With My Mind on My Manhood, and My Manhood on My Mind
Men whose female partners out earn them are more likely to cheat, study finds.
The more economically dependent one is on a female partner, the more likely he is to engage in infidelity, research from Cornell University has found. However, ironically, the research also indicates that the more economically dependent a man’s female partner is on him, the more likely he is to engage in infidelity, Christin Munsch, sociology Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University said in an email interview.
Why does there seem to be relationship between economic dependency and one’s likelihood of cheating? “For men, making less money than a female partner may threaten men’s gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners,” Munsch argues.
Women tend to experience opposite dynamics, the research says. “For women, economic dependency seems to have the opposite effect: the more dependent women are on their male partners, the less likely they are to engage in infidelity,” she explains. “Conversely, the more they make relative to their male partners, the more likely they are to cheat.”
The couples that are “safest,” she notes, are those in which the man makes a little more than the woman, or the couple equally contributes to household income.
Notably, men who make more—or all of—the household income are about 1.6 times more likely to cheat on their female partners who make nothing, compared to couples that make about the same, Munsch says.
While men who make less seem to be more likely to cheat, why are men who make much more than, or completely financially support their female partners, more likely as well?
The researcher says that high-earning men may have work demands that require travel, giving them greater opportunity to engage in infidelity, and with greater control of household finances, extramarital expenses are easier to hide. They also, Munsch adds, may feel more “entitled” to cheat.
Research also found differences between ethnic and racial subgroups, especially in the Latino community.
“For Hispanic men, being economically dependent on a female partner dramatically increases the likelihood that one will engage in infidelity,” she adds.
The reasons, Munsch maintains, is because this group highly values traditional notions of masculinity.
Despite temptation to make sweeping generalizations, Munsch warns against simplifying the study findings; money doesn’t tell the whole story.
“A variety of factors influence one’s decision to engage in infidelity,” she explains. “For example, previous research shows that people with certain personality characteristics are more likely to engage in infidelity, and that people presented with opportunities to cheat, are more likely to engage in infidelity. These factors probably influence the decision as well.”
“No one is ‘responsible’ for someone else cheating—no matter how much money they make,” Munsch adds. “The person who cheats, is the one who broke the agreement.”
At any rate, it may be a relief to some to know that infidelity is less common than many may think.
“Cheating is a relatively rare event in the context of a committed relationship,” the sociologist explains. “Only 3.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women cheated in any given year during the six-year period studied. So, just because you make more, the chances are still relatively small that your partner will stray. More importantly, no one should look at these numbers and think that their own relationship is headed for disaster.”
Neither should those who are in financially egalitarian relationships make assumptions either. Personality, character, and other factors play a strong part in the success or failure of a relationship.
“A couple may make about the same; yet one or both of the partners may have an increased likelihood of cheating for other reasons,” Munsch contends. “For example, if the couple is young, it is more likely that one of the partners will cheat.”
One piece of advice for those in committed relationships?
”Choose your partner wisely,” Munsch advises. “You want to be with someone who is confident and secure with himself and his accomplishments, and someone who is genuinely happy to see you succeed. Cheating aside, this makes for a happier, healthier relationship in the long run.”
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