Why Do Men Cheat?

Why Do Men Cheat?
From Psychology Today, a smart and concise description of why men risk so much for so little:

Explanations (for cheating) are easy to come by, ranging from economics (He finally has enough money and status to be attractive to sexy young women at the peak of their reproductive power) to existential dread (he’s coming to terms with his own mortality by lashing out symbolically against his own impending old age and death) to the wife’s life cycle (she’s nearing menopause so he’s biologically driven toward the fertility of younger women). Each of these may have some measure of truth, but none answers the most pressing question: Why do men have such overwhelming hunger for variety in their sexual partners-not just at mid-life, but always?…

Researchers found that for men, sexual boredom was correlated with variety in partners (or lack thereof), while for women, it was more related to variety in activity. In other words, women were more likely to be satisfied by changes in the sexual what, while men (gay or straight) were more likely to respond to a changes in the sexual whom. It’s a simple, unavoidable truth almost everyone knows to be true, but few dare to discuss: variety and change are the necessary spice of the sex life of the male of our species.

I couldn’t agree more. Monogamy is very much a choice – a choice to build a life, raise a family, preserve a lifestyle, ensure security and sanctity of marriage. And because it does not mesh with men’s biological needs, it takes a strong man (or one who has lots to lose) to ignore his biological imperatives and remain faithful to one woman.

I wrote about my fear of cheating here, before I was married, and that fear remains the same today. I’m a pretty strong man, in a happy marriage, with an amazing wife. And yet I’ll never lose my desire to seek out other women. I just can’t act on it. Lots of men do, especially when time has passed, especially when things are rocky, especially when they don’t think they’ll be caught.

Acknowledging this doesn’t negate the strength of my marriage. Quite the contrary. Instead of pretending that we’ll only desire only each other for the rest of our lives, we call attention to it, laugh about it, diffuse it by bringing it to the surface. The fact that I can have these conversations with my wife – and that she understands and accepts me – is EXACTLY why I’ll never cheat on her.

It’s easy to find someone else you’re attracted to; it’s really hard to find someone who loves you for all that you are.

THAT’s what keeps men monogamous – not the silly idea that we’ll be so attracted to one woman that we’ll never have eyes for another.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Deanna McNeil

    I understand what you said, I get it. Thanks, that makes so much sense.

  2. 2
    Lance

    It always floors me when articles like the one referenced above talk about cheating men always miss the one, huge truth. Men seek sexual variety and we “cheat” on our wives for one simple reason: it makes us feel like men. Having sex with women, whether beautiful or not, young or old, fulfills a very basic urge, and that urge is to please women sexually and to feel like we’re studs. When I have sex with a new woman, I feel like a man. It’s not a power thing and it’s not necessarily about variety. I embrace this aspect of my masculinity and I think it’s perfectly healthy.

    The sooner we embrace this, the sooner we can have truer relationships.

    The article touches on the idea with this paragraph:
    “If men evolved over millions of years to seek sexual novelty (thus avoiding genetic stagnation in small groups of foragers in a sparsely populated planet), is it fair to condemn them now for responding to these ancient, evolved appetites?”
    .-= Lance’s last blog ….Revelations Part II: What He Said, and The Plan =-.

  3. 3
    Relationship Advice From Penny

    Wow Evan…this is certainly a topic for discussion.. I love the way your wife and you can communicate openly about this type of stuff. I can see how this keeps you close to each other. I know some couples deal with this by having an “open” relationship – they love and are around each other, but what they do away from each other, they keep it to themselves…and that would be their “agreement.”

    And I also know some women who decide to bring another woman into the equation where then and only then can her partner be with another woman – in her presence and participation – a threesome if you will…

    And of course I also know many couples who choose to do their best to be with only each other – as they wouldn’t think of having it any other way merely to prevent the idea of cheating. I guess to each their own… what works for one couple won’t necessarily work for another. I’ve come to learn that it’s not cheating if the both of you decide and agree in advance on how you want to behave in the relationship, and follow through…

    …Of course, you may agree on one thing, but when time passes and temptation sets in, things can change. And when this happens, I think being honest to your partner about your desires is still the best thing to do… though hard to do, it is the best thing to do – in the same way you, Evan, admit and openly discuss with your wife. I love that! You are both very lucky to have each other! :)
    .-= Relationship Advice From Penny’s last blog ….Proven secrets for creating great relationships (Part 3 of 5) =-.

