Men and women fear that their partners may cheat, but the reasons are gender specific and possibly evolutionary in origin.
A poll was conducted in which 64,000 men and women were asked what would upset them more? A partner who is sexually unfaithful, but doesn’t love the other person, or a partner who has fallen in love with someone else, but haven’t strayed sexually.
The results were striking.
Among heterosexual men, 54 percent would be more upset if their significant other had a sexual liaison. Only 35 percent of heterosexual women felt the same. However, 65 percent of the women surveyed would be more distressed if their partner fell in love with someone else.
These results remained consistent despite age, income level, relationship type or length.
The gender disparity was evident only with heterosexuals. 30 percent of bisexual males would be more upset with sexual infidelity along with 27 percent of bi-females while 32 percent of gay men and 34 percent of lesbians saw extra-relationship sex as worse than emotional betrayal.
In an attempt to explain why straight men and women react differently to infidelity compared to lesbians, gays and bisexuals, researchers surmised that sexual and emotional jealousy could be rooted in evolutionary biology.
Men may experience sexual jealousy due to paternal uncertainty. Males can never be 100 percent certain if their partners’ pregnancy is a result of their actions or a rival’s. Biologically speaking, it makes little evolutionary sense to invest time and resources on another’s progeny. That’s why men are particularly sensitive to sexual perfidiousness.
For women, emotional jealousy can stem from potential loss of resources provided to her and her offspring by a partner.
Emotional and societal pressures can also come into play. Researchers surmised that if a female partner cheats, it may reflect poorly on the male’s sexual prowess and threaten his masculine identity, or at least his perception of how others perceive his masculinity.
In many societies, women are taught to be the nurturers and caretakers in the relationship. Emotional infidelity may signal an inability to perform this component of the relationship adequately, thus damaging a woman’s sense of self for failing to perform up to society’s ideals.
What’s particularly telling is despite how highly evolved we think we are, societal and evolutionary pressures still have a tremendous impact human behavior.