The whole cheating thing would be a loteasier if there was a blanket diagnosis for all men on the face of the earth. But the truth is, men — like women! — are complicated creatures with a multitude of reasons for doing what they do.
Men might cheat for a multitude of reasons, says Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based marriage and therapist and author of How Could You Do This to Me? Learning to Trust After Betrayal: “the thrill of the chase and conquest, addiction, [feeling that he’s] deprived or unhappy with the amount of they’re having with their partner, emotionally upset and feel their needs aren’t met by their partner,” or that he wants to boost his ego and feel attractive…or he might be afraid of real intimacy.
The truth is that all sorts of dynamics can play into a man’s decision to engage in infidelity. Generally, though, his choice to cheat is driven by one or more of the following factors:
- Immaturity: If he does not have a lot of experience in committed relationships, or if he doesn’t fully understand that his actions will inevitably have consequences like hurting his partner, he may think it is fine to have adventures. He might think of his commitment to monogamy as a jacket that he can put on or take off as he pleases, depending on the circumstances.
- Co-occurring Issues: He may have an ongoing problem with alcohol and/or drugs that affects his decision-making, resulting in regrettable decisions. Or maybe he has a problem like addiction, meaning he compulsively engages in fantasies and behaviors as a way to numb out and avoid life.
- Insecurity: He may feel as if he is too old (or too young), not handsome enough, not rich enough, not smart enough, etc. (An astonishing amount of male cheating is linked, at least in part, to a mid-life crisis.) To bolster his flagging ego, he seeks validation from women other than his mate, using this spark of interest to feel wanted, desired, and worthy.
- It’s Over, Version 1: He may want to end his current relationship. However, instead of just telling his partner that he’s unhappy and wants to break things off, he cheats — and then forces her to do the dirty work.
- It’s Over, Version 2: He may want to end his current relationship, but not until he’s got another one lined up. So he sets the stage for his next relationship while still in the first one.
- Lack of Male Social Support: He may have 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 inevitably fails in that duty, he seeks fulfillment elsewhere.
- Confusion about Limerence versus Commitment: He might misunderstand the difference between romantic intensity and long-term love, mistaking the neurochemical rush of early romance, technically referred to as limerence, for love, and failing to understand that in healthy, long-term relationships limerence is replaced over time with less intense, but ultimately more meaningful forms of connection.
- Childhood Abuse: He may be reenacting or latently responding to unresolved childhood trauma – neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, abuse, etc. In such cases, his childhood wounds have created attachment/intimacy issues that leave him unable or unwilling to fully commit to one person. He might also be using the excitement and distraction of infidelity as a way to self-soothe the pain of these old, unhealed wounds.
- Selfishness: It’s possible that 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 seeing his vow of monogamy as a sacrifice made to and for his relationship, he views it as something to be avoided and worked around.
- Terminal Uniqueness: He may feel like he is different and deserves something special that other men might not. The usual rules just don’t apply to him, so he is free to reward himself outside his primary relationship whenever he wants.
- Unfettered Impulse: He may never have even thought about cheating until an opportunity suddenly presented itself. Then, without even thinking about what infidelity might do his relationship, he went for it.
- Unrealistic Expectations: He may feel that his partner should meet his every whim and desire, and otherwise, 24/7, regardless of how she feels at any particular moment. He fails to understand that she has a life of her own, with thoughts and feelings and needs that don’t always involve him. When his expectations are not met, he seeks external fulfillment.
- Anger/Revenge: He may cheat to get revenge. He is angry with his mate, and wants to hurt her. In such cases, the infidelity is meant to be seen and known. The man does not bother to lie or keep secrets about his cheating, because he wants his partner to know about it.