Thanks to famous cheaters like Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Richard Burton, and JFK, torrid tales of scams and scandals have sold both hard newspapers and gossip mags alike for decades. Familiar story lines full of ardent affairs keep soap stars employed and, in the last few years, Oprah Winfrey has repeatedly received sky high ratings for close to a dozen shows covering the topic of infidelity. One thing’s for sure, as a society we are fascinated by the unfaithful. Yet, what really draws our eye to the bold letters on the magazine cover shouting “CHEATING SCANDAL REVEALED! See page 13 for all the details”? If Oprah’s attention on the issue is any indicator, as women we are as scared of and eager to avoid infidelity as we are fascinated by it. Though America’s unhealthy pop culture diet certainly makes us hungry for drama, the real magazine seller is ultimately the desire to understand why men cheat in the first place, not the urge to laugh, ogle, or pity. So ladies, put the People down and click out of Perez Hilton’s pink page; I’ve done the dirty work for you and compiled a list of the top five reasons why men cheat.

#5. Sex
Gary Neuman, author of “The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It,” is an Oprah favorite because of his groundbreaking work interviewing nearly 100 unfaithful husbands across 48 states. In his book, Neuman reveals one of the surprising results of his study; sex motivated less than 10% of the cheaters he interviewed. The percentage of men that did cite sex as a factor in their unfaithfulness linked it to other factors (see Reason #1) like feeling unappreciated or undesired by their spouse. Contrary to popular belief, most affairs are not lust-driven.

#4. Power
Some men who achieve career and relationship success crave more conquest and seek to validate their own virility by taking risks and getting away with it. Cheating (especially without getting caught) makes a power-hungry man feel invincible and smart: clever enough, at least, to pull one over on his family and friends. Yet, don’t let a power cheat’s apparent arrogance fool you; men who cheat to gain confidence often do so because they don’t actually feel self-confident in the first place. (Again, see Reason #1).

#3. Socialization
Ever hear the famous phrase “monkey see, monkey do”? Though I’m sure the primate allusion may offend some of my male readers, it aptly describes another big reason why men cheat. According to Neuman’s study, over 75% of cheating husbands have unfaithful buddies or family members. Now infamous serial cheater Tiger Woods grew up watching his father cheat. And in some circles of friends, infidelity can often spark a domino effect; if a guy’s friends give him social permission to cheat by applauding, rather than criticizing, his unfaithfulness, it can cause other members of the group to view infidelity permissively as well.

#2. Exit strategy
Many times, men who are uncomfortable with or afraid of ending a relationship that no longer meets their needs will start misbehaving and violating their lover’s boundaries with the hopes that their partner will do the breaking up for them. Cheating can be a guy’s way of saying, “I want out!” without having to gather the courage to actually say it. It is important to note that when a man cheats as an exit strategy, the danger exists that the relationship may further deteriorate. In situations where the wronged lover decides to stay, cheating can sometimes escalate to physical or emotional violence. (And that’s another article for another day!)

#1. Insecurity
I cannot stress this point enough! Neuman’s study confirms my own experience as a  dating coach in NYC; nearly every man who cheats does so because of insecurity and/or a lack of self-confidence. A man may bring his insecurities into the relationship with him or develop them over time as his feelings of being appreciated and valued by his lover begin to decrease. Much to many of my client’s surprise, the “other women” in their cheating husbands’ lives typically are neither more physically attractive to nor sexually compatible with their partners. Men who break the rules of fidelity often do so because their affair offers them interest, praise, and the sense of competence that comes from pleasing a mate, not a Playboy fantasy.

Don’t worry, gals. The list is done, but this topic isn’t. Check back soon for more on cheating and how to understand and cope with it. In the meantime, do you have any of your own insights on infidelity?

p.s. Have we spoken 1-on-1 yet? Click here to send in your application!

As Featured In