It's never easy to figure out why men cheat. After all, there's no manual or field guide explaining why some men are unfaithful, especially when it seems like they've got an amazing wife or even girlfriend at home. It's even more confusing when men go after women who don't, on the surface, seem on par with the women they're already with.
Science has come up with a few explanations, but still, it's not set in stone as to why men cheat. It could be changing gender roles, past dating experiences, and even the way their parents treated each other could play a role in determining whether or not a man will be a faithful spouse.
While it's true that infidelity means different things to different people, it's also true that most people agree that cheating, no matter what form it takes, is always going to be detrimental to a relationship. In order to maintain a healthy relationship, it's therefore important to try to figure out men's motivations for cheating, whether it's down to a mistake of circumstance or a midlife crisis. If it turns out to be genetic after all... Well, at least you know where you stand with the guy.
15 Men Seek Out Questionable Situations
Here's the thing about infidelity: if the guy isn't happy in the relationship, he could be subconsciously putting himself in situations where infidelity could occur more easily, and he might have more excuses for it after the fact.
There are scenarios that people who are committed to and satisfied with their relationships will avoid. Whether they are meeting that new receptionist Denise for a late dinner or "coffee," or meeting the boys at a hot nightclub where there just happens to be girls around, bad decisions can be made when guys aren't happy with their relationship.
Considering that everyone knows what the consequences of infidelity are, guys who expose themselves to risky situations where they know they won't have the will to say no should a hot young thing cross their path make it clear that they're willing to cheat.
14 Men Also Have Emotional Needs
Intimacy is a big thing in relationships, but it's not the only thing. No matter how good it is, eventually if his emotional needs aren't being met he may look elsewhere to satisfy them. Sometimes it's the little things that make the guy stick around. His wife might be drop-dead gorgeous, but if she totally ignores him, it's not going to last.
It's not just women; men enjoy it when women notice the little things like if they got a haircut, bought something new and fun for dinner, or took care of the household tasks ahead of time.
If this is a bone of contention in a relationship, it's likely going to lead to the man cheating if his emotional needs are met elsewhere. After all, if he looks at his wife and thinks "Samantha makes me feel great, my wife makes me feel like crap," it's likely that he'll stray.
13 Evolution: Not Just An Excuse
It's the old saying: "sowing your wild oats," also known as what young men are supposed to be doing in college. The cliche is that men want to spread their figurative seeds, while women are more concerned with reining a man in and marrying him for long-term security and fatherhood duties.
Now, I'm no evolutionary psychologist, so I can't speak to whether or not that's 100% true, but it sure makes a lot of sense. Evolution would have made us think along the lines of our likelihood to succeed in reproducing, and aim us toward taking more chances. After all, there's a good chunk of men who aren't ever going to reproduce and remain constantly swinging for the fences in online dating.
Where does this leave married men? Well, even if their wife is one of the mythical "10s" we hear about, the man may still feel a strong compulsion to spread his seed, given that at the end of the day, men have the genetic potential to reproduce every time they are intimate, while women have only a narrow window each month, with a big time commitment afterward.
12 There's The Off Chance That He's A Psycho
Scientifically speaking, some people are just total wackos. There are a bunch of ways in which men with actual personality disorders could try to hurt their partners, for example gaslighting, which is where one partner denies that the feelings of the other partner are valid by making them doubt whether or not they have valid reasons to feel the way they do.
Obviously, another way is cheating. Some men are simply just anti-social or have some deep-seated need to mess with other people. This can, of course, mess up any relationship or marriage and should be avoided at all costs, but of course, an anti-social narcissist won't see it that way. The only one who can change this behavior is the man himself, and if that doesn't happen he'll just drag his partner down with him.
11 "Intimacy" Could Give Him A Big Rush
There are a bunch of reasons why people do drugs: the rush and high they provide, the social aspect, the thrill of doing something illicit. Those same reasons, of course, apply to what happens in the bedroom, and for some even more so to intimacy they're not supposed to be having.
Think about it. The same chemicals that trigger dopamine receptors in the brain that make us feel good also get triggered by doing the deed. If they didn't, odds are we wouldn't find it so fun, given the risk it can put us under. But for some men, that risk is part of the fun, and the totality of the experience just releases more dopamine, and the cycle goes on.
For some men, albeit a few, dopamine receptors fire off more intensely during this time than at any other time. If that's not a scientific reason (though maybe not a good justification) for a guy to cheat on his hot but perhaps physically or emotionally absent wife, I'm not sure what is.
10 Feelings Of Insecurity
Another possible reason for a guy to cheat, albeit one that's not as hard and fast as the previous one, is simply the reason that he could be insecure about himself as a male. Hardwired into every man's brain are the feelings that they need to be providing in at least some way for their partner, be it financially, s*xually, or emotionally.
If a man feels like he's unable to do that within his relationship, there's a good chance that he could just look elsewhere for someone to prop up his sagging ego. Cheating could be just the thing for that, but it only really works in the short term. Doesn't stop them from doing it, though.
On some level, men really do have a need to validate themselves, as there's a great pressure on them to be handsome/rich/young/funny and a whole shopping list of other traits, including tall and not balding... Is it any wonder some crack under the strain?
9 They're Not The Breadwinner
Probably because of some of the reasons listed above, men who aren't the breadwinners in their relationship, or who are even financially dependent on their wife or significant other are more likely to cheat. Five times as likely, in fact. Maybe diamonds ARE a girl's best friend.
Oddly enough, women are also more likely to cheat when they're the ones making most of the money in a relationship, meaning... Well again, this writer's not a scientist, but the idea that men are supposed to be the breadwinners is to a large extent hardwired into many people's brains, even in our more-or-less gender-equal society. Guess that programming is hard to break out of.
