Why Do Men Cheat?

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About Bill Cloke

Dr. Bill Cloke has worked with individuals and couples’ for 30 years. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk-radio and tv psychologist, he is also a contributor to PsychologyToday.com, Care2.com and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles. Bill's book Happy Together has won the Nautilus and Benjamin Franklin Silver Awards for 2012. To learn more about Bill Cloke, and for more resources on creating healthy, happy relationships, visit his website.


  1. Only men cheat. Women would never do that.

    • Robert Paulson says:

      One really has to wonder who all these men are having sex with.
      Each other, I suppose…

    • While I share the sentiment it is clear that this is an advice article for men on a men’s site and specifically meant to speak to men in monogamous relationships how they can improve that relationship. Women cheating is NOT the scope of this advice article.

      Yes, the “only men cheat” discourse is very loud and persistent while there is very little about women cheating; that’s irritating and also besides the point for this article.

      What I would like to see is a follow up piece from Bill regarding women’s cheating, what motivates a woman to cheat, what reasons to women give that differ or are the same as men’s, prevalence, and then advice for men who want to work on saving the relationship on how to handle dealing with the discovery that his wife has cheated on him.

      • Everything about this website is constantly giving the message you’re a man therefore you’re EVIL UNTRUSTWORTHY HATEFUL BAD DISGUSTING

  2. wellokaythen says:

    When it comes to monogamy, cheating, etc., men and women are not polar opposites of each other.

    If there are physiological differences involved, like with hormones, they are differences of degree, not a difference between night and day. Men and women (usually) both have testosterone and both have oxytocin. It’s a question of which has what mixture, not men only have men hormones and women only have women hormones.

    Men and women cheat on their partners for the same list of reasons. If there is any notable difference, it may be in the percentages of one reason compared to the others. Maybe women seek extramarital affairs for emotional connection more than men do, but men also do it. Maybe men seek extramarital affairs to boost their sense of attractiveness more often than women do, but women also do it.

    • is this real life? says:

      Did you even read the post?

      Also, you should consider taking a high school biology class, because you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about :)

      • wellokaythen says:

        Care to elaborate with more specifics about what precisely I got wrong?

        I did take high school biology, and I came really close to passing the class.

  3. And what are women supposed to be giving up for the greater good?

    “Monogamy requires that men accept that they may have to give up some freedom for a greater good.”

    • They have to give up focusing some of their attention on themselves to focus some of their attention on getting you to focus all of your attention on them. Very hard work, you know.

  4. I don’t believe in strict monogamy. I do believe that people forget the relationship. Everything is more important. The relationship must be no 1, not the kids,the sale at Macy’s. Most men get lazy. But if the relationship is number 10 in the order of things. What do you expect?

    • Men get lazy? Maybe you’re right. My wife complains I don’t seem excited about her, don’t act the way I did when I was excited about her. I don’t romance her enough. What’s not to be excited and romantic about doing it the same way once a week?

      • Shouldn’t have got married bro

      • I think it’s easy to say “men get lazy” because the tasks assigned to us are supposed to be somehow more amenable to effort… if I was a better man, I’d send more flowers, write more love poems, somehow seem more interested in her. But I’m too lazy. Women don’t get lazy because… sex, right? Can’t force/fake that!

        My wife says she orgasms a few times when we have sex. Maybe she’s faking. It’s supposed to be easier for me to fake being enthusiastic about luring someone who seems indifferent about pleasure into bed?

        • I can understand feeling pressure in having to romance a woman. But I think most women don’t simply want a man to go through the motions of romance to have sex but actually want him to enjoy in the romance with her. Perhaps that is where some of the disconnection is Hmmm?

