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Women rush into romance but men will fall harder

IT was late, and a conversation got going. One woman was saying that a female's infidelity is no more grave than a man's. Her husband disagreed, he felt a woman's transgression was more serious because it takes a lot more thought and cause for a woman to stray. The conversation got even more going.

Whatever about carrying it through to infidelity, there can be little doubt, in generalised terms -- all of what follows is generalised -- that men and women approach romance very, perhaps inherently, differently.

When a relationship starts, women tend to rush in. We fall fast and hard and want to be with him all the time. Friends? What friends? It's not long before we're wondering if the kids will have his eyes (even if he isn't perfect, we just wonder...) and simply cannot understand why, when we are willing to abandon everything from work to yoga classes, he is still keen to go out with his mates and not only go to that match, but go out for a pint afterwards instead of coming to see us and cuddle in front of the TV. There is, from the outset, an imbalance.

There might be a point of equilibrium, the point where commitments are made, promises, purchases, property. Although it can take men longer to fall, they fall harder when they do. And in a different way. A man, when he steps into a serious relationship, is signalling his intent to settle down. The practice of settling may prove difficult at times, but he is looking for the companionship, the comfort, the steadiness that setting up a romantic partnership offers. It's not that they don't want to ever leave the house again -- definitely not that -- but they grow to love and depend upon the emotional steadiness that a good relationship brings.

Women also want this, but they still harbour that dream of idealised passion. George Clooney wouldn't be in business if we didn't. When it comes to romance, men are practical, women are idealists; it is us, not them, who are in love with being in love. And here the see-saw tilts again.

More often than not, it seems to happen that women take on the bulk of emotional responsibility in a family, for their children, their partners and themselves. It's a very fine balance between enough and too much, sometimes one load of laundry too many can reactivate the feelings of loss for the idealised romance we've bought into since Cinderella. Cue the disappointment.

It follows then, that men are easier to please in relationships, while women, because they started out with such high hopes and dreams, have a harder time with day-to-day romance. The same thing that means he can wash up then vacuum then iron, men tend to be happy or sad, while women who can wash up, vacuum and iron at the same time, can be happy and sad.

Men don't often leave relationships to find themselves; if they leave it's because they have found someone else. Widowers very often enter into a new relationship with what is regarded as unseemly haste. But they've grown to love the comfort of marriage. Women will often leave without an alternative partner, and after widowhood are slower to remarry. It's not that either loves more or less, just differently -- and seeks different things from it.

But I still don't know if a woman's infidelity is more serious than a man's.

Sunday Independent