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Why Do Men Cheat?

28 August 2018 5 comments

In our last blog, we looked at the infidelity patterns of men and women and outlined the main reasons women cheat. Today we will further examine our genetic makeup and discuss the main reasons men go astray and if being unfaithful is really in their hardwiring or if that is merely a cop-out they use.

Why Do Men CheatWhy Do Men Cheat

The news has always been inundated with influential men risking everything for the lowliest of goals - sexual gratification. Whether it’s Jay Z preferring Becky’s good hair, Bill Clinton not having sexual relations with that woman or Ben Affleck staying up way past bedtime with his children’s nanny; it is easy to understand why some say that men are utterly incapable of being faithful - even if they wanted to be. But is this stereotypical branding a convenient excuse or is there more to it?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a renowned author, seems to think men cheat for affirmation and not for sex - as such. His theory is that men have an underlying sense of feeling like failures and thus seek an outside judge. Yes, they may have a tender loving wife at home who showers them with support and confirmation, but the whole point is that they need someone other than their significant other to proclaim them worthy. As was touched upon in our last blog, Rabbi Shmuley states that women almost always cheat out of neglect, saying “If a woman is having her sexual, emotional and romantic needs met, she generally won’t stray”. But who has their sexual AND emotional AND romantic needs met all the time - even most of the time? Is this even realistic?

Whilst not every man who cheats has as much at stake as Tiger Woods - it’s all relative. You don’t have to be rich and famous to cheat - ordinary Jo Blo's are doing it and whilst the circumstances differ, the overarching question is always the same: what murky motivations drove these men to endanger their marriage, their family, their reputation and career all in the quest for illicit moments of meaningless sexual pleasure?

Breakthroughs in neuroscience, genetics, anthropology, sexology and evolutionary psychology are allowing experts, now more than ever, to examine human sexual behaviour. Some of these new findings challenge the plausibility of monogamy in today's world.

Is evolution to blame?

Sexual monogamy is actually quite rare in nature, with only 3 - 5 percent of mammalian species practicing monogamy - humans, swans, and beavers being amongst them. However, even in these species, infidelity is commonly observed.

The evolutionary benefit of promiscuity for men is quite clear: the more sexual partners a man has, the greater his reproductive success. It’s all about propagating the race, and this theory states that the male (and the male alone) sits atop the Darwinian sexual food chain. I know ladies, I know.

Like father like son?

Genes associated with sensation-seeking behaviors may also be related to sexual promiscuity, according to a new study conducted by Dr. Justin R. Garcia, a Professor from Binghamton University. Dr. Garcia’s findings show that subjects who carried a variant of one dopamine receptor sub-type (called the D4 receptor) were 50 percent more likely to have been involved in sexual infidelity. It is believed that these individuals feel less stimulated in life and are therefore hungrier for novelty more so than those lacking this genetic variant. As cheating involves a degree of sensation seeking, it can activate the brain’s reward circuit. Even though humans vary widely in their taste for novelty - sex, gambling, and drugs tend to be one of the greater triggers for the release of dopamine from the neuro-circuit which tells your brain that this is a valuable experience and one that is worth repeating. As Dr. Garcia stated, “In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks are high, the rewards substantial, and the motivation variable - all elements that ensure a dopamine ‘rush’”. Dr. Garcia’s findings showed no bias between the two genders.

Is hormonal chemistry to blame?

A study conducted by Harvard University and University of Texas several years ago found that people with high levels of the reproductive hormone testosterone and stress hormone cortisol are more likely to lie and cheat. Elevated levels of testosterone were found to decrease the subject’s fear of punishment whilst increasing the sensitivity for reward. Naturally, men have much higher levels of testosterone than women do.

Brendan P. Zietsch, a psychologist at the University of Queensland, conducted extensive studies and his results show that women who carry specific variants of the vasopressin receptor gene are much more likely to engage in “extra pair bonding,” (the scientific euphemism for sexual infidelity). Vasopressin is a hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust and sexual bonding. Interestingly enough there was no direct correlation between the hormone and male infidelity.

Is it IQ?

Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics and Political Science, believes that the higher a man’s IQ is, the less likely he is to cheat. His belief is based on the theory that through evolutionary history, men have always been “mildly polygamous” and to be in a monogamous relationship would be a new development for them. A kind of novel way of being and the higher a person’s IQ is, the more likely he is to adopt new practices in order to become “more evolved.”

For most men, and women, no one factor drives their act of infidelity, and indeed the reasons behind why a person may cheat will evolve as life’s circumstances change. However, let us look at the main reasons why men engage in sexual and romantic entanglements with extracurricular partners.

