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Why Men Cheat

According to Gallop polls, 90% of American’s say infidelity is immoral, and 65% say it is unforgivable. Yet, infidelity has occurred in 30-35% of marriages. According to numerous studies, these are usually husbands cheating on their wives, with unmarried female partners. In fact, a stunning 50% of men have or will cheat.

One might wonder why? There is a considerable body of research into this very question emanating from the fields of psychology, sociology, marriage and family therapy, and life coaching.

The more money a man makes, the more likely he is to cheat.

Men are better able to separate love from sexual activity

Men have a greater desire to experience sexual infidelity.

Men are more willing to engage in behaviors such as planning, lying, and cover-up involved in infidelity.

Some researchers have looked at the individual characteristics of men who engage in marital infidelity. The data indicate that personality variables such as neuroticism, prior history of infidelity, number of sex partners before marriage, psychological distress, and insecure parental attachment all correlate to male infidelity. Attitudes toward infidelity, such as permissiveness toward sex, a greater willingness to have casual sex, a willingness to engage in sex without emotional commitment are also positively related to infidelity.

Unfaithful husbands tend to be dominant in their relationship with their wives. They are often affluent, and frequently have a lot of unsupervised free time in which to engage in affairs. These men tend to have a higher propensity for sexual excitation, and score higher on psychological measures of impulsivity. Men who have cheated before are at an increased risk of future infidelity. Men are more likely to cheat in their 40s and 50s, though there is an increased incidence of infidelity among both older and younger men. Men who visit sexually explicit websites are also more likely to seek partners outside their marriage.

If the individual engaging in the extramarital affair believes he is better than his partner, fitter, smarter, more socially adept, he may engage in psychological grandiosity, believing he is entitled to participate in extra-marital sex without remorse.

For men who are married to women who are emotionally unavailable, or have difficulty enjoying intimacy, the extramarital affair may provide emotional needs unmet in the marriage.

Couples who have fewer and or less intense positive interactions are at higher risk, as are those who report low marital satisfaction.

Boredom was the reason given by 71% of unfaithful men among a sample of 100,000 subjects. Among the same sample, 9% of men reported acting out of revenge for their partner’s infidelity.

And finally, contextual factors, such as having friends or other male family members who cheat, may participate in males making the decision to engage in extra-marital sex.

When these marital risk factors occur, a man may be more attracted to the prospect of marital infidelity because it will provide a different experience than what he is having in his marriage.


Allan. G. (2004). Being unfaithful: his and her affairs. In The State of Affairs: Explorations in Infidelity and Commitment. Edited by Duncombe J, Harrison K, Allan G, Marsden D. Lawrence Erlbaum, 121-140.

Boekhout, B. A. ((2003). Hendrick SS, Hendrick C: Exploring infidelity: developing the relationship issues scale. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 8, 283-306.

Fincham, F. D., & May, R. W. (2017). Infidelity in romantic relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 13, 70-74.

Jeanfreau, M. M., Jurich, A. P., & Mong, M. D. (2014). Risk factors associated with women’s marital infidelity. Contemporary Family Therapy, 36, 3, 327-332.

Munsch, C. L. (2015). Her support, his support: Money, masculinity, and marital infidelity. American Sociological Review, 80, 3, 469-495.

Negash, S., Cui, M., Fincham, F. D., & Pasley, K. (2014). Extradyadic involvement and relationship dissolution in heterosexual women university students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 531- 539.

Williams, D. C. (2017). What’s Done in the Dark. Prevalence, 1, 1.

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