Affairs boost married women's self-esteem and life satisfaction, new study reveals

A man and woman kiss and hug at home.
A new study has revealed that affairs benefit married women more than men. (Getty Images)

Having an affair tends to benefit married women more than men, according to a new study into how adultery affects each gender.

Research found that women who cheat are more likely to experience a boost in wellbeing, with greater self-esteem and life satisfaction.

However, the team, based at the Tilburg University in the Netherlands, discovered after analysing the marital lives of just under a thousand people that men tended to suffer after straying.

They looked at the relationships of 947 German adults over a 12-year period, with 609 being involved in an affair and 338 having been cheated on.

Man and woman pulling sheets while having sex in bed.
The research found that women experience a boost to their self-esteem and life satisfaction. (Getty Images)

Study leader Professor Olga Stavrova suggested to The Times that women's infidelity was due to poor long-term relationship satisfaction.

Their increased wellbeing from having an affair was likely due to personal needs finally being met, and also possibly as a result of it being a "wake-up call" to their partners who then made "positive behavioural changes”.

The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, also showed that affairs tended to happen after years of difficulties within the union.

Read more: Guildford tops list of UK destinations where married couples are most likely to cheat

Professor Stavrova explained that the likelihood of an affair starts "years before" and that it's necessary to look at "what was going wrong" historically when trying to understand the cause of infidelity.

Experts believe there are a number of reasons why affairs may boost women's confidence – with Limor Gottleib, a doctoral relationship researcher, suggesting that infidelity is "not the source of unhappy relationships, but rather stem from existential longings".

She explains: "Research shows that sexual behavior may function as a defense against mortality concerns – these can be actual threats of mortality but also a sense of loss of identity. Indeed, people often report a sense of aliveness when cheating, specifically those with an anxious and avoidant attachment style.

"But beyond the sexual act, an affair makes people feel desired. Provided that people with an anxious or avoidant attachment style tend to have lower self-esteem, it may be that sexual behavior functions to boost their confidence.

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"Specifically, those with an anxious attachment style may be particularly prone to seek reassurance and approval from others especially when they don’t feel desired by their current partner."

What's more, despite the findings of the new study, affairs are still problematic and can cause great hurt to the individuals involved and their families.

Tina Wilson, a relationship expert and founder of Wingman, warns: "Affairs are so damaging as there is now lack or trust and ultimate betrayal in the relationship which doesn’t just affect the couple, it also affects their families and children if they have any.

"Breaking up an immediate family dynamic can be heartbreaking, causing an array of feelings from devastation, confusion, anger, loneliness, anxiety, withdrawal, fear or uncertainty of the future to intense feeling of loss."

She adds: "An affair is never the answer look deeper into the reason you are tempted and try and discover a different way to deal with any issues you have without hasty emotional reactions."

Watch: Dame Emma Thompson says she was blind to Sir Kenneth Brannagh's infidelity