          And while there is more pressure on you about the romance, there is a lot of pressure on us women to be all these sexual things men want us to be in the bedroom. The expectations about what acts we are suppose to be performing (with worshipful glee) and the ways we are expected sometimes to contort our bodies or how our bodies should look, can be equally overwhelming for women as romance might be for you. The expectations that men have today for sex are nothing like the expectations our grandfathers had for our grandmothers. There is a heavy pressure sometimes that I think men expect us women to be open for anything all the time and do it with hero-whorship glee and if we don’t do that, then we aren’t this image men want us to be. I’m not saying that’s your situations. I don’t know. But sometimes I know women can feel heavy expectations about the bedroom where men might feel heavy expectations outside the bedroom to romance.

          You said your wife complains that you don’t seem excited by her like you use to. Obviously she needs some reassurement of your desire for her. And it sounds like you need the same from her maybe? Have you ever tried making a first step even if she isn’t doing her part? Maybe she would rise to the occasion?

          Also, I can speak of my personal experience and say that sometimes I have had a boyfriend get caught up in the objective of wanting sex, that it didn’t feel like it was about us so much as him just relieving himself. I am not saying that was how it was for him, I obviously can’t read his mind. That’s just sometimes how I felt when there was a lot of emphasis on the sex itself. It was a miscommunication sometimes.

          • FlyingKal says:

            But I think most women don’t simply want a man to go through the motions of romance to have sex but actually want him to enjoy in the romance with her. Perhaps that is where some of the disconnection is Hmmm?

            And I think most men don’t want a woman who simply wants him to go through the motions of romance, but a woman who actually wants to and enjoys being with him. Hmmm?

            • Absoluetely FlyingKal. I totally get that. It’s a two way street. And the interaction plays off of each other. At some point, someone has to take a step different from what they were doing. And while it might not be fair for that one person to reach out first, it might be necessary to save the relationship. And I am not saying that it has to be the guy that takes that step. It has to be someone though because if both sides are waiting on the other, the same problem is going to keep going on. Someone has to take charge and lead at some point.

            • FlyingKal says:

              Thanks Erin. I agree that someone has to reach out and take the first step. I’m just at odds with the notion that it is expected that it’s taken by the same person every single time. Like, if you have taken the first step like ten times and are in a relation considered somewhat approaching equality, can you really be faulted for expecting the other part to take the first step for once?

              Alss, I’m sorry for my butchering of the english language in this post ;-)

            • Where you mocking my “hmmm”? Kind of seems like it.

            • FlyingKal says:

              Um, no(?).
              I thought that the “hmmm” was some kind of philosophical or an expression of “thinking out loud”, if you know what I mean, and I put it in there to mark that I was kind of doing the same.
              Sorry if it came across wrong.

            • hmmm is also the name of a poster.

            • My mistake FlyingKal. I am use to taking a lot of crap on here so sometimes I am a little sensitive. :)

            • Or in the married man case, how about a woman who actually wants to have sex with him?

              I see it from both perspectives. But, I just do not get the sex thingy here in this country. No matter what situation you are in, it seems as if MOST men must earn sex, unless they are that privileged 20% of men.

              Men are expected to approach the woman (unless you are a cute, good looking, tall fella). Men are expected to initiate sex. Men are expected to engage in extensive foreplay……

              Most men have crummy sex lives. So, Erin I am not sure of who these men are that have the “luxury” of pressuring women to be all this and that in the bedroom. It must be those oversexualized 20% of men. Most men I think would be perfectly happy with vanilla sex a couple of times a week, especially if they a married.

          • “The expectations that men have today for sex are nothing like the expectations our grandfathers had for our grandmothers.”
            I get the feeling you are romanticizing the past, you do realize in previous times rape was seen as far more acceptable? That women had a wifely duty to have sex when the man wanted? Also in previous times there were extreme levels of shaming about sexuality, and I’d be really surprised if women were having much better sex in those times vs now. Pre-marital sex was a no no, and in some areas sex for fun was seen as a bad thing. The vast majority of disturbing sexual views I’ve seen come from older generations. I find today’s generation is far more egalitarian in views on the whole vs my grandparents generation where women “knew their place” and had to put up with a lot of bullshit like abuse, etc because they couldn’t just up n leave since they had no money themselves nor did we have public campaigns back then to go against it.

