Study: Men, women react differently to infidelity in relationships

CARDIFF, Wales — Most people typically react with jealousy when their partner cheats on them, but men and women tend to react differently to such a dilemma, a new study finds.

Researchers at Cardiff Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom recruited 44 college-aged students, 23 of whom were female, to determine what made each gender jealous in a relationship.

sex, couple
A new study finds that when it comes to cheating, men and women react differently, depending on the emotional and sexual levels of infidelity.

Each participant was shown a series of messages that were made to appear as if they were on Facebook, which either presented instances of emotional or sexual infidelity.

Statements that suggested sexual infidelity included ones that referenced a partner sleeping with someone else (“You must be the best one-night stand I’ve ever had.”), while emotional fidelity could be demonstrated through one expressing love for another individual (“You must be my soulmate! Feel so bloody connected to you, even though we haven’t slept together.”)

The statements presented were also designated to have been composed by one’s partner or the individual with whom they were cheating.

Although nearly all participants felt stressed no matter the message they viewed, different variables affected each gender in a differing manner.

Men were more affected by reading messages in which their partner had committed sexual infidelity, and displayed even more irritation when their partner was the one who had initiated the dialogue that led to the cheating.

Women, meanwhile, were more so hurt by emotional infidelity. They were more likely to get angry and hurt by another woman sending a promiscuous message.

Previous research has supported the notion that men and women become jealous in different ways, and even that jealousy can manifest in animosity toward different individuals.

This new study presents new evidence for how jealousy works in the online sphere, and how it can play out in real life (e.g., spousal abuse).

“Applying an evolutionary perspective to understanding the manifestation of jealous behaviour and how infidelity-related anger can trigger partner dissolution and domestic abuse may help counteract inevitable rises in such behaviours in an age where clandestine extra-marital relationships are facilitated by modern forms of media technology,” explains lead researcher Michael Dunn in a press release.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.


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