  4. 4
    starthrower68

    Evan, I would say that you are quite a guy yourself for your wife to be able to accept you and love for all that you are. That is not meant as a put down to either one of you. What I mean is she sees things in you that makes her want to take all the good and the bad. Like you made the decision to stay faithful to her, she made the decision to open her heart to you to such a level as to accept you, biological nature and all. And that’s the trick really, isn’t it? Being able to open your heart to another person on that level? It’s easy to say you will but much more difficult to actually do.

  5. 5
    Honey

    I remember saying to the BF a couple of years ago, “I love all that you are with all that I am,” in the context of a discussion about our flaws and how the flaws are encompassed in that “all.”

    Lance, I’m sorry, but while I agree there *may* be something to the theory that men especially are evolved to prefer a variety of partners, I do NOT believe that cavemen cared one bit about cavewomen’s pleasure.

    FWIW, I have not encountered many modern men who cared about my pleasure. It’s one of the many things that made the BF a keeper.
    .-= Honey’s last blog ….Revelations Part II: What He Said, and The Plan =-.

  6. 6
    Honey

    And since there’s an odd inference in there, let me clarify and say that I’ve never met a caveperson at all :-)

  7. 7
    Michael

    You know what? The reasons for cheating are as varied as people. Why science feels the need to nail down a specific cause…well, I know that answer (research grants).

    For example, the theory that cheating/playing is some genetic need to propagate the species like bees moving from garden to garden was put forward very strongly by some authors (and is still held like a banner by the seduction community), but it’s been debunked thoroughly enough (in part because we can actually isolate genes now) that some of its foremost proponents have distanced themselves from it. (I kept an very good article on this for some time, but I can’t seem to find it right now. I’ll report back if I do.)

    In fact, what appears to be the only genetic finding related to cheating is that it may be caused in some men (but probably not even most) by a defective gene that affects hormone production.

    Another study at the University of Montreal attributed infidelity to an “avoidant attachment lifestyle” – people who seek to maintain distance from their mates. Unfortunately, the study didn’t get to the bottom of what causes the “avoidant attachment lifestyle.”

    Basically, the gist is that research has failed to nail down a consistent cause for cheating. The other common thread, however, is that women cheat too – some studies have found just as high an infidelity rate as men.

    As far as your fears, I think the desire to enjoy beauty in other women IS normal and biological. Men can’t shut down just because we’re mated. It’s the part where men (and women) break the evolved social contract – which you say you will never do, and I believe you – that is hard to explain away with a simple answer, much less a convenient one, and ultimately makes a man less of a man.
    .-= Michael’s last blog ….I Click It So You Don’t Have To: Sip Smarter =-.

  8. 8
    Selena

    If, “…variety and change are the necessary spice of life for the male of our species” – how is female infidelity explained? Which some studies have suggested is on the rise.

  9. 9
    Curly Girl

    Thanks for your comments, Michael. So much bad science (esp. about men/women & sexuality) out there getting picked up by the media–it just propogates these weird and unfounded beliefs.

  10. 10
    casualencounters.com/blog

    Oh shit, social mores are out of step with our biological imperatives. I bet this has never happened before.

    Only it has, every moment of every day since we stopped being stinking, grunting, feces-flinging apes.

    Our minds and wills are now (ironically) sufficiently evolved to allow us to take charge of our own evolution. Defending any behavior on the grounds of “my ancient history made me do it” is weak, lazy, and troglodytic. Our societies have made the tradeoffs they’ve made based on the hivemind-generated values that have been created. Wear them or fight them, but don’t whine about the judgments that your society makes without bothering to understand why they do, and what achievements have been facilitated by such judgments.

    My tangential 0.02. Not really addressed at the post itself, which I don’t have a problem with.
    .-= casualencounters.com/blog’s last blog ….A Flowchart to Determing if You’re Going to Have Sex on this Date =-.

  11. 11
    Mikko Kemppe - Relationship Coach

    Great topic for discussion! I agree also that monogamy is a choice. And I also agree it is normal and healthy for men to be aroused by other women.

