Why (and with Whom) Married People Cheat

Micki Spollen & YourTango discover why — and with whom — married people cheat.

We assume she’s younger, prettier and has a better body than us. We imagine she’s easy going, laughs adoringly at all his jokes and only sees his good side. We may think of ways of how to get your husband to leave the other woman or we may even think she can have him but whatever the idea, it’s never easy knowing that your significant other is spending quality time with someone that’s not you.

While people who cheat have different reasons for their infidelity, one of the most interesting aspects of affairs is how people choose the person they ultimately decide to cheat with.

Cheating is often perceived as something that happens on a whim: adulterers are swept off their feet by charming, irresistible types or end up in a stranger’s bed after a drunken night out.

However, it turns out that’s not actually the case.

YourTango partnered with Ashley Madison to find out more about what people think about their relationships and, more specifically, having affairs. In a survey of more than 1,300 men and women, we found out not only why people cheat, but how they pick the people they cheat with.

“The other woman” tends to get painted as a mystery, a temptress that swiftly enters your man’s life and seduces him on a whim. But, for better or worse, the survey revealed that if you think your partner is having an affair, it’s most likely with someone you know.

Of the 400 men who responded to the survey, 27 percent said that if they were in an unhappy relationship and decided to pursue a side relationship they would approach someone they already know as a friend, followed by a lesser 23 percent who would meet a stranger at a bar or on a trip.

This is somewhat bittersweet.

Chances are, you don’t have to worry about your man being out with his male friends and making a move on another woman. But that doesn’t mean your relationship is in the clear since, according to the survey, 44 percent of men have cheated on a partner, and another 55 percent of men have at least thought about it.

Yep, you added that correctly. That’s literally 99 percent of men either cheating or contemplating cheating. So who are they all cheating with?


Think: co-workers, their friends, your friends… the list goes on. And it makes sense. Once you have a foundation of friendship in place, it’s easy for further feelings to develop. It’s how most relationships start, and you can’t always prevent those feelings even if you’re already in a committed relationship. Plus, it’s hard enough to meet new people in general, let alone when you already have a routine going – and especially if you already have a family.

So what does this mean for women, exactly? Perhaps it means that affairs aren’t as premeditated as we’ve historically assumed them to be. It’s possible feelings develop slowly, sometimes unnoticeably, over time until they culminate with one party crossing a line and acting on an impulse.

It also means that it’s not just single women you have to keep an eye on since it’s clear from the research that men aren’t the only ones that pursue affairs. The survey revealed that 39 percent of women have cheated on a partner, and another 35 percent have at least thought about it. That doesn’t mean 74 percent of women are bad people – it means 74 percent of relationships aren’t completely fulfilling.

According to Ashley Madison members (existing married daters), satisfying sex is a main motivator for seeking out an extramarital partner with 43% of surveyed women admitting to seeking a purely physical affair.

This is likely due to the fact that 49% say their spouse gives them an orgasm “sometimes” or “rarely” compared to 59% who claim they experience an orgasm “always” or “most of the time” with their extramarital partner. General feedback from women who join Ashley Madison is that sex with their spouse is boring and their husband makes little effort to pleasure them. Over time, they seek out an affair because they aren’t feeling desired or getting enough attention from their partner.

However, many of those that do go through with an affair do so in an effort to be happier in their marriage, not as a way to damage it. According to YourTango’s research, 28 percent of women would, like the men, approach someone they already know as a friend for an affair before anyone else.

At the outset, pursuing someone you already know seems like the easiest approach. But it also has a bigger potential to get messy. Circles run small, so those looking for a discreet affair risk word spreading back to their partners when the intent of married dating isn’t about ruining existing relationships, but enhancing them.

In this age of social media, it’s pretty surprising that more people don’t rely on dating apps to seek out affairs. It seems like an easier way to keep your affair under wraps, and flirting through an app is certainly more subtle than making a move in person.

The truth is, the more traditional dating sites aren’t always conducive to infidelity. People seeking to have an affair are more vulnerable to judgment from those who don’t agree with their actions.

This is why married dating sites like Ashley Madison have become more and more popular among those looking to have an affair (which, as the survey shows, is a lot of people). On Ashley Madison, members can be transparent because everyone is there for the same thing.

“Rather than get involved with someone in your social circle, or worse, your professional circle, we offer a place for people to come and pursue a more successful affair with likeminded married daters where there is a far lesser chance of being discovered,” says Paul Keable, VP of Communications at Ashley Madison. “Our members have a shared risk and with shared risk comes discretion because both parties have an equal amount to lose.”

We all want happiness and commitment in our primary relationships, but unfortunately, that’s just not always the case. So whether we agree with it or not, affairs happen – maybe even more often than you originally thought. Of course, the affair is discovered there would be serious consequences for the spouse and their lover, since it would more or less end in divorce. Many extramarital affairs often end with spouses separating. If there are children involved it can cause a lot of financial, mental and legal strain on both parties. Both may require the aid of a lawyer similar to Nathens, Siegel LLP (NathensSiegel.com) in order to get the support they may need to get through the break up of their marriage. It can take a lot of time, effort, and mental and financial stress.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Winners never cheat, and
Cheaters Never Win



  1. Makes sense that most affairs are inside jobs. Bars? Please. Maybe if we’re talking about the women who responded to this. Bars are the big league of pick-up, and most guys will never pick up a woman from a bar in their lives. From a logistical point of view – and NOT counting the extremely high probability of getting busted – conducting an affair within one’s pool of acquaintances makes the most sense.

    That’s just affairs though. If we’re just talking about a one-off cheat, this survey has a major blind spot: sex workers. That is and has always been most mens’ first stop when they need a quick lay. Affairs are risky they take time to set up, and picking a random woman up is actually pretty fucking hard.

    Plus, in terms of conscience, I think most men would feel quite a lot guiltier about an actual affair (a whole romantic relationship with someone besides your spouse) than they would about the ol’ in-and-out at the local rub-and-tug.

    I believe that most married men who cheat, cheat with hookers.

  2. Certainly an interesting subject, but I’ve got problems with this summary article. Any data are (usually) better than no data, and while there is some stuff that seems plausible (essentially no men are free from wandering eyes and minds) there are also the usual implausibilities (if men are cheating more than women, who are they cheating with?; 26% of women have never even lusted in their hearts? fewer than half of all men have ever cheated? really? etc etc).

    It is also hard to use this information. The data from the Ashley Madison sample is dropped into the report as if those numbers had any relationship to a true random sample. What percentage of people agreed to take part in the study? What are the age breaks? Do the interviewers know all the tricks of the trade necessary to get honest answers to sensitive questions? Were any in-depth or focus group interviews done to provide context for the statistics? etc etc. In short, why should I believe this?

    There is NO reason to suspect this study was not done professionally. The Ashley Madison people are pretty good with numbers. But this is not — USEFUL. At the very least the total study results should be made easily available, with a reference in the article.

    Also, not to insult this article’s author, who is a fine writer, but it is your byline on this piece. Converting a survey result into an interesting accurate story is a specialized skill. You two are great editors–but this simply is not as good as it should be. Yes; jamming all the stuff I want into 800 words or so is a bitch and a half. I know. But it can be done.

    People pay me more than I’m worth to do exactly this kind of research. It bothers me when the time, money, effort, and skill involved in do such work is not fully reflected in how it is presented to those who are most interested in it.

    Now I’ve been a crankypants. Sorry. But this is something I care about a lot. Can I get a hold of the data?

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