When South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was caught red-handed returning from a rendezvous with his Argentine mistress last June, he told the Associated Press that he had met his “soul mate.” His choice of words seemed to suggest that having a deep emotional and spiritual connection with Maria Belen Chapur somehow made his sexual infidelity to his now estranged wife, Jenny Sanford, less tawdry.
What the two-timing governor didn’t understand is that most women view emotional infidelity as worse, not better, than sexual betrayal. This may explain why Hillary Clinton stayed with Bill Clinton and seemed unconcerned about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Past research has documented that most men become more green-eyed about sexual infidelity than they do about emotional infidelity. Women are the exact opposite, and this is true, according to conventional wisdom, worldwide. But why?
The prevailing theory dates back to our evolutionary origins: Men learned over the eons to be hyper-vigilant about sex because it was impossible to be absolutely certain they are the father of a child, while women became adamant about having a partner who is committed to raising a family.
However, new research now suggests an alternative explanation. Pennsylvania State University psychological scientists Kenneth Levy and Kristen Kelly propose that jealousy difference may be rooted more in individual personalities resulting from one’s own relationship history, but those differences can fall along gender lines.
Levy and Kelly doubted the prevailing evolutionary explanation because a conspicuous subset of men exist who, like most women, find emotional betrayal more distressing than sexual infidelity. Why would this be? Their hunch was that it might have to do with trust and emotional attachment.
Some people, men and women alike, are more secure in their attachments to others, while others tend not to need a close attachment in their relationships.
Psychologists see this compulsive self-reliance as a defensive strategy to protect against deep-seated feelings of vulnerability.