Nobody likes to be cheated on. However, cheaters have their reasons — and while those reasons can be downright stupid sometimes, they’re deeper and more complex than we often give them credit for. Now, more women than ever before are cheating — an increase of 40 percent since the 1990s, according to Esther Perel’s new book, State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.
Many of these women have good families, are in decent marriages, and love their husbands, and overall, they seem to be content with their lives, according to Kim Brooks for The Cut. So, why the urge for infidelity?
It turns out that many women still feel like their fundamental needs, whether it be sexual, emotional, or psychological, aren’t being met within their marriage, so they outsource it. Cheating is their alternative solution to being wholly satisfied while avoiding a divorce or complex open-marriage situation. As a result, while there is deception, there is very little regret or shame in their extramarital affairs. It’s almost pragmatic.
“‘The fact is,’ one of these friends told me, ‘I’m nicer to my husband when I have something special going on that’s just for me,'” Brooks wrote.
Alicia Walker, a sociologist who wrote The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women’s Infidelity compares it to subverting traditional heteronormative gender roles that continue to live on. Many of the wives she interviewed for her book told her married life was constraining and dull, and that they were always the ones with more weight on their back than their husbands.
This is managing the calendar, taking care of the groceries, keeping the house clean, and picking up the kids from school.
Addressing these problems, according to sociologist Lisa Wade, isn’t always successful when it comes to stubborn husbands and traditional gender roles. So maybe that barrier isn’t totally destroyed yet.
“We now tell women that they can have it all, that they can work and have a family and deserve to be sexually satisfied,” Wade told The Cut. “And then when having it all is miserable and overwhelming or they realize marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, maybe having affairs is the new plan B.”
As Brooks put it, marriage is a single relationship that has a lot of pressure riding on it, including finances and raising children, so maybe it’s too “pie in the sky” to expect that everyone can be fully satisfied by this one facet of their life.
“Maybe these women were on to something — valuing their marriages for the things it could offer and outsourcing the rest, accepting the distance between the idealization and the actual thing, seeing marriage clearly for what it is and not what we’re all told and promised it will be,” Brooks wrote.