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Men more tolerant if a girlfriend cheats with another woman

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Psychologists find men are twice as likely to stick with a girlfriend who cheats with another woman instead of another man,

Researchers say for women, the opposite is true. Women are willing to stay with a man who has a heterosexual affair, but less likely to continue dating a man who cheats with another man. The reason, say scientists, is driven by evolution.

Men are twice as likely to continue dating a girlfriend who cheats with another woman because of different jealousy triggers. The researchers say women fear abandonment. Men are innately threatened when paternity is at risk.

“A robust jealousy mechanism is activated in men and women by different types of cues — those that threaten paternity in men and those that threaten abandonment in women,” says Jaime C. Confer, the study’s lead author and a doctoral candidate in evolutionary psychology.

In the study that included 700 college students, researchers found the likelihood that a man would continue dating a woman who cheated with another man was only 22 percent. If it was with another woman, the chances rose to 50 percent.

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The researchers asked the students to imagine infidelity from a partner they had dated for at least three months.
Women were found to have a 21 percent likelihood of staying with a partner who had a homosexual relationship, and there was a 28 percent chance they would continue dating a man who had a heterosexual affair, regardless of the number of times their partner was unfaithful.

The authors say it may be that men view their girlfriend’s cheating with another woman as an opportunity to mate with more than one woman, satisfying a desire. Cheating with another man is a threat to fatherhood.

“These findings are even more remarkable given that homosexuality attitude surveys show men have more negative attitudes toward homosexuality and to be less supportive of civil rights for same-sex couples than women. However, this general trend of men showing lower tolerance for homosexuality than women is reversed in the one fitness-enhancing situation—female homosexuality,” say the authors.

Women, on the other hand, seem to view partners who have affairs with other men as a threat for being abandoned and as relationship dissatisfaction.

When the students were asked about real relationships and cheating partners, the results were the same. Men were still 50 percent more likely than women to tolerate a homosexual affair from their partner than if their girlfriend cheated with another man. Women were less tolerant of any type of infidelity.

Personality and Individual Differences: doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.09.007
"Sex differences in response to imagining a partner’s heterosexual or homosexual affair"