The Reason (Some) Men Cheat Is Not What You Think

I’ve never cheated on anybody. Nor, to my knowledge, have I been with any woman who was cheating on her boyfriend. For most of my life, I thought that was normal. But the longer I do this, the more women I encounter who have not only slept with married men, but are in active relationships with married men. All are waiting for their married men to leave their wives (which they won’t) and willfully ignoring that the man they love has already proven himself to be the worst thing a boyfriend can be: unfaithful. But, as we’ll explore momentarily: there are many reasons that a man may be unfaithful.

The longer I do this, the more women I encounter who have not only slept with married men, but are in active relationships with married men.

Enter Karin Jones, writing a piece for the New York Times Modern Love column called “What Sleeping With Married Men Taught Me About Infidelity.”

Jones had little dating experience outside her failed 23-year-marriage and all she wanted was sex, so she turned to the men who were least likely to want to commit: married men.

Says Jones, “What surprised me was that these husbands weren’t looking to have more sex. They were looking to have any sex. I met one man whose wife had implicitly consented to her husband having a lover because she was no longer interested in sex, at all. They both, to some degree, got what they needed without having to give up what they wanted. But the other husbands I met would have preferred to be having sex with their wives. For whatever reason, that wasn’t happening.”

To her credit, Jones doesn’t point the finger at either women or men for the loss of desire within a relationship, because, well, it’s pretty universal. What she does effectively – thru her experience sleeping with married men – is touch upon the real problem here: nobody seems capable of talking about sex in a rational way.

“We all go through phases of wanting it and not wanting it. I doubt most women avoid having sex with their husbands because they lack physical desire in general; we are simply more complex sexual animals. Which is why men can get an erection from a pill but there’s no way to medically induce arousal and desire in women.

I am not saying the answer is non-monogamy, which can be rife with risks and unintended entanglements. I believe the answer is honesty and dialogue, no matter how frightening. Lack of sex in marriage is common, and it shouldn’t lead to shame and silence. By the same token, an affair doesn’t have to lead to the end of a marriage. What if an affair — or, ideally, simply the urge to have one — can be the beginning of a necessary conversation about sex and intimacy?

What these husbands couldn’t do was have the difficult discussion with their wives that would force them to tackle the issues at the root of their cheating. They tried to convince me they were being kind by keeping their affairs secret. They seemed to have convinced themselves. But deception and lying are ultimately corrosive, not kind.”

Is it okay to have an affair if your partner has turned away from sex?

What do you think? Have you ever been in a sexless relationship? Is it okay to have an affair if your partner has turned away from sex? Why is it so hard for the most intimate of couples to talk about the reality of waning desire? Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.


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  1. 1

    What these husbands couldn’t do was have the difficult discussion with their wives that would force them to tackle the issues at the root of their cheating.”  Not sure about this.  The conversation (and the argument) likely has been going on in each of these marriages for quite some time, to no avail.  Over and over we hear that communication is the key to good relationships.  I wish we’d acknowledge the bullshit of that.  John Gottman has, in his research and his books.  The key to a good relationship is not whether we communicate or are open to being communicated with.  It’s our willingness to accommodate the requests made of us.  It’s whether or not we can AGREE.


    1. 1.1

      Yes! While I wouldn’t quite categorize communication as “bullshit,” since it does take guts to be that vulnerable and open with your partner, especially about sex, success does ultimately hinge on the outcome of the conversation. I love the way you phrase it: “our willingness to accommodate the requests made of us.” Because I can tell my partner what I want and need till I’m blue in the face. If he can’t or won’t give it to me, the relationship may have to end.

  2. 2

    Why is it so hard for the most intimate of couples to talk about the reality of waning desire?

    I think it’s what the author said: What these husbands couldn’t do was have the difficult discussion with their wives that would force them to tackle the issues at the root of their cheating.

    It’s the thread that would unravel everything.

    With me, I can bring it up when I know the issue isn’t me or his attraction to me.  If I suspect that, I don’t bring it up until I’m ready to have that confirmed verbally or ready to break up.  I wouldn’t cheat on someone, no. But if I think I’m at fault I try my best to work at it so when the discussion happens I at least know I tried to be the best girlfriend or wife possible.

    ‘Cause that’s the thing. It could and probably will lead to the relationship ending and sometimes no one is ready for that.

    It’s also so hard to talk about sex without affecting the esteem of one partner.  One’s it out there that a partner doesn’t desire the other, it’s difficult to put that one back in the bottle.

    Feeling inadequate or unwanted sexually can affect one even long after a breakup.  It really is a charge and difficult subject, especially when things aren’t going well.

  3. 3

    This is an interesting exchange from the article with the mistress (author of the article) and one of the husbands she dated.

    “What if you said to your wife, ‘Look, I love you and the kids but I need sex in my life. Can I just have the occasional fling or a casual affair?’”

    He sighed. “I don’t want to hurt her,” he said. “She’s been out of the work force for 10 years, raising our kids and trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. If I asked her that kind of question, it would kill her.”
    “So you don’t want to hurt her, but you lie to her instead. Personally, I’d rather know.”
    Well, maybe I would rather know. My own marriage had not broken up over an affair so I couldn’t easily put myself in her position.
    “It’s not necessarily a lie if you don’t confess the truth,” he said. “It’s kinder to stay silent.”
    “I’m just saying I couldn’t do that. I don’t want to be afraid of talking honestly about my sex life with the man I’m married to, and that includes being able to at least raise the subject of sex outside of marriage.”
    “Good luck with that!” he said.
    “We go into marriage assuming we’ll be monogamous,” I said, “but then we get restless. We don’t want to split up, but we need to feel more sexually alive. Why break up the family if we could just accept the occasional affair?”
    He laughed. “How about we stop talking about it before this affair stops being fun?”
    There is that last line as well.  People pay prostitutes to leave.  Not just for the sex.  This guy has real issues in his marriage and he still wants things to be ‘fun’.  He clearly doesn’t want to have a deep conversation with anyone about it.  That’s another real reason why people don’t discuss the issues in their relationships.

