caused directly by themselves is a better option than fleeing the home.
5 They Need To Feel In Control
Many people who have an affair believe they are completely in control, untouchable and they will never be caught. This is one of the primary emotions that allows them to receive the "buzz" and trigger the reward senses when they have an affair. A marriage is all about old-fashioned compromise and in some relationships the wife may find that her needs are overlooked for the sake of her partner. Having an affair allows her to reassert control as they get to dictate the terms of the affair.
Sex and relationships counsellor Paul Hall told The Telegraph, "Women feel more powerful and in control and as a result there are certainly more women being unfaithful because they fancied somebody and were away for a weekend with the girls or on business and seized an opportunity. Or it's a case of a woman being neglected in the bedroom in the way a man once was and wanting to find a way to scratch her itch."
4 They Feel Like They Missed Out On An Experience
In Relate’s 2014 The Way We Are Now report found that 31% of men and 21% of women had slept with more than ten people in their lifetime, and over a fifth of those aged 35-44 years reported 20 or more sexual partners. With people averaging 4-5 sexual partners before settling down to marriage, for those who have only slept with one person in their lifetime - their spouse - this can result in a fear of missing out.
When natural intrigue takes over and curiosity gets the better 0f us then married women may find they want to have an affair. Mira Kirshenbaum confirmed these claims as she also told Time, "This is true for a lot of women who weren't in many relationships before they got married (and) feel there are experiences that are important that they missed out on. And an affair is the best way they can think of to get those experiences."
3 Their Own Parents Had An Affair
The truth behind an affair could be down to genetics. Scientific American revealed during their podcast on fidelity that there is a direct correlation between genetics and being unfaithful. They revealed if the chemical called vassopressin (which is passed down from the parents) is dominant in a person then they have a tendency to have problems sticking to just one sexual partner throughout their lives. This chemical also causes the person to be more open to social situations and overall they take a lot of risks.
ScienceofRealtionship.com conducted a study involving 300 college students and they revealed, "Students who had cheated on a partner were twice as likely to have had a parent who cheated compared to those students who had not cheated on a partner (44% vs. 22%). It’s most likely that knowing your mom or dad was a cheater somehow influences one of the many proximal predictors of cheating (e.g. feelings of commitment to partners), but future work is needed to clarify the chain of events that links your parents’ cheating ways (or not) to your own."
2 They Have A High Drive
Shock news: women can have a high libido just like men. A person's sex drive is highly personal to them; some desire sex once a day whereas others have simply no desire at all. Marriages can be difficult for couples because overtime a person's libidos can change and just because a couple shares a bed together doesn't mean their sex drives will be synchronized.
Psychologist Harriet Lerner, author of Marriage Rules, explains, "For all the safety and security that marriage can bring it’s not easy to have ‘good sex’ with the person you live with year in and year out." When an affair takes place, it's usually in a hotel room away from home where you can let go of your inhibitions and just fall into the moment. There is also less chance a discussion of the mortgage will be brought up or one of the children will start knocking on the bedroom door, so women with high sex drives engage in affairs because simply put - the sex is better.
1 They Want To SAVE Their Marriage
Here is an explanation you wouldn't expect to hear as to why married women have affairs: research has shown women have affairs so they can SAVE their marriage. AshleyMadison.com put together a quick survey to ask their users why they had affairs and CEO Noel Biderman reported, "People don’t pursue an affair at the drop of a hat. We always knew anecdotally that people used AshleyMadison.com to stay in their marriage." He added, "Married people know that sex isn’t the most important thing in a marriage, and they aren’t going to simply or quickly leave. They also aren’t willing to settle for abstinence for the rest of their lives, so that’s when they look for an external solution."
Many marriages stay together for the sake of the children or finances and day-to-day those couples won't always discuss their unhappiness in a marriage. When infidelity is discovered, an unhappy marriage can sometimes patch things up and bring a couple closer together.
Mira Kirshenbaum also told Time, "I really thought that affairs were fatal for relationships, but they're not. If the person who has been cheated on has a talent for forgiveness and the cheater is truly sorry - this is one of the surprising findings - many, many people are able to use the affair as a wake-up call and end up so much happier with a relationship that gives them what they need, instead of just being on automatic and pretending that everything's O.K."