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Are men more likely than women to forgive an affair?

Any conversation about infidelity prior to the 1960′s would certainly have focused on the fact that a male was committing the adultery. It would have been assumed that he was with a woman, and, additionally, it would have been assumed he cheated with an unmarried woman. But today, as women have steadily narrowed the gap between male and female incomes over the past fifty years, their pace with infidelity has now also, unfortunately, crept up to the level of males. Women often work similarly long hours outside the home or out of town, and therefore the opportunity to cheat on their spouse has increased drastically. Currently, approximately 55-60% of males admit to having an affair, with women very close behind at 45-50% –and gaining every year.

The reasons that both sexes give for cheating are very similar. Both assert that a need for more attention and affection are the primary factors that lead them to stray.

With the innate needs of both being so similar , and the gap in cheating by gender slowly closing, one might assume that when it comes to forgiving infidelity in a marriage, men and women would respond in a similar fashion. This is not the case at all. Women, either because of superior emotional intelligence, or simply society’s historical acceptance of male infidelity, seem much better equipped to confront and cope with an affair, while males seem to have remained just about where they were at the start of the Cenozoic Era.

The narrowing income gap and more women being completely self-sufficient has certainly made women less likely to forgive infidelity than they did fifty years ago when many may have tolerated it out of sheer necessity. Yet today, while 1 in 3 men state that they view infidelity as the end of their marriage, only 1 in 5 women say the same. Men are definitely less forgiving after an affair, but there must be more to the difference than simply the ability to financially survive without their partner.

So, why the difference in reaction?

According to Philip Hodson of the British Association of Counseling and Psychotherapy, for women, “the affair is an offense to her dignity” and for men, “the affair is an offense to his manhood. It goes to the core of his identity.” A woman, after the discovery of her cheating spouse’s affair is most likely to ask  ”Do you love her?”, while a man who has just learned of his wife’s affair would first and foremost want to know if there was any sexual relationship—and probably all the details, as well.

The most important explanation of the difference in this ability to forgive may be something that neither sex, nor the sexual revolution, could have ever changed.  Women have always formed strong emotional connections in every part of their life – with their spouse, friends, and family members. So, when a woman is faced with infidelity, her first and primary concern is her spouse’s emotional connection to the other woman. Men, on the other hand, being as visual as they are, mentally picture the actual act of sex between their wife and the other man and then store in their minds a high-resolution video clip, including audio.

This is the big distinction—women may know for a fact that sex occurred, but they are focused on the feelings involved; and you can’t replay a probable emotional connection between your husband another woman. Men, however, store and replay visual sexual footage over and over again, and this is an extremely challenging thing to overcome. That makes it particularly difficult for them to ever forgive their unfaithful wife.

Ravi Chandnani


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