    In the end, I had to wonder if what these men couldn’t face was something else altogether: hearing why their wives no longer wanted to have sex with them. It’s much easier, after all, to set up an account on Tinder.

    And that goes back to my first comment. How many of us want chapter and verse on why our partner doesn’t want us sexually? How many people know how to navigate that conversation with the necessary care and sensitivity?

    1. 3.1

      It seems like these situations manifest when the woman has lost respect for the man, but the man provides financial security so the woman makes a trade-off by accepting the security over arousal coupled with a fear of not being able to attract a man whom she can respect if she found herself on the market again.  

      1. 3.1.1

        Not necessarily loss of respect.  Loss of a meta-goal.

        1. Chis


          You mean marriage and maybe a couple for children? And once these goals have been achieved, a woman’s love for her husband starts to decline, even though he’s still the same guy and has done nothing particularly wrong?

          That does seem to happen sometimes.

          But anyhow, its easy to put all the blame on the husband if the wife loses interest in sex. “Lack of emotional connection”? That is extremely vague, to the point of meaningless.

          In most cases it’s not helpful assigning blame to either partner. The husband is probably trying his best (these cheating husbands in the article aren’t though). The wife doesn’t want to lose her desire. Assigning blame except when absolutely warranted isn’t going to make the problem any easier to deal with.

      2. 3.1.2


        a fear of not being able to attract a man whom she can respect if she found herself on the market again.

        Not a fear per se.  Some people don’t like change even if it would be better.  Even when you are young and can attract men, it can still be exhausting.  Getting married means you can stop looking, for goodness sake.   Many married people hear a single dating person’s stories and say, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore.”

        So it’s not necessarily about who she can pull, but an unwillingness to date at all anymore.

    2. 3.2


      The mistress is an escape, not a counseling session. The guy wants to leave the problems of home, at home. Having fun with her is probably one of his main reasons for the affair.

      1. 3.2.1

        Sure. But the author’s point was that most men really want to have sex with their wives.  That’s what she said.

        They want to have sex with their wives, but not really connect with them.  You can do that with a mistress but that’s not what most wives want.

        It surprises me because that could also be why the wife stops having sex.  Yes, there are kids and menopause, typical things we have discussed A LOT on this blog.  But at a basic level, women want to connect during sex.  It’s not always about fun. (Though of course sex should be just fun sometimes.)  I thought that when men chose to marry they got that about women.  That’s one reason to marry–because you want to connect with your partner on a deeper level.

        If he doesn’t want to connect with his wife or mistress, who does he want to connect with? Anyone? But then again, some people honestly don’t want to connect with anyone and marry for other reasons. But I’m surprised in this time and age men want to have sex with wives with zero connection and think wives would be okay with that.  Maybe there are more marriages of convenience than I realize.  Food for thought.

        1. Tiger Mom

          I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. However, I think a part of understanding men is realizing that sex is one of the most important ways men “connect” with their wives. So I don’t believe that men who cheat don’t want to connect with their wives when having sex. I think the opposite is true. Take away the sex in a marriage, and you take away a man’s main source for emotional bonding, and I think this is a crucial point that women must get.

        2. Jeremy

          No one said the husbands don’t want to connect with the wives.  The author makes assumptions.  With withdrawal from sex comes emotional disconnect, but which one causes the other?  It can go either way for women, but for men the loss of sex usually is the cause of emotional disconnect rather than the reverse.


          You make the statement that “women want to connect during sex.”  I would respectfully disagree.  IME, women want to connect BEFORE sex.  Doing so deactivates the brakes….but doesn’t necessarily activate the accelerator.


          There is SO MUCH misinformation out there on this topic.  I just read an article about it where one person claimed “give her multiple orgasms and she’ll never refuse you.”  Bullshit.  That assumes orgasms are her goal.  Another comment – “Women won’t want sex unless you connect with them first.” Again, incomplete.  Most want to connect, but the connection in and of itself is not sufficient.


          Don’t make the assumption that these men don’t want to connect with their wives.  Rather, assume that sex is the prerequisite for the way men connect, and without it they are left with a disconnect.  And assume that most have already tried to reconnect emotionally, and that most have already asked their wives what might help, tried it, and found no improvement.

        3. S.

          @Tiger Mom

          I get that under normal circumstances.  But if a woman isn’t willing to have sex with her husband, something is up.  If he doesn’t want to discuss that or figure that out and and wants to connect anyway, that’s kind of insensitive.  It’s admirable to want to connect in any way, but even if they have sex, something is still up is all I’m saying. Sex isn’t going to smooth whatever that is over indefinitely.

          But under normal circumstance with no underlying issues, I agree that coupes in healthy relationships connect emotionally during sex regularly.  Absolutely.

          Here is a few quotes:

          Maybe the reason some wives aren’t having sex with their husbands is because, as women age, we long for a different kind of sex.

          Meanwhile, the husbands I spent time with would have been fine with obligatory sex.

          From what she writes, I don’t think the men she was with were really longing for an emotional connection during sex. But who knows? The author never got any answers.

        4. S.


          No one said the husbands don’t want to connect with the wives.  The author makes assumptions.

          The author does make assumptions. I believe her only because she knows more about having sex with married men than I do.  But she’s also writing from a very specific point of view.  She’s the mistress and what she writes is filtered through that lens.  What men choose to tell her.  Her own marriage and interpretations.  She may not be the most reliable source of info but she is speaking from her lived experience and that’s what her article is about.