  • Rejected: This man feels rejected either sexually, emotionally or mentally by his spouse. He feels that she isn’t interested in him, that he is the only one who ever initiates the closeness between them and if he stopped trying she wouldn’t even notice - nor care. He craves to feel needed and wanted as he once was by his partner. In order to feel virile and appreciated once more, this man will seek out another who will willingly and gladly accept his advancements whether they be sexual, emotional and/or mental.
  • Insecurity: The man who suffers from self-esteem issues such as feelings of being a failure and not being good enough, will often seek validation from other women. His wife may show him love and care, but it is, in fact, the approval of another woman that makes him feel desired, wanted, and “enough.”
  • Unfettered Impulse: There is a big difference between the serial cheater who has a different girl for each weekend and the one who has an affair with his co-worker. This man may never have even contemplated cheating; however the opportunity suddenly arose, and feeling flattered he thought he may as well. How often does this sort of opportunity present itself in life, he asks himself? He “suddenly” finds himself in an affair not having had much time to think how it may impact his primary relationship.
  • Withered Passion: This man craves the intensity of early romance (called limerence) and may have even mistaken this neuro-chemical rush for love. He now finds himself “out of love” with his partner and goes in search of that new exciting prospect which will most definitely quench his thirst... Until that too becomes mundane and dull.
  • Lust: He loves his wife, but he lusts after another woman. This man is bored in his either long-term or short-term relationship. Men who have been in long-term relationships, looking at the same woman every day, may find themselves loving her but no longer being “in love” with her and if another lady catches their attention and shows interest in them, well they may as well. Yes, he wants to have his cake and eat it too.
  • Responsibilities Suck: This man has enough on his plate throughout the week; he comes home to a wife who tells him what to do the moment he walks through the door, bills, kids and on the weekends he can’t go rogue as he used to with his mates. He is inundated with responsibilities and responsibilities are, let's be honest, boring - he wants to run away from being a man for a moment and just be a boy and let off some steam. Often times these men call their cheating way a bit of harmless fun and will cheer their mates on for screwing behind the Mrs’ back and getting away with it.
  • Being Bad is Too Good: Some men get off on behaving badly and simply like what is off-limits. This man gets a rush from the forbidden nature of cheating and will typically also go for another man’s wife.
  • Revenge: Watch out! This man has been wrongly done by and is out to seek revenge. He may have been cheated on and is now out to prove to his long-term partner that he can do it too. Typically his affair is an obvious one as he wishes to get caught in order to cause pain to his spouse.
  • Unable to End the Relationship: This man struggles with ending the relationship for various reasons - he may not want to break up the family or social unit or it may be something else. By cheating, he “disowns” all responsibility by forcing his partner to do the dirty work for him and break off their relationship. Similarly, he may not be comfortable leaving the relationship until he has a new one lined up.
  • Great Expectations: This man feels that it is his partner's duty to meet his every need and desire, be it sexual, social or emotional. Often times you will hear this man saying that if his wife doesn’t “put out” he will go looking elsewhere. Naturally, his wife will eventually fail at filling his every need, and thus our hopeless protagonist goes in search of a new Mrs. Right.
  • Selfish/Narcissistic Personality Trait: Narcissist is a term that is thrown around rather loosely these days, but typically this man is one who genuinely believes that he is a bit more unique and deserving of things that others are not privy to and will often reward himself with an affair as the rules simply don’t apply to him. This character often comes from a “me” space rather than a “we” space - even in his primary relationship he acts like a single guy. He is able to carry on with affairs and not feel any remorse or regret - as long as he doesn’t get caught. He perceives monogamy as an inconvenience to work around rather than a deep sign of love given to his partner. Often times this partner doesn’t realise how good he has it, but even when he loses it all, he is not remorseful and wouldn’t change his cheating ways.
  • Immaturity: It is a well-known fact that men mature later than women - girls’ brains can develop up to 10 years earlier than boys’ (study conducted by Newcastle University). With this man it is a case of timing. He may have the right woman in front of him, but if he is not ready to truly commit, then he is simply not ready. Had he met his partner 10 years later, it would have been a different story. Frequently he will find himself in an “official” relationship but will treat monogamy as something that he can activate and deactivate as he pleases. Typically this man will “parentify” his partner - rebelling against the rules, looking for separation and individuality yet also craving the security of having someone nurturing at home. An adult teenager really.
  • Mid-life Crisis: There is much debate about this one, and the stats are hazy with scientists and psychologist not being able to agree whether this is actually a “thing” or not. One study found there is little evidence of people undergoing midlife crises in Japan and India, raising the question whether this is mainly a cultural fabrication. Needless to say, whether it’s the chemistry in their brains or not, this is the man who feels somewhat sad in life as he feels like adventure and life is behind him. Typically he will go with a younger woman who will make him feel “free” and youthful once again. This man may seem outwardly very confident and may have never had self-esteem issues, but finding himself aging he may need an ego boost from another woman to make him remember what it felt like to be in his prime.
  • Too Much Temptation: Sure, this poor fella may have all the intentions of being committed and faithful, but women are constantly throwing themselves at him - it isn’t so simple. It’s easy to be faithful when life is devoid of temptation but if you are having advancements and opportunities left, right and centre it is indeed very rare for any man to remain monogamous. Typically the rich and famous and beautiful fall into this category.
  • Addiction: I read somewhere that “Serial infidelity might be a sign of something a little more serious than terminal dickheaditis.” Men who suffer from sexual addiction will compulsively engage in endless sexual adventures in order to numb themselves and avoid life. In most of these cases, there is an underlying unresolved childhood trauma - one of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. This man will never feel full or that he has had enough and will go from one partner to the other, not really giving himself or receiving any part of his partner.

