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Infidelity: Women Have Caught Up to Men

Marital cheating used to be primarily a male problem. That is no longer the case. Recent statistics of infidelity on the website,, indicated that the percentage of males who admit to cheating in any relationship they’ve had is 57%, while the percentage of females is 54%. In other words, cheating–whether by males or females–is virtually equal. Moreover, 71% of divorces nowadays are initiated by females.

The fact that infidelity is becoming equal is an indicator of the shift of our values over recent decades.

There are a number of theories about why this is happening. Some point to the sexual revolution of the 20th Century, which freed women to explore their sexuality. Some point to women’s economic independence. Some point to the fact that women no longer regard it as their job to make a marriage work.

All of these may be contributing factors. However, underlying all of these factors is a change in our marital standards over the last half century. Right now 53% of American marriages end in divorce–the highest divorce rate in the world. Apparently, right now, we Americans no longer value marital stability as much as we do individual independence.

The change in marital values has influenced both males and females, but if we accept the theory that women no longer regard it as their job to make a marriage work, then that means both men and women are no longer as committed to make marriages work. Men have generally not been as committed to relationships as women, so their level of commitment has probably not changed.

And if nobody is trying to make marriages work, nobody is interested in the kind of constructive communication that makes relationships work. All couples go through tough times, and it is precisely during those times–when one or both feel bored, depressed, angry, fed up, disgusted or outraged–that communication is of the essence. Today, couples often choose to move on rather than to move forward together.

The change in values has also been influenced by the focus by many women on their careers, perhaps influenced by feminism. Today’s woman is not a full-time homemaker, but combines a career with child-rearing and family life. The emphasis on a career may also at the same time de-emphasize the commitment to the spouse. It sometimes also adds an element of competition to the relationship in terms of who earns more.

The change in marital values has also resulted in a change in the power relationships of males and females. In the past, males were generally the heads of families. Today, more often it is the female. And because women now earn as much or more, they often control their men. When you control a mate, you sometimes end up feeling bored by them.

The change in family values has both men and women making their own freedom and independence a higher priority than keeping their families together for the sake of the children. In addition, about one-third of today’s families are one-parent families run by females. This denotes another change in our values–a de-emphasis of the nuclear family. Many women today seem to feel that men are not necessary–and in fact see them as a hindrance to family welfare. A new value has formed that seems to say that a one-parent family headed by a woman is just as good as a two-parent family comprised of a man and woman.

Another important aspect of this change in marital values is a change in our parenting values. Women are putting off having children until a later age, and when they do have children more of them now choose to go back to work within a short time. Independence often translates into putting less importance on parenting. Our society has encouraged this change through the trend, among health professionals, to make genetics, rather than the environment, more influential in how a child turns out.

As the old saying goes, “Statistics don’t lie.” Statistics tell us things we don’t want to know. And they tell us things we need to know.

Statistics not only tell us that both men and women engage in infidelity equally, but also that both men and women are more interested in their own rights than in the rights of their children and in their responsibilities as parents. A spouse can say to a mate, “If you cheat on me, I’ll leave you.” But a child can’t say, “If you cheat on Dad, I’ll leave you.” Children have no leverage. Statistics tell us that the nuclear family is falling apart and that in the near future one-parent families may be the norm. But children have no say in that. The question then become, are the new values truly beneficial?

None of these changes in values are based on reliable or validated research; rather, they seem to have come about by way of protest movements fueled by strong emotional attitudes. Should our values be based on scientific research and evidence, or on the strong feelings of various groups?

But proponents of the new values may say that even if men and women are now equally infidels, this also says that women are now equally independent, and are therefore more able to give quality time to their children.

Infidelity: Women Have Caught Up to Men

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2017). Infidelity: Women Have Caught Up to Men. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2018, from


Last updated: 16 Sep 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Sep 2017
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