            Expectations are different of course, some are probably bad. Experimentation in the bedroom can be good but can also be bad but in today’s world there is much better ability for women to actually control how sex goes, and even more expectation of women taking the lead AND we actually understand much more about female pleasure, female orgasm, and hence there is more focus on women also being pleasured.

            Even today though to have sex with women there seems to be this laundry list of issues, hoops to jump through, foreplay in this way for half n hour + rub here + stand on your head computing algebra to unlock the secret g spot so your partner feels good too (yes sarcasm but you get my point).

            I think people should just say more of what they like TBH, straight up, no confusing half-talk, if you are horny then tell your partner “Fuck me baby” (or whatever language you use).

            “But I think most women don’t simply want a man to go through the motions of romance to have sex but actually want him to enjoy in the romance with her.”
            An issue might be that both genders have different views of what is romantic, I find sex romantic…Having sex together fills my heart up with romancey lovey dovey feelings. I’ve heard that romantic movies have given unrealistic expectations of what is romantic, but hopefully most women understand movies can be unrealistic. Most I find seem to like small things, gestures you care vs showering them with gifts. Tell your partner what you find romantic, so they know what style of romance you like so they don’t do X when you don’t find X romantic!

        • I wrote a reply Hmmm but gestapo deleted it

  5. FlyingKal says:

    Why do men cheat?
    Why do women lose interest in their men as they become “domesticated” (regardless of their having kids or not)?
    Why does men have difficulty expressing their feelings of emotional dissatisfaction, but women never have difficulties listening to or empatizing with these feelings?

    If the rule is that you must tell your mate everything you are thinking about doing, would you still do it?
    If I tell her everything I’m thinking about wanting to do, for how long would she be listening?

  6. FlyingKal says:

    Fundamentally men and women need to understand and accept that infidelity psychologically disconnects them from their mate. It’s a secret they must keep and therefore it puts a wedge between them. It’s a clandestine lifestyle and creates distance.
    I think that the disconnect and wedge already has to be there, to make the desicion to cheat.

    Men need to consider who they become when they cheat. They become liars and cheaters who have broken the promise to be faithful.
    The promise we make is to “love and honour” each other. The cheating is way down on the slippery slope where those two already are (often mutually) broken.

    • I agree that there was already a wedge in the relationship before the cheating happened. However, I can’t agree that cheating is way down on the list of what is broken or that because there was already a wedge in the relationship, that the cheating isn’t still a big issue or a huge wedge in it’s own right.

  7. Some people are polygamous, some people are greedy, some people are lonely. Take your pick, plenty of reasons people cheat. Maybe not everyone should be in monogamous relationships?

    • Yes, I think we all understand there are many reasons people cheat. However, the author of this article is providing a common situation and backdrop of each sides’ feelings in regards to what lead to the cheating. Alot of people will identify with the situation in the article even if you don’t.

      I also think we all already understand that not everyone should be in a monogamous relationship. However, this article really isn’t about that. For those that are in a monogamous relationship, for those that made the choice to be in one, for those that want to value or made a promise to a specific person, the discussion is worth having.

      By the way, even those in polyamous relationships can cheat.

      • I also think we all already understand that not everyone should be in a monogamous relationship.

        I don’t think Dr. Bill understands this. His piece reads like he believes that monogamy is the be-all end-all for everyone. I didn’t notice any acknowledgment of alternatives to the dichotomy of monogamy vs. cheating.

        “Develop a value system that includes monogamy.”

        Dr. Bill seems to suggest that value systems not including monogamy aren’t valid.

        • Why does he have to acknowledge other types or relationships to give advice about relationships where one partner was cheated on?

          It is very popular lately to have to mention every secular group so not to offend anyone else or so we don’t think we are excluding anyone. But to me, we don’t need to talk about how there are homosexual relationships, polyamorous relationships or other kind of relationships to address those of monogamous relationships.

          And if Dr. Bill believes that there is a value system worth developing that includes monogamy, he is free to express that if that his belief. He is not mocking others or degrading them simply by attaching a value system to those who want to practice monogamy.

