Who Cheats More Men or Women?

What demographic is most likely to cheat in a relationship?
on May 28, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Being branded a cheater is a tough pill to swallow, but equally so is being cheated on. 

No one wants to be faced with the possibility of cheating, but the question remains, who cheats more, men or women? 

An immediate answer may come to mind, which in this case may hold some accuracy… So the important question is perhaps, why is there a gender gap when it comes to infidelity? And what can we do to understand it… or prevent it? 

Key Takeaways
  • While both men and women engage in infidelity, studies consistently show a significant gender gap, with men more likely to cheat than women. However, it's crucial to recognize that infidelity is not exclusive to one gender.
  • Societal attitudes towards infidelity are evolving, with a rise in infidelity rates among both genders, particularly in unmarried relationships. The prevalence of repetitive cheating is also increasing, indicating shifting cultural norms.
  • Infidelity stems from various factors, including relationship dissatisfaction, accessibility to potential partners (e.g., dating apps), and personal traits like the desire for short-term mating behaviors.
  • While infidelity can lead to divorce or separation, some couples choose to work on their relationship and overcome the breach of trust together. Seeking professional help, such as marriage counseling, can aid in the healing process.

How common is cheating? 

While no one wants to think about their partner being unfaithful to them, many people wonder just how common cheating is? And if it’s actually a legitimate fear in modern relationships. 

Before we dive into just how much infidelity is taking place, it’s important to remember that cheating means different things to different people. While some people might consider watching pornflirting, or sexting as cheating, others would say that sexual activity has to be involved to class it as infidelity. Or, some would say that an emotional affair is even worse than a sexual one, and so on. 

recent study showcased these different attitudes toward cheating. The most commonly accepted form of cheating is vaginal intercourse, with 99% of women and 97% viewing this as infidelity. However, lines become more blurred around kissing, cuddling, or emotional affairs — with not everyone agreeing this “counts” as being unfaithful. 

For the purpose of our investigation, and for most of the studies that we refer to, cheating is classed as any form of sexual activity or intercourse. 

So, is cheating as common in committed relationships as we fear? 

Studies show that cheating in dating relationships is statistically more common than cheating in marriages. This higher ratio amongst non-married couples is related to attachment avoidance, more commonly known as the allure of the ‘plenty of fish in the sea’ concept. 

In fact, infidelity statistics show that in unmarried relationships, males and females are now engaging in infidelity at similar rates. This study highlights that 57% of males and 54% of females admitted to cheating in committed relationships — a significantly higher rate than would have existed previously. 

This spike in infidelity paints a very worrisome picture of societal attitudes in regard to cheating, with the prevalence of repetitive cheating also rising. 

How common is cheating in marriage?

While people may like to pretend that cheating partners simply don’t exist in the love bubble of marriage, this is simply not the case. 

According to surveys, 23% of men and 20% of women reported engaging in sexual intercourse outside their marital relationship at some point — this does not include open relationships or agreed-upon sexual exploration. 

Another study, that focused just on the respondents' current relationships, revealed that 16% of married adults had committed sexual infidelity at least once in their current marriage. 

So who are people cheating with? While 53.5% reported sexual behavior with a close personal friend, 29.4% admitted to an affair with a neighbor or co-worker. 

But the question is, across the board, which gender cheats more? 

Is there a gender difference in infidelity rates?

The simple answer is yes. 

Research has shown a significant gender gap in terms of infidelity rates, with female infidelity statistically more unlikely than male infidelity. 

Even though this seems to place the blame firmly on men — it’s important to remember that both men and women cheat in committed relationships. But since the common question is “Do men cheat more?”, the answer steers towards yes. 

What percentage of men cheat? 

Since we can’t ask every single man out there about their attitudes to cheating, we can only gather data from the men who have admitted to being unfaithful. 

So, according to the Demographics of Infidelity in America (from IFStudies), men are statistically more likely to cheat than women. 

This leads us to a wide range of research that confirms a significant gender gap when it comes to infidelity. 

According to a study from 2019, infidelity statistics revealed that men are more likely to report ever having engaged in an extramarital affair. Within this survey, there was a significant gender gap, with 20% of married men admitting to an affair, while only 10% of women reported cheating on their spouse in the past. 

These results are backed up by the General Social Survey by the Institute for Family Studies, which reported that 20% of men and 13% of women had sex with someone other than their spouse while married. 

So, where does this gendered difference come from? Well, research shows that men are more likely to desire short-term mating behaviors than women. This desire is affected by their want for more sexual partners over time, their preference for short-term relationships, and the fact that men generally require less time before consenting to sex than women. 

This preference for short-term mates can also affect their general attitudes to extramarital affairs, as men tended to report infidelity as sometimes wrong (or not wrong at all) rather than women who saw it as almost always wrong. 

What percentage of women cheat? 

Even though men are more likely to cheat, it doesn’t mean that cheating women don’t exist!

For instance, when looking at cheating statistics in the UK, there is actually a rise in female infidelity with the percentage of married women having affairs rising almost 40 percent from 1990 to 2010 — reaching 14.7%. 

