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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  1. 1

    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 =-.

    1. 1.1

      Well we’re all basically still animals but I thought we’d evolved and become civilised. What is supposed to separate us from animals is that our brains have evolved although how some people behave I do doubt it at times

    2. 1.2

      Lance. I am not trying to criticise you our make your choice look back. I just want to state my point as a woman. And I am aware that not all woman will agree with me. So please just take this as my opinion.

      I think of this like that. If I would be a men. And I would have a daughter. How would I react when my daughter would date/marry a man who is cheating on her, knowing how much it drains and hurts her emotionally.


  2. 2
    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) =-.

  3. 3
    Deanna McNeil

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

  4. 4

    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

    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

    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

    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 =-.

    1. 7.1

      Thank you, Michael, for being the one to mention that the spread your seed theory has been debunked. I would have left a similar comment since I have a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. But, since I am female it might have been written off as me having an agenda. Still, the most current research is clear. Infidelity is caused by faulty genes and statistically women are just as likely to cheat as men. The only reason women didn’t cheat in the past, or one of the only reasons, was because their value is human beings was wrapped up in their chastity. Now that this is no longer an issue and now that women have access to birth control, they have proved to be just as sexually driven as men and the number of women who are unfaithful to men is equal to the number of men who are unfaithful to women. This whole spread your seed theory was a great way for men to escape accountability. But it was only a theory and it has since been debunked. Ladies, don’t tolerate such nonsense from your boyfriends or husbands by allowing them to use this tired theory as an excuse.

  8. 8

    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

    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. 12
    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. 13

    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

    “….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

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

  15. 16

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

  16. 17

    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

    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.

    1. 18.1

      “Kind of makes all us women interchangable and somewhat powerless and clearly not as important to men as they are to us.”  

      when you say this you only have a small percentage of men in mind. the ones who are really good looking, attractive, successful and have a lot going in life. Its these men who ‘win biologically over women’  What you should appreciate is that  women still are  better off than the vast majority of men.          

      Like most women you can  come across countless men who will  even put your needs before their own but those men might not be the hot, successful, charming ones you really want.  

      If you attempt to put forward a holistic view   (just so to  rationalize your  personal experiences with men) atleast  show more awareness. The vast majority of men don’t win biologically over women. They don’t get the opportunity to be promiscuous. Long term monogamous relationships is their only choice. But you women, even the least attractive ones get both options: You get to have your fun with the best of men and you also get to settle down in LTR’s with men who are your equals.

  18. 19

    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”.

    1. 19.1

      As I said you seem to have a very warped view of how things are in the marketplace of dating, sex and relationships. You should expand your reasoning beyond your own personal experiences with few men (who in no way are representative of the average male population)

      To most men, it seems its the other  way round. The average woman has so many options’ so many men  who are lined up to date them that it seems they are just disposable and should be grateful to be  given a chance by a woman.    

      1. 19.1.1

        Tim said “You should expand your reasoning beyond your own personal experiences with few men (who in no way are representative of the average male population)

        Tim, did you come to THIS conclucsion:  
        To most men, it seems its the other  way round. The average woman has so many options’ so many men  who are lined up to date them that it seems they are just disposable and should be grateful to be  given a chance by a woman.    
        based on your own personal experience and those that you have observed of your friends ? Do your and your friends experience represent all women ?
        Have you ever considered going for a girl who has fewer men swarming around her ?   I know it goes against bio programming, men tend to be competive, and if the see guys circling around a girl, then they just have to have her to.  
        The OKC study showed that men rate women on an even bell curve but THEY ONLY TEND TO MSG THE TOP TIER GALS.       Men cling to this study to somehow prove that men are less shallow, but I think it proves them to me MORE shallow.   They will rate women fairly, but they still only deem the top 2% worthy of dates.   Women tend to rate more harshly, but be more open IRT to who they will ACTUALLY interact with. I think the men were rating on a more literal 1 – 5 scale, and women were rating on a more binary scale (even tho’ instructed to rate them 1 – 5)   The binary scale being “Hot or Not”, so even an average guy would end up being “below average” by virtue of not being “Hot”.  
        And all those “disposable” men swarming around her ?   If half of them only want bragging rights that they “tapped that” and she wants a relationship,   all those swarmers can be pretty annoying, trying to sort out the booty callers to the true suitors.  
        I have read in other articles that the average person is only attracted to about 20% of the available people in their pool.   Doesn’t mean that 80% of their dating pool is out in the cold, because everyone has a different 20%.   Finding that overlap is the challenge.
        In my younger days, I was attracted to a much higher percentage of the men who approached me than I am now.   And fewer men notice me now that in my youth.   (no surprise)   I attribute that to declining attractiveness (on both sides, mine included) , decreased hormones & pheremones.   Add to that fewer opportunities, and a ratio that   is skewed towards men.
        People who say dating, is dating, is dating at any age, are a tad unrealistic.   You do look like you are in the age group where women have the advantage, but judging from your pic, you are attractive enough to still be able be successful.   Once you hit your 30’s the game will start shifting in your gender’s favor, but after 40, statistically it might still favor men, but it gets hard for EVERYONE, really, really hard for EVERYONE after that.  

  19. 20

    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!

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