A new study finds that men are more likely to cheat if their income is much lower than what their wife or female partner makes, while women are more likely to fool around if they make more than their husband or male partner. The findings suggest that disparities in moneymaking play a significant role in infidelity, at least among the young couples they studied. Here are the details in a report from HealthDay News (don’t miss Barb’s comments below):
Study author Christin Munsch said, “… for men, the less money you make relative to your spouse, the more likely you are to engage in infidelity.”
Munsch, a graduate student at Cornell University, said she came up with the idea of studying the effects of income on infidelity after hearing from a friend who has cheated on his partner. He told Munsch that “she made all the money, she had all the friends, and he’d moved up there to be with her. He felt completely powerless.”
While there’s been previous research into infidelity, it didn’t look into differences in income among couples, Munsch said.
So she examined the results of a national survey that tracked 9,000 people beginning in 1997 when they were children. She focused on the results of the survey from 2001-2007, when the participants were between 17 and 27 years old.
The findings were released at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Atlanta.
Two lifestyle factors, higher education and regular religious observance, seem to help keep infidelity at bay for both men and women, the study found.
But factors having to do with money – such as the man making more or less than his wife or female partner – did increase the risk of infidelity, Munsch said.
If you’re a woman and “you make more money than your partner, your partner isn’t 100 percent likely to cheat,” she stressed. Still, money appeared to be a significant factor.
Men who make less than their wives may lean toward infidelity because they feel a “gender identity threat,” Munsch speculated.
My wife, Barb, and I co-wrote a book called His Brain, Her Brain: How divinely designed differences can strengthen your marriage, so I’ve asked her to join me in commenting on this topic:
Walt: This study is just one of a number of recent studies showing that when a wife makes more money than her husband, the marriage is much more likely to have future difficulties.
Barb: In the movie Up in the Air, two women are discussing marriage. The mature woman says, “Please, let him earn more money than I do. You might not understand that now, but believe me, you will one day. Otherwise, that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Walt: A 2009 German study concluded the problems caused by a woman earning more money than her husband are no longer up for debate. They’re rooted in fact. In a study of German couples, researchers found that marriages featuring a wife as the chief breadwinner have a “substantially higher risk of divorce” than if the roles were reversed.
Barb: In contrast, the study found, “if the husband earns more than the wife, marital stability is even enhanced.”
Walt: A 2010 study in the U.S. found couples are nearly 40 percent more likely to divorce in any given year in marriages where the wife makes at least 60 percent of the family income. And that is regardless of how much total money the couple has.
Barb: Psychologist Willard Harley, PhD writes, “If (married women) choose a career, the money they earn should not have to be spent on basic support of the family. … I’ve been amazed by the number of women who feel much better toward their husbands when his income actually goes to pay for her needs and those of her children.”
Walt: In our book, His Brain, Her Brain: How divinely designed differences can strengthen your marriage, we looked at a number of these studies and wrote, “… when a woman wants a career, she and her husband need to consider together whether or not to use the money she earns for basic living expenses.”
Barb: Why? A woman usually needs and wants her husband to earn the money for their basic necessities, and he is designed to do this. Most wives (including those with careers) not only expect their husbands to work, they also expect them to earn enough to provide for their families. When a husband can’t, or doesn’t choose to, provide the basics for his family, it often leads to conflict in the marriage.
Walt: Simply put, a husband who does not provide sufficient income for his family’s basic needs – housing, clothing, food, transportation, and other essential – has the probability of causing increased marital distress. When a married couple faces the situation in which the wife has a professional career with a salary that allows her to provide the majority of the family income (and some or all of the basic family needs), the couple needs to recognize the potential danger their marriage faces.
Barb: In this case, we recommend the couple pray about this and discuss with a professional or pastoral counselor. They need to consider the potential risks, benefits, and consequences to their marriage and their relationship,