          With withdrawal from sex comes emotional disconnect, but which one causes the other?

          Great question!  And it assumes that the couple was connecting emotionally to begin with (which we don’t know) and it was a goal in their marriage to continue to do so (which we also don’t know).

          IME, women want to connect BEFORE sex.

          I agree!  In my case, it’s before, during, and after.  I did a quick Myers-Briggs today and I was ESFJ! So I am definitely a connector.  😉 And it accelerates my accelerator. Not connecting puts on the brakes.  Maybe for other women too?

          give her multiple orgasms and she’ll never refuse you.”  Bullshit.

          I agree too!  Wow, look at all this agreeing! I’m glad you are dispelling this myth. She will refuse if she doesn’t want to have sex. The question is why is she refusing?  That’s the question people should ask, in my opinion.

          Rather, assume that sex is the prerequisite for the way men connect, and without it they are left with a disconnect. 

          Okay.  But if they don’t talk about why they are without it, the disconnect will just continue.

          And assume that most have already tried to reconnect emotionally, and that most have already asked their wives what might help, tried it, and found no improvement.

          This is where I disagree at least within the scope of this article that has Evan posted.  I also remember a thread here about men avoiding tears and emotional conversations.  I rarely hear of a man trying to reconnect emotionally (without trying to get sex) and being refused. Might happen, though.  I mostly hear of men trying to reconnect sexually (Which may be emotional for them, but could also just be sexual for them.  Also might be both. It’s complicated.) and getting refused.

          So I can’t assume on that one. I agree it might happen but other that’s not what mostly hear when we have these conversations.

      2. 3.2.2
        Yet Another Guy


        The mistress is an escape, not a counseling session.

        However, in this case, the mistress (technically a paramour) is not an escape, she is a proxy for what the man is not receiving at home.  He does not desire to emotionally connect with the paramour because he wants to connect with his wife; however, she is denying him that connection.

        The one thing that I am unable to grasp is how a man can justify having sex outside of his relationship.  If he truly does not desire to connect with the paramour, he is better off setting the table for one sexually than dealing with the post-coitus guilt.  If he does not have post-coitus guilt, he is either a sociopath or the marriage is over.

        1. S.

          This is what she wrote about that one guy:
          I didn’t have a full-on affair with the tattooed husband. We slept together maybe four times over a few years. (I myself would call that a full-on affair but I digress.–S) More often we talked on the phone. I never felt possessive, just curious and happy to be in his company.
          After our second night together, though, I could tell this was about more than sex for him; he was desperate for affection. He said he wanted to be close to his wife but couldn’t because they were unable to get past their fundamental disconnect: lack of sex, which led to a lack of closeness, which made sex even less likely and then turned into resentment and blame.
          What’s not here, is why did wife refuse him affection? He did say she’d been out of work for ten years and had been raising kids. Maybe she was depressed or just trying to find her place.  He makes it sound like asking her a question will kill her so maybe her esteem isn’t terribly high.  Someone who isn’t in a great place about themselves become myopic and may not realize what the lack of affection is doing to their spouse.

          Pure speculation on my part. I do wonder what happened to them and if she ever found out.  I agree with you, the marriage is over, but I wonder if the wife ever realized that.

        2. D_M


          There might not be any guilt, so how we believe one should feel, is based on our own individual value system. The person that steps out could still be hoping that the fire relights. Frustration is a powerful thing. Not everyone is capable of being resolute in difficult times. The euphoria and dopamine hit is probably all that is needed.


        3. Yet Another Guy


          In my humble opinion, anyone who cheats on his/her spouse and feels no remorse for doing it is a sociopath.  There is no justification for infidelity.  If one’s spouse is not giving one sex, one talks to him/her about it.  If he/she is unwilling to re-kindle one’s romance, one files for divorce.  If one is not in a position to divorce due to children, one masturbates and bides one’s time.  Anyone who claims that masturbation does not relieve one’s need for sex; therefore, he/she needs to cheat is full of shit.  I did it for a decade.  A lot of single people do it every day.  It is that simple.

          Cheating on someone is one of the worst acts that one human being can do to another human being. It is inexcusable. It cuts at a person’s core, and the damage is far ranging if children are involved.  I do not know one person who had an unfaithful parent who did learn about it.

          As far as to women who have knowingly dated a married man, they will never date me or any of my friends.  That is their penance from us.  More than one woman has learned this lesson the hard way. A paramour is worse than a cheater.  She/he is an enabler.

  4. 4

    I was in a relationship last year for a few months that did a number on me. He was the first person I got involved with (other than a date here and there) after cancer surgery several years ago which altered my body. It started out wonderful and enjoyable, but after 2 months he didn’t have much interest in sex. I remember touching him one morning and he pushed me away. He traveled for work frequently, which didn’t help the situation, but when saw each other again, he just wasn’t into it. Obviously if you are married or in a long-term relationship there are highs and lows, but this was with someone I just met.  I quickly felt it was because of my body, but he repeatedly told me it had nothing to do with that.  I think he was bipolar, and had other emotional issues. I stayed too long because he was handsome and often charming; I was lonely and didn’t want to be “out there” dating again (I have met men who flatly refuse me once they know about my surgery). About a month after we broke up I found out he had a new girlfriend, and saw photos that she was with him on one of his business trips. So, there are a variety of issues here, but I think if a partner doesn’t want to have sex with you, it has to do with either emotional issues, or they are with someone else. Of course, it is not this cut-and-dry, but I am almost 50 so I have been around. : )

  5. 5
    Yet Another Guy


    Not necessarily loss of respect.  Loss of a meta-goal.

    Wow! I never though about it that way. What I can say is that after turning me away for a decade, my ex-wife appears to be incredibly bitter that I have been intimate with other women post our split.  In fact, my she is bitter to the point where she is attempting to turn our children against me.  She has already succeeded with one child.

