Financial Dependence Makes Men (And Women) More Likely To Cheat

06/02/2015 11:46 am ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015
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Do you depend on your partner for your basic financial needs? That might spell trouble for your relationship, as new research shows that both men and women are more likely to cheat on their partners when they're financially dependent on them.

"Neither men nor women like being financially dependent on a spouse," Christin Munsch, a University of Connecticut sociologist and one of the study's authors, told The Huffington Post. "Financial dependence is destabilizing for relationships."

More and more women are becoming the sole breadwinners of their families, but the surprising findings suggest that it may come at a cost.

Munsch and her colleagues found that while there's a 5 percent chance that women who are financially dependent on their husbands will cheat, the likelihood of infidelity jumps to 15 percent when men are financially dependent on their wives.

For the study, published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, the researchers studied 10 years' worth of data on 2,750 married people between the ages of 18 and 32. Here's what they found.

Men often struggle with being financial dependent. The people who were most likely to cheat were men who were 100 percent financially dependent on their partners.

This probably has something to do with stereotypes about masculinity, Munsch suggested.

"There is something about masculinity and cultural norms about breadwinning that make men especially unhappy in these kinds of financial situations," Munsch said, adding that infidelity may be a way of reasserting threatened masculinity.

Susan Heitler, a Denver-based clinical psychologist and creator of The Power of Two online marriage counseling, agreed that men who contribute less to the household's income may cheat as a way to establish their personal power outside of the relationship.

"Finding himself in a non-to-low income producing role in a household tends to be a blow to men's egos," Heitler told HuffPost in an email.

But breadwinners cheat, too. The findings also shed light on the cheating habits of financial providers.

The greater a woman's earnings, the less likely she is to cheat. In fact, women who are responsible for 100 percent of the earnings in the marriage are the least likely to have affairs.

But this isn't the case with men. When men make more than 70 percent of the household income, they again become more likely to cheat. However, as Munsch notes, the chances of men engaging in infidelity when they make significantly more than their wives is "relatively small" compared to the increased likelihood of cheating that occurs when men become financially dependent.

The takeaway? "Marriages are more stable when both partners contribute economically," Munsch said.

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