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Infidelity: What Makes Us Feel Guilty

If you cheated on your partner, would you feel guilty? And if so, what kind of cheating would make you feel the most guilty?

The answers depend on your gender. Men, it turns out, feel most guilty after sexual infidelity, while women feel guiltier after an emotional affair, reports This seems to turn conventional wisdom upside-down.

It's long been assumed that men are genetically programmed to be cavemen who want to spread their seed so sexual infidelity, while not condoned, would certainly cause little guilt, right? And when women stray, surely having sexual intercourse with another man would be far more guilt-inducing than developing a close friendship with him, right? Wrong on both counts.

The study: Researchers from St. Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, selected 130 participants from several public locations throughout Toronto. First, each person was asked to think of a past, current or hoped-for relationship and then each was told to imagine he or she had become interested in someone else. The participants were then presented with six dilemmas, each of which included one emotional and one sexual option, to determine which caused more guilt.

The results: Almost without exception, the men expressed more guilt about sexual cheating, while women felt guiltier about emotional infidelity, reports Specifically, women confessed they would feel guiltier after falling in love with someone else, rather than trying different sexual positions with him, while men said they would feel guiltier having sex without emotion, rather than love without sex--even with a one-night stand.

Why? There are two possible reasons, cited by the researchers:

  • Men could think the extramarital relationship is actually more sexual than it really is, which places a greater emphasis on sexual involvement in general.
  • It's possible that women could feel a depth of emotional investment that really isn't there.
The study findings were reported in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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