What’s worse: cheating on your partner emotionally or cheating on them physically? According to a new study, your answer may depend on your gender. Barry Kuhle, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, says “while men are more likely to interrogate their partners about the sexual nature of an affair, a woman will often ask her partner whether he is in love with the other woman.”
Kuhle arrived at this conclusion after observing the reality TV show Cheaters. He had his student researchers pay special attention to how “partners react when confronting their partners about infidelities.” Of the 75 affair confrontations featured on the show, “57 percent of men versus 29 percent of women were likely to ask about sex, posing questions such as ‘Did you have sex with him/her?’ and ‘Was he/she better than me in bed?,’ while 71 percent of women versus 43 percent of men asked if the cheater was in love with the other man or woman.”
Kuhle was first inspired to learn more about the different reactions men and women have to cheating after he watched the 2004 film Closer. Directed by Mike Nichols, Closer stars Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Jude Law, and follows their characters’ infidelities.
However, many are reluctant to embrace Kuhle’s findings as they’re based on a reality TV show. Cheaters has been criticized for phoniness, which is no surprise if you know anything about reality TV.
But even putting the show aside, Kuhle believes evolutionary biology is on his side, telling Today.com that “modern men have inherited an evolved wisdom from a long line of ancestral men who could never be 100 percent certain that a child was actually theirs.” As for ancient women, Kuhle believes they “were more threatened that their partner would form an emotional bond with a different partner and, therefore, shift their time, commitment and protection to another woman.”
Previous studies also seem to be in agreement with Kuhle, like the 2009 study published in Evolutionary Psychology that found Canadian men “felt guiltier for cheating on their partner sexually, while women felt guiltier about being unfaithful emotionally.” Penn State clinical psychologists Kenneth Levy and Kristen Kelley also found, out of 400 people, “men tended to be more disturbed by sex and women by the emotional bond.”
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