Why Single Women Have Affairs with Married Men

easelly_visual-6-e1375100667674I won’t take credit for this. It’s a reprint from something I saw on ehow.com from author Dawn Sutton.  I found it doing research for someone based on their emailed question. While it’s hard to generalize about affairs and the people in them (it varies so much!!), I think what was written here sounded “right” to me.  And answers that question, “Why would some smart, attractive, single woman get involved with a married guy?”  I think a lot of Betrayeds have that question. 

I refuse to take the obvious, nasty, mean-spirited tact on this — “Why? Because they are all just SLUTS!” or something like that, usually uttered out of anger and in the midst of self-righteous indignation that’s so strong as to allow the Betrayed to not examine themselves in the mirror before they point the finger at other women.  Nor am I letting the “Other Woman” off the hook, which sometimes they like to let themselves do.  I hear it all the time on blogs, in the email — that the Married Man MADE them have an affair.  Or asking me things like “Well, why does HE keep coming back?” or “Well, he pursued ME!”, as if they had no choice or say in the matter.  No, I think this article avoids the extremes, and self-serving nonsense and cuts to the heart of the matter.

And yes, I think understanding the psychology of the “Single Man” who gets involved with the Married Woman might be a good topic too, although from what I’ve gathered, it’s a much more rare circumstance and that single men rarely fall in love with their married affair partner and wish them to leave their spouses at the same rate the that single women in affairs wish this for their married men.   I’ve yet to get an email from a single man involved with a married woman and needed my help, but I get emails weekly from women.  So it’s obviously not as common.  Anyway, I thought this article a good read.


Women have affairs with married men for a variety of psychological reasons. Some women find it feeds their egos, whereas others are excited by the risk. Still other women enjoy the sex or the challenge involved. Unfortunately, when a woman deceives another woman, she is actually perpetuating mistrust among women in general. Few men leave their wives for the girlfriend, and even when they do, the woman is unsure if she can trust him with other women.

1.  Self-Esteem and a Sense of Power: According to Susan Sheppard, founder of Getting What You Want, a life and relationship coaching organization, one of the psychological reasons that women become involved with married men is to enhance their self-esteem and for a sense of power. Some women believe that it means they are attractive if they can steal a man’s affection from his wife and that they are powerful to be able to take someone else’s man. The truth is, however, that if a woman feels good about herself, she would seek out a man that is truly and solely available to her.

2.  Married Men Make Fewer Demands:   Many single women, who are focused on their careers, may prefer a married man because they may impose fewer demands on them than a boyfriend or live-in partner. Some women are not ready to get married or may not be ready to commit to having children. In that sense, they may believe that they can have love and romance and sex without any real commitments.

3. Married Men are Mature, Financial Secure:  Many women believe that married men have more money and experience than single men. Many women believe that married men are generally mature and more experienced in relationships than single men. They equate experience with understanding women better and therefore being able to provide emotional support. Another psychological reason for women to get involved with a married man is the perception that a married man is more financially secure and that if he can manage his family’s finances, he can provide for her as well. Money is a big draw for women (eg, they look at men as “success objects” the same way men look at women as “sex objects.” Neither gender is immune from shallowness in their choice of partners).

4.  Low Self-Esteem/Fear of Intimacy or Commitment:  According to Victoria L. Rayner, author of “The Survival Guide for Today’s Career Woman,” some single women have affairs with married men because they are afraid of committing to an intimate, long-term relationship. If they seek out someone who is ultimately unattainable, then they are usually setting themselves up for rejection and loss and, therefore, do not have to commit to an intimate, successful relationship. Women with low self-esteem often don’t believe, deep down, that they really deserve a the full attention of a good man, which means settling for whatever love and affection they can get.

The article is pretty short.  I think after my research, my interactions with some “other women” in cyberspace, I think it came down to this (and it’s not much different then men, really) — Why do they get involved with married men?  Because they didn’t really intend to!  Surprisingly, most women never really intend to fall in love with a married man, it just happens.  And however hard you try to hold back, the slide in most cases is just too steep to resist.

I dunno. To me, it’s often about “forbidden fruit” that is irresistible to some women.  There’s something about a married man, or even a guy who’s got a girlfriend, for that matter.  I agree that there is a certain amount of lusting over some other woman’s life and wanting to take it for yourself.  Or simply put that it is human nature for most of us to see a food look more appetizing when it is on somebody else’s plate.

