Are men or women more likely to cheat? While men have always had a worse reputation for being unfaithful, recent studies show that women are catching up fast - but we are a lot more likely to lie about it, and a lot less likely to get caught.
Simply put, it seems that women are better at having affairs than men. The news that Farrah Fawcett had a secret affair for 11 years without telling a soul is a classic example of the way a woman cheats: discreetly, in secret, and while carrying on with the rest of her life as normal.
It has been met with hot denials by Ryan O'Neal, but - and I'm sorry to break it to you this way, Ryan - you'd be the last to know.
According to Dr David Holmes, a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, women are having more affairs than ever - recent studies say the figure is around 20 per cent for men and a bit over 15 per cent for women - but they behave very differently from men when they cheat.
'The biggest difference is that women are much better at keeping their affairs secret,' he says. 'If you look at the studies into paternity,even conservative figures show that between eight and 15 per cent ofchildren haven't been fathered by the man who thinks he's the biological parent.'
She has told me and her sister - otherwise, she says, she's '100 per cent
certain' that nobody else knows.
'I won't allow Mark to call me on my mobile or email me, ever. Mobiles andemail leave a trail. I insist we talk on our office landlines, and when we meet for drinks or dinner, we pay with cash. We work in the same field, so
meeting for lunch doesn't look suspicious. If we meet in the evening, I tell
Adrian I'm with my sister, and meet Mark a few miles away, where we won't bump
Does she feel guilty about the affair? 'Not so long as Adrian doesn't find out. You know the 11th commandment: don't get caught.'
Women have always had affairs, but over the past 20 years that number has risen dramatically. Jobs outside the home - with the ready-made excuse of working late or business travel - financial independence and changing social
attitudes mean that modern women simply have more opportunity to meet other men
and start affairs. Mobile phones, internet chat rooms and email also make it
easier to fuel intimate encounters. But while women's lives and sexual
behaviour might have changed, their willingness to be honest about it hasn't.
The truth is that we have always lied about our sex lives. British men consistently claim to have had more partners than women – the current average is 13, while women claim to have had only nine. Plainly, someone is lying here.
While men might exaggerate their sexual conquests, the bigger liars are women.
When studies about sexual partners or fidelity use a mixture of face-to-face
interviews and anonymous computer questionnaires, men will give the same
answers to both, but women will report much higher numbers when the answers are
Why do women lie? Because we must, and because we can. In spite of apparent equality and a more sexually open society, we are still more harshly judged for our sex lives than men. Can you imagine a leading female politician having an affair and her husband standing loyally by her? Or the
reaction to a female CEO having a public affair with her young male assistant?
There is something particularly humiliating for a man about being made acuckold. So we lie to protect ourselves from the judgments of others,and because sexual 'reputation' still matters more to women, whether we like it or not.
But we also lie naturally and instinctively, as a way to manage and control our relationships to protect our partners and our families, and to keep our options open. In fact, we lie so much and for so many reasons that often we
don't even think of it as lying at all, but as 'relationship management'.
Women are taught to lie from childhood. Those simple, altruistic lies such as saying we've had a lovely time when we haven't, that someone looks nice when she doesn't, or that we're delighted with a gift we don't really like, are
just some of the small ways that lying oils the wheels of our social lives,
keeps the peace, and makes other people happy. Girls will lie to protect
someone's feelings or to build a relationship.Honesty, in these circumstances,
looks highly overrated, and we quickly learn the value and power of being
economical with the truth in relationships.
Many women also develop a habit of secrecy about smaller issues in their relationship as a way of maintaining some kind of control. It's common, for example, for women to lie to their partners about how much money they have spent - even when they don't need to. It's not just a question of avoiding the inevitable row over the 'worth it' factor of a pair of killer heels, but ofholding something back in order to maintain a sense of emotional independence and to balance out the power we might feel our partner has in other aspects ofthe relationship. A recent survey by a leading building society also found thatwomen are much more likely than men to have a 'secret' account with money their
partner knows nothing about.