    The choice starts when you have looked at another women whether at a grocery store or at a club and you become aware of yourself becoming aroused. It is ok to acknowledge and accept your primal instincts, and now to use your mind to remember your beautiful wife or girlfriend and direct all of that sexual energy on her by remembering the love you share or imagining what a wonderful night it will be with her.

    I have heard many shallow arguments for why men cheat. To read my theory, check one of my latest blogs.
    .-= Mikko Kemppe – Relationship Coach’s last blog ….Why Men Cheat? =-.

  12. 12
    Steve

    In other words, women were more likely to be satisfied by changes in the sexual what, while men (gay or straight) were more likely to respond to a changes in the sexual whom.

    Well put.

    After a few years of monogamy women should get a makeover, men should take hatha yoga classes and buy a copy of the kamma sutra.

  13. 14
    downtowngal

    “….to the wife’s life cycle (she’s nearing menopause so he’s biologically driven toward the fertility of younger women)”

    …huh? as a reason why a man cheats? A woman reaches her sexual peak as a man’s declines.

    Seriously though, I think there are men who cheat because they CAN and those who do because there’s something missing from their marriage, which is the same reason why women cheat.

    This post can go on & one, I think Michael #7 said it best, it varies with the person. We make choices in life.

    Evan, I find it interesteing your reason for remaining faithful – rather than out of respect for her it’s because your wife ‘gets’ you. I wonder how you’d feel about this after 10 years of marriage.

  14. 15
    starthrower68

    I think Evan has said it best and said it more than once. People do what they want to do.

  15. 16
    downtowngal

    Perhaps another title for this post should be “why men DON’T cheat’.

  16. 17
    Kristyn

    I’ve never known a cheater (man or woman) who hasn’t had some “justifiable reason” for their behavior. Always interesting when one cheater is critical of another cheater for cheating! But I think people cheat for one reason, and one reason alone – because they choose to do so.

  17. 18
    JerseyGirl

    This is one topic that really bothers me. It’s very threatening as a girl to realize that no matter what you do, you’re guy is still going to be on the outlook for other women. I don’t think that defines what makes a man but obviously men do feel that is what defines them as men. Kind of makes all us women interchangable and somewhat powerless and clearly not as important to men as they are to us. I think alot of men think they win biologically over women and proudly express that. Even if it’s at the cost of the women that care for them.
    It’s seems that women are at the whim’s of men’s “biological needs” and what women need is rather secondary.

  18. 19
    JerseyGirl

    Perhaps we should title this thread “Why men’s needs are most important, why women are just one of the herd, and why women should be grateful to be one of the herd”.

  19. 20
    Jennifer

    It’s been said before but worth saying again- people cheat (or do anything for that matter) because they want to (on a conscious or subconscious level).

    Now why do they want to? That’s where we get into all of the various theories (evolution, science, culture, etc.).

    I think the key, which it sounds to me that Evan is employing, is to explore why you DON’T want to cheat ,and shore those reasons up. For Evan he has found someone that loves and accepts him as is, and that he loves and accepts to. He recognizes that isn’t something you find every day, he appreciates it, and realizes that that dynamic would change if he were to cheat (whether his wife found out or not). That’s reason enough for him. And it sounds like a good reason to me!

  20. 21
    Steve

    #18 JerseyGirl Aug 19th 2009 at 07:20 am 18

    It’s very threatening as a girl to realize that no matter what you do, you’re guy is still going to be on the outlook for other women.

    Noticing and being physically attracted to other women is not the same thing as being on the “outlook”.


    I don’t think that defines what makes a man but obviously men do feel that is what defines them as men.

    There is low truth value in generalizing about at least 3 billion people
    ( current population of the world is about 7 billion ).


    Kind of makes all us women interchangeable

    No it does not.

    That is why many men stay with their partners, because one woman is not interchangeable with another.

    If women were interchangeable I would need only a 1 month membership to Match.com, for as long as it would take to find the first attractive woman who is willing to date me.


    I think a lot of men think they win biologically over women and proudly express that.

    Women live longer and women can have multiple orgasms.