Or I think its really simple.  The attraction between the two is open in the air, they may feel this is the love they want and can get now. Why not enjoy the love they have?  Why not have a good time?  They think they can “control” and enjoy it, but let’s face it, few really can handle it once they fall in love.

And I think they don’t really consider the consequences.   Infidelity can have devastating effects on a marriage.   These are pretty well known. Some couples may be able to solve them through marriage counseling or may not. They may end up getting a divorce. However, some estranged spouses may fall prey to emotional disorders like depression, and may even resolve to extreme measures like suicide. It is not only the marriage that faces consequences. If children are involved, the contempt that it breeds in their minds for the cheating parent can never be eradicated. Apart from the trust issues in the marriage, the issues with the ‘other woman’ also can have severe consequences.

But most “Other Women” don’t concern themselves with the effect on their partner’s wife and kids.  Some do, but most don’t. They figure, “hey, that’s HIS problem. He’s the married one!”   But do they consider the effect on themselves of being in an affair with a married man?   Doubtful.  I think single women almost always get dumped, for whatever reason, and end up bitter, angry, frustrated and carry a lot of baggage afterwards.  They are usually showered with attention and love from the married man and now expect the next “boyfriend” to be exactly the same, despite the fact that affairs carry a certain illusion and intensity that is difficult to sustain in real life.  They end up a bitter shell of their former selves. And yeah, damaged goods — if they disclose the truth to a potential lover (and you should), how are they viewed ?  Like anyone who has had an affair.  Their morals, their decision-making, their stability is now, at best, seen as questionable.   All things being equal, it’s going to be a fact that is a negative to most men meeting the ex-Other Woman (as it would to women if the man was the cheater).  You can’t hardly blame them.  I doubt I would date someone like that myself, truth be told (and in all humility recognizing my own checkered history).

You wish they would consider these things before they go down that road.  But most do not. It feels too good. The slope is slippery. What started as a friendship or harmless flirtation turns into a  hot romance like she’s never experienced and can’t let go of the delusional fantasy that it’s “real” and that he WILL leave his marriage for her, when in reality, this is pretty rare.  He in turn feeds her fantasy with words and gestures just enough to keep her in the affair, but steers carefully away of making future promises that he could be held to.  And she grasps these words like a drowning woman grabs a life preserver.  Grabs them. Twists them.  Forgets that what is said in the heat of passion may be convenient and not true.  They become her reason to stay in the affair. And eventually he uses her and her good years up, leaving her bewildered, bitter, and angry.

And it’s all so predictable.




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15 thoughts on “Why Single Women Have Affairs with Married Men

  1. “And eventually he uses her and her good years up, leaving her bewildered, bitter, and angry.” — not all the time. 🙂 Others, like me, accepts those moments as gifts (of time and body) to be enjoyed and reminisced when it’s gone. And our men are also thankful for those unforgettable moments with us.

      • I found your blog today and had enjoyed reading your posts up until this one, which seems uncharacteristically condemning of bad decisions made by the OW despite acknowledging your own “checkered history” as a cheater. It infers the price of a woman’s immorality is ‘her and her good years’ ending up as “damaged goods” while the price (reward) for your bad decisions is not only reconciliation and forgiveness – but a more satisfying relationship? Self-righteous and misogynistic tones sing loud upon discovering the shining beams of remorse?! Obviously your thoughts (judgments) touched a nerve. As someone who has been the OW I can answer your question – ‘do they consider the effect on themselves of being in an affair with a married man?’ – my answer, withouth a doubt, is yes; I did consider, not only the partner, but also the effect it had on myself during that trying time. As you and many other readers would know, being in an affair is never a validating experience for anyone involved and the challenges of moving past it far outweigh the false satisfaction of the fantasy that caused them.

      • One must of course write in generalities and probabilities. I would never suggest that this entry applies to every Other Woman. But I stand by my analysis as written. Your charges of mysoginism notwithstanding. Most OW get dumped. Most end up angry, bitter and damaged. And yes everbody has a dating shelf life and its folly to give good years away to a married lover. Idiocy frankly.

      • Could it be sometimes that the cheater lies so well and his mistress/fiancé is so naive that she believes she was not part of an affair with a married man? Recently seperated with 2 month old baby is not an affair cuz we were “seperated” could he have played her and the exit affair so well that they are likely to last cuz she had no idea what she had done?

