Anyone, man or woman, gay or straight, can cheat. But why is that? 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 are socialized than to any innate differences between them. 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. So we asked relationship experts why men cheat, as well as what constitutes cheating, warning signs, and what to do if infidelity has infiltrated your relationship. Many of these behaviors may be applicable to people of all genders, but they are especially relevant to men.
Why Do Men Cheat?
Here are some of the reasons why men cheat.
1. They’re trying to find a way out.
“Sometimes, when men cheat, it’s because they’re trying to get out of a relationship; and that’s the first step,” says relationship therapist Ken Page, LCSW. Although people of both genders may cheat, for this reason, Birkel believes that men are less likely to have difficult conversations with their partners about their own needs and the relationship. Cheating may be seen as a means to an end if they are looking for a way out. “They’re done with their marriage or relationship, and rather than having that difficult conversation, they’ll just have an affair,” he says.
2. They’re on the lookout for a connection.
Despite what gender stereotypes may suggest about men, cheating does not always occur for purely physical reasons. If they feel unnoticed or disconnected from their partner, Page says, “those things hurt and make us go into a zone where we protect ourselves,” adding, “when this happens a lot over time, the impulse to think about sex with other people increases significantly.”
In general, men are “much less likely to have a good social support system” in terms of close male friends, according to Birkel. In those cases, the compassion and support of another woman in his life may be extremely beneficial. “It often begins as a friendship, perhaps with a female coworker,” he says, adding that she begins to make him feel better about himself, and thus an emotional connection forms.
3. They exhibit sociopathic or narcissistic tendencies.
If a partner has cheated, sociopathic or narcissistic tendencies may be present. “[They could be] someone who genuinely doesn’t care about their partner’s feelings,” Page explains. “They want what they want, and it’s as simple as that,” Birkel adds that when an opportunity to cheat presents itself, he frequently takes advantage of it. “There are some people who lack the ability to understand other people’s emotions; the impact of their behavior on other people—narcissistic characteristics.”
Notably, most people exhibit some degree of narcissistic behavior, and not every person who exhibits narcissistic behavior is a full-fledged narcissist with a narcissistic personality disorder. The same is true for sociopathy, also known as an antisocial personality disorder.
4. Punish the cheater.
Birkel claims that some people act out and cheat out of rage, jealousy, or a desire for vengeance. Even if their partner hasn’t cheated on them, if they’ve done something to irritate their partner (for example, having a close friendship with another man), “they’ll end up cheating to make a point,” Birkel says.
5. They are battling substance abuse.
Cheating may become much more likely if one partner is dealing with a substance abuse problem. “When we become addicted in this way, it creates an impulse-driven, more immature version of ourselves,” Page says, noting that he’s seen many relationships fall apart after one partner became addicted to painkillers following surgery, for example.
6. They are having difficulties with their mental health.
Similarly, Page believes that depression and anxiety can exacerbate impulse-driven behavior because “if depression and anxiety are intense; it can really exacerbate the need to get relief—and relief can often come in the form of someone; really attractive outside the relationship.”
7. They’re looking for approval.
Insecurity and low self-esteem can also drive someone to cheat, especially if they aren’t getting that validation in their own relationship, according to Page and Birkel. “If people don’t feel attractive enough to their partner,” Page explains, “they may cheat to seek external validation.” He goes on to say that sexual issues (such as erectile dysfunction) can also drive people to “look for someone newer and more exciting to prove to themselves that they’re still sexually potent and capable.”
8. They’re denying a piece of their identity.
Cheating can occur as a result of one partner denying their own sexual or gender identity. Someone may be having difficulty accepting that they are gay or bisexual, and “they want to experiment, want to explore,” according to Page. “The same could be said for gender identity issues.” And you want to explore sex as well as build an identity around it because it’s a hidden aspect of yourself.”
9. They’re also emotionally immature.
Finally, Birkel and Page both agree that many of these reasons are due to emotional immaturity. “I think that’s at the heart of why men cheat,” Birkel says, noting that men are taught not to express their feelings. “By the time a man has an affair, there has already been a long period of time when there have been issues and they have been unable to talk about those feelings,” he says. According to Page, it frequently boils down to “poor judgment, a lack of willpower, a lack of self-control, and immaturity.”
