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The Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women's Infidelity


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They are our sisters, mothers, neighbors, and friends. They are the women whose marriages you think are “good”—or at minimum “fine.” But they are also the women who are online prowling for secret lovers to fulfill sexual desires and untapped passions. They did not “fall” into this. They weighed their options. And then they sought out and took a lover. And they’ve granted us a peek into their minds, psyches, and worlds.
Using a sample collected from Ashley Madison, a niche online dating site catering to married individuals seeking an affair partner, this book is the result of a yearlong inquiry into women’s extramarital experiences. Ultimately, these women reject the binary proposition of marriage that assumes that either we work on our marriages and remain monogamous within them, or we break up the relationship and take up other relationships. These women conceive of an alternate solution to a marriage that is not wholly working, where their own needs are ignored, unmet, and not prioritized. Thus, the women in this study are engaging in secret defiance of the expectations of marriage and primary partnerships. Many felt at the end of their capacity to endure in their primary partnership when they first sought an outside partner.
These women spoke of their primary partnerships as spaces of constraint, and their roles (“wives,” “girlfriends,” and “fiancée”) as limiting and restrictive. They spoke of their participation in outside partnerships as an exercise of power through autonomy and personal authority that their role as “wife” did not permit. These women were not mate-shopping, and most did not categorize their outside partnerships as ones of “love,” but as relationships of sexual utility. Outside partners provided much needed sexual release for women whose appetites exceeded their primary partner’s, or whose marriage was sexless. These women believed that their affairs helped them manage their emotional life and emotional responses to their primary partners, and ultimately enabled them to remain and endure in their primary partnerships

Secret Life of the Cheating Wife: Power, Pragmatism, and Pleasure in Women's Infidelity. 2017. Lexington Books.