A new study finds that earning less money than your spouse will make you more likely to have an affair. Unequal earnings can cause a number of problems in a relationship, especially if there are other underlying issues. It doesn’t always feel good to be part of an unequal partnership, which may explain why the person on the losing end is the one to cheat. However, if two people have mutual respect, income doesn’t have to matter.
Earnings and Infidelity
The current research was conducted by Christin Munsch, a sociologist working at the University of Connecticut. Her analysis included nearly 3,000 married couples between the ages of 18 and 32, and the results strongly showed that the more economically dependent a husband or wife is on his or her partner, the more likely he or she is to cheat. The results are a bit surprising. You might think that the person who is more dependent would be less likely to cheat and that the person in a greater position of power would be more likely to commit an infidelity. The actual results, though, show that it is the dependent person in a relationship who may turn to an affair, perhaps to re-balance power in the relationship. Munsch found that the effect increased with the amount of dependency and that it was more pronounced in men. Among women completely dependent on their husbands, there was about a 5 percent chance of cheating. For men who were totally economically dependent on their wives, the odds were about 15 percent. This emphasizes the explanation that cheating may be a way for the dependent spouse to feel more powerful. Due to societal norms, women are likely to be more comfortable than men with being dependent. In addition to finding that the dependent spouse is more likely to cheat, Munsch also found that wives are least likely to have an affair when they make all of the money in the household. She cites earlier research that found when women are the primary or total breadwinners, they experience some stress and anxiety associated with going against societal norms. To compensate for the imbalance, they tend to act more submissive, to defer to their husbands at home and to take on more traditional roles in the home and relationship.
How Power Affects Behavior
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to cheat when they earn 100 percent of the household income. This is in contrast to women as the primary earners. Men in this position may feel as if they can commit infidelities because a totally dependent wife wouldn’t leave him. There also may be an element of power, entitlement and confidence at work in this situation. Other studies have found that men are more likely to cheat when they have powerful positions at work, which often comes with a large salary. With a position of power, he may feel more confident that he can attract an extra partner and get away with the infidelity. What motivates people to cheat is complicated, but research keeps answering more of our important questions about infidelity. The dynamics of a relationship are clearly important when it comes to the likelihood of cheating, and we now know that income can affect those dynamics in important ways. If you have an income discrepancy in your relationship, be aware of the potential consequences and strengthen your bond to help reduce the risk of cheating.