The more economically dependent someone is on their partner, the more likely they are to have an affair, according to new research.
A study published in the American Sociological Review finds that, for both men and women, as one becomes more economically dependent on one’s partner, the more likely one is to stray.
The research shows the effect of economic dependency on infidelity is much greater for men than for women.
The author of the paper, University of Connecticut sociologist Christin Munsch, explains the finding in terms of cultural expectations that link husbands with breadwinning.
She says infidelity allows men undergoing a masculinity threat — that is, men who are not breadwinners – to engage in sex with multiple partners, a behaviour culturally associated with masculinity. She adds that, simultaneously, extramarital sex allows threatened men to distance themselves from, and perhaps punish, their breadwinning spouse.
Ironically, the research also shows that male breadwinners who earn significantly more than their partners are also more likely to have affairs.
However, for women, breadwinning seemed to have the opposite effect: the more dependent their partners are on them, the less likely they are to engage in infidelity. Munsch says this is because women who outearn their husbands “challenge the status quo”. “Aware of how they deviate from the cultural expectation that equates men with breadwinning, these women may be more faithful in order to decrease interpersonal conflict and help keep potentially strained relationships intact,” she says.