In this post, we’ll explore the concept of infidelity, looking at how both men and women define it, why men and women commit infidelity and the costs of doing so and more.
The way both men and women perceive infidelity is different. This stems from the adaptive problems they had to solve over the course of evolution in order to maximise their fitness ― their ability to survive and reproduce.
Men were required to solve the problem of paternity. Women were required to solve the problem of security. Thus, men evolved to be threatened by sexual infidelity as this would represent uncertain paternity while women evolved to be threatened by emotional infidelity as this would represent uncertain security.
Hence why when a woman cheats a man asks “Did you have sex with him?” (sexual infidelity) and when a man cheats a woman asks “Do you love her?” (emotional infidelity).
“Security is how men show love and commitment. Fidelity is how women show love and commitment.”
Why Men & Women Commit Infidelity
It takes two to tango and so both men and women commit infidelity. However, men and women are biologically predisposed to hedging their bets differently. The primary factor that influences the behaviour of men and women when it comes to infidelity is mating strategy.
A man’s primary sexual strategy is polygyny. In other words, men evolved to reproduce with as many women as possible. A woman’s primary sexual strategy is hypergamy. In other words, women evolved to identify and reproduce with the most competent man possible.
Thus, when men cheat, it tends to be for sexual variety and when women cheat it tends to be to obtain a partner of higher value.
Infidelity Comes At A Cost
Infidelity comes as a cost for both men and women.
For ancestral men, sexual infidelity meant channelling time, energy and recourses to their partner and the risk of parenting a rivals genetic offspring. It also meant a missed opportunity to mate with other women.
For ancestral women, emotional infidelity meant a loss of time, energy and recourses from their partner. It also meant a missed opportunity to mate with other high value men.
The different adaptive problems that men and women have faced over the course of evolution influenced how each sex defined betrayal.
Men tend to place more emphasis on sexual infidelity because it represents a loss in paternity. Women tend to place more emphasis on emotional infidelity because it represents a loss in security.
Men tend to cheat when their sexual needs aren’t being met. Women tend to cheat when their emotional needs aren’t being met.