Researchers have found that how much money your partner earns can determine how likely you are to be unfaithful.
The study of 2750 married people aged between 18 and 32 by the University of Connecticut found there’s a link between income and extramarital affairs. The correlation between infidelity and wages showed that it wasn’t the dollar amount that came into play, but the ratio.
The finding was that both men AND women are more likely to cheat if they were economically dependent on their spouse.
According to study author, Christin L. Musch, a sociology professor, the research shows spouses who are dependent on the other one financially aren’t afraid to upset the applecart.
“You would think that people would not want to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ so to speak, but that is not what my research shows,” she said.
“Instead, the findings indicate that people like feeling relatively equal in their relationships. People don’t like to feel dependent on another person.”
The research found that women who are primary breadwinners are less likely to cheat on their other halves. As their share of combined marital income rose, the odds of women’s infidelity declined. Women who contribute the most financially to their relationships were least likely to have an affair.
But for their partners, the scale tipped the other way. Men who are financially dependent on women are most likely to cheat.
Mussch said that in an average year there’s around a 5 per cent chance women who are completely economically dependent on their husbands will cheat. But there’s around a 15 per cent chance men who completely depend on their wives financially will have an affair.
So what makes men more likely to cheat if they’re relying on their spouse for economic support? It might be a male ego thing.
“Extramarital sex allows men undergoing a masculinity threat that is, not being primary breadwinners, as is culturally expected to engage in behaviour culturally associated with masculinity,” Munsch says.
“For men, especially young men, the dominant definition of masculinity is scripted in terms of sexual virility and conquest, particularly with respect to multiple sex partners. Thus, engaging in infidelity may be a way of re-establishing threatened masculinity. Simultaneously, infidelity allows threatened men to distance themselves from, and perhaps punish, their higher-earning spouses.”
When the money men make relative to their spouses increases, the study found the odds of their committing adultery decreased until the total contribution to the pooled income reached 70 per cent. Men who bring home 70 per cent of the couple’s combined income were the least likely to cheat. After the 70 per cent mark, men become more likely to stray.
“These men are aware that their wives are truly dependent and may think that, as a result, their wives will not leave them even if they cheat,” Munsch says.
“What is surprising, though, is that the increase in the likelihood of men engaging in infidelity that occurs as they make significantly more than their wives is relatively small compared to the increase in the likelihood of cheating that takes place among men as they become more economically dependent. But the affairs of economically dependent men simply don’t garner media attention, so we hear about this kind of infidelity far less often.”