Why Men Cheat On Wives
Men are more likely to defraud than women. While this may come as cold comfort to scorned women, it is important to note that, psychologically, most men do not cheat with the same intent as women do. Cheaters, particularly repeat cheaters, are opportunistic and capable of emotional compartmentalization. So, what causes married men to cheat? It’s impossible to say as a whole because every relationship and man is unique.
Sure, some married men may be promiscuous because they are dissatisfied. Men, on the other hand, do not cheat because they are unhappy. Men cheat because they believe they can get away with it, and perhaps more importantly, they are willing to let themselves get away with it. It’s also worth noting that, oddly, cheating is a behavior that can make it difficult to be a good father and husband, but it’s also a behavior that isn’t actually associated with familial love or care.
“Men think, well, I just did this, but in every other way, I’m dependable, responsible, and committed; I show up, and I’m a really nice guy.” It’s only the cheating.” Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating, by Robert Weiss, therapist, and author. “What they don’t realize is that women don’t think like that.”
Weiss discovered that, despite being stereotyped as being good at fixing things, men are almost universally bad at repairing the damage done by cheating in his experience counseling couples who have been devastated by infidelity. It’s understandable that men underestimate how damaging their behavior can be to their partner, given that the sex didn’t mean much to them and was simply available. Repeat offenses are the result of the same mentality in men who don’t come clean or get caught: it’s just sex.
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Men think, well, I just did this, but in every other way, I’m dependable, responsible, committed, I show up, and I’m a really nice guy.” It’s only the cheating.” Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating, by Robert Weiss, therapist, and author. “What they don’t realize is that women don’t think like that.”
Weiss recalls one man who came to him in a counseling session and expressed his desire to cheat on his wife with a coworker. He advised him to consider his marriage to be a contract. If he wanted to have sex with someone else, he’d have to talk to his wife first and renegotiate the terms. When he did, he saw the pain it would cause her ahead of time, rather than after the fact — and guess what? He never cheated on anyone. Only that level of maturity and consideration, according to Weiss, can keep men from cheating.
Why Men Cheat and Lie
Why do men deceive and lie? It’s not that women can’t cheat in relationships; it’s just that the reasons men and women cheat differ. One explanation could be that a man’s brain works differently than a woman’s. The question of why men lie and cheat remains unanswered. And why do married men engage in extramarital affairs?
Is it only for sex? It’s not always about sex. People cheat for a variety of reasons, depending on the circumstances. This article discusses the five reasons why men cheat and lie. The list also discusses why married men cheat and what married men want from affairs.
Reason # 1: Men cheat because they are emotionally dissatisfied
Most women believe that cheating is all about sex for men. That, however, is far from the case. Most of the time, an emotional void is the root cause of cheating in a relationship. In such cases, men are unconcerned about sex.
Remember that men, like women, are emotional beings. They want to be appreciated and want their wives to understand how hard they work to get things done. Because they may not always express their feelings, their partner may believe they do not require affirmation.
You have the following options: Make him feel valued by creating a culture of appreciation and thoughtfulness. Concentrate on improving the quality of your relationship by making it more loving and connected. It is not a rule that wooing and pampering is only a man’s job. Their partners can also take the initiative and try to do small things to make their partners feel loved. Even small gestures or gifts on no particular occasion can have a big impact.
Reason #2: Men cheat because they have friends who’ve cheated
Why do guys cheat if it isn’t for sex or emotional reasons? Spending time with friends who have cheated in the past makes it appear as if it’s a normal thing for a guy to do. It legitimizes infidelity as a viable option.
It is not acceptable to advise a partner to stop seeing certain friends. However, keep in mind that people are easily swayed. Even if you believe your man has good values, the actions of his friends are likely to leave an impression on him.
What you can do: Encourage your husband or boyfriend to form a circle of close friends who share your strong beliefs about marriage.
