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Infidelity and Gender Differences

Do men and women react differently to infidelity?  Researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that there are strong differences in reactions to various types of infidelity.  Specifically their study shows that men are more jealous of sexual infidelity, while emotional infidelity is what makes women the most jealous.  The researchers believe that both the evolutionary psychology perspective and cultural gender roles play a part in the gender differences.  The evolutionary perspective is related to reproduction and whether the man should invest resources in the child, while women are focused on the man spending time and resources on other women.  The cultural gender role perspective believes that jealousy is learned.  Bottom line is that men are more threatened by sexual infidelity and women more threatened by emotional infidelity.

I have observed in my practice that men and women react differently to infidelity based more on what they deem important to sustaining a relationship.  Most women value emotional intimacy over physical intimacy while most men value the physical over the emotional.  In other words, women believe that emotional infidelity creates a greater risk of relationship failure and may experience greater emotional pain from their partner’s decision to be emotionally unfaithful.  In many cases, both emotional and sexual infidelity has occurred, but the healing requires some understanding behind the emotional attachment to another person.  Often times the infidelity can be explained by either a dysfunctional person who chooses a destructive mechanism to cope with their issues or an unhealthy marriage that has been neglected.  Sometimes both factors contribute to infidelity, but neither reason justifies the action.

Obviously men and women are different, both physically and emotionally.  We have different needs and communicate differently as well.  In general, women want an emotional connection before physical intimacy.  Men report feeling a greater level of connection to their partner after physical intimacy.  Healthy couples accept their differences and work at meeting each other’s needs.  Couples who are working on infidelity prevention make an effort to remain connected emotionally and physically. They also respect each other’s needs and are intentional in their effort to meet their partner’s needs.  Avoid being complacent and disconnected since this can lead to relationship failure.  Take action!

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