Why Do Men Cheat?

Generally, a man who engages in sexual infidelity does so for one or more of the following (relatively unflattering) reasons:

  • Insecurity: He feels as if he is too old, too young, not handsome enough, not rich enough, not smart enough, not powerful enough, etc. As a result, he seeks validation from women other than his mate, using their spark of interest to feel wanted, desired, and worthy.
  • Unfettered Impulse: He never thought much about cheating until Busty Brenda hit on him at the office party, letting him know she was up for it whenever, wherever. So without even thinking about what his behavior might do to his primary relationship, he went for it.
  • Psychological Trauma: He is reenacting and/or latently responding to unresolved childhood traumas—neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc. Essentially, his childhood and adolescent wounds have created attachment/intimacy issues that leave him unable and/or unwilling to fully commit to one person. He might also be using the excitement and distraction of sexual infidelity as a way to self-soothe the pain of these old, unhealed wounds.
  • Terminal Uniqueness: He feels like he deserves something special that is just for him—a prostitute, a few hours with porn, an affair, etc. He convinces himself that he is put-upon in some way by the people in his life, and he uses this to justify his infidelity.
  • Lack of Male Social Support: Over time, he has undervalued his need for supportive friendships with other men, expecting his social and emotional needs to be met entirely by his significant other. And when she (or he) inevitably fails in that duty, he seeks external sources.
  • Biology: He believes it is a man’s evolutionary right/imperative to spread his seed as widely as possible, and he acts on this, even though it conflicts with his commitment to monogamy and breaches relationship trust.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: He feels that his partner should meet his every whim and desire, sexual and otherwise, 24/7, regardless of how his partner is feeling at any particular moment. He fails to understand that his partner has a separate life, with thoughts and feelings and needs that don’t always involve him. When his expectations are not met, he seeks external fulfillment.
  • It’s Over, Version 1: He wants to end his current relationship. However, instead of just telling his partner that he’s unhappy and want to break things off, he cheats and forces her (or him) to do the dirty work.
  • It’s Over, Version 2: He wants to end his current relationship. However, he doesn’t want to leave his current long-term relationship until he’s got another one lined up. So he sets the stage for the next relationship while still in the first one.
  • Limerence: He doesn’t understand the difference between romantic intensity and long-term love. Essentially, he mistakes the neurochemical rush of early romance, technically referred to as limerence, for love. He fails to understand that in healthy long-term relationships the rush of limerence is replaced over time with less intense but ultimately more meaningful forms of connection.
  • Co-Occurring Issues: He has an ongoing problem with alcohol and/or drugs that affects his decision-making, resulting in regrettable sexual decisions. Or maybe he has a problem like sexual addiction, meaning he compulsively engages in sexual fantasies and behaviors as a way to numb out and avoid life.
  • Putting Himself First: His primary consideration is for himself and himself alone. He can therefore lie and keep secrets without remorse or regret as long as it gets him what he wants. It’s possible he never intended to be monogamous. Rather than viewing his vow of monogamy as a sacrifice made to and for his relationship, he sees it as something to be avoided and worked around.

For most men, there is no single factor driving the decision to cheat. Moreover, a man’s reasons for cheating may evolve over time as his life circumstances change. Either way, his betrayed partner will ultimately care less about why the cheating occurred, and more about his behavior moving forward—what kind of husband, lover, friend, spouse, parent, and partner he will be in the future.