    I did not cheat.  In my humble opinion, cheating is one of the lowest things that one human being can do to another human being.  There is no valid justification for cheating.  I bided my time until I could end the marriage.  It was not easy to remain faithful; however, as crazy as it may sound considering my other posts, I do not cheat after making a commitment.   I always dissolve the relationship before seeking another woman’s company.  The main reason why re-marriage is off of the table at this point is due to the difficulty of ending a marriage should I find myself back in the same situation.

    1. 5.1


      Are you being serious or needling Jeremy about meta-goals?

      1. 5.1.1
        Yet Another Guy


        I was being serious.  I have rather strong opinions about infidelity. Marital infidelity not only impacts one’s spouse, it impacts one’s children should they learn about it, which is almost guaranteed.  Both of my parents had affairs, and it made it difficult for me to truly trust a woman for a long time.  What does a father being unfaithful say to his daughters? It is okay for a man to cheat on you? What does a mother being unfaithful say to her sons?  Women are all sluts that cannot be trusted? The fallout can be life altering.

  6. 6
    Mrs Happy

    I’ve had a lot of experience with cheating and infidelity and to narrow the cause down to “not enough sex/emotional connection/affection/whatever in the primary relationship” ignores a large cause of infidelity – the personality and character of the person cheating, the reasons they are drawn to cheating, their ability to put their selfish wants above the ethics of fidelity.

    Some people don’t think cheating is terribly bad, or they know it’s bad but can incorporate it relatively easily into their lives.  Some people thrive having multiple interested others.  Some feel enlivened and energised when cheating, in a way they otherwise don’t in real life.  Having others invested (aside from their spouse) makes them feel safer, less alone, more buffered against any potential loss.  I know a man in my industry who is just this way – he needs a bevy of women close around him, and there is usually a special someone with whom he is working on projects and showering with attention, usually in a collegial at-work-but-stretching-things way.  He basically has a habit of serially entrancing different women he works with.  Watching it from a distance is like seeing a train wreck in slow motion.  Reasonably nice guy and very charming, generous, and intelligent, but somewhat insightless into the damage he does, selfish, and serially unfaithful emotionally if not always sexually to his wife, who ‘knows but doesn’t know’ and apparently sort of accepts things for her own reasons.

    Such people don’t prioritise their spouse or children were the affair discovered, the people they’re flirting with, or the rules of society, because their drive to get their own needs/wants met is much higher than any other consideration, and they are uncomfortable with isolation.  They could have the most generous, accomodating, giving, easy spouse, but they’d still want others in their orbit.

    1. 6.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @Mrs Happy

      Such people don’t prioritise their spouse or children were the affair discovered, the people they’re flirting with, or the rules of society, because their drive to get their own needs/wants met is much higher than any other consideration

      i.e., They are sociopaths.




      1. 6.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Dear YAG,

        Sociopaths and cheaters are different circles in a venn diagram with a little overlap.

        Only a small minority of the population are sociopathic or antisocial in personality.  I know a number of such people and they are chilling.  They do not care at all about other living things and if they were assured of getting away with it would stab and murder and shoot people just out of curiosity.  Their minds do not understand empathy, they learn to fake connection as social lubrication but they’ve no concern for anyone, ever.

        A significant percentage of the population cheat on their partner.  We know this through research, and I know this because I have an unasked-for ability, which I hide from everyone but my husband, to know when people lie to me.  (It’s only been the last 10-15 years I’ve realised I’m unusual in this regard, when younger I just thought most people could recognise deceit as I can.  Nope, not even close.)  Anyway when a friend’s husband tells me about his recent work trip to Bangkok or Singapore and it becomes apparent (to me) he has cheated whilst over there, let me tell you that really puts lovely little Mrs Happy in a charming position.

        But to go on.  I could easily name without thinking for more than a minute, 10 men in my acquaintance sphere (e.g. my kid’s school mums and dads circles, playgroup parents, work colleagues) who have cheated on their wives, and none of these men is sociopathic.  They love their wives and kids.  They care about people.  They keep to the rules and regulations of society much as most average adults do.  They don’t have the strong moral stance against cheating that you and Jeremy have described owning – but you developed this through certain life experiences, and others haven’t had those, or reacted in the same way to similar situations.  These 10 men flouted the monogamy agreement.  It’s common.  God if you could see and hear the world through my brain for just a month, you would discover that cheating is frighteningly common; a good percentage of people you know will have done it and kept relatively quiet about it.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          @Mrs Happy

          We are going to have to agree to disagree on this topic because cheating on one’s spouse and feeling no remorse is sociopathic behavior.  Were are talking about a man or women who has a sexual relationship behind his/her spouse’s back to meet a biological need while avoiding the pain that would occur if his/her spouse knew.  That is textbook “Pleasure Principle,” which is sociopathic behavior.  It is also a demonstration of poor impulse control, which is a sociopathic character flaw. Many married men and women frequently find themselves in situations where they could cheat and not get caught. Yet, these people pass because they have healthy impulse control.

  7. 7
    Tron Swanson

    When men pursue a single woman, they’re competing with all of the men in her social sphere, so they’re forced to be better than a ton of competition…and they have to contend with her often-unrealistic imaginings of the type of guy she might be capable of getting. On the other hand, when men pursue a married woman, they only have to be better than…her husband, and they’re helped by her possibly-unrealistic imaginings of being stuck with him forever. From near-infinite competition to just one distracted, overwhelmed guy, who she probably has serious problems with. Low-effort men like those odds.

    Also, let’s talk about asocial men. Some of us simply don’t like or do well with the social component of relationships. But, when cheating is in the mix, the relationship (usually) has to be secret, which takes care of that problem rather nicely. Or so I’ve heard.

