According to licensed marriage and family therapist Shane Birkel, LMFT, men, and women may cheat for very different reasons. However, he observes that it is more likely due to the way men and women socialize than to any innate differences between them. In this article, we will learn everything about why men cheat, cheating in general, its risks, causes, and how to deal with cheating.
He goes on to say that as a society, we are moving away from that socialization and away from patriarchy, and we are seeing fewer gender differences in cheating behavior. Nonetheless, current research indicates that men are more likely to cheat than women, with 20% of men admitting to cheating compared to 13% of women.
How Do Motivations Differ Based on Gender?
Men are more likely than women to have affairs, and they frequently seek more sex or attention. Men often express their love more physically because they lack the perfect “feeling” for their wives. As a result, sex becomes an important means of connection and intimacy.
If men aren’t sexually satisfied (for example, if their spouse declines sex frequently), they take rejection personally, which can easily translate to feeling “unloved.” Men are more likely than women to cheat because they are insecure.
When women cheat, they are frequently attempting to fill an emotional void. Women frequently complain of disconnection from a spouse, and of the wish to be desired and cherish. Women are more likely than men to feel unappreciated or ignored, leading them to seek the emotional intimacy of an extramarital relationship.
A woman’s affair is more often than not a “transitional” partner for her as a way to end the relationship. She is seriously considering leaving her marriage, and this other person is assisting her in doing so.
That isn’t to say that sexual satisfaction isn’t a primary motivator for both wives and husbands in having affairs. Similarly, boredom with marriage can lead both men and women to cheat.
Risk Factors for Cheating
There are numerous reasons or causes why men or women may engage in extramarital affairs, but certain risk factors – either with one of the individuals or with the marriage as a whole – increasing the likelihood that it will occur.
Individual Risk Factors
There are certainly exceptions to the general rule that it takes two to tango, or in this case, to ruin their marriage – with an affair. Individual characteristics that may increase the likelihood of infidelity include:
- Addiction: Substance abuse problems, whether it”s addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or something else, are obvious risk factors. Alcohol, in particular, can lower inhibitions to the point where someone who would never consider having an affair while sober may cross the line.
- Attachment style: Certain attachment styles, such as attachment avoidance or attachment insecurity, as well as intimacy disorders, have been studied in relation to a proclivity to cheat. Insecurity and low self-esteem can also increase the likelihood of having an affair to prove one’s worth.
- Childhood trauma: Having a history of childhood trauma (such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect) is link to a higher risk of cheating (if he or she has not addressed the trauma and has unresolved issues).
- Childhood infidelity: Previous experience with cheating can also increase the risk of infidelity. According to a 2015 study, children who witness a parent having an affair are twice as likely to have an affair themselves.
- Mental illness: Some mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, increase the likelihood of cheating in marriage.
- Previous cheating: The adage “once a cheater, always a cheater” is more than just a folklore. Those who had an extramarital affair were three times more likely to repeat the behavior in their next relationship, according to this study.
- Psychological issues: Narcissistic traits or personality disorders are linked to an increased risk of cheating. People with these disorders are often self-centered and lack empathy, so they are unaware of the impact of their actions on their spouses.
Risk Factors Within a Relationship
Problems in a marriage can also be a risk factor for cheating. Among them are the following:
- Emotional and physical abuse in the home
- Emotional and/or physical estrangement
- Financial constraints
- Communication breakdown
- A lack of regard
- Incompatibility (people who married for the wrong reasons): Incompatibility can lead to “buyer’s remorse.”
Why Do Men Cheat
The study identified eight major motivators that contribute to infidelity. Of course, these factors do not account for every instance of cheating. They do, however, provide a useful framework for a better understanding of why people cheat.
Here’s a look at those key factors and how they might manifest themselves in a relationship.
1. Anger or Vengeance
People may cheat out of rage or a desire for vengeance. Perhaps you’ve recently discovered your partner has been unfaithful. You might want to make your partner experience the same emotions as you to ensure that they truly comprehend the harm they have caused you.
Infidelity motivated by rage can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- When your partner doesn’t seem to understand you or your needs, it can be frustrating.
- Resentment toward a partner who isn’t always present
- Anger when a partner doesn’t have much to give in terms of both physical and emotional resources.
