Why do men have affairs?Get this article in PDF format
One of the most difficult marital problems to address in counselling is infidelity. Yet, many men at some time in their relationship look elsewhere for something on the side, and the impact is one of the main causes of relationship breakdown. So, why do they do it? And for that matter, why do they make matters worse and lie about it. You may not want to hear this, but the problem seems to stem from something these men are unaware of. When Irish playwright Paedar de Burca travelled the length and breadth of Ireland and England interviewing men who had cheated on their wives, he came up with some interesting discoveries. He wove his findings into a stage show that he called Why Men Cheat.
Could insecurity be a problem?
Although many unfaithful partners are successful in their
own right, such as in their professions, de Burca found
that it may well be that feelings of inadequacy or
insecurity leaves them needing the adulation of women to
bolster their ego. It’s as if they still need reassurance
that they are desirable and have what it takes. My own
experience of working with men who have transgressed
suggests that there may be a little more to it than de
Yes, the problem could be hormones
I find that Christopher Ryan’s Sex at Dawn may have unearthed a more common dynamic. Ryan found that few men in his research sought love when they had affairs, but were rather egged on by testosterone looking for a place to have a party. While men’s testosterone levels naturally decline with age, and thus their vulnerability to both mental and physical health problems increases, there is a formula that helps prevent this decline. “Use it and you won’t lose it” is the pill to take that will arrest the decline.
Ryan found that men who were more sexually active in a way that was fun and enlivening tended to maintain their libido better than men who didn’t do this. Ryan states “It’s a simple, unavoidable truth almost everyone knows to be true but few dare to discuss: variety and change are the necessary spice of the sex life of the human male.” It is most helpful, then, if women can understand that it is not the need for love that is causing their men to err, but the need to recharge their testosterone reserves!
Many men also like to receive, be given to, fill up, through sexual stimulation and release. It is rare for them to want to replace their partners. It is more that they want a sexual experience where they give less and receive more. For this reason, porn is also attractive. Here men can receive sexual stimuation without having to worry about relating or pleasing a partner. Most men find too much relating to be tiring,and even more demanding if they are already exhausted or anxious that they won't be able to please a partner with whom sexual relating has lost its pizzaz.
I have also experienced the flipside of this phenomenon
with a number of couples. Here the men simply can’t
develop the enthusiasm to have sex with their wives, whom
they love dearly. It’s as if same old same old no longer
does it for them. These are men who are probably denying
their desire to go off and have a spicy fling, because
they don’t want to hurt their wives or their relationship.
And many of those men who do ‘weaken’, then lie both to
cover their tracks, avoid their feelings of guilt or
shame, and to avoid having to deal with the consequences
of telling the truth.
Because many men have a personality type that tends to repress unpleasant feelings and simply distracts themselves in order to feel better, an affair is not only a helpful distraction, but also a way to feel much, much, much better – even if it is only for the sex. Most women on the other hand have a personality type that includes more intense feelings, and a desire to stick with just one man provided the emotional bond with him is a good one. Thus, they are less likely to look for an extra player in their life if the feelings with the man they’ve got are secure and heart-warming.
Are we therefore doomed as a species to be mismatched
like this? Will we ever be able to move forward? The first
step for all of us is to recognize the truth and talk
about it. Men must realize also that these facts don’t
give cause to just go off and have that fling after all
because “I’m being driven by my hormones.” Either our
current sexual behaviour has to be ramped up a notch or
three to give us the variety we seek, or men have to be
satisfied to go without, or our social norms and
expectations about how to be satisfied sexually must be
adjusted somewhat. Anyone ready to make the first move?