          • On whole, I find that this piece reveals a narrow, rigid value system that permeates Dr. Bill’s work. If I were to inadvertently hire him, I suspect I would quickly find his inability to separate his personal values from his work to be unprofessional.

          • Erin, I think there is a backlash at the issue that many of these articles tend to be disproportionately painting men as the cheaters vs women, so it becomes yet another in a long list of articles of male cheating whilst female cheating isn’t talked about enough.

      • I got the feeling from the articles is that humans are monogamous and SHOULD be monogamous vs my understanding of humans being more of a mix.

        • wellokaythen says:

          I agree. It seems that if something were completely natural, or totally “backed by biology,” we wouldn’t need so many reminders to do it. We wouldn’t need so much moral fortitude and so much vigilance to make it happen. If we were so naturally monogamous, we wouldn’t need so many people telling us that we’re supposed to be monogamous. We would just do it. We don’t need reminders to urinate. We just do it. (That was probably an able-ist statement, so I welcome a more PC way to put it.)

          • The reality is, is that both men and women have emotional and physical needs where having many partners or having one partner will fulfill us on some scale. It is ultimately a choice you personally make for your life. We are not hard-wired to be monogamous but we aren’t hardwired to be polyamorous either. We have hormones, connections and good and bad reasons for both pursuits. Chasing after multiple partners might satisfy a biological need for “variety”. However, chasing after multiple partners also can lead to STDs. Bonding with one person does satisfy a biological need for “pair bonding”, but outside temtpations can lead someone astray. It isn’t a matter of us being hardwired for more sex and more partners over monogamy. Monogamy isn’t any less natural then having different partners. They are just different formats. Both natural in their own right.

            • I think some people might be more hard-wired for monogamy but not sure. Could be a thing in the brain where they are affected more by hormones controlling pair-bonding, could be a mix of biological and also social. Humans can be weird creatures:P

            • wellokaythen says:

              I agree, for the most part. Humans appear to have multiple tendencies or multiple possibilities, at least if you add up everyone together. Monogamy and polyamory are both biologically reinforced in some ways. There’s brain chemistry that seems to support monogamy and brain chemistry that seems to support polyamory.

              I doubt the two are equally “natural,” though. It seems extremely rare that we would ever remind each other to be attracted to more than one person, but we remind each other all the time to be monogamous. Which one needs reminding more than the other? That suggests something to me.

              And, you make a very good point about behavior. There is a real difference between attraction and behavior. There are desires involved, but also choices involved.

  8. @Bill:I have known women who were on the recieving end of the scenario you sited.I once worked 75 hours a week(two jobs,lot’s of stress),only to have my partner COMPLAIN that I wasn’t spending enough time with the family. Sorry,but this made no sense to me,at all.She,no matter how much I explained to her how her attitude,was killing me and leaving me feeling useless,she couldn’t see it.What she wanted,was what she wanted?! Having an affair,at least temporarily,made me feel better. Probably most frustrating was her belief that, since I was a man I would be unfaithful anyway,she was not able to see her contributions.Lastly,every man should be told the truth about marriage—once children come, the man and his needs become secondary- if that- to mom and baby. Most men AND women don’t know this. Women mistakenly think men should be able to know this on their own.It’s strange to me to hold someone to the monogamy plegde and say, “…but it doesn’t include some plegdes,with consequences for non compliance, around sex. This is one central reason,I won’t do monogamy,usually. In your reccomendations for a healthy monogamous relationship sex wasn’t mentioned.The only time women say sex isn’t important,is when they don’t to have it with you.

    • In your recommendations for a healthy monogamous relationship sex wasn’t mentioned.

      Keen observation, ogwriter! I’ve noticed other problems with this piece, but I overlooked that one.

  9. @Raegus: As much as I have misgivings about encouraging you…your last comment…satirizing female entitlement to attention was funny and needs to be called out.