You could also host a lunch or a party for this group of friends on a regular basis so that your husband or boyfriend develops the habit of spending more time with people who have a positive and healthy mindset.
Reason #3: Men cheat to stimulate their libido.
You know how it is at the start of a new relationship. You can’t seem to get enough of each other. Things change over time, and you both begin to feel at ease. However, the spark may be lost, and some men may begin to crave that same newness once more. This is one of the most common reasons for husbands to cheat.
You have the following options: Make intimacy a priority. Make time for sex at least once a week, no matter how busy you are. You can experiment in the bedroom and even express your preferences to your partner. Also, from time to time, try to encourage spontaneity.
Reason #4: Men cheat to retaliate against their partners.
Some men may cheat in order to exact revenge on their cheating partner – by engaging in multiple relationships. As complicated as it may seem, this is mostly done by men who do not or cannot forgive their partner but want to stay in the marriage.
What you can do: If the two of you have a history of cheating, the mature approach is to discuss the issues at hand and come up with a solution that both of you can live with. If either spouse resorts to such tactics to harm the other, professional help is clearly required to repair the relationship. Seek counseling, but if that doesn’t work and the cheating continues, you may want to consider separating.
Reason #5: Men cheat in order to get out of marriages.
Men who have affairs may willfully commit immoral acts in order to get out of their marriages. After all, the law recognizes adultery as a valid reason for a woman to seek divorce. Such men openly cheat, and their relationship with their partners is already over. Cheating is simply a means to an end.
What you can do is try to talk to your husband about it. However, if the act is willfully committed, there isn’t much you can do about it. In this case, divorce is the best option. Accept the end of the relationship and move on. Some argue that men cheat simply because they can. But that is a generalized and biased statement. In general, infidelity is also remarkably easy to conceal.
But do they really want to? Would any man who wants to be in a loving, committed relationship do something like this? The truth is that he can if he perceives avoid, particularly an emotional one, in the relationship.
What to do about infidelity in a relationship
Here are some pointers for dealing with a cheating partner in your relationship or marriage:
1. Decide whether you want to stick together and work it out.
It is entirely up to the couple to deal with instances of cheating. Some people cannot accept the breach of trust, while others are willing to work through it. According to Page, people who cheated on a partner in a previous relationship are three times more likely to cheat again in a future relationship. According to Birkel, “something like 65 percent of people who work on their relationship after an affair is able to recover and feel happy in their relationship again.”
A relationship can recover from an affair over time and with the help of a sex or couples’ therapist, but it is possible if both partners are willing to put in the effort. That is, after all, the most important thing. Knowing when to walk away, on the other hand, is equally important.
2. Determine whether the cheating partner is truly willing to change.
“One thing I’d say for certain,” Page says, “is don’t assume this will never happen again.” It’s a more serious problem with deeper roots that must be addressed.” He goes on to say that it’s critical to understand the “why.” “Cheating is the tip of an iceberg, and there is some form of disconnection; from self, and from the relationship, that exists when there is cheating.”
And if the cheating partner is unwilling to work on things and is dismissive of their partner’s pain, “to me, that’s not going to be a situation that ever leads to a healthy relationship again,” Birkel says. “And I don’t think that person’s partner should put up with that level of indifference.”
3. Focus on the feelings of the person who has been cheated on.
The partner who cheated may often feel deeply ashamed, but Birkel points out that there is a distinction between feeling guilty and feeling shame. “Healthy guilt is appropriate,” he says, but “it’s important for the person who had the affair to take some time; to focus on their partner’s experience and hurt” rather than their own feelings of being a bad person.
Being cheated on is a traumatic experience for a variety of reasons; 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 to proceed from there—if at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a man feel when he cheats?
After having an affair, 68 percent of men feel guilty. Even if they haven’t admitted to the affair, most cheating husbands will feel guilty and express that guilt through their actions. You may notice subtle changes in their behavior that lead you to suspect that your spouse is suffering from cheating husband guilt.
Who cheat most in a relationship?
It’s a frequently asked question. Men, on average, cheat more than women. According to data from the 2018 General Social Survey, 20% of married men and 13% of married women have slept with someone other than their partner.