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. 41

    Evan, rather than state why someone may or may not cheat, what would you advise someone to DO if they found out their other half was cheating?

  2. 42

    A husband who is never home and/or ignores his wife’s emotional needs. and refuses to do anything about it
    So…analogous to a wife who ignores her husband’s sexual needs?

  3. 43

    This is a timely post; I have a friend who was flirting with me big time, which I found very puzzling, so I asked him what was going on in his marriage. Turns out things have not been good at all. I told him to rent the move “Fireproof” and do “The Love Dare” on his wife. Could he cheat? Sure, but to what end? It will give him short term satisfaction without really getting to the root of the problem. I asked him if he loved his wife and told him that it was more of a decision than a feeling. He said he believes his wife knows he’s the type to stay with her for the sake of the kids and grandkids. I told him that maybe she needs to know he’ll do it for her sake. I’m hoping that healing is brought to that marriage.

  4. 44

    @ downtowngal
    I truly believe that anyone can cheat – anyone; the right place, the right time, the right curcimstances, or rather the wrong place, time, and curcimstances. So I forgave and forgot after his1st affair. Only to have to repeat the painful, heartwrenching experience and the divorce years later.

    If I knew the 1st time what I know now – I would have cut the ties then. I didn’t save myself (or my kids) anything.

  5. 45

    And FYI – Much happier now. Someone who cheats is someone who really only thinks of themselves – not a good quality in a partner.

  6. 46

    I’m amazed by the number of people I come across who are cheating. Everywhere I go and these are not otherwise scummy people.

    I agree with Evan, cheating is a choice.

    I think those who cheat are moral cowards. I came very close to having an affair with a married woman. My emotional needs had gone unmet for a long time. I wanted what I wanted, badly.

    You know what? It was tough to do, but I ended the friendship. I just sucked it up, took responsibility and did it.

    I’m not a master of self discipline. If I can do it, anyone can. I think people just rationalize not doing it because they have sense of entitlement to anything they want to have.

    Having said that I think Evan and his wife are ahead of us by accepting the realities of relationships and doing what they can to manage those realities to give their relationship the best fighting chance they can.

  7. 47

    @ downtowngal # 32

    The most cheating occurs when the kids are little……

  8. 48

    Joe #42, probably true. I was responding to someone who asked what would drive a woman to cheat.

  9. 49

    I read this with interest. I’m in a situation like this now with my guy. No matter how one tries to explain this as biological, whatnot, the bottom line is that it HURTS and it’s hurtful and it’s an easy cop-out from not working on things when necessary…and it’s so superficial and there is no way to maintain the initial thrill anyway, and all the crap just comes back no matter who the new person is, so why do it?   Is this what we have become as people.   Just throw someone away because you feel like it?   BTW, I’ve never known or heard of one damn couple that made it and lasted with an open relationship. Not one. And not one thought in the end it was fine and ok.   The guy that wanted the arrangement sure as hell doesn’t want that kind of arrangement when he really loves and cares for a woman.   I feel people who do this are weak and spineless.

  10. 50

    I was going to say… most male cheaters wouldn’t agree to an open marriage. That means that she can do whoever she wants, too. If what people say about the genders is true, she’s likely to have a lot more potential playmates than him, and his tolerance/ego would be tested big time if she agrees and *really* means it. Also, sometimes men set themselves up for sexual compatibility with their Madonna/whore issues – he wouldn’t even consider putting a ring on or having his children raised by a woman who would agree to an open marriage or polyamorous setup. If he suggests it, he knows that the type of woman he chose to marry will unequivocally see it as a call for an end to the marriage.
    “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.”
    A makeover can’t make a person 15 years younger, Asian, 70 pounds heavier, a DD cup, or a virgin. The vast majority of female variety will not be available to a faithful married man, and there’s absolutely no way around that. If you have pizza every week for 10 years, how excited can you get about   being served Canadian bacon instead of hamburger, really?

  11. 51

    I agree with starthrower68 # 28.
    If people had the guts to be honest about their preferences then cheating would be less of an issue.
    As others said people who cheat would not agree to an open relationship because they are selfish.