'My mother always used to say that you should never tell a man everything,' says Clare, 38, 'and I thought it was rubbish. I believed in total honesty. But now I agree with her. Why explain yourself over every little thing? Why have a huge row over something he needn't even know about? I never tell him about my girlfriends’ secrets, because he'd be
judgmental and disapproving. I don't have a secret account, but I'm not
completely honest about how much money I spend. If he doesn't know, he doesn't
Harmless? Maybe. But it's easy to see how a climate of withholding and keeping smaller secrets can easily lead to bigger ones.
'Women are better liars because they're more psychologically. sophisticated,' says Dr Holmes. 'You can argue about whether it's nature or nurture, but women are programmed to be much more relationship and people orientated than men.
'Emotionally, they make plans and have strategies, while men are more impulsive.'
From a young age, he says, women will start to consider the kind of life they want, what kind of job or house they aspire to, how many children they'd like and what kind of partner.
'Most men don't really develop that facility until they're much older. They live, psychologically, in the moment, while women think around corners and two steps ahead.'
We're also better at mental multi-tasking. 'You can keep all the different strands of a lie in your minds, remember them and make them convincing.'
Women, on the other hand, are much more cool and rational, even when they're in the grip of passion.
'It's a myth that they're more romantic. They may confide in one or two very close women friends, but they compartmentalise their emotional lives and don't let the affair bleed into the rest of their lives.'
Like Farrah Fawcett, a former colleague of mine, Susan, now 50, had a long-term affair with Brian, a salesman she met, ironically enough, when she was buying her husband a car as a surprise 40th birthday present.
she says. Susan adds: 'We made each other laugh and our sex life was wonderful.
But Brian was a permanent "man-child" - a great lover, but not the
kind of man you'd marry. He was always overdrawn, always teetering on the edge of some crisis that he'd just laugh off. I never wanted to live with him.' The affair
ended amicably after eight years, with her husband none the wiser.
Like my friend Juliet, who has become so good at lying to her husband that she surprises even herself. 'Adrian and I have drifted apart, but he's a nice man, a good father. He doesn't deserve to be hurt, and I have no intention of letting my son grow up without his father.'
Biologically, too, women are programmed to be more careful about revealing an infidelity. In purely evolutionary terms, men are programmed to sleep with lots of women, and women are programmed to attract and retain a quality mate. Dr
Holmes adds: 'She will be very canny and keep her options open until she
decides which of the men she is going to choose.'
the very thought, or laugh and call it ridiculous.'
In other words, men want to think women don't cheat, and women want men to think they don't cheat. No wonder we're better at secret affairs.
Gee, i wonder if society's gender roles traditionally imbalanced between men and women, might play a little role. Women encouraged to wait longer then men to lose their virginity, ideally until marriage, demonizing women with multiple sex partners, as well as ridiculing men with fewer, unequally divides the groups into sections of the lusted and lustful. Sure a man will admit to his affairs, he will be revered with higher prowess, while at the same time, brushed off as yet another immature "boy". Women are held with expectations that coincide, and at the same time contradict. The madonna and whore. She has way more to lose in light of the reputation, and position, she's acquired socially. It's as though we expect men to cheat, although we don't like it, however, women are held in a different caste as mothers and co-partners. The betrayel appears deeper.. SO of course she feels more pressure to "preserve" the marriage, and family unit, by lying. Women do seem adept in communication , particularly interpersonally. While as men seem more action prone. However, the wound cuts deeper for some women who've been taught this mantra, while est, men may deal with some repercussion but not at the expense of his livelihood. Men seem more prone to keeping affairs longer, then women, eventually the woman either leaves, or comes clean about her behavior. Interesting enough..
What does that say about the likelihood of feelings of guilt or wrong when it comes to either side?? I'm not excusing it, but i do have to say this study was pretty much the DUH heard round the world.
ah, Kifaru.... still popular amongst the AP ladies.
In general, I think women are better at being good and better at being bad.
Interesting article up there. It definitely ain't nothing for people to be proud of that kind of thing.