Why Do Men Cheat?

Cheating Man

It's a question that has plagued women for generations: Why do men cheat? Psychologists and women's magazines have long claimed to know the answer, from articles about "cheat-proofing" your relationship, to evolutionary theories suggesting that men are unfaithful by design.

Throughout this time, however, society at large has yet to have pinpointed any one reason as the definitive reason men cheat. Since each man is unique, coming from his own background and life experiences, each man's motivation for infidelity is different.

That being said, cheating boyfriends share significant commonalities between themselves, and we present them here.

Feeling Neglected

Many men give this as an excuse, and it's definitely an easy explanation. It puts the pressure back on the innocent party, implying that if only the person had been more attentive, her boyfriend wouldn't have strayed.

But it's unreasonable to expect a relationship to retain that "newly in love" feeling month after month, year after year. The truth is, long-term relationships usually settle into a comfortable routine. In a healthy relationship, the woman doesn't feel as if she has to wear fancy lingerie every night or come up with constant surprises to keep her man faithful. That trust and stability is what makes a strong relationship stronger.

Still, there are instances in which a relationship has problems. If a man feels as if the woman in his life no longer desires him and that just happens to coincide with another woman giving him excessive attention, he may be tempted to stray. In a good, solid relationship, both parties work together to keep the spark alive, not out of fear but because they genuinely want to.

Men Are "Programmed" to Cheat

Magazines love to pass around this theory every time a public figure is caught cheating. The idea behind this is that basic biology prompts men to seek to procreate as widely as possible in order to propagate the species. While this may be true, all it accounts for is that men are driven to cheat. It doesn't mean they will. We all know that happily married men look at other women and maybe even entertain a few fantasies on a regular basis. But there is a big difference between fantasizing and doing.

Men Crave Variety

Men who do cheat report that it was only sex. They use the excuse that they simply want variety. Having sex with the same woman for the rest of their lives is unthinkable to this particular group of men. Does that mean they won’t someday tire of all this sleeping around and settle down? Not necessarily. It is important to note that as men get older, the statistics on being unfaithful drop. So is it possible this propensity to cheat has to do more with being young and 'sowing wild oats?'

Even though the number of women admitting to cheating has grown in recent years, men still outrank women in infidelity statistics. The Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy reported in 2002 that 50-60% of men engage in extramarital sex at one time or another, but only 45-55% of women. Pre-marriage statistics are even higher. Eric Anderson, author of The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, stated that 78% of undergraduate men reported they were unfaithful but had no intention of leaving their current relationship. These men reported their activities were merely sexual.

Because They Can

The theory, as is stated by experts anytime a celebrity is caught cheating, is that "Any man will cheat if given the opportunity". Whether or not this is true depends on which man you ask, but as with any generalization it cannot possibly hold true for every single member of either gender.

As mentioned before, each man is different, coming from a different background and relationship history. A man who was raised to do what was right may react to temptation completely differently from a man who spent his childhood doing anything he could get away with. By the same token, however, a man who grew up breaking rules and getting away with it might have learned from his past mistakes and be ready to commit and lead a good, honest life.

For every Tiger Woods story, there's the story of a man like actor Jeff Bridges, who fell in love with his wife Susan at first sight and is still married to her nearly thirty-five years later. The Hollywood landscape is crowded with men who married their wives and stayed faithful, but we only hear stories about the men who stray. Yes, not all men who "can" cheat do, and if these men stay faithful, it's easy to believe that there are everyday men who can stay faithful, as well.

As an Exit Strategy

There are some people who fear being alone. As they sense a relationship is nearing its end, instead of doing the mature thing and walking away gracefully, they line up the replacement. The next relationship then begins before the previous relationship ends. In some cases, the person will choose to end the relationship by letting his current girlfriend catch him with the new girlfriend. Not exactly the classiest of exits, but this type of person just wants a way out. Some refer to this as an "overlap", since one relationship overlaps the other. As in, "No, I wasn't cheating. It was an overlap."

Fear of Commitment

In the book Men Who Can't Love, Steven Carter and Julia Sokol theorized that some men are commitmentphobics. Just as some people have trouble choosing one television set or automobile while shopping, a commitmentphobe has trouble settling on one relationship. Even after a commitment is made, the commitmentphobe second-guesses his decision, feeling overwhelmed, even phobic, about the thought of spending the rest of his life with one person.

This, according to Carter and Sokol, prompts a man to stray. Cheating is a form of not committing and, in a sense, it's also a form of relationship sabotage. If the man can mess up the relationship by cheating, he doesn't have to stay.

Of course, there are those who believe this theory is nonsense. A man is commitmentphobic until he finds the woman he wants to commit to, these people theorize. Once a man finds that special woman, he never doubts it.

It would be easier if there were a cut-and-dried answer to why men cheat, but the truth is different for each person. Men -- and women -- usually have a long history that plays into their reaction to every situation life has to offer.

See also: "Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater" -- Is it true?"

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