    I would agree to an open relationship as long as she and I had seperate living quarters and separate finances.

    However if we are going to live together and share everything, I expect fidelity. Mainly because I would feel cheated even in an agreed upon open relationship because the outside guys do not have to deal with the day to day issues and vice versa.

  12. 52
    Man's Psychology 101

    Only men can truly understand what it feels like to be a man. Vice versa for women. There is no denying the excitement of sexual variety. The ancient king David was serious adulterer. There is also no denying biology. Monogamy is only a few thousand years old. That can not and will not change the bilogical program of men and woman. As a man who has cheated, I can only speak of my motivation. It was driven by the excitement of sexual variety and a feeling of entitlement. I am no way  condoning my actions, what is  right is right and wrong is wrong. I feel alot of men especially young ones are pressured to marry too early. Some men like a dear friend of mine  married his woman because she became pregnant withi his child. After 30 years of  marriage  in his 50’s he just could not take it anymore.  He was pressured to marry  out of an obligation to raise his child.    Him and many others  miss out on all the sexual conquest during their prime years. Men and woman are different in that major regard. The ideaof sexual conquest for Women seeking men is a realtivley new phenomenon which dates back to the sexual revoultion of the 1960’s. However,   Men do not attach emotions to sex and very rarely do. You can hate me for saying it but I am man and I have lots of male friends, family etc and years of knowledge to back this up. we have emotions but it is applied in different  ways and in different areas.    Love in my eyes and to many eyes is to protect, provide, care and make your woman feel like she is sexy and worthy. but most important of all it is  to fulfill her needs and help her capture her dreams  Not enough men do this especially now that we live in a me first society in the U.S. I know many men who are married and have a woman on the side. Some are confused but most would tell me that having 2 brings them balance. In reality it only brings heartache, headache and worse things to come. The worse thing a person can do is break someone heart! A good man would not engage in behaviour that will break a women’s heart. With that said Biological reasons have stood of millions of years there is no denying it, but we are the ones who make the choices and if you make a vow both most hold up to it.

  13. 53

    Personally, I don’t believe men don’t attach feelings to sex.   That is simply not true. Men are certainly more sexually driven than women in general, but even many men admit sex is better when they actually care about a woman.   And many men who cheat become emotionally attached to the other woman.   So to suggest the majority of men are going through the world boinking everything that moves with emotional impunity strikes me as specious. People cheat because they want to, because they’re selfish and they put sensation over the heart of the person they pledged their love to.   Some do it because of a deep compulsion born of mental illness and in some cases sociopathy. Some fall into it because they feel underappreciated at home or they form an emotional attachment to another and don’t have the guts to tell their significant other that they want out, sometimes they are ambivalent.   Whatever the reasons it’s a weakness of character and judgment lapse and an unfortunate part of being human.

  14. 54

    Thank god I ‘ m divorce!

  15. 55

    Men aren’t the only ones cheating.   I guess people like the rush of being with someone new and I can see that.   You’re with one person for any length of time and the tingles you experienced initially go away.   If you absolutely need that feeling you will cheat.   I liked the feeling of being in love and sexually excited, but I’m not willing to risk pursuing that with anyone I know or even a random stranger.   It’s just not worth it to me.  The fall out would be AWFUL, plus I enjoy being able to look at myself in the mirror everyday knowing that morally I’m for the most part beyond reproach.   I don’t know how cheaters live with themselves.   I guess those orgasms are worth risk.

  16. 56

    What about cheating of a nonsexual nature?   My ex was signed up and dating thru a matchmaker, and online dating behind my back.   I consider thus cheating too and can really mess your partner up emotionally.   We were in a serious, monogamous relationship, I thought.     

