The truth about women and monogamy

What do women really mean when they say they are unhappy?

Statistics about affairs are notoriously unreliable. Since Kinsey’s watershed study reported 29 percent of wives and 50 percent of husbands had affairs by the time they were 40 years old, other research has put the stats as low as 15 percent of women and 25 percent of men to as high as 60 percent of women and 75 percent of men. The one consistent factor is the sense that women are more “naturally” monogamous than men.

A new report challenges that theory. Michelle Langley, author of Women’s Infidelity: Living in Limbo: What Women Really Mean When They Say, “I’m Not Happy”, conducted research over a 10-year period that indicates that women do, in fact, cheat as much as men.

Even more surprising, Langley says marriage and fidelity may be more difficult for women than it is for men because men who marry in their mid-to late 20s are moving away from their sexual prime; whereas women of the same age are just beginning to move into theirs.

Additionally, society’s expectations of male monogamy are lower, so men have less difficulty reconciling sexual interest in other women with the maintenance of a happy marriage, she contends. Women, on the other hand, see sexual interest in another man as an indication that something is wrong—with their husband, with their marriage, or with themselves.

The changes in women’s hormonal balance as they age—specifically, the unmasking of their testosterone, have been drastically minimized. Langley said most of the women she studied were not prepared for the dramatic increase in their desire for men outside of their primary relationships.

Recently, the media has focused attention on relationships between older women and younger men. Langley says it is actually quite natural for older women to be sexually attracted to younger men because younger men have increased desire and stamina.

According to Langley, most of the prevailing beliefs we hold about women were created to control the sexual behavior of females in an effort to ease paternity insecurity in males. She says when females give birth, they know the children they give birth to are biologically theirs. Males, on the other hand, prior to DNA testing, had to rely on the faithfulness of their partners; which is the reason a sexual double standard emerged.

However, over time, the sexual double standard gave way to a false belief that females were, in fact, naturally monogamous. Now, due to economic freedom and DNA testing, Langley says we are beginning to see glimpses of women’s true sexual nature.

Restlessness, while long understood in the male context, has been little explored among women. Langley’s study shows that many marriages proceed to divorce without the wife ever having explained—or even identified—the sexual restlessness that is in fact the root of the problem.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2006, issue

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