Only As Faithful As Their Options? Men and Cheating
By Karen Salmansohn
December 17, 2009
Once upon a time, I suffered from Prince Harming Syndrome, the tendency to date men who were trouble or troubled. Immediately after a bad breakup with a seemingly nice doctor who I later discovered was also playing doctor with someone else, I kicked my addiction to these kinds of men.
Now I'm engaged to a man I trust implicitly and vice versa. Just the same, my fiancé empathetically offered me his e-mail password when I confessed I still had pesky leftover "mistrust issues."
In our high-tech world, it's easy to have mistrust issues. Online dating sites make it easy for people to have their cake and eat it too, even right smack in front of you. Some partners are known to boldly text or e-mail the other woman, even while in bed with their spouses!
Admittedly, men aren't the only ones who cheat. A recent study* revealed 18 percent of married women have cheated on their spouse. Men, however, seem to still outnumber the ladies—28 percent say they've cheated on their wives. Interestingly enough, marriage counselor M. Gary Newman reported in his 2008 study that 88 percent of men who've cheated said the other women were no better looking or in no better shape than their own wives. While this may be good news for the egos of those women who have been cheated on, it's also confusing and begs the question:
Why do men cheat anyway? I have some thoughts.
1. Men can't help it. Men naturally are hunters and propagators of the species. Modern man, however, should be able to discipline his animalistic tendencies with compassion and an awareness of the long-term consequences of his behavior. Excusing a man's behavior on this principle gives him a Get-Out-of-Cheating card and is unacceptable.
2. Men love variety. Barry Schwartz wrote about some of this in The Paradox of Choice, defining people who consistently seek new options as "maximizers." There are indeed some men who are a bit more wired to enjoy the thrill of the kill.
3. Men use sex to soothe their emotions and egos during challenging times. Women soothe themselves with chocolate; men soothe themselves with sex. Personally, I don't condone either extracurricular sex or chocolate as being the best therapy during difficult times. No matter what a couple's problems are, the best solution is always the same: Keep open and warm communication going.
4. Doggie see, doggie do. Newman's study revealed that 77 percent of men who have cheated said they have a good friend who cheated too.
5. There might be some truth to men being as faithful as their options. For some men, their egos tend to encourage them to rationalize their actions, whether it is by abstaining from cheating or offering themselves generously to as many women as possible.
6. Many men feel like they can separate love from sex. Many men truly believe they can still have sex with other women without diminishing love for their mates.
So what can you do if you find yourself with a cheating partner? I recommend the following:
1. Open up a conversation. Calmly tell your spouse you care about him but that you suspect he may be seeing someone else. Express your concerns, and that you understand coming clean may be difficult, but ultimately honesty is what's best for the health of your relationship.
2. Listen to his response. If he denies any two-timing, do not keep accusing him. You could create a self-fulfilling cheating prophecy. However, if you get a denial, but still feel suspicious, keep your eyes open. Before you approach your man again about this topic, however, be sure to collect your evidence and be prepared to say goodbye.
Have you been cheated on? Did your partner ever explain to you why he cheated on you? What did you do when you found out? Share your story below!
Karen Salmansohn is a best-selling author known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading self-help. Get more information on finding a loving happier-ever-after relationship in her book Prince Harming Syndrome.