  10. People cheat because it is the easiest way of attaining the desired results without putting any significant effort. Students cheat in exam because it is easier that burning midnight oil. Bankers cheat because it is easier to show profits and get bonus rather than making honest deals. Politicians cheat public to benefit corporations because public has short memory while corporations have long records and dollar notes from coporates are more valuable that votes from citizens. Men and women cheat in marriage because they want to get everything from their spouse, and if something is missing then from someone else, instead of working it out.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Instead of working it out, or instead of going through all the trouble of getting a divorce. Let’s not forget, if you get divorced before taking on a different sex partner, it’s not cheating. Serial monogamy is not cheating.

  11. The conversation is worth having and I’d like someone to tell me why men are told to expect less sex after a baby.Nor are they told there is a 25% chance his partner will experience PPD.These are BIG deals that have a profound impact on his life.And please don’t tell me it’s my fault for liking sex too much.

  12. …I meant to write,,why aren’t men to expect less sex after a baby.

  13. …I hate being dyslexic. I meant to write, Why aren’t men told to expect less sex.

  14. Maybe we should be asking Why do men NOT cheat? Maybe the answer is with the men that stay with their women? I’ve been married 38 years and have never cheated. And believe me when I tell you, there were times that things really sucked.

  15. “Why Do Men Cheat?”

    I think that each man who cheats — each *person* who cheats — has a reasons and circumstances that are entirely unique to him, and no two adulterous situations are ever quite the same. My ex-husband cheated, and it always seems to surprise people when I tell them, “… and I understand why, and I don’t blame him for it.” Our relationship was practically comatose, existing on the life support called “legality.” It had been like that for years. I know that he had to be dreadfully sad and lonely. God, I know that I was. I never felt so alone in my life. His outlet for loneliness was getting involved with another woman, both physically and emotionally, while I turned to work and a variety of past-times — yoga, working out at the gym, writing, sewing, cooking, soak-making, etc. I had to keep busy or else I would start to feel.

    Understanding the “why” about cheating is the first step toward forgiving it. My ex and I didn’t divorce because he cheated; it was a natural conclusion to an already moribund marriage. We were both equally at fault for getting us to that impossible place, and it’s a place I never wish to return.

    • FlyingKal says:

      Thank you for a very mature and insightful perspective on the subject, Lisa.

      The surprise in other people probably stems from the fact that yours is a very rare insight, indeed.

    • It’s interesting that for most people physical intimacy—sex—is the only form of cheating on a relationship. In your example, even though both of you had withdrawn from the relationship, as you state, the outlets you chose for satisfaction would hardly be considered cheating, even though the catalyst for doing so in the place of a relationship with your spouse was the same.

      Sex is the only part of the marital contract in which one’s desire is entirely dependent on the others willingness, and to find satisfaction without them is cheating. Of course, this is only true if it’s without the others’ knowledge. Being honest about what you desire, and not the limits or expectations of the other person, may be the best way to open this conversation for struggling couples.

  16. @Arium: Well man I’ve been “on the coach” and I did research on the field of psychology to better understand the culture.In the 70′s,in America the feminists movement reformed
    the field.My mother went to a feminist therapist who told my mother ( going through mid life) her family was strangling her,preventing from fulfilling herself.She divorced us not long after that.Many women during this period did similarly.

  17. @ Archy: Tell me Archy,in the 200,000 thousand plus years BEFORE the invention of “romance,presumably men and women loved each,had families and stayed together. Romance is not magical Dr. Phil pixie dust and can’t overcome basic flaws in a relationship.

    • @OGWriter
      I think romance has existed for a hell of a long time, just probably not called that. Love requires some level of romance, love didn’t magically appear in the last few thousand years.

  18. Past generations didn’t have the outward influences that we have today. Turn on the TV, open a magazine, page through the internet and we’re bombarded with signals from so called professionals telling us what we should and should do in our relationships. All these so called professionals making a boat load of money while sucking people into thinking that they have the key to a good marriage and relationships. Have they helped or hindered? Look at the divorce rate