    And, finally, there are commitment-averse men. Men who aren’t interested in–and/or capable of–monogamy. Just reverse the gender of the article’s writer, and imagine commitment-averse men seeking out women who don’t want commitment, because they already have it from someone else.

    Married women who are sexually frustrated. Separated/recently divorced women who are sick of being bourgeois and are ready to be wild for a while. I mean, sure, a guy could go after women who have been single for years. They’re most likely looking for commitment, and are being besieged with offers from other guys. But not all men want a challenge…

    1. 7.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @Tron Swanson

      You do know that you are describing a man with a personality/mental disorder?  Competing for women is not difficult, but it does take effort.  If a man is not getting the women he desires, he is either aiming too high or putting forth too little effort.

      As far as to separated women being easy, well, that is a no-brainer.  That is why there is a feeding frenzy when a desirable separated woman joins a dating site.  Unlike women, men love women at this stage because they tend to be inexperienced with modern dating and affection starved; therefore, an easy conquest.  A lot of separated women fall into this trap, and discover that no one wants them after they have made the rounds, necessitating a break or a move to a new site.  The inverse is true for men.  Most women do not extend the same behavior to separated men, but there is a feeding frenzy when a desirable divorced man joins a dating site or a previously separated desirable man changes his status from “separated” to “divorced.”  In the latter case, it is like the flood gates open.

      1. 7.1.1
        Tron Swanson

        You call it a disorder, I call it neurological diversity.

        Competing for women is absolutely difficult; I feel that the vast majority of men would back me up on this. There’s a reason why, upon seeing the cold, naked numbers game of Tinder, so many men are giving up on dating.

        And, while I’ll admit to being low-effort, there should be third and fourth options in your “If a man is not getting the women he desires…” statement: women’s expectations are much too high, and women’s options (which are both better and more numerous than men’s options) allow them to get away with that.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Correction, Tron. Women’s expectations of what a man looks like or how much money he makes may be too high. Women’s expectations about how they should be TREATED are way too low. You seem to advocate for the lowering of BOTH of those standards – women should go out with less attractive and desirable men AND expect less consistency, kindness, communication and commitment from them. My job is to push back against the latter.

        2. Tron Swanson

          I’ll half-agree with you, Evan. I’ve met many women who put up with very poor treatment from men, and I agree that it can be a problem (for both genders). But I’ve also met many women who had very unrealistic expectations about how men should treat them. I think both genders should have realistic expectations. Whether or not a woman should go out with less attractive and desirable men and expect less consistency, kindness, communication, and commitment…well, that depends on the woman, and what kind of options she has. Ditto for men. In my own case, I learned that I don’t have many options, which is why I don’t try much at all. Just not worth it.

  8. 8

    Mrs Happy & YAG

    Thank you so much for weighing in on this. I’ve been cheated on, and it does mess with your head. As much as you logically know it’s their issue, not yours, it’s still hard to wonder why they treated you with such little respect. If your behaviour is extreme (eg denying sex for long periods or being a selfish cow), still wrong, but somewhat understandable. When you were good to them and trusted them and are trustworthy yourself, it’s a complete mystery. And hard to deal with, as it feels like there is nothing to learn from the experience.

    People who cheat, don’t seem to feel bad, then just happily move on…where’s the justice?

    I actually would love to read an article where cheaters explain how they can mess with people they care about who did nothing to deserve such treatment.

    1. 9.1

      Thanks Evan and I guess that’s an answer, but just quietly it’s pretty depressing..

    2. 9.2

      And what women should learn from this article is, stay away from men with the personality of this author.  For me, it’s like reading the biography of an alien – someone who makes choices based on a calculus of priorities that make no sense.  Based on hedonism – no morals, no forward-thinking, no empathy.


      In the worst times of my marriage I was sorely tempted to cheat but never did.  Would not have been able to live with myself.  Too great a divide between the person I hope to be and the person I would have become.  So the question to the forward-thinking woman who wants advice on men – why is it that you find men whose personality is like the author of Evan’s article so attractive?  Would you not be better off with a man with a strong moral code and a dose of introspection?  The funny extrovert who is totally into his own goals is like a shiny new sports car – that all the auto mags tell you will break down within 5 years.

      1. 9.2.1

        Why is it that you find men whose personality is like the author of Evan’s article so attractive?

        I don’t. I don’t know any woman who does or who is married to anyone like this.

        That said, sometimes you do trade that drive that someone was talking about and have a much quieter, less exciting life.  But most of my friends and I prefer that.

        There are men I have met like this but they don’t get married.

        (If you are the mistress or man a married woman has an affair with, does that make you a cheater as well? You aren’t breaking your own personal vows, but are enabling someone else to. I honestly don’t know the answer to that one.)

        1. GoWiththeFlow


          In answer to the question of whether if a woman is a mistress that makes her a cheater as well, I vote yes!

          It comes down to whether or not you believe in and support the institution of marriage even when you are not in one. I have known (or known of) more than one woman who slept with a married man, or married men, then was absolutely floored and felt betrayed when they were a wife who was cheated on.

          I have never had an affair with a married man and am not going to start now.  Why would I do that to another woman and her children?  But most importantly, why would I do that to myself?  Talk about self-destructive behavior.

        2. S.


          I thought about it and I agree.  The mistress or other man (manstress?) is enabling the cheater.  They don’t get a pass for that.  They are helping someone deceive someone else.  While I don’t think they are as responsible as the married person, they are still cheating.

          As for why a woman would become a mistress? Because, like this author, they definitely don’t want anything serious.  If a man is married to someone else, it’s unlikely he can or wants to focus as intensely on someone else.  It’s not a guarantee but the author felt it was a guaranteed no strings attached arrangement which is what she wanted.

