Infidelity is not uncommon. In fact, a recent Avvo study on relationships found that cheating is the primary reason for divorce. Meanwhile, many statistics have found that men are more likely to cheat than women. But you might be surprised to learn who’s actually cutting the strings on the marriage.
Who’s thinking about divorce?
The motivation behind infidelity can be complicated. More married men (9 percent) than women (5 percent) are “definitely thinking about” breaking up with their spouse, according to the Avvo study. Expand this to include those who are somewhat thinking about divorce, and the gender disparity gets even bigger: 24 percent of husbands versus 11 percent of wives. And while not all these people contemplating divorce are motivated by marital infidelity, it seems a sizable percentage are.
Or does this put the cart before the horse? At least in some cases, it might be the failing marriage that opens the door to cheating, and not the other way around. “Divorce is a very difficult decision to make and no one makes it lightly,” says Paul Hokemeyer, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Leading up to it, the parties have to try on different ways of being in the world. This means being single, sexually active, emotionally vulnerable with another human being.” Whether this experimentation occurs before or after divorce proceedings begin, however, is different for every failing relationship.
“People who filed for divorce have reached a point in their lives where they are no longer able to honor the commitment they made in their wedding vows,” says Hokemeyer. “People tend to go outside the parameters of the relationship to see what that’s like to break their commitment. It’s the experimental part of the break up. The infidelity is a steppingstone that leads to the ultimate breach of the relationship.”
Women initiate divorce more than men
Hokemeyer says that he has observed, in a clinical setting, that close to 75 percent of the men who file for divorce have engaged in some sort of infidelity prior to filing. Nevertheless, according to How Couples Meet and Stay Together, a project conducted by Stanford University between 2009 and 2015, women (69 percent) are more likely to ask for a divorce than men (31 percent). In relationships that do not involve marriage, however, men and women are equally likely to initiate a split.
So, what happens within the bounds of matrimony that make women more likely to ask for a divorce than men? The Stanford survey found that women are less satisfied than men in their marriages, reporting low levels of relationship quality—or, one might say, equality. One of the researchers associated with the Stanford project reported that middle-class housewives felt oppressed and unhappy. Sure, a spouse’s infidelity could be included in that unhappiness, but there could be plenty of other factors in play.
Plenty of women aren’t willing to settle for a less-than-ideal marriage, and Avvo relationship data shows that women move on easier after a divorce. In many cases, it would seem, divorce is not just an option, but a solution; a new beginning rather than a sad end.