With all the drama surrounding politicians and celebrities who cheat, one might gain the impression that cheating is pretty pervasive. And it is. Psychologists estimate that more than 40 percent of all married relationships have at least one partner sneaking out on the other. That number jumps to over 50 percent for non-married committed relationships.
Don’t misinterpret this as a judgment call. I honestly couldn’t care less if Bill Clinton came on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, if Anthony Weiner sexted sexually explicit photos to young women, and whether or not Tiger Woods needs more than a Swedish blond to keep him satisfied. To each his own.
But I do wonder a little about something…and that is, why seemingly perfectly decent men in seemingly perfectly happy relationships cheat on their wives and girlfriends. Not that women don’t cheat, too. They do. Some estimate that as many women are cheating as men. And it may be true.
This may draw some flak from female readers, but I actually can understand, if not necessarily condone, a man who cheats on a partner because she’s no longer having sex with him or the relationship has staled to the point that neither party takes much genuine interest in the other any longer. The right thing to do would be to get a divorce or break up, but statistics also show that men are pretty complacent. Under a third of divorces are initiated by them. Much easier to cheat. You don’t have to pay alimony or child support or risk not having a warm body to come home to at night.
What baffles me, however, is how so many men married to or in long-term partnerships with beautiful, charming, and generous women who intellectually, emotionally, and sexually thrill them still feel compelled to step out. As a rule, a woman will be utterly devoted to a man who satisfies her on all these levels…so incredibly rare is the find.
A friend of mine whose long-term partner cheated on her repeatedly, says, “Once a man discovers that more than one woman finds him attractive, it becomes like a drug. He just wants more and more.” Even, ladies, if it might cost him the fantastic woman waiting at home in his bed. (Because remember a lot of women, unlike most men, will leave a dead-end or troublesome relationship…or a man who cheats on them. Women aren’t as inclined to “settle” as their male counterparts.)
So what’s up with the male compulsion to constantly scope for greener or just different pastures?
Some anthropologists will argue it’s basic biology, that humans aren’t actually wired to be monogamous. Some psychologists will call it sexual addiction. I’d like to call it something far simpler, however: an easy ego boost.
Who doesn’t like to be admired by the opposite sex? I won’t lie. I like the fact that perfect strangers will open doors for me, lift my luggage into overhead compartments on airplanes, or give me free drinks just because they think, in that particular moment, I look pretty hot. It reminds me I’ve still got it and, to be quite honest, gives me greater confidence with the man on whom I have exclusively placed my affections if I’m in a relationship.
But I can’t say as I have a compelling desire to jump the bones of the mixologist who gives me a complimentary glass of his latest concoction or the random guy in tango class who offers to give me a private lesson in the figure 8. I smile, soak up the ego boost, and go home.
A fair number of men, however, push the envelope on female attention and go as far as the attending party will allow if they feel they have a good chance of getting away with it. (Though admittedly, the “getting away with it” concern often doesn’t enter their heads till after the deed is done anyway.)
But the sad truth is just about every man with whom I’ve been in a semi-serious to serious relationship, save my ex-husband (so far as I know anyway), has cheated on me in some form or another, whether emotionally or physically. And I’d say more than half of my female friends and acquaintances and their female friends and acquaintances have had similar experiences. And I know some of these women are far from duds in the bedroom, on the dance floor, or at a cocktail party. They shimmer with life, and intelligence, and confident sexuality. Yet…the men in their lives still cheat….
A friend of mine explains it this way: “Men go through this thing where they need to feel validated by other women even if they don’t care about those women.”
She has a point. And I, like a lot of women, have been both the “cared about” woman whose romantic partner is off “validating” himself as well as the one doing the validating for the man.
Neither position is one any woman wants to be in, trust me. Because a man who is feeling a need to sow his wild oats is not a man who has your emotions in his line of sight. It’s not that he wants to hurt you. He just doesn’t consider the implications of his actions on people with feelings—i.e. the women who have made the mistake of caring for him.
Unfortunately, all too many men have competing desires of wishing for the stability and security of a long-term relationship while also wanting the excitement of painting the town red every weekend…with a different woman each night. Too often they try to have both…at the same time.
Of course, I realize nothing here so far is providing you any insight on how to prevent that man in your life from cheating. The reality is, I’m afraid, you can’t prevent it if it’s something he is prone to do or is in a place in his life where he feels compelled to do it. It just isn’t in the average guy’s mental makeup to consider long-term, widespread implications of actions outside the boardroom. They are compartmentalizers. They really do believe they can do A without affecting B.
It’s the old “have your cake and eat it, too” scenario. Of course, we all know how that usually works out. And the guy who is running around validating himself will learn how it works out, too, but usually only after he’s lost everything he didn’t realize he valued.