- Frustration and anger following a disagreement
Regardless of the underlying cause, Anger can act as a powerful motivator to become intimate with someone else.
2. Losing one’s love
The exhilarating sensation of falling in love with someone does not last forever. When you first fall in love with someone, you may experience passion, excitement, and dopamine rushes simply from receiving a text from them.
However, the intensity of these emotions usually fades with time. Sure, there is such a thing as stable, long-lasting love. However, first-date butterflies can only take you so far. When the glitter wears off, you may realize that the love simply isn’t there. Perhaps you’ve realized you’re in love with someone else.
This can make leaving a relationship that still provides a sense of family, friendship, stability, and safety more difficult. Staying in a relationship without romantic love, on the other hand, may lead to a desire to experience love again, which may motivate infidelity.
3. Situational variables and opportunities
Simply having the opportunity to cheat can increase the likelihood of infidelity. This is not to say that everyone who has the opportunity to cheat will. Other factors frequently (but not always) contribute to the motivation to cheat.
Consider this scenario: You’re frustrated with your relationship’s recent distance and dealing with feelings of low self-esteem about your appearance. One day, a coworker you’ve grown close to approaches you alone and said, “I’m attracted to you.” Let’s meet up sometime.”
If only one or two factors are involved. you might not choose to cheat. However, the combination of motivating factors — the distance in your relationship, your feelings about your appearance, and your coworker’s attention — can increase the likelihood of infidelity.
Suggested scenarios: Even in a strong, fulfilling relationship, certain situational factors can increase the likelihood of infidelity, including:
- Overindulging in alcoholic beverages and sleeping with someone after a night out
- Desiring physical comfort following a traumatic event
- Living or working in an environment with a high level of physical contact and emotional connection
4. Commitment issues
People who struggle with commitment may be more likely to cheat in some situations. Furthermore, commitment does not always mean the same thing to everyone.
Two people in a relationship can have very different ideas about the status of the relationship, such as whether it is casual, exclusive, or whatever. It is also possible to like someone but be afraid of committing to them. In this case, one partner may end up cheating to avoid commitment, even if they would prefer to remain in the relationship.
Other possible reasons for commitment-related infidelity include:
- Lack of desire to make long-term commitments
- Desire for a more casual relationship
- Desire for a way out of a relationship
5. Unsatisfied needs
In some relationships, one or both partners’ needs for intimacy go unsatisfied. Many people choose to stay in a relationship in the hope that things will improve, especially if the relationship is otherwise satisfying. However, unmet needs can lead to frustration, which can worsen if the situation is not resolved. This can serve as motivation to meet those needs elsewhere.
Unmet sexual needs can occur when: partners have opposing sexual drives
One partner is unable to have sex or is uninterested in having sex, and one or both partners frequently spend time away from home. Infidelity can also be motivated by unmet emotional needs. Emotional infidelity is difficult to define, but it generally refers to a situation in which someone invests a significant amount of emotional energy in someone other than their partner.
6. Sexual Desire
Some people will cheat simply because they want to have sex. Other factors, such as opportunity or unmet sexual needs, may also play a role in desire-driven infidelity.
However, someone who wants to have sex may seek out opportunities to do so without any other motivators.
Even people who are in sexually satisfying relationships may want to have more sex with other people. This could be due to a high level of sexual desire rather than any sexual or intimate issues in the relationship.
7. Desire for variety
In the context of a relationship, the desire for variety is frequently associated with sex. For example, even if they are well-matched with their partner, someone may be interested in trying types of sex that their partner isn’t into.
Variety could also mean:
- Various conversations or communication styles
- Various non-sexual activities
- Attractiveness to others
- Relationships with people other than their current partner
Another important aspect of variety is attraction. People can be attracted to a wide range of people, and this doesn’t have to stop just because you’re in a relationship. Some people in monogamous relationships may find it difficult not to act on their feelings of attraction.
8. Lack of Self-Esteem
Infidelity can also be motivated by a desire to boost one’s self-esteem.
Positive feelings can result from having sex with a new person. You could be feeling empowered, attractive, confident, or successful. These emotions can boost your self-esteem.
