Why Wives Cheat

Motivations and causes of short-lived affairs differ. Sometimes it is an opportunity affair, the proverbial one-night-stand that never will be repeated, and the unfaithful person is saturated in guilt. Sometimes there are serial adulterers that go from one situation to another. Peter wrote about some of these in 2 Peter 2:14, "With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!" Others are damaged, wounded people that cannot find peace within. They try to cover their pain by self-medicating with sensuality. (Ephesians 4:19) For example, earlier I quoted a lady that felt that some women's unfaithfulness stems from the bad relationship they had with their fathers. She said, "There is a void in the young girl's life that can't seem to be filled with just one person."

Motivations and causes of relationship affairs tend to be similar. John Gottman of the University of Washington's Love Lab states that they are about seeking friendship, understanding, and validation. Researchers Jacobson and Christensen wrote, "They are about getting the acceptance that [the unfaithful person feels] is missing in the marriage." The gentlemen quoted earlier expressed similar conclusions. Based on my experience with thousands of couples, I concur. A short-lived or allowed affair is primarily about sex, or at least sex is the primary factor employed even if the motivation is emotional or psychological. However, in relationship affairs, sex is not the purpose of the affair. It is a consequence, not the goal.

What Makes Wives Vulnerable?

Obviously, what I've written extrapolates to unfaithful husbands, but there seems to be something different about wives that cheat. Husbands become vulnerable, as do wives, by being ignored, disrespected, and taken for granted. However, when a husband transparently communicates his emptiness or loneliness to his wife, without condemnation or attack, wives seem more likely to respond positively to correct the situation. On the other hand, when a wife transparently communicates those emotions to her husband, it appears that most husbands discount the importance of her comments, claim that everything is just fine, and then do little or nothing to rectify the situation. (Ample exceptions exist, of course.) Many women come to our workshop very much in love with another man, angry with and distant from their husbands. Almost universally, they communicated their unhappiness to their husbands early on, were ignored, and gradually drifted into a relationship with another man that fulfilled emotional needs. Only then did the husband see that he was losing his wife and desperately convinced her to try one last effort to save the marriage.

As indicated by the women's comments at the beginning, there is also often another difference in a husband's vulnerability and a wife's vulnerability. My experience with thousands indicates that many more women receive emotional, psychological, or physical abuse from their husbands than do husbands from wives. (Yes, it does happen the other way around.) Added to that, wives tend to internalize a husband's perceived mistreatment of children and respond by distancing themselves emotionally from their husbands.

As more women entered the workforce, the number of wives involved in extramarital affairs increased. Primarily, that resulted from exposure to other males. But it isn't just the workplace. As women became more involved in church activities, they developed more friendships with men other than their husbands. When the Internet proliferated, even more opportunities presented themselves, especially in chat rooms. Now that millions of people populate social networking sites such as Facebook, opportunities abound. A vulnerable spouse encountering an old flame online sets up a situation that often leads to disaster. We see couples in that situation at our workshop every month.