8 Your Genes May Betray You
While something like 90% of people agree that yes, infidelity is wrong, around 20% of men still end up cheating on their wives. What's the source of this cognitive dissonance? Come on science, there's got to be a reason we can't keep it in our pants, right?
Well, actually yes, yes there may be a reason, and it could be genetic. That's right, even outside of the theory that men are more compelled to cheat because of evolution or lack of social standing, some studies have found that cheating was more of a common occurrence with groups of people who have certain types of vasopressin (a hormone related to romantic bonding and empathy) and oxytocin genes.
These genes and other genetic factors are said to account for almost 2/3 of infidelity in men. So there you have it, science is giving men an out – that we should definitely be smart enough not to use as an excuse.
7 Limerence Vs. Commitment: Men Don't Always Get It
The rush of intensity that follows the start of a new relationship is a powerful chemical, quite literally so. The neurochemicals that accompany this rush are very strong and contribute to a state called limerance, or the early stages of love.
However, it's a common trait in men (and common complaint of women) that many men seem to not understand how to make the transition to a full-blown relationship. The long-term stuff, the ones that don't stay red-hot but settle into a comfortable groove.
The problem is, those chemicals that tell your brain you're in love are a bit like any substance... The effects don't last. Men who can't navigate the choppy waters of romance and a long-term, meaningful relationship are often ones who will cheat to feel that early rush again.
6 They Want To Relive The Glory Days
It's true that while you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink. This obviously doesn't apply to alcoholics though, and men who habitually cheat have much in common with them. Their choices may not be clear or easy to understand to them, however, because they might not understand what is truly motivating them.
There's a psychological reason why some men like to re-enact the whole courtship ritual with new women. It's familiar to them, reminds them of when they were young, and these early experiences with women gave them meaning to their lives, shaping their personalities. There's such a thing as muscle memory, and well-tread neural pathways are much the same. Men who cheat on their wives are sometimes just trying to revisit a piece of themselves that they feel like they lost along the way to adulthood.
5 The Boys Aren't Back In Town
What if I told you the reason that some men cheat is that they miss hanging out with the boys? Hold on, it's not really all that crazy when you think about it. Whatever the reasons for entering relationships that women think men have, it can't be denied that both parties, at the end of the day, want companionship.
They also both want friendship, and sadly for men, a lack of male support or friendship is a real problem when they reach their mid-to-late 30s and beyond, as family and marriage usually end up filling the hole vacated by the old gang and their shared stomping grounds.
Unfortunately for the wife in this situation, this means that a new, friendly woman has the psychological advantage of seeming more capable of delivering on his need for friendship as well as romantic and/or romantic stimulation. When men pin all of their friendship needs on their wife, she can only hope but fail at the impossible task of being all things to him.
4 Past Trauma Bubbles Up
This one's unpleasant, but sadly for a lot of men it's a big factor in their inability to commit to one partner. Childhood abuse suffered by an individual may be subconsciously affecting their ability to treat their relationships with the respect they deserve.
Men suffering from trauma may be reenacting or subconsciously dealing with unresolved issues from their childhood. There could have been neglect, physical or emotional abuse, or a number of other psychological wounds that may be affecting their ability to stay with one woman. The narcotic effect and distraction of novel romantic experiences could also be a way of self-medicating their uncomfortable emotions.
3 Everyone's Doing It But Us
Most people in healthy relationships tend to think the best of themselves and their partners while thinking that it's people in other relationships that are doing all the cheating. Instead of the grass being greener on the other side, they'd rather not change their horse in mid-stream, or whatever metaphor works for you.
A recent study of university students showed that they thought the typical person of the opposite s*x had around a 40% chance of cheating on their partner. Those same participants estimated that their own partners only had a 5% of having already cheated on them, and 8% that they would in the future. Turns out they were a bit off, as 9% of participants had admitted to straying. Guess it's better the devil you know, though.
2 Little White Lies Help Serial Cheaters
The human brain is truly a wondrous thing. We can design airplanes, order takeout food, and even ride a bike if need be. Another useful thing we can do is tell ourselves lies, tons of lies, stacks upon stacks of lies, in order to get what we want.
The brain actually adapts to dishonesty, and proportionally, the amount of guilt a liar feels every time they lie decreases. Remember those neural pathways mentioned above? Turns out that the paths of the brain that remember how to throw a curveball through rigorous practice are similar to the ones that men use to justify cheating on their wives.
The amygdala is a section of the brain that produces a negative reaction when we tell lies, but the super handy thing about telling lies repeatedly is that this effectively lessens the impact of every individual lie told in terms of activity in the amygdala. With this in mind, the truth becomes even more important to tell, as truly bad tendencies toward infidelity could be formed otherwise.
1 It's An Age Thing
The old cliche of men experiencing a midlife crisis is an enduring one, as men are supposed to accumulate a bit of a gut, a fat wallet, and an overpriced sports car by the time they're ready for the big 40 or 50.
According to who's making profiles on dating sites, and at what age, it does seem to follow that men approaching a major life marker seem to desire to start an extramarital relationship with a new woman, and sites like Ashley Madison feature a large number of men who are about to hit an age milestone.
On a psychological level, it makes sense, and maybe even on an evolutionary one. If an older man is seeking out younger partners, it could be out of a need to continue to spread his seed while he is healthy and virile, the desperation coming from a creeping sense of mortality and loss of viability as a competitive male. Either way, the combover is here to stay.
Sources: businessinsider.com, nytimes.com