    It’s seems that women are at the whim’s of men’s biological needs

    You have obviously have never been a horny male teenager knocking yourself out trying to impress girls.

  21. 22
    starthrower68

    Jersey Girl,

    I can understand why you feel that way upon reading the post, but remember, our power has not been taken from us. This is not a day and age where we have to be protected or provided for. We can acheive things for ourselves. Now, I’m not saying men aren’t needed or wanted, please don’t get me wrong. What I’m saying is we are not at the whim and mercy of male biology. We can hold out for that guy who cares for us enough not to give into those baser urges. And we don’t have to put up with the ones who do. All the post is really saying is to recognize it for what it is and don’t be in denial or hate men because of it.

  22. 23
    Joe

    The life expectancy thing is a bit bogus. On an ongoing basis, the difference is getting smaller and smaller, because the risky male-dominated professions are getting safer, and because the risky behaviors that young males exhibit are becoming less and less societally acceptable. It’s estimated that by 2035 there will be no difference in life expectancy.

    At any rate, unless her mate is a miner who smokes, the chances a woman will outlive him by more than a couple of years are probably not very high.

  23. 24
    Jennifer

    Jersey Girl,
    Views expressed in these comments, and even letters, are just the views of the person expressing them. Are some held more widely than others? Of course, but it’s no reason to believe that EVERYONE feels that way.

    When a viewpoint is expressed that you don’t like/are uncomfortable with try feeling relieved that not everyone feels that way instead of getting upset about it (that’s what I do). And then focus on finding people that see things in a way you can live with.

    Despite what some men may say, not all men are forever waging a battle with an almost irrepressible urge to cheat on their wives/girlfriends. So take heart in that and try not to let other points of view bring you down.

  24. 25
    downtowngal

    I actually know of a lot of guys who have and would never cheat. So although many do, and perhaps more men than women, not all guys do.

    I find this post an interesting contrast to the one where the woman asked why guys cancel the first date on her because they claim they’ve met someone. There was a lot of discussion about how guys tend to only be able to focus on a singular thing at a time, so if he’s into one woman he’s not going to think about anyone/thing else. So does that mean that it would take a major distraction to get a guy to cheat? Or that cheating guys only focus on one gal at a time? Meaning that if he’s cheating there are other signs that he’s not really into you?

    Or maybe only certain guys cheat and certain ones don’t.

  25. 26
    sophie

    I don’t understand why this topic is “gendered”!? There is nothing about the insights or moral that applies to one sex and not to the other!? Both men and women have a biologically inbuilt urge to be unfaithful, albeit for different reasons and for many people of each gender remaining faithful is always a choice!

  26. 27
    Lance

    Question: How do you explain swingers and ployamorists, of which there may be 100k to millions of in the country? Are those folks “cheating” on each other when they both consent to swing? No, of course not. It takes nothing away from their marital pact and in fact it adds to their relationship. The only thing they’ve done is remove the societal stigma and embraced sex as an activity. The main thing that fucks people up about cheating is the “humiliation” and social pressure from friends and family that perceive cheating as problematic.

    A lot of regular marrieds would stay married a lot longer if they allowed their partners to have safe, casual sex with other partners.
    .-= Lance’s last blog ….Revelations Part III: What’s Your Fighting Style? =-.

  27. 28
    starthrower68

    Here’s a novel idea, Lance….how about people who do not share the same values not get married in the first place? If a man wants to have sex with multiple women that badly, then more power to him, he’s free to do so. He’s just not going to do it on my time. I stand by that value and don’t really care if it doesn’t follow the herd.

  28. 30
    starthrower68

    You scared me there for a minute Lance. Although I find it odd, if a husband and wife agree to an open marriage and both are fine with it, then it’s nobody’s business but theirs.
    Love has to have freedom to operate, but it also has to have truth. If my husband (if I were married) were to say to me, “I want to have sex with other women”, I would not try to change his mind, no matter how much it hurt. I would quietly divorce him and move on. He would have the freedom to live according to his values and I would have the freedom to live according to mine. But to enter into or stay in a marriage where my husband having sex outside the marriage was a condition? I don’t think so. I also think that it would be wrong to compromise my value system to marry such a man, because while I would not try to change him, he should not try to change me.

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