  2. A sign that the affair is possibly ongoing, if she still thinks of those stolen moments as “gifts”. And if not, there are no guarantees that he is in the least “thankful” for anything unforgettable. It’s entirely possible that things he can’t forget are a source of intense shame and discomfort for him – possibly even a renewed sense of resolve to never make such a tremendous mistake again – as the majority of cheating spouses report feeling.

  3. Perhaps the misogyny charge was a bit overzealous. Despite the indirect charge of idiocy, I have been thoroughly engrossed in your posts – more than I should considering my earnings depend on how I invest my time (freelancer) but I am happy to claim not a minute was wasted. This resource has been helpful in processing a difficult chapter in my life, so thanks.

    • I wasn’t calling you an idiot. However you did call me a mysoginist. Directly.

      That aside, as I said, I can only write in generalities and probabilities. Every situation is unique and different and perhaps your experience wasn’t too bad, however the vast majority of other women that I read about in their blogs and in there numerous emails to me paint a different picture for the general population. Mostly what I hear is pain, frustration, unmet expectations, bitterness, anger, and mostly extreme regret that they ever got involved. And they are almost always fairly intelligent women. While it may have turned out okay for you, for the vast majority there was only abandonment and lost dreams and hopes. And yes there are good years for dating and I would never recommend that somebody gives away their attractive years to someone who is unlikely ever going to be with them full time and exclusively. What I often read about more often than not is that almost all of the other women hope and want something more from the married man. And are sometimes even promised or hinted that this will be theirs. But in very few cases does this ever get fulfilled or last very long. Knowing the odds, knowing the shit that will hit you when the world finds out about your actions, knowing what it does to your psyche to be involved in somebody else’s marriage, I do have to believe that there is a certain amount of self delusion and romantic idiocy when one makes the choice to go down this road. You may survive a 40 foot dive into a tub of water, but I doubt it. So why jump?

      • “Knowing the odds, knowing the shit that will hit you when the world finds out about your actions, knowing what it does to your psyche to be involved with someone” – outside of your marriage, your contract, the bonds that you formed… I’ll take it as a rhetorical question as the rest of your posts offer insight into the reasons you jumped.

      • but I didn’t jump out of my marriage. I terminated the affair instead. I’m not a hypocrite. I have been very clear – I did a STUPID thing, and was 100% wrong and it’s 100% my responsibility for my poor choices. And FROM my experiences in an affair, I kept this blog going to help others. So that hopefully some can avoid my mistakes. Please appreciate my intent with the blog. I’m not “holier than thou” in the least.

        I’m just saying — if some of you women REALLY stopped to think about what you were getting into, and the odds that it works out to your satisfaction and favor (rarely), you would never take that step. I can post you blog, after blog, after blog, of angry, bitter, broken, whining Other Women who were dumped/left by a married man. And then I could add the emails of another 20-30 OW that I’ve received who are in the same predicament. While many OW are not the bit remorseful for being in an affair (even the married ones), all of them seem quite upset and hurt by the whole experience. While you may be an outlier, exceptions don’t disprove the rule.

        I’m not anti-woman in the least. I LOVE women. Most of my close friends are women and always have been. But in this case, affairs rarely seem to work out to the satisfaction of women in them, whether they themselves are married or single. I see so little evidence to the contrary. The point of my blog entry was not to put down women, but basically to 1) diagnose the reasons that some women go down this path, and, hopefully, 2) by reading it, to warn off some women from taking this extremely foolish, dangerous and usually self-destructive step. I’m trying to ASSIST women here, not put them down. Please appreciate the difference.

        Everyone comes out of these things damaged and with more baggage. And yeah, everyone has “good dating years” and then decline. To give the good ones away to a married person to me is folly, foolish romanticism and utterly self-destructive.

        If I were on the open market, I would assume my past, which I would be at some point forced to disclosed to a new partner, would turn a lot of quality women off. it’s the same for the ex-mistress/ex-female cheater. I wouldn’t date one, all other things being equal. Not a chance.

      • If I were to call you a misogynist “Directly.”, it would go something like, “you are a misogynist”. My claim was more of a description of tone. I thought I would take the time to clarify that seeing as you took the time to edit.

      • I think your intent was more than clear — if the “tone” of my writing was “woman-hating”, therefore I must be a “woman-hater.” Trying to dance around it now is pointless. You said what you said in an attempt to smear me and the message of the blog. Inaccurately, I might add. So let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?

