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Men and Women Tend to Have Different Views on Infidelity

A new study discovers men and women look at infidelity differently. The distinction is instructive as infidelity has been found to be one of the most common reasons for relationship dissolution worldwide. However, despite the different views most people, regardless of gender, believe they would be hard-pressed to forgive an unfaithful partner.

In the research, Norwegian investigators discovered men usually regard physical infidelity — when the partner has sex with another person — more seriously than women do.

Women regard emotional infidelity — when the partner initiates a close relationship with another person — as more serious.

Despite experiencing the different types of infidelity differently, men and women are about equally willing to forgive their partner. And the new findings show that the degree of forgiveness is not related to the type of infidelity.

“We’re surprised that the differences between the sexes weren’t greater. The mechanisms underlying forgiveness are more or less identical between genders,” said Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

Ottesen Kennair has co-authored the new article in the Journal of Relationships Research. The article addresses infidelity and the mechanisms behind forgiveness.

A research group at NTNU recruited 92 couples for the study. These couples independently completed a questionnaire related to issues described in hypothetical scenarios where the partner had been unfaithful in various ways.

One scenario describes the partner having sex with another person, but not falling in love.

In the other scenario, the partner falls in love with another person, but does not have sex.

So how willing are people to forgive their partner? Interestingly, researchers discovered that men and women both process their partner’s infidelity almost identically.

Most people, regardless of gender and the type of infidelity, think it unlikely that they would forgive their partner’s infidelity.

“Whether or not the couple breaks up depends primarily on how threatening to the relationship they perceive the infidelity to be,” said first author Dr. Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology.

The more threatening the infidelity feels, the worse it is for the relationship.

Whether partners believe the relationship can continue also depends on how willing they are to forgive each other, especially in terms of avoiding distancing themselves from their partner.

Of course, great individual differences exist, even within each gender. People react differently to infidelity, according to their personality and the circumstances.

“A lot of people might think that couples who have a strong relationship would be better able to tolerate infidelity, but that wasn’t indicated in our study,” said Professor Mons Bendixen at NTNU’s Department of Psychology.

Another aspect plays a role in cases of emotional infidelity, where no sex has taken place. To what extent can the unfaithful partner be blamed for what happened?

If you willingly have sex with another person, it pretty much doesn’t matter whether you feel it’s your fault.

“The degree of blame attributed to the partner was linked to the willingness to forgive,” says Bendixen.

The relationship is at greater risk if the partner is required to bear a big part of the responsibility for ending up in an intimate relationship with someone else.

“The blame factor doesn’t come into play when the partner is physically unfaithful,” Grøntvedt says.

If you voluntarily have sex with someone other than your partner, it’s more or less irrelevant whether you think it was mostly your fault or not. Possible forgiveness does not depend on accepting blame.

Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Men and Women Tend to Have Different Views on Infidelity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Men and Women Tend to Have Different Views on Infidelity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/08/02/men-and-women-have-different-views-on-infidelity/158489.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Aug 2020 (Originally: 2 Aug 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Aug 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.