          Me? I don’t like to help other people get treated like crap.  The wife may never find out but she probably will.  I don’t want to be a part of that and I also don’t want to sell myself short that I don’t deserve or want a man’s full and complete attention.

      2. 9.2.2
        Laurie Wolpert

        Women don’t always know the funny extrovert is also a cheater and a liar and the deception is worse than the cheating, in my opinion.  It can take some experience to spot the type.  Also, the people writing articles like this on Esquire are deceiving themselves, not just others.  They invent elaborate justifications to convince themselves they have good reasons for their selfishness, but they really don’t.  Honesty with yourself and others is a really good spiritual practice.   Just admit that sometimes you are selfish and not interested in the feelings of others.  Admitting a problem is the first step to working on it.

        1. Jeremy

          I don’t think this man is deceiving himself.  He seems to be a narcissist and a sociopath.  A man who has far too much self-esteem and far too little esteem for others.  A man who is a black hole, sucking up validation but never sated – hence his wanting to be needed by a bevvy of women.  A man who, if challenged on his beliefs or behaviors, would believe something is wrong with the challenger rather than with himself.  These people are VERY easy to spot, their behavior is textbook.  Problem is, they can also be very charming.  They have high testosterone and are very driven.  I know many, many women who are attracted to this type, but wish they could find a man like this who would stay faithful or would prioritize them or the children, in spite of the fact that they have always prioritized only themselves.


          When a man’s priority is not you, you are not his priority.  When you choose a man because he has a mission of his own, you are choosing a man whose mission is not you.  When you lose attraction to a man because he prioritizes you too much (and you think something must be wrong with him because you don’t feel worthy of all that prioritization), you are self-sabotaging.  I know of very few women who admit to this behavior, and very many who practice it.

    3. 9.3
      Yet Another Guy

      This author is a sociopath.  Did you notice how often he places his needs in front others? He is more than likely very charming in person, the kind of guy who is an experienced gaslighter.

      This guy is the type of man whose genes should be removed from the gene pool because he lacks a very critical primal instinct; namely, the primal instinct to protect.  He tries to pull it of via mental masturbation with his “does not shit where he eats” shtick while calling other men who do not cheat defective.  That tactic is not about protecting his loved ones.  It is about protecting himself from the truth surfacing.  That makes him a coward.

      I get that there are men who cannot commit sexually to one woman. These are guys who should never marry.  I have a few friends who have taken this path.  I have a reached a point where I am questioning my desire to commit sexually to a woman long-term, which is why re-marriage is off of the table.  It is not that I am incapable of committing sexually for the long haul. I have already proven that not to be the case. It is that there are so many things that can derail the physical side of relationship that I am no longer willing to risk having sex used as a weapon of control, which is a form of emotional abuse.  That is one area that has been missing from this discussion.  Women do in fact use sex as a weapon of control in relationships because they know that the average man desires sex more than the average woman.  If a man is not giving a woman something she wants, all she needs to do is withhold sex.  That is using sex as a weapon of control.  Withholding sex is a dangerous game. There are other ways to obtain what a woman desires.

      1. 9.3.1


        You and Jeremy nailed it:  This guy is a sociopath.  The dead giveaway was, as you mentioned, his contempt for his male friends who have foibles but remain faithful to their wives.  One of the characteristics of a sociopath is that they regard most people’s ability to take into account other people’s feelings and modify their actions because of it, as a supreme weakness.  Furthermore, they see this “weakness” as something that can be exploited to their advantage.

        Being married to this man must be a nightmare.  His wife may have no idea about all the screwing around.  But his sociopathy will affect every other aspect of their relationship and family life.

        I hope Evan doesn’t mind a book plug.  if you feel like you may be dealing with a sociopath “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout is an excellent starting point to try and figure it out.

  9. 10

    If there is a big thing about men that really effing sucks (and I love y’all but I really can’t stand this about y’all sometimes) but it’s one of those it is what it is….is that a man will choose the path of least resistance and most joy. And I think a mans character or lack thereof will determine how far he takes that path. The presence of conflict in my personal opinion and experience is why a lot of men find themselves cheating even when they claim to love their partner. I often ask why won’t he just breakup? Why stay with me and cheat on me when I’m being faithful to him? And I realize the answer is because he wants the security of being with his partner. he doesn’t want to be alone and try to find someone new to fully connect. But also don’t want to deal with root of what our conflict is. So why not have your wife and your mistress to? Smh…Men rather compartmentalize out of their own self interest then choose to throw out the baby with the bathwater no matter how destructive that one compartment is to the baby lol if that makes any sense. But if there is an area of disconnect….and lack of sex isn’t always the case by the way cause I got cheated on over unresolved conflict that had nothing to do with sex and our sex lives was great. so forgive me if this topic makes me extra salty….but if there is an area of disconnect then there is conflict and if that conflict is not successfully handled properly then it will leave a guy with ultimately three choices. 1) try to fix the conflict 2) ignore the conflict and stay which can leads to escaping and cheating or 3) leave. But if a lot men are going to choose what is least painful and most pleasurable then  A lot times they are NOT going to choose one and three. They may try one. But if one seems like a road of hard work and maybe even hopelessness to him then what’s next?….two or three. Well if they are getting some type of benefits from the relationship or marriage then they are not ready to let go of that girlfriend/wife so three is out. Therefore you are left with option two. Depending on the type of man he is and his character will determine what a man will choose to do in the midst of conflict. Now I think woman are definitely not without blame. I think women will choose one to not only their own detriment but to the relationship (breeds nagging, confrontation, insecurity and fights). Women want the relationship to work so bad even when it’s clear she needs to just leave. I was so guilty of this one smh. Women will choose two and three as well but if it’s true that woman are more than likely to divorce than men then we will eventually (begrudgingly I think) throw the baby out with the bath water and choose three. So I think it is upmost important for women to be great at healthy conflict resolution and be the best partner they can be so that their man would be an absolute dummy to not choose 1 every time. But to answer the questions asked in Evans post. Yes I think it’s wrong for a man to choose to cheat because he is not getting any from his wife/girlfriend. Try to work it out or leave. I also think it’s wrong for her (hell, both women and men for that matter) to withhold sex from your partner especially in a marriage. Try to work it out or leave. I have also been in a relationship when I wasn’t getting any from my boyfriend and that really sucked lol! So I can’t imagine a marriage smh. But the fact of the matter is people are selfish, people get lazy, people do what’s in their best interest. You can take this particular topic and I guarantee you can find where one or both the man and woman are being selfish, lazy, and doing what’s in their best interest whether it’s the person cheating due to a lack of sex or the person choosing not to have sex with their partner. Sometimes it’s one causing or continuing the conflict if the other is willing to work and compromise to a satisfactory resolve and sometimes it’s both. I think that it’s often both because there is a lot of natural and innocent unawareness of “other” when it comes to these things. People naturally focus on how they only feel and justify their behavior and think their partner should just understand and get in line. So a lot of times it’s not about right or wrong. Instead It’s about what makes me happy and why don’t you care about my happiness damnit lol. 