Even though this is still less than men (which has sat firmly at 22%), the change in social attitudes and increased freedoms of women could have affected this shift. This is perhaps reflected in how the gender gap is significantly impacted when considering different age groups. 

In fact, according to the General Social Survey, younger women engage in more extramarital sex than men. For example, among ever-married adults ages 18 to 29, 11% of women have been guilty of infidelity vs. 10% of men. 

However, this trend quickly reverses through the other age groups, with men statistically more likely to cheat overall. 

What are the main reasons for infidelity in relationships?

There are so many different causes of infidelity in relationships, all of which are usually personal to the relationship dynamic itself. 

According to this study, there are a variety of reasons why both men and women cheat. For example, the number one reason for American women to cheat is that their partner was not paying attention to them. On the other hand, the biggest reason for men to cheat was because the other person was hot. 

This perhaps identifies an emphasis on emotional connection as a reasoning for women, and sexual connection as the primary reasoning for men. 

“If we think about the vital importance of responsiveness and how this stems from early attachment needs for survival, the feeling of a partner not responding can be just as intense as the joy of someone new and unexpected responding,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“We, as humans, are wired for connection, and often cheating stems from that overwhelming need to feel close and secure, though it is often pursued in a maladaptive way.” 

“Furthermore, the underlying reasons for disconnection in the relationship are often complex and require both partners to show a willingness to delve into deep emotions and past wounds.” She notes that cheating is often an avoidant behavior, and addressing its root causes can be challenging but necessary to overcome intense and painful emotions.” 

Even though there are a million reasons why people cheat, these are some of the reasons that studies commonly identified (for both genders). 

1. Number of lifetime sexual partners 

Research revealed that one of the strongest predictors of having an extramarital affair was reflected in the number of lifetime sexual partners that person had. 

For example, if the person reported having four sexual partners (or fewer), their rate of infidelity in their current marriage stood at 11%. However, this number almost doubled to 21% if they had had five or more sexual partners. 

2. Previous infidelity 

As the phrase goes, “Once a cheater, always a cheater”, but is this actually true? 

Well, studies show that those who reported committing infidelity in their first relationship were 3x more likely to report cheating in their next relationship compared to those who did not report engaging in cheating in the first relationship.

Also, if someone has suspected their partner of cheating in the past, they were 4x more likely to be suspicious of a future partner. 

3. Age 

As several studies have shown, age does play a role in the chances of cheating, with both men and women cheating more in mid-life. 

This ties into the common conception of having an affair as part of a mid-life crisis!

Also, surveys show that men born in the 1930s and 40s actually have a higher infidelity rate than other age groups — perhaps suggesting an old-fashioned ideal in terms of monogamy or infidelity prevails amongst these groups. 

4. Length of relationship 

While we would like to believe that relationships grow stronger over time, this isn’t the case for a lot of couples. 

Studies show that the chance of infidelity increases as much as 25 percent over the course of a relationship. There could be a number of reasons behind this, all stemming from a decline in intimacy (emotional and physical) as the relationship matures.

5. Accessibility 

With the allure of modern dating, there are a lot more options than ever before. 

The increase in infidelity could be tied to the use of dating apps, particularly Tinder, more easily facilitating one-night stands or opportunities for affairs. 

Rather worryingly 18% to 25% of Tinder users are in a committed relationship while using the app, with 42% admitting to being married. 

6. Relationship difficulties 

On a more general level, married people usually cite relationship issues or doubts as the reason why they resorted to infidelity. 

For example, they grew apart from each other, were arguing a lot, or were just bored with their relationship. 

Can a cheater change?

No matter the reasoning behind it, cheating in a monogamous under any circumstances is completely unacceptable. 

Unsurprisingly, infidelity is one of the leading causes of divorces, with research showing that among ever-married adults who have cheated on their spouses before, 40% are currently divorced or separated. 

It may not provide much comfort to those who have been cheated on, but studies show that most people regret cheating on their partners. Even though it’s primarily men who cheat, they are also the ones who feel the most guilty about their actions — with 71% of American men saying they would take it back if they could. 

This may not provide much solace, but it could give some hope to the argument that cheaters can change. Instead of opting for the concept of “once a cheater, always a cheater”, some couples opt to work on their relationship and to recover from the infidelity as a team. 

Since is quite the feat, it’s recommended to embark on this healing journey with the help of a marriage counselor (and with the affirmation that it won’t happen again.) 

Do happy people cheat less?

As Esther Perel revealed, “Sometimes, happy people cheat.”

As research has revealed, cheating is not a linear concept, and while some people cheat because they are unhappy, others are simply presented with the opportunity to cheat and go for it — even though they love their partners. 

The important thing about infidelity is not to resort to playing the blame game, or to be convinced that you pushed your partner to cheat. Everyone has their own autonomy, and it was ultimately their decision to be unfaithful to the relationship — not you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do guys cheat even if they love you?

    There are a million reasons why people cheat on their partners, and no, it doesn’t always mean that they don’t love you anymore. Some men cheat simply because an opportunity presents itself to do so, even though they love their partner.
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