Some women are using their affairs to save their marriages — and it's working, said infidelity researcher

  • Susan Shapiro Barash has spent three decades interviewing married American women who cheat.

  • The women were pros at hiding their affairs, but found that revealing them can actually improve the marriage.

  • The women came from diverse age groups and backgrounds, but all cheated because of their yearning to be desired, she said.

Women cheat, and they're becoming less and less worried to admit it, according to Susan Shapiro Barash, an author who spent three decades interviewing American women who have stepped out on their partners.

Over the last 30 years, Barash has observed that more women are choosing to come clean about their infidelity to their husbands, driven by a desire to reignite passion in their marriages.

"What's changing is that the women are much more willing to own it," Barash said while sharing insights from her research on a recent episode of the podcast "Sex & Psychology," which is hosted by sex researcher Justin Lehmiller.

Her findings challenge the common misconception that women don't prioritize their sexuality. According to Barash, women have historically been pressured to keep their sexuality hidden, but deep down, they long to feel desired. That longing can become so strong that a married woman can be driven to break promises to her husband and children, Barash said.

For women, affairs often signal unmet needs and yearning

Barash said the married women she interviewed said they never planned to have affairs, but when they did, they became masters at hiding them from their children, husbands, and communities.

She said that the only time she really heard women come clean is when they wanted to use their affairs as "renegotiating tools" for their marriages, Barash told Lehmiller.

Multiple women told Barash that they told their husbands that cheating showed them to enjoy what their marriage lacked, but also that they want to have those things within their marriage. For these women, coming clean was a way to say, "Here's what I need that I'm not getting," Barash said.

She said that this can be a "wake-up call" for husbands. She's noticed that men today are "more willing to listen" and consider adapting than in the past, when an affair likely meant the end of a marriage, no questions asked.

Married women of all ages and backgrounds are cheating

Barash turned her findings, based on her interviews more than 70 women, into the book "A Passion for More: Affairs That Make or Break Us."

She said the diverse group of women she spoke with come from all around the United States, with some having finished college and others never graduating from high school. They also ranged in age from their twenties to their eighties.

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