  10. 11

    It’s always odd to me that on this blog, so much in the comments is about women not wanting to have sex with their wives whereas I’m much more familiar with the other scenario.  I only know of one woman who isn’t sleeping with her husband but that’s because of a medical condition but I currently have several female friends whose husbands have simply lost interest in sex.  These are not old guys: mid-40s to mid-50s in age.  Some say this must mean they (the husbands) are cheating, but I don’t think so… they just don’t want to f*ck their wives any more.  The final 2 years of my last, long-term relationship were more or less sexless.

    I certainly understand the urge to cheat, especially if you’ve tried again again to remedy the situation but the partner just isn’t feeling it.  But at the end of the day the acceptable solutions really are to agree to have an open marriage, accept this new reality or split up.  I can’t get behind deception.

    1. 11.1

      *women not wanting to have sex with their husbands/ boyfriends


  11. 12

    Jeremy said:

    When a man’s priority is not you, you are not his priority.  When you choose a man because he has a mission of his own, you are choosing a man whose mission is not you.  When you lose attraction to a man because he prioritizes you too much (and you think something must be wrong with him because you don’t feel worthy of all that prioritization), you are self-sabotaging.  I know of very few women who admit to this behavior, and very many who practice it.

    I usually agree with what you say Jeremy, but I have to disagree on this one.

    I have found in my life that if you make your wife or girlfriend your number one priority, they don’t like it.

    It seems like a nice idea, but in practice it fails. It fails because when a man laser-focuses his attention in a very serious manner on a woman and lets his career and male friends go out the window because she is his everything; that is a problem.

    I’ve had friends who have done that and it made the woman flee because it was too much attention. How do I know this? The wives/girlfriends of my friends who were too attentive would ask me to set up a game of racquetball or a guy’s trip to get rid of their boyfriends/husbands for awhile.

    I think Dr. Robert Glover’s advice for men is excellent. Make a great cake of a life for yourself and make the woman in your life the icing on the cake. She is an important part, but not the main thing. Guys come off as too needy if they don’t have a balanced life and are too obsessed with their girlfriend.

    1. 12.1

      I agree with you, John  but it’s about perspective. I would never advise a man to laser focus on a woman. That’s the surest way to have her lose respect and attraction for the man, ironically. Terrible advice… For the man. But I was advising women to choose men who do focus on them  in spite of their inclination to denigrate such men. Because choosing men who focus on their own priorities and then hoping that the woman will happen to become one of his priorities is a losing strategy.

      1. 12.1.1

        I think Jeremy is getting frustrated with me…😀

        I do take your point. The last one, though, was more of an introvert and talked often of his love of his family, wanting kids etc..

        Trust me I’m learning. Just for you I went out with a very low-key family man type on Tuesday. Most boring hour of my life, but I’m trying.

        I’m also impressed you think we have the ability to detach so easily from someone who seemed great at the beginning, then started showing true colours (or bouncing between true colours and warm niceness) once  attached. It’s not always so easy. To identify or move on from.

    2. 12.2


      If I understand what you and Jeremy are saying, it seems as if you agree. And as a woman, I agree with you. My last serious relationship was with a man who was very possessive and needy (this was partly my attempt to over-correct from the men who were emotionally unavailable). He took your description a step further and used to be threatened by any outside interests or friends that I had. But a man does not need to go this far to stray into “laser focusing, too needy” territory. His behaviour made me lose respect for him, yes, but it was also just draining and exhausting. By the way, I think it is a little unfair to characterise this as as women losing respect for men… I think it is a human thing. We all lose respect for someone and want to push away someone who seems to have nothing better to do than try to please us and focus on us. I have seen men lose respect for such women just as fast, I can assure you.

      It’s unreasonable and far, far too much to ask to expect another adult to manage that much focus and attention. We all have lives and have (or should have) our own responsibilities, interests and needs which require our attention. I’m not sure who has the time, energy or desire to field lots of texts, several phone calls a day or to worry about how our SO feels about every little thing that we do. A

      As a woman, I can say that a man who has his own passions and interests (especially if these keep him fit and healthy and are masculine pursuits such as sport) is sexy as hell. There is nothing more attractive than a man who feels fulfilled and satisfied by his life and has a life which makes him feel like a man and makes him respect himself. Unfortunately, what a lot of women need to realise is that, to have a man like this, means that he cannot focus on you 24/7, and it means, as John put it so well, that you are “the icing on the cake,” rather than the whole cake itself. I think this is the quandary which so many women battle to resolve. But personally, as I have matured, I have realised that it is better to focus on trying to make oneself happy and have a partner who is doing the same, than trying to fill those voids with attention from your partner.

