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.

Join our conversation (70 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 21

    #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.

  2. 22

    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.

  3. 23

    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.

  4. 24

    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.

  5. 25

    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.

  6. 26

    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!

  7. 27

    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? =-.

  8. 28

    @starthrower: You’re correct, if a couple has misaligned values then they probably shouldn’t get married or even be in a relationship.
    .-= Lance’s last blog ….Revelations Part III: What’s Your Fighting Style? =-.

  9. 29

    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.

  10. 30

    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.

  11. 31

    In a nutshell, I’m sick to death and downright weary of the energy expended to figure out why men cheat. Because even if we do somehow figure it out, prove it scientifically, then what? Would it curb the amount of male cheating or simply justify it further (“I couldn’t help it, it’s in my genes.” Or “Why fight mother nature?”) I prefer to treat the issue of cheating as genderless. Men may biologically be more vulnerable to straying, but women have their own boiling cauldron of hormonal demons to deal with. All humans develop a code of ethics, whether they acknowledge them or not. We make ethical decisions daily, and usually those decisions make living in a society more harmonious. We can choose to give up our seat on the bus to someone older or physically challenged, or not. It’s pretty uncomplicated, really. You choose to cheat or not to cheat, but there are always consequences. Personally, I prefer not to hurt people if I can avoid it, so if I know my partner would be hurt if I cheated, but I go ahead and do it anyway, I’ve violated my own “code” of ethics, and I have to live with that, whether I’m ever caught or not. Because I always have to live with me. It really is that simple. It might also have something to do with maturity. As a woman, I can drool over, crave, and downright crave a nicelooking guy, but my maturity tells me I can’t always have what I crave, nor should I.

  12. 32

    starthrower68 #30, good points. But I wonder if you’d be as willing to move on if you had kids? A lot of women who’ve stayed home w the kiddies face this issue of dealing with a cheating husband vs. going through the trauma of divorce.

  13. 33

    Downtowngal @30,

    I did leave my marriage and struck out on my own with three children. It was due to verbal abuse, but I digress. Your point is valid. It would depend on my husband’s remorse, ability to take responsibility for his actions, repent of it, and not repeat the behavior.

  14. 34

    Lance @ 27

    “Question: How do you explain swingers and ployamorists, of which there may be 100k to millions of in the country?”

    To the extent they need to be explained I’d simply say they’re confused, disenfranchised souls failing to reach their potential.

  15. 35

    Zann @ 31

    What she said…

  16. 36

    starthrower68 #33, I commend you! And you did the right thing. I know of someone who’s in a situation worse than what you left but has put up with it because of the kids and financial security. So in that way she’s allowing his behavior to continue.

    As for swingers (Lance #27 and Steven #34), from what I understand, according to a marriage counselor I know, these aren’t happy marriages. It’s usually the guy’s idea and the wife goes along with it. It’s a guy’s way of trying to legitimize his unfaithfulness. “Oh, if I include her in, it’s ok”.

    Women tend to be more accommodating than guys and as a result put up with a lot of crap.

  17. 37

    Thanks for the kind words, downtowngal; without going off on an entirely different tangent, I will just say that the ex and I have both grown as people, he’s happily remarried, I’m happily living life and we’re friends and working together for the kids. They are much healthier emotionally because they don’t have to deal with dad and I fighting all the time.

    With regard to women being more accomodating, I agree that for the most part we are. Or at least maybe we are when we we’re younger. You’ve seen the posts on here where older women are called “judgemental”. I would respectfully submit that older women know what we’ll put up with and what we won’t and are better at enforcing our boundaries. Of course that’s not true in every case, but as a general rule.

  18. 38

    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.
    Maybe the same is true for women too.

  19. 39

    star68 #37, I can’t agree more. I’ve been called ‘picky’ when in fact I’ve learned not to put up with unsatisfactory situations, i.e. guys who are rude, condescending, demonstrate stalking behaviour, play games, send mixed messages, never follow up after a terrific date, too pushy then get defensive/angry after I push back, txt me at midnight instead of making a proper date…you get the idea.

    The ones calling me ‘picky’ are my single friends who put up with this crap. My married friends call me smart.

  20. 40

    michael #38, “how is female infidelity explained?”

    A husband who is never home and/or ignores his wife’s emotional needs. and refuses to do anything about it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *