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Why do men cheat and what to do about it?

Updated on March 7, 2009

People cheat in relationships. They develop a fondness or lust for someone else, but remain in their present relationship for whatever reason.

Men cheat, and women cheat as well. But the motives can vary between men and women.

First of all, the role of monogamy in biological relationships is dubious. We are raised to believe monogamy is absolutely correct, but most species of animal don't necessarily practice the nuclear family model that we as Americans take for granted. We know that mothers raise their young, but we don't commonly see father animals in the picture. They take a more hit-and-run approach to sex. Sure, sometimes animals develop a fondness for one another long term, but this affection is more incidental than the mandatory POV we as humans take to relationships. We try to 'stick together' and 'make it work' once the attraction begins to dissipate.

So given the social construct of the monogamous human relationship in this context, it becomes clearer that there is an inherent conflict between the biological urges of man and the demands of the manmade concept of the 'monogamous relationship'. Compounding this further is the institution of marriage, a socioreligious creation designed in part to develop and maintain families in society and keep adults in a stable, docile living situation, reducing the risk of upheaval.

But man and woman alike have cheated on these relationships since the dawn of time. Homosexual and polyamorous affairs were common among the Greeks and Romans, and one has to imagine that hasn't been laid to rest since their time. Even though many societies over time teach that infidelity is wrong, temptation and the thrill thereof drives many over the edge.

Some people are honest and would never cheat, but many aren't so morally pious, and even many of those who wish to be sometimes lose control. That said, while we can try and work through those tempting emotions to stray, there are elements of your life that you can examine to try and improve your relationship and, thus, decrease the appeal of infidelity.

So that said (at length), let's look at some of the factors that can drive a man to cheat.

1) Obviously, an attractive alternative to his current mate.

There are a lot of fish in the sea, even after you've caught one. They don't all just go away. And there are just as many smart, attractive, sexy, etc. women out there as there were when your man was dating.

Sure, your man developed a strong enough fondness to get into a relationship with you. But over time, familiarity can lead to complacency and even boredom, and that fondness fades. People talk about keeping the relationship fresh and spicing things up, but eventually, there is only so much you can do to keep the relationship novel. This can make another woman in a man's life seem attractive in comparison, not so much her positive qualities and attraction to him as the fact that she's something different from his everyday routine. There may not so much be an unhappiness with the relationship as a boredom, which is a product of the 2nd reason.

2) The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

This is a common psychological complex for many, not just with relationships but with other aspects of life. People carry the tendency to want something they don't have more than they would want it if it were readily available, and a man in a relationship is no exception. This is why people dream of being rich: it's not easy to acquire millions of dollars and all the benefits thereof. This is part of the allure with Ferraris and other luxury sports cars: the fact that the common man can't afford one.

When a man meets a wonderful woman he'd get into a relationship with, IF he were single... and he CAN'T because he's in a committed relationship, that makes her even more attractive and tempting to him than she'd likely be if he were single. Ditto if she's in a relationship, maybe doubly so if BOTH are in a committed relationship! Suddenly, the relationship he's in becomes a wall... even if the relationship in itself may be perfectly okay! Likewise....

3) Women want what they can't have.

Chris Rock brought this up in his R rated Bring the Pain comedy routine, "Women like men who are in relationships!" Women who wouldn't give a man a second look may suddenly find him appealling once he's in a relationship. Like the previous example, women find more attractive something they can't readily attain. It's the same mindset that motivates people to be competitive. Thus, a man in a relationship may find himself receiving a lot more attention from attractive women than he'd likely receive if he were single. That he is taken indicates that he's a valued commodity.

All of these psychological factors, however, discount this very important factor:

4) His mate may have lost her luster.

Society is rife with people who marry spouses, only to watch them gain a bunch of weight, dress poorly and let the home fall into disorder, become mean, demanding or complaining, basically shed the bright attributes that led said person to marry him/her and give way to negative, distasteful attributes. Maybe the couple has kids and the kids put a damper on the couple's lifestyle.

Suddenly, a once-pleasant relationship becomes a grind, and the man starts looking the other way.

This is all crass to admit but we've seen it enough in society to know it's very real, and this is not to say men don't let themselves go in the same way, because they certainly do. But if a wife gains 30 pounds, dresses poorly and develops a habit of nagging and complaining to her husband, she shouldn't be too surprised if suddenly he finds other women more attractive than her. It may not be morally correct and this is not to say anyone deserves to be cheated on, but this behavior pattern is a natural cause and effect, and certainly a factor in cheating.

This is also not to say that every woman who is cheated on is an overweight, unattractive bitch. Often times, far from it. In fact, I have a lady friend who just found out her boyfriend was cheating on her, much to the shock of her friends and I, as it seemed they were happy together. Not only is she very attractive and very active with her work, her art and going out with her friends and boyfriend, but by all accounts, the two still seemed very happy with one another. This is one example of infidelity that went against the grain.

That said, one thing women post-infidelity often forget to do, in their finger pointing and why-me-ing, is to look in the mirror and ask how they have changed and how their relationship may have changed for the not-so-better.

And since I'm on the subject....

5) When personal development stagnates, relationships stagnate.

Many a couple falls into a predictable routine... for example, watching TV after work every weeknight, going out to dinner Saturday night before a predictable round of sex later that night, going to the grocery every Sunday... predictability can provide a comfort level, but it can also get boring, and if a man becomes bored with his life and an attractive woman catches his eye... it's possible she is, among other obvious things, seen an escape route from his predictable existence.

There's nothing wrong with certain routines, especially responsible ones, but you don't want to fall into a pattern where most of your life basically falls into autopilot, because at that point, you have ceased to grow and improve as a person, which isn't very healthy in itself, but on top of that, becoming boring is a great way to make infidelity look exciting.

I hope this haphazard exploration of infidelity opened your eyes to a few things. I can't make specific suggestions for improving your relationships: that purely depends on what makes you and your mate tick. But hopefully this sparks anyone who hasn't done so already to take a good look at themselves and re-evaluate how they think about themselves and how they think about relationships.


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    • tsmith650 profile image

      tsmith650 6 years ago

      Good Hub! Doesn't focus on who did what, and who is to blame for what. I really enjoyed that fact that it doesn't play up the whole "poor me I got lonely and my spouse doesn't listen" the cheaters use for cheating. That's a load of hooey! Even my therapist thinks that its just something cheaters use to draw out the full blame so they don't actually have to face the full light of what they have actually done in thier relationship. When it comes down to it, no one held a gun to thier head, no one took thier pants off for them, and no one told them to lie to you. They did those things, and it has nothing to do with the hurt partner, it has 100% to do with the person who cheats, how they deal with life, and thier inability to attain a positive view of themselves and thier effect on the people around them.

    • profile image

      Cellspy 7 years ago

      Men cheat to feel a certain addictive way about themselves. The women they are cheating with don't have the baggage of responsibilities and the wild sex is a plus but so under rated when your all alone later in life. Thanks for sharing!

    • xxscord profile image

      xxscord 7 years ago from sunshine state

      Man i liked you article but to try an explain why men cheat in one article is like trying to explain the bible in a comic book . every one is differant lets hope

    • mirtlesquirtle profile image

      mirtlesquirtle 7 years ago

      Great article! It enlightened me why women and men cheat. I have been asking that question for the past couple of days because of the notion that all men are cheaters.:)

    • profile image

      Kathyluv 7 years ago

      @Tasha I know what u going thru and can't judge I'm also in a very similar situation. And no one can judge u for staying either...

      @Christalluna girl couldn't have put it any better... Well said!

    • QC_1983 profile image

      Quentin Congress 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I liked what you said on here Steve. It seems the things we can't have are more appealing. I guess it's human nature for us to like a chase. But, there's another line that I liked from Chris Rock that he said on "Bigger & Blacker", "A man is as faithful as his options". I wrote a hub about cheating called "Cheating: Tell or Not to Tell".

    • Anath profile image

      Anath 7 years ago

      What about just for fun? It is fun having "a bit on the side" it is exciting. To know that you are doing something forbidden is a big turn on.

    • Rossimobis profile image

      Chibuzo Melvin Mobis 7 years ago from Biafra

      I was led here by a question i asked regarding this issue but was the other way round.From my own personal point of view cheating a spouse is one of those devilish desires that come up in humans so there is no way to justify no matter who the culprit is...Abide by the rule of law.FAITHFULNESS.

    • helendanger profile image

      helendanger 7 years ago from Midwest, United States

      Well! This is not a reassuring post. But it was certainly fun to read. Nicely done.

      I agree that some people are better off as perpetual bachelor/ettes or partners in open relationships, where infidelity is not an issue. And if variety is a huge component of your erotic map, it would be irresponsible to get married to a traditional partner.

      Two of the most awe inspiring aspects of masculinity are not covered here, however. Loyalty and honor. When a man finds the right woman, those traits tend to inhibit infidelity.

    • profile image

      Devon 7 years ago

      i'm in a relationship of almost two years and had been always paranoid and distrustful of men and even of my boyfriend. this was really helpful. thanks for the insight!

    • profile image

      borci 7 years ago

      Well why women let these pigs get away with it is beyond me.

      Really after the romance has worn off, It really is toture

      to be in a marriage....

    • moncrieff profile image

      moncrieff 7 years ago from New York, NY

      Women and men in a relationship should make every day of their life a paradise. It's a hard but interesting work, it's actually the "real" job. Everything else (earning money) is just a shadow to keep you physically alive. Why marry then if you know cannot be up to the illusions you both create.

    • profile image

      Cheated-on-an-inlove 8 years ago

      Wow. I didn't realize that the girls my ex cheated on me with may have only been intrested in him because he had me. When I read it it made complete sense. Althouhg my ex and I are rather young, i wouldn't rule out the fact that i may have gotten boring for him which confuses me because he still claimed he loved me. Shame on the girls for asking him and shame on him for giving in.

    • christalluna1124 profile image

      christalluna1124 8 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Steve ,

      great hub! Let me add a few things to it. First if you think men get bored, try staying home all day with nothing to do all day but watch cartoons with the kids, then theres the kids, daddy gets the freedom to leave and go to work where he meets these so called attractive women. Mommy is tuck at home cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and taking care of the kids. Excuse us if we don't spend our day in 5 inch heels and victorias secret lingre while we do all of this. SEX..HMMM I wish I could remember what that is. I think it is climb up, get his and get off and watch TV with plenty of naked women in it until he falls asleep. If we lose our luster its usually because we slave all day and night to meet your needs. I bet if you put that other woman in your girls place after a week she wouldnt look that great either. If we bitch and nag its because we are overwhelmed, you guys are at work, your job stays there but ours doesnt end. Another reason there are children in the house so I cant even sleep in something sexy because one of them will undoubtly come climb in bed with us because daddy allows it. But I get the feeling that I could walk butt naked thru the living room and he wouldn't even notice except to say could you grab me a beer. But none of these reasons are valid enough to cheat, it is slap in the face to the person you are with, and everything she does for you. If its that bad, leave, I bet when you see her on someone elses arm, she'll look very good again. One last thought even if another woman sticks it in your face you should have the decency to say "sorry but I'm in a committed relationship". You would be surprised how many times men have tried to pick me up while I have on no makeup, sweat pants and a pony tail. I love your article, its great. I always wondered why men and yes...sometimes women will through away some so hard to find as real love, for a one night stand or affair. Your article has given me insight, I just wanted you to see it from our side.

      Happay Holidays,

      Warmest Regards,


      P.S. Check out my hub poem called "you cheated on me"

    • omi saide profile image

      omi saide 8 years ago

      This is a nice analogy of infidelity. Its difficult to commit for people like me, but I have learn to be honest up front as I matured.

    • profile image

      Samantha 8 years ago

      I think men cheat the most!

    • profile image

      Ty 8 years ago

      @Tasha: Girl, why in the world are you still with this person????? I understand that you really want to get over this, but there really is no excuse for the behavior of this motherless dog who you've engaged yourself to. I 200% believe there is someone ELSE out there who will make you much happier and, for starters, treat you with the dignity you deserve.

      @Steven: Why is it that men think its okay for them to feel disillusioned with married life and parenthood and act with single-minded abandom? Have they no concept that wives and mothers are perhaps lamenting their own loss of independence and care-free days? I call BS on this excuse.

      On the other hand, I totally agree that monogamy is not proven to be a natural way of things. I say this as someone who is entirely committed to her relationship of 8 years -- but marriage and its consequent monogramy is a MAN-made (yes, MAN [not woman]) concept written into law. Yet, men are the ones who complain loudest of all being locked in its yoke. Is this not a kind of irony we could all do without? The mothers are in most cases entirely devoted to the safe upbringing of their young, but who said taking care of a grown man AND his fragile ego should also be added onto what already is a full-time job?

    • profile image

      angle 9 years ago

      men cheat because they dont respect the person they are with. they only think about themself and forget about what their spouse feelings. cheating is bast on the person if you care and love your patner then you would rather to brake it off with the person then to know that you are in love with someone esle and you and that person is sleeping togather . then to be cheating and hurting the one you cliam you love.

    • profile image

      angle 9 years ago

      men cheat because they dont respect the person they are with. they only think about themself and forget about what their spouse feelings. cheating is bast on the person if you care and love your patner then you would rather to brake it off with the person then to know that you are in love with someone esle and you and that person is sleeping togather . then to be cheating and hurting the one you cliam you love.

    • profile image

      chantel 9 years ago

      In my opinion some men get addicted to cheating and the thrill of getting away with it. You can't ever let him get so comfortible that he thinks you'll always be there no matter what. You always have to keep him guesing whats coming next. Once he knows he has you then he knows how much he can get away with. Just like a kid give them an inch and they take a mile. Some men aren't this way but they are few and far between. It's always a game even if we don't always want to play.

    • profile image

      Tasha 9 years ago

      I think this gives a great view of why people cheat, but doesn't help with my situation. My fiance cheated on me 4 times with 2 different women and got one of them pregnant within the first week we were engaged. Him and I have been best friends for 3 years and never kept secrets until his old friends came back into the picture and he started lying all the time. I can't get over this even though I really want to.

    • profile image

      cosmic observer 9 years ago

      strange why there aren't more comments on this Hub. It's a great hub because if focuses on the everyday lives of people living together, they are practical real issues that everyone faces. Maybe many people live in lalaland that they like the romantic version of marriage instead of the real life's issues faced everyday. Maybe it pictures the unpretty everyday things, and most people don't like it when it is not pretty. It should be like hollywood all the time. Hollywood is an illusion, it exists in the 35mm film. Not to sound too grimm but mates have to be fair to each other, like to try to look good for each other from time to time, etc.

      One thing missing in the hub is married people can be very lonely, living together yet very lonely, maybe they are looking for some emotional intimacy someplace else.

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 10 years ago

      Great hub!