(Telegraph) Surveys about the number of people’s sexual partners should be handled with care, says Tracy Corrigan.
What’s a girl to do? According to new research, men are more likely to be unfaithful if their wives are high-fliers – so maybe your marriage will be safer if you stay at home and bring up the children. Except, unfortunately, that sounds like even less fun: although women who are financially dependent on their husbands are not likely to cheat, their highly paid spouses still tend to stray.
“At one end of the spectrum, making less money than a female partner may threaten men’s gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners,” reckons Christin Munsch, author of The Effect of Relative Income Disparity on Infidelity for Men and Women. “At the other end of the spectrum, men who make a lot more money than their partners may be in jobs that offer more opportunities for cheating, like long working hours, [and] travel.”
It turns out that the best bet for women hoping to ensure their husbands’ fidelity is to make roughly 75 per cent of their partner’s earnings. I can see exactly why this would work: it’s enough to allow the woman to feel financially independent – and for her husband to understand that to be the case – but not enough for the man to feel that his masculinity is impugned.
Munsch’s assumption is that men’s confidence comes under threat if their wives earn substantially more then they do, whereas it is socially acceptable for women to be supported by their husbands. There is doubtless a lot of truth to that – but there may be other explanations for her results.
First, there is a theory that men consider a wider range of potential sexual partners than women. A 2007 study found that men, faced with a lack of options, simply lower their standards, while women in the same situation actually raise theirs, to counteract the male tendency to seek out short-term relationships. Perhaps this helps explain why non-working wives are more likely to be faithful: there aren’t many attractive options, whereas the stay-at-home dad has plenty of Yummy Mummies to pick from, and may even lower his sights to the sub-yummy if necessary.
Then there is another, less sisterly, explanation for women’s apparently greater faithfulness: they are lying. Munsch found that during a six-year period, an average of 3.8 per cent of male partners and 1.4 per cent of female partners admitted to cheating in any given year. So either men cheat mainly with single women, or women are economical with the truth.