  4. I believe that my husband’s OW most closely fits scenario #3. She is in her mid-50’s, overweight, not exceedingly attractive or bright, and at the time he hooked up with her, she was unemployed and didn’t have great prospects for the future. She’s divorced, and from what he tells me, this was not her first involvement with a married man. They dated very briefly many years ago, in high school (he’s in his late 50’s), and he says he didn’t remember a great deal about it to begin with. She found him on facebook & reconnected as “friends”, and it progressed from there, mostly online, but there were a few physical encounters over the course of a year. She lives across the country from us, but he managed a few getaways with her (under the guise of business trips), and there was a lot of skype activity (as seedy as you can imagine it being), text messages & calls, some emails, and about 600 pages of facebook chats – how I discovered the affair.

    I have many times wondered what the hell she could have possibly been thinking. Him, I understand pretty well. He was lonely & vulnerable, his self-esteem was in the toilet, and she was spoon-feeding him flattery and positive attention. She said she could be everything, do everything, I seemed unable to. She didn’t seem to care that he was very far from the perfect spouse, may not have even been aware of it. I think it’s very likely that she believed the multitude of lies that he told her about me and our marriage. Maybe she had good reason to. Maybe he was very convincing, or maybe she was just an idiot. I will probably never know. More likely she was just foolish, and willing to overlook things that didn’t quite add up – kinda like me, in a way. Except for I was married to him, and she was not. He introduced her to a few of our friends who were apparently willing to keep their lips buttoned about it, and his mother (who I never could in the span of 30 years reach an accord with), so I could certainly see why she would have believed that he was seriously committed to leaving our marriage and being with her at some point.

    She discovered the depth of his commitment on D-day, as most affair partners do. I know that he lied to her, but I don’t feel sorry for her. I can understand trusting someone who you have been married to for many years, raised children and shared a lot of good and bad times with over the span of 3 decades, even when you have that “funny feeling” that maybe you should not. But I really don’t understand trusting and believing in someone who you know to be a deceiver, someone who is willing to do the things my husband did, and then hide them – be a party to helping him hide them. I don’t care how valid the reasons he gives you may seem, I don’t care if you really believe that he is your “soulmate”, and his so-called unhappy marriage, the only obstacle to you & he spending the remainder of your lives in uninterrupted bliss (is ANYONE really that moronic?), do the ends really justify the means? Could a woman of even rudimentary intelligence not look at what she is doing and see just how low she has sunk, to be a willing partner in such a shameful & ugly deception? And for no better reason than just because she wants the life that someone else is living? Personally, I think that such a person is beyond pathetic, but what do I know?

  5. Okay, so I am just going to put this out there. I do not have a love for cheating. I think it is wrong and completely should not happen under any circumstances. I have been self righteous with my friends who have found themselves in this situation. I was cheated on, my marriage ended even though I tried to repair it, and my ex and his person are living blissfully together for the last 5 years and are expecting their first child. I for sure was NEVER going to find myself cheating… or so I thought.

    I met someone about 6 months after my divorce. He was single, I was single, there was nothing wrong or weird about us dating except that neither one of us were ready to. We had not been out of our previous relationships long enough. Long story short, we sabotaged the entire thing, acted stupid, and went separate ways. He went of and married his ex, I went off and got into a super unhealthy, yet fun relationship, and we both were “happy” for a while. Until we weren’t. There was no contact between us during this time.

    Later down the road, we began talking off and on again. I didn’t know he was married at the time and he didn’t offer that information. Our conversations were innocent and did not have to do with a relationship, but our friendship grew. Eventually I found out he was married. After a while, his wife decided she didn’t like us talking because I was single and we moved on. No communication… except when there was. Every few months one or the other would check in.

    His marriage is not fabulous, but we never crossed the line of friendship until recently. He randomly showed up after a year, we talked, he has been through some real crap and needless to say (since I am on here), we crossed the line of friendship. We have not had sex ever, but our conversation has not been about friendship, but about what life together would be like. He was already leaving his wife, so he is not leaving her for me, but he is still married and we are definitely having an affair minus the physical.

    I don’t have some romantic thoughts about happily ever after free from problems or free from trials. I do however have romantic thoughts about forever with him. My friend. The man that for 4 years has been the first person I want to call when something great happens. The man that I want to do life with and wish that we hadn’t been so messed up when we first dated.

    I don’t think I am the exception, but there has to be some sort off oops I made a mistake so many years ago clause that increases our chances right? Nothing about this is easy. I don’t romanticize this, but I want so much to think that we can make this work. We are not completely out of our minds.


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