Most people I spoke to about my study believed that women would report that they were very unhappy or cheating for emotional reasons and sex was a distant, secondary issue. Generally, women are seen as the less sexual gender. Yes, we know women enjoy sex, but most people assume they don't miss it the way men do. If a man goes days or weeks without sex, it's assumed he's going to explode. If the same happens to a woman, somehow it's assumed she'll keep busy and not actively miss it. Marital jokes are frequently about how little sex the husband is getting. And I think I read somewhere that given a choice between finding great shoes or having great sex, most women choose the shoes. Five hundred and five women from around the world say these assumptions are all wrong.
Among the women in my study, faithful wives who were unhappy in their marriages gave equal weight to sexual and emotional dissatisfaction as their primary issues. Likewise, with cheaters, the number one response when asked what issues factored into their infidelity was "Both emotional dissatisfaction and an unsatisfying sexual relationship figured about the same in my decision." Forty-four percent responded this way, almost double the number of women who answered that emotional issues were the driving force (26 percent). Similar to my study of men, only 7 percent said that it was largely sexual dissatisfaction that led them into the arms of another.
So women are not exclusively emotional beings but actively need both emotional and sexual intimacy. Clearly, sexuality is far more important to women than most people think. Both unhappy women and cheating women reported that their number one sexual issue was infrequency with unsatisfying sex coming in at a close second. I'll explore female sexuality and what my study uncovered in this area in Chapter 7.
What You Can Learn from Women Who Stray
The issues that factored into infidelity can best be summed up as:
Both emotional and sexual dissatisfaction in the marriage figured about the same: 44%
Emotional dissatisfaction in the marriage was the primary factor: 26%
Sexual dissatisfaction in the marriage was the primary factor: 7%