Infidelity: The Gender Divide

September 01, 2018  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

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There are many complicated reasons why people might commit adultery, and research has shown that the motivation behind cheating – and the tolerance of their partner – often differs between men and women.*

A recent report from the Office for National Statistics suggests that the balance of infidelity in those petitioning for divorce has see-sawed significantly in the last twenty years. Comparing 2016 statistics to those in 1996, the report showed that fewer women are seeking divorce on the grounds of their spouse’s adultery – a fall of 43%. Conversely, the number of men divorcing their wives for the same reason has increased by around a third.

Another study by YouGov claims that one in five British adults have had an affair, with one in three admitting to considering it. And despite the disparity in divorce petitions based on adultery, men and women cheat at relatively the same rate: 20% and 19% respectively. However, men are more likely to have more than one affair (48% of men compared to 41% of women), and men and women claimed very different motivations for their infidelity. Both sexes stated they felt flattered by the attention (44% of women vs 35% of men), but women were more likely to feel ‘emotionally deprived’ in their relationship (43%) while men were more likely to cheat due to a ‘dissatisfaction with their sex life’ (32% as compared to 15% of women).

When it comes to divorce, men also appear to be less forgiving than women, considering the striking rise of men citing adultery as grounds for divorce in the last few decades. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to put up with repeat offences, stay longer, and try to fix their marriage after a spouse’s infidelity – often due to concerns over how a split might affect their children. A rise in divorcees over 60 may also be connected to this, particularly in women from generations where divorce was a taboo, who may have felt the need to stay in an unhappy marriage and finally make the decision to split once their children have grown up and left home.

In general, however, adultery is less frequently being cited as grounds for divorce in the UK. In 2016, unreasonable behaviour was the most common grounds for divorce, cited by 51% of women and 36% of men in 2016, as compared to an overall 11% for adultery.

Whatever the reason for separation, however, there is always potential for cooperation, understanding, and collaboration to help to heal the wounds of relationship breakdown. There are several methods of out-of-court separation which encourage you to work together with your ex to come to a mutually-beneficial decision and minimise the time, cost, and stress of proceedings, such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law. For more advice on separation and divorce, get in touch with the family law team at Frances Lindsay & Co to talk about the best solution for your situation.

[*The reports referenced here are all based on heterosexual couples. Due to the relatively recent legislation on same-sex marriages there are no current statistics to compare the gender divide within same-sex relationships, though it would be interesting to see how the rates and motivations of adultery differ, if at all.]

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