Being the main breadwinner in a marriage may not earn you as much gratitude as you’d hope -- especially if you’re a woman, according to a new study.
After analyzing interviews with more than 2,750 married people, sociologist Christin Munsch found that for both men and women, the more financially dependent they are on a spouse, the more likely they are to cheat on them.
That’s right. It’s the person who is NOT bringing home the bacon who is more likely to be messing around on the sly.
“People don’t like to be in uneven relationships,” said Munsch, who teaches sociology at the University of Connecticut. “It particularly doesn’t feel good to be on the losing end of it.”
Munsch’s research shows that in any given year there is a 5% chance that a woman who is 100% financially dependent on her husband will be cheating on him.
For a man who lives off his wife’s income, however, there is a 15% chance that he will have an affair.
When both halves of a couple contribute equally to the family’s total income there is less than a 4% chance that either party will be unfaithful, Munsch found.
“This suggests that there is something about inequity in relationships that people don’t like, and something about not being the breadwinner that men especially don’t like,” she said.
In the paper, she argues that men who are not earning money may feel emasculated and that taking on an extramarital affair may make them feel more manly and desirable.
Her research also shows that women are least likely to cheat on their husbands when they are the sole breadwinner of the family. However, men are least likely to have an affair when they bring in 70% of the income. After that, the likelihood of a man having an affair rises gradually to 4% if he makes 100% of the money.
“My study is not an argument that men should make all the money and women should stay home,” she said. “It is better for the relationship when both people feel like they are contributing.”
The research was published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, and it is based on data collected from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
It should be noted that the people in the study were between the ages of 18 and 32, so the findings may be more relevant for young people in marriages.
Because Munsch was using previously collected data, she was not able to ask respondents how much free time they had on their hands. But she was able to control for how much time they spent working in an average week.
She said that men who earned less than their wives were just as likely to cheat on them no matter how much time the man spent in the workforce.