Many people who cheat due to low self-esteem have loving, supportive partners who provide compassion and encouragement. However, they may believe, “They have to say that,” or “They just don’t want me to feel bad.”
Signs that your partner is cheating
The following signs are not absolute proof that your partner cheats. However, if several of Birkel and Page’s signs are present, you may be dealing with infidelity.
- They’ve become more withdrawn, closed off, and/or emotionally disconnected.
- You notice significant changes in their behavior (i.e., their schedule or their general behavior).
- You have the impression that you are having difficulty getting complete information from them about certain topics.
- Might bring up a specific person or instance that appears suspicious, and they either become defensive or, in other cases, are vague and dismissive about it.
- They’re suddenly putting more effort into their appearance, possibly before going to work or going out.
- They appear ecstatic about another person.
- They are less sexually bond to you or are less interested and excited by you.
- Your partner suddenly seems extra nice, as if they’re trying to make up for something.
- They are not accountable for how they spend their time (and in some cases, their money). They don’t want to talk about what they were doing for long stretches of time.
- On a regular basis they appear to be more irritated or judgmental of you .
- There has been a significant decrease in sexual interest. They may have more trouble obtaining and/or maintaining an erection, as well as orgasming.
- And, of course, physical evidence such as open emails or texts, an earring left behind, or condoms in their wallet.
Repairing the harm done by cheating
If there is one major takeaway from this study, it is that cheating is frequently unrelated to the other person. Many cheaters adore their partners and have no desire to hurt them. This is one of the reasons why some people will go to such lengths to conceal their infidelity from their partners. Even so, it can be extremely damaging to a relationship.
Cheating does not have to mean the end of a relationship, but it does require effort to move forward.
If your partner has cheated on you
If you’ve been dumped, you may still be reeling from the news. You might want to go to any length to repair the relationship. Or maybe you don’t want to stay in the relationship.
Start here if you’re unsure how to handle the situation:
- Discuss what happened with your partner. Consider bringing in a couples counselor or a neutral third party to facilitate the discussion. Finding out your partner’s motivations may help you make a decision, but it’s generally advised to avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of the encounter.
- Inquire whether your partner wishes to continue the relationship. Some people cheat in order to end a relationship, so it’s critical to find out how they feel.
- Consider whether you can trust your partner again. It may take some time to rebuild trust, and your partner is likely aware of this. However, if you know you will never be able to trust them again, it is unlikely that you will be able to repair the relationship.
- Consider whether you still want the relationship. Do you genuinely care about your partner and want to address any underlying issues? Or are you apprehensive about starting out with someone new? Do you believe the relationship is worth repairing?
- Consult with a counselor. If you want to work on your relationship after infidelity, couples counseling is highly recommended, but individual therapy can also help you sort through your feelings and emotions about the situation.
If you’ve been unfaithful to your partner,
You should carefully consider your motivations and have an open conversation with your partner. Even if you want to stay together, your partner may or may not want to repair the relationship.
Take a moment to think about the following:
- Are you still interested in the relationship? If your cheating was motivated by a desire to end the relationship, it’s best to be open and honest with your partner about it right away. Are you unsure of your motivation? Consider seeing a therapist to help you gain some perspective.
- Are you able to sort out the reasons for the infidelity? Individual therapy, couples therapy, and improved communication can all help to improve a relationship and reduce the likelihood of future infidelity. But what if you cheated because your partner wasn’t interested in a specific type of sex or because they were never – home? Could you talk to them about wanting to cheat rather than doing so?
- Do you intend to cheat again? Infidelity can lead to heartbreak, pain, and emotional distress. If you suspect you’ll cheat again, don’t promise to be faithful. Instead, tell your partner that you don’t think you’ll be able to commit.
- Are you willing to commit to therapy? Individual therapy can help you understand more about the reasons why you cheated on your partner. Couples therapy can also assist you and your partner in rebuilding your relationship. If you’re serious about getting your life back on track after infidelity, both are highly recommended.
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Tips for Coping When Your Partner Cheat
It can be devastating to discover that your partner has been unfaithful. Your marriage may be thrown into a state of crisis, which could lead to its demise.
It is natural to wonder why your partner cheated, but there is rarely a simple explanation for why someone becomes unfaithful. It could be a symptom of other issues in your marriage, something from your partner’s past, or completely unrelated to you or your marriage.