      Last night, I had a second date with a good looking divorced father of two. He told me upfront that he played indoor hockey, played action cricket, spearfished and played poker with the boys every week. A few years ago, I would have been very intimidated by this. But now, I feel like I am old enough and wise enough to see that such a man probably has a healthy self-esteem, a backbone, and feels like a man, and will allow me time for my own pursuits and self-growth which I have been doing as a single person for many years. Don’t get me wrong – this should never cross over the line into neglect. You still need to make time for each other every week and prioritise the relationship. But I realise now that the strong man I have always desired (and to whom I could feel very sexually attracted) is not the same man who is going to be dancing around me and trying to please me every minute of every day. He’ll be his own person. He’ll love me and want me, but he’ll have his own purpose.

      1. 12.2.1


        Yes. You understand what I am saying. It is fantastic that the new guy you are dating has manly activities he is involved in with other guys.

        If a guy has other guys to talk with he won’t turn you into a therapist or a “mommy”, which is highly unattractive.

        Best of luck Clare.

        1. Clare


          “If a guy has other guys to talk with he won’t turn you into a therapist or a “mommy”, which is highly unattractive.”

          I never thought about this side effect, but of course, this is a great added bonus.

          I have been turned into the “mommy/therapist” in a couple of my previous relationships, and you’re right, there is little that is more draining and unattractive.

  12. 13

    Hi Marika and Mrs Happy,

    Marika I think you and I are in the same boat when it comes to dating, forcing ourselves to not date people who excite us because we don’t see long-term qualities within them in exchange for people who do possess long-term qualities but we lack excitement for.

    I like what you have been asking Jeremy but lately I am starting to think that maybe we should follow Emily’s “live for the moment” advice for a while since we are both still young and have time maybe we should just focus on fun for now???

    Mrs Happy my question for you is how does a person change their thinking when it comes to this? How do you just let yourself go and enjoy someone that is fun and sexy when all the signs are literally slapping you in the face that they are not long term material and getting emotionally attached to them would only hurt in the end? How did you date without getting attached?

    …   …   …

    1). As far as cheating, what are your thoughts on people who stay with or go back to people who cheated on them multiple times?

    Would you consider that a redflag?

    What is the difference between a doormat and a healthy person who is willing to give in to their partners wants and desires or hold on and work through problems because they feel the relationship is worth it?

    2). What are your thoughts on a person who had an ongoing affair with someone married because they fell in love before they found out the person was married but once they knew they did not break it off?

    Would you consider that a red flag?

    What is the difference between showing understanding and compassion for a situation a person was tricked into and became emotionally trapped and someone who is damaged and toxic but “they” don’t realize it?

    You both seem strong and emotionally healthy to me so I am struggling to understand a person who would let themselves be emotionally abused and think that is love (which is why I asked the red flag questions).

    P.S. I am not saying that you two let yourselves be emotionally abused, I am asking would either of you date a person who did such a things since you both have experience with cheating and I don’t?

    1. 13.1
      Mrs Happy

      Dear Adrian,

      a) you won’t be able to date without becoming attached, but nor should you aim or want to.  Attachment and the high of lust, love, pursuit, the excitement, the fun – that’s what it’s all about.  Why try to lose that?  I would advise the opposite – dive right in.

      b) not every girlfriend has to be long term material.  Short term is fine too.  Just enjoying one another’s company is fine.  Not every road leads to cohabitation and marriage, especially given your gender, age, cultural sphere and nationality.

      c) I would not stay with someone who stayed with someone who cheated on them again and again unless they had stayed altruistically (e.g. for the kids), because otherwise it speaks to a weakness of character I’d find unattractive.  But that’s me, you may have different character traits you find attractive.  Find yours and work with them.  I’ve never been attracted to victim, poor-me types who are unable to problem solve and be independent, but many men like to be the knight in shining armour saving a victim female and there is nothing wrong with that.  Our society conditions men to develop that way actually.  Last week I watched my 5 year old son helping a cute little girl at gymnastics on the balance beam, so it all starts very early, and today I was at a Paw Patrol (kids show, don’t ask, 2 hours of a Saturday I will never get back again) live show and the whole premise was a bunch of oversized mostly boy dogs coming to the rescue.

      d) I’m relatively forgiving about the cheating thing.  I don’t think it’s the correct way to behave, but as you age, if you block off every person who has ever cheated even going back to high school, your dating pool is going to really shrink, so you must decide for yourself whether this is a deal breaker for you.

      e) stay away from damaged toxic people unless you enjoy the drama and chaos so much the cost is worth it for you. Far, far away.

  13. 14

    One thing I noticed looking around me is that people who cheat on their partners in cold blood, habitually, with no remorse and no reason (they have sex and everything they want at home), so closer to the “psychopathic” profile, are rarely, if ever, left by their partner. They are almost always “taken back” and “forgiven”and they can continue their merry eating-their-cake-and-having-it-too lifestyle indefinitely.  (So I’m talking about a different situation than the one described in the main story, where the cheaters can at least invoke a reason for their affairs).

    Most of the cheaters in this category I know are men, but I know a few spectacular examples of frequent cheaters always forgiven who are women as well.

    I tried to find an explanation to this puzzling phenomenon, and IMO the reasons for this are:

    a) They deliberately choose a spouse with low self-esteem who is convinced this is the best they will ever get;

    b) Remorseless habitual cheaters are risk-taking individuals, so usually exciting and attractive

    and last but not least

    c) As strange as it might sound, some people just get off on being cheated. They like the drama and the emotional rollercoaster of living in pain and then “forgiving”.

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