Know thyself

Whether you are prone to cheating or not, whether you are male or female, it is essential that you get to know yourself. One great way of doing this is to look through our main points of reasons why men and women cheat and see if you can find yourself in there. Maybe you could be in one of them? Perhaps you already are in a few of them?

There are no guarantees in life - to say that an attractive other who challenges the sanctity of your relationship will never ever emerge is foolish. It is paramount that we admit to ourselves that yes it is possible at some point that someone attractive will come along and their intent may very well be to connect with us, or our partner, in a meaningful or fleeting way.

Research shows our best intentions are often worthless when we are faced with unexpected possibilities. I personally believe acknowledging that another person may offer something to me, or my partner, will only reinforce my flexibility and forgiveness leaving me and my partner better positioned to deal with the situation if it ever was to occur. To turn a blind eye and say “This will never happen to me” is to live in a much loved and cherished, albeit fairy tale, world. A new viewpoint is required, one that says an intimate moment may occur with another, but it might not irreparably harm your primary relationship - I’ll go so far as to say it may even supplement it, ensuring your relationship survives longer and better. But hey I get that this is asking too much for most people.

The truth is all kind of variations make up relationships. You have two people from two different upbringings, two different genetic/hormonal/chemical coding, with their own set of rules and you put these two individuals together and say “Go, live harmoniously!” Weeellll - it’s not so easy!

So what now?

Before you go out and order all sorts of genotype tests in your partner’s name, it is important to note that whilst studies may vary and be somewhat murky, it is beyond doubt that we are living in an uneven genetic playing field. Our hormonal and chemical make up is so individual and will change depending on our age, stress levels, environment and many other factors. For some people it is entirely natural and innate to be monogamous, for others there is an inherent temptation to cheat and the quest to commit is an uphill battle against their own biology. So is there a free hall pass if you are a carrier of a particular gene mutation or have elevated levels of certain hormones? Good try. The answer is: no. Whilst we can’t control our genetical and chemical make-up (not yet), we can control what we do with the impulses these genes and hormones create. We are not mere results of chemical reactions going on inside of our bodies; we are capable of choosing consciously and with integrity - but only if we want to.

As always I’d love to hear from you. Men tell us your stories on why men really cheat. Women don’t be shy - I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts also.

Next blog post - Should You Masturbate?

Written by Maggie May
Maggie May is a sexologist and a writer. She is a lover of all things sensual and sexual.

Matilda K. 3 September 2018 at 1:41 pm
This article was really good. I think every reason that could be it was mentioned. The genetic and inherited things were interesting also. I like that Maggie May didn’t use it as an excuse but said we all have a choice at the end of the day. My ex cheated and blamed it on me. I bought this for a while and then realised he’s full of it. Definitely saw him in this article in a few of the points. Thanks for clarifying this issue. It is a popular issue and most women don’t really understand why men do it so it was good to read. Thanks.
Maggie May 6 February 2019 at 10:16 pm
Matilda - thank you for your candid sharing. It is not your fault that he cheated. It reminds me of those people who blame rape or physical violence on the victim. The mosaic of relationships is very intricate and immensely complex - it takes two to tango. However, it is not appropriate for the cheating partner to blame the victimised person. This shows that they take absolutely no responsibility for their actions and have not learned anything from it. I am glad you enjoyed the article and hope you are proud of yourself for standing up FOR yourself. That takes courage and sometimes it's just easier to go with the familiar and the guilt than it is to redefine our boundaries.
lisa 4 September 2018 at 5:21 pm
simple EGO
Todd 14 September 2018 at 9:57 am
I have cheated b4 and got caught and would probably do it again if i could turn back time. I cant explain why its just the way it is. i am an opportunist by nature and never meant to hurt my partner but i think probably ppl cheat more than we realise. girls and guys both do it probably just as much i just reckon girls are smarter about hiding it. some ppl have it in them to be faithful and others dont and they dont mean to hurt anyone its just the way it is.
Maggie May 6 February 2019 at 10:18 pm
Todd - thank you for your honesty, I really appreciate it. I wholeheartedly understand where you're coming from; some people genuinely do it "just because" and quite simply see it as a part of life. I don't believe that everyone is like this - it really does all depend on our chemical makeup and many other factors which drive our thinking (refer to my previous blogs about cheating.)
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