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When Women Cheat: No One Wins!

Updated: Oct 7


This is the third installment in the four-part series on infidelity. The first two focused on men who cheat. These next two will focus on women.


Women cheat. Let me say that again for the people in the back. Women cheat – in all sorts of relationships.

Women, like men, cheat for a variety of reasons. Still, the justifications I see in my practice most often fall into three categories: not getting emotional needs met, being sexually unsatisfied, or revenge cheating. Some women are selfish, entitled, or insecure (using sex as a validation of worth or attractiveness). But in my experience, women say they cheat as a response to something. That said, women who cheat – regardless of their justification do not get a pass. Cheating is cheating. Engaging, either emotionally or sexually, with another person outside of a committed relationship is an abuse of the partner's trust. It hurts men just like it hurts women – and the consequences for women getting caught can be more severe.

Emotional infidelity is a real thing. Developing an emotional closeness to someone other than a partner where intimate feelings and conversations are shared (especially in secret) can be highly destructive to a relationship - even if no sex is involved. Many people have close friends of all genders. However, if a person invests more of their time and reveals more of their inner world with someone other than the person they are committed to, they are deepening one relationship at the other's expense. Women may justify doing this because they believe their partner is either incapable or unwilling to create the emotional connection they genuinely crave. This makes one more likely to avoid the hard work of addressing the problems with the committed partner and increases the chances of continuing in an illicit affair.

Women in emotional relationships often fall in love with their "friend," making it harder to give the bond up. Emotional infidelity feels good because it offers one all the good stuff without the heavy lifting of working on real relationship challenges. This is sexy and can evolve into a sexual relationship, even when she did not see it going there.

If a woman's sexual needs are not met by her partner, frustration sets in. Often, women in Western cultures allow men to dictate the sexual relationship by downplaying their sexual urges and desires. They do this to prevent being viewed as sexually aggressive or promiscuous. Sadly, in 2020, it is still "okay" for men to be sexually experienced, but not so much for women. Women who overtly own their sexuality may be viewed as less desirable partners, and this belief follows them right into the bedroom. It may seem silly that a woman will lay in silent frustration, hoping a man will pick up on her non-verbal cues instead of telling him exactly what she wants. Unfortunately, she is not entirely wrong if she fears the consequences of speaking up. I have worked with men who validate this backwards perspective, claiming they are turned off when women are "too open."

Additionally, sexually insecure men will avoid sex at all costs, especially if they feel judged or criticized. A woman may seek satisfaction elsewhere if her partner lacks experience, has zero interest in learning what turns her on, or flat out refuses to give her what she asks for. These women conclude it is easier to cheat than it is to fix sex-related issues at home. Whatever story she tells herself, her cheating remains a willful, deliberate, and hurtful choice.

Finally, revenge cheating is, by far, the most destructive to a relationship. A woman may sleep with another man to punish her unfaithful partner. She seeks to hurt him in the same way he has hurt her. Revenge cheating is brutal. She may intentionally look for a partner to inflict the most harm – like sleeping with her ex he is wildly jealous of, or worse, sleeping with his friend. Revenge cheaters make sure they get caught. This dangerous game sets up explosive showdowns that are hard to come back from. Women who think revenge sex will make their partner stop cheating or gain respect for them could not be more wrong. What it tends to do is to set off a domino effect of cheating – he then goes for higher stakes pursuing her best friend, her sister, or her soror. It gets uncontrollably toxic quickly. Men cheated on in this manner take it harder than women can imagine.

It is a massive blow to a man's ego if his woman steps out on him, emotionally or physically. The sexual double standard shows up again. Women are expected to "get over" a man's cheating behavior. Men are far less likely to recover, and many men refuse to try. Some men become so bitter that they stop believing any woman can be trusted and are done with committed relationships. Period.

There is never a good enough reason for destroying a partner's trust in a committed relationship. If the sex is lacking, if the emotional connection is missing, or a man has been a hurtful jerk, a woman should select one of two healthy choices. She can: (1) work to fix the problems, or (2) she can end the relationship. In the end, cheating is never the answer. It will make things much worse – for all parties involved.

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© 2020 by Marjorie Nightingale, JD, LMFT

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