Research tells us that approximately 20 percent of people in supposedly monogamous relationships will cheat on their partner at some point during the relationship. Interestingly, the reasons for cheating often differ by gender. Most of the time, regardless of gender, cheaters have plenty of justifications and rationalizations that make their behavior OK (in their own minds).
Men in particular tend to engage in all sorts of “denial” when it comes to infidelity—blaming, minimizing, justifying, rationalizing, etc.:
- Every guy does this. It’s how we’re made.
- If my wife hadn’t gained so much weight, I wouldn’t be looking elsewhere.
- After the kids, my wife doesn’t want sex as often as I do. So what am I supposed to do?
- If my job wasn’t so stressful, I wouldn’t need the release that I get from porn.
- I’m only flirting. I’m not actually hooking up with anyone.
- Guys look at porn and go to strip clubs. It’s what we do for fun. It’s the same as playing softball or grabbing a beer after work.
This listing of internal self-deceptions could continue endlessly, getting more and more ridiculous as it goes. In fact, an outside observer could easily debunk any and all of these deceits, but cheaters either can’t or won’t. Instead, they stubbornly cling to their denial because they want to continue cheating.
Sometimes, their willful ignorance goes on for years, continuing until the infidelity is discovered and sometimes persisting even beyond that.
Importantly, this male version of denial has very little to do with the real reasons that guys engage in infidelity. Typically, men cheat on their significant others for one or more of the following reasons:
1. They feel insecure.
They don’t feel handsome enough, rich enough, young enough, old enough, smart enough, powerful enough, or whatever. To combat this, they seek external validation, using sextracurricular interest and activity as a way to feel wanted, desired, and worthy.
2. They have unrealistic expectations about what a primary partner should provide.
They think their mate should fulfill their every whim and desire, sexual or otherwise, 24/7/365. When this expectation is not met, they seek external satisfaction.
3. They don’t understand the difference between sexual intensity and emotional intimacy.
In other words, they confuse the neurochemical rush that accompanies initial sexual attraction with love. As a result, they are constantly chasing a temporary high, failing to recognize that over time this early rush is replaced with less intense but ultimately more rewarding and longer lasting forms of intimacy—trust, honesty, comfort, mutual support, etc.
4. They’re unhappy in their current relationship.
Sometimes they want to break things off, but instead of just speaking up, they cheat and force their significant other to do the dirty work. Or maybe they just want someone else lined up before they end things because they don’t want to be alone.
5. They feel entitled.
They think they deserve something special that is just for them because they work so hard, or they provide so well for the family, or the lawn looks great, or whatever. In other words, they feel as if the world owes them something extra, and they take payment via sexual infidelity.
6. They are responding to an unresolved childhood trauma.
This could mean anything from neglect to emotional abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse. Essentially, their childhood was dysfunctional and they learned that it was unwise to fully trust or rely upon one person. They might also be using the rush of cheating as a distraction from the pain of these unhealed emotional wounds.
7. They’re addicted.
Sometimes they have an issue with alcohol or drugs, and these substances affect their decision making, leading to impulsive sexual decisions. Other times they are sexually addicted, using sex compulsively as a way to “numb out” and not feel. (This desire for distraction and escape also drives substance addictions.)
8. They never intended to be faithful.
From the start, they viewed their vow of monogamy as something to be worked around rather than cherished and upheld. The plan from moment one was to lie, keep secrets, and sleep around without remorse.
Most of the time, there are multiple factors that drive a man toward cheating (including many that are not listed above). Nevertheless, with infidelity there is always another choice. In other words, men don’t lose free will just because they had a bad childhood, or they feel put upon, or whatever. Individual therapy, couples counseling, and just plain honesty with a long-term partner can all strengthen a man’s ego, lessen his desire to cheat, and build a better primary relationship.
The last thing I would like to say here is that those of you who are wondering why I’ve not listed the real reasons women cheat need not grit your teeth. You can read all of those here.