Whatever the reason, you’ll have a lot of complicated feelings to sort through, as well as a lot to think about as you decide how to proceed. These eight suggestions can help you deal with the fallout from betrayal:
1. Recognize and Accept Your Emotions
It is normal to experience shock, agitation, fear, pain, depression, and confusion. For a while, you’ll probably feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. It takes time to recover from the agony of having an unfaithful partner. Even if you’re trying to forgive your partner and repair your marriage, don’t expect the mixed feelings and mistrust to go away. Your marriage has changed, and it is natural for you to miss the relationship you once had.
2. Do Not Seek Vengeance
Being betrayed by a partner can elicit rage. In your rage, your first instinct may be to punish your mate by trash-talking him to friends (or worse, on social media), or to consider having an affair yourself to exact revenge. These actions may provide a temporary sense of satisfaction, but they can ultimately work against you, keeping you in a state of rage rather than focusing on healing and moving on, alone or together.
Think twice before telling your family. They will most likely have strong feelings about whether you should leave or stay. However, no one else truly understands what is going on in another person’s marriage. It’s best to keep the details private while you’re deciding how to proceed.
3. Make an effort to look after yourself.
Stress can cause physical reactions such as nausea, diarrhea, sleep problems (too little or too much), shakiness, difficulty concentrating, not wanting to eat, or overeating. Once the initial shock has worn off, make an effort to eat healthy foods, maintain a regular sleep schedule, get some exercise each day, drink plenty of water, and have fun.
4. Avoid Playing the Blame Game
Blaming yourself, your partner, or a third party will not change anything and is a waste of time. If at all possible, avoid playing the victim or wallow in self-pity. It will only make you feel more helpless and self-conscious.
5. Keep your children out of it.
This is a private matter between you and your partner, and your children should not be involved. Even if you have decided to divorce, disclosing details about an affair will put your children in an impossible position, causing them anxiety, making them feel trapped in the middle, and forcing them to choose sides.
6. Seek Professional Counseling
Don’t try to deal with unfaithfulness on your own. Before deciding whether or not to end your marriage, it’s a good idea to consult with a couple’s counselor, who will be objective and can help you gain insight into what exactly happened. You can ask questions and express your feelings to your partner without losing your cool.
An experienced therapist can assist you in better communicating and processing feelings of guilt, shame, and whatever else you may be experiencing. If you decide to end the marriage or relationship, you will know that you gave it your all.
7. Get Practical
If you suspect that the affair will most likely lead to the end of your marriage or relationship, give some thought to practical matters such as where you will live, whether you will have enough money to cover your essentials, and, if you have children, the type of custody arrangement you prefer. You may also want to consider having your partner tested for STDs, as well as yourself, if you had sex during or after the affair.
8. Focus on one day at a time
Infidelity is one of the most difficult challenges a marriage can face, but it does not always spell the end of the relationship. As you work through the aftermath, it will become clear how to proceed so that the next – phase of your life, whether together or separately, can begin.
Being cheated on is a traumatic experience, and there are numerous reasons why it may have occurred in various relationships and contexts. But, whatever the reason, one thing is certain: infidelity forces both of you to take a step back, examine what went wrong, and decide how – if at all – you want to proceed from there.
Working through infidelity can also help to strengthen a relationship. However, it is critical that both you and your partner be honest about what you can and cannot commit to in your relationship and maintain open communication in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main cause of cheating?
Some of the causes of cheating that have been cited include Unhappiness/Dissatisfaction: Emotional or sexual dissatisfaction with the marriage is common. Being underappreciated: Infidelity can be caused by a sense of being undervalued or neglected.
Can you really love someone and still cheat on them?
“In short, we can love more than one person at a time,” Fisher explained. That is why, according to Fisher, some people cheat on their partners. It explains why a person can lie in bed at night thinking about deep feelings of attachment to one person and then switch to romantic love for another.
Are there different levels of cheating?
Recommended. While there are some common underlying factors, such as secrecy, deception, and emotional volatility, definitions vary from couple to couple. There are five distinct types of cheating, according to experts speaking to Women’s Health, and two of them may not even involve your partner.