  17. 57

    Why do we put sexual cheating in its own special category? There are things every single one of us wants to do every day that I would put in the same category – we cheat our employer when we call in sick when we’re not, we cheat a friend when we use a bogus excuse to turn down an invite that we don’t want to attend, we lie or tell white lies, we renig on promises (even little ones like I’ll call you tomorrow), we WANT to do a hundred worse things but you know what? Most of us make a choice to do or not do an action. It doesn’t matter what all the biological reasons or excuses one uses to justify the need or reasons or even the very act of cheating – it boils down to character and integrity. If we made a promise to be exclusive in a relationship then when one decides to cheat then that person made a choice to do it. That action reflects that they can’t or won’t keep their word and that says more about them and their lack of character and integrity as a person than all the excuses or reasons in the world. I agree with Evan – if you can’t keep your promise to be exclusive then be honest and upfront – but keep your honor and integrity intact by not being a promise breaker. We need to stop putting sexual cheating in its own special category and start looking at it as part of character.

  18. 58

    I have never cheated but the few times I felt the desire to it had nothing to do with sex. It was due to lack of attention and quality time. My msn stopped complimenting me. He was always too busy at work but had time for his friends and family. He did not do thoughtful things even though I went out of my way to do them for him. Took days to answer texts and stopped giving me affection. Guys here’s a tip if you do this to your woman chances are the first guy that shows her attention she will jump on. Don’t take what you have for granted!

    1. 58.1

      I like this post. It seems this guy was just a jerk. Obviously, he did not see you as special, because that is not how you treat somebody who is special to you.

      I am curious, did you break up with him, and what did he say if you did? I wonder how many guys are getting screwed up with that PUA stuff. I can see some guy looking into it, and then seeing stuff about how being too sweet can make her pull away. So they go too far in the opposite direction. So many men seem confused. They don’t seem to know how to have that cocky confidence that we like, and yet still be sweet, caring and attentive. They either go full blown jerk, or complete pushover.

      I would also suggest looking up the 5 love languages. I don’t see it as the end all to finding love, but I do think it can help us understand what we want out of love, and relationships, and help us find somebody who wants the same things. Honesty with yourself is a must, when you take the quiz. If you can get guys you date, to take it, even better. We don’t all want the same thing. I love love love physical affection, and can’t seem to get enough, but some men and women are just the opposite. Unless they are having sex, they seem fine having very little physical contact.

      To me, it seems like you value having a lot of quality time, receiving a lot of words of affirmation, and acts of service. I didn’t see anything showing whether physical affection, or gifts were very important to you. But it is clear that those 1st 3 weren’t very important to him, at least not with you.

      I hope you find a guy who gives you what you want.

  19. 59

    OK I’m just a regular gal no degrees. But common sense a bunch. Both men an women have a dark side an a fantasy. Some act on it some don’t. It will never change so to each their own life.

  20. 60

    Women have been terribly objectified and degraded from porn, strippers,   etc.. for decades and only getting worse.   Women need to respect their bodies and dress more modestly and be ladies and I’ll say it,   close your legs!   Men would respect us all more and treat us like ladies that we deserve instead of lusting after and treating women like pieces of meat.   There is quite a bit of research to prove that porn etc. Destroys not only the mind , but relationships too. This day and age, its too accessible and there are too many women out there that are too sexually free and give it up way too easily. Why would a guy respect you? “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?”      How can a man claim to love his woman when he won’t even try to control his thoughts and desires? Why shouldn’t men be held accountable for their thoughts, desires, and actions? We are not animals or barbarians!   If   your girl is that important to you, don’t hurt her! Be mature , respectful and treat her right. A few minutes of sexual pleasure whether by porn ,strippers , or cheating is not worth loosing the woman who loves and cares about you.   I was   married for 30 years, gave my ex 8 beautiful children. (I have to add that I’m still very fit and good looking .) I worked my ass off raising, loving, and caring for him and my family.   What did I get? An ex husband who cared way more about other woman and porn… after years of telling him how much this has hurt me… it didn’t matter…. I divorced him he cried and said he would change, blah, blah blah…and now he is left a lonely old man with children who do not respect him or bother with him because of his selfish actions.   And yes, he spent more time with that shit than with his family. Evan, I love your articles and how you have helped us woman, but please don’t discount the pain and heartache we feel because of this.   Don’t forget how it affects the daughters of these men, as well as teaching their sons that it’s ok to lust, etc…   my son, at the age of 10 came crying to me one day because he found filthy magazines hidden in the house.   His innocence was destroyed and he couldnt believe his father would do that to his mother….” out of the mouths of babes “

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