The Unfortunate Reason Your Partner Might Cheat

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
This post was originally published on June 2, 2015.

You might think you'd want a partner who can afford the finer things in life (Beyoncé's dragon egg, anyone?). But, science begs to differ: A new study suggests that we're actually more likely to cheat on someone if we're financially dependent on him or her.

The study, published this month in the American Sociological Review, looked at nationally representative survey data, including info from 2,757 people collected between 2001 and 2011 (the most recent available). Respondents were asked about marital status, sexual activity, and income.

For both men and women (although much more so for men), earning substantially less than a spouse was associated with an increase in infidelity. However, men who earned significantly more were also more likely to cheat; female breadwinners, on the other hand, were less likely to cheat. (Word is still out as to whether equal pay would eliminate infidelity entirely.)

The study has its drawbacks. For instance, the surveys didn't directly ask respondents about cheating. Instead, the study author inferred this information from other data; if someone married admitted to having more than one sexual partner, that was counted as cheating. Although "more than one sexual partner" does include infidelity, this assumption doesn't take any consensual non-monogamous arrangements into account. And it excludes couples who aren't married.

The study's author suggests that, for those who are financially dependent on their partners, cheating might be a way to feel like they have a little more leverage in the relationship. The author adds that the gender-stereotype-defying economic situation of a female breadwinner could feel "particularly threatening" for men.

Other research suggests some people are just more likely than others to cheat (or be cheated on) repeatedly. In particular, those who have been cheated on once are more likely to be cheated on again. And, partners who have been "stolen" from one relationship tend not to go on to have secure romantic relationships in the future. Granted, these infidelity studies haven't considered the power dynamic that different income levels present.

Of course, your paycheck is only one factor in your relationship. Even if it does matter, other factors — like what you do with all that dough and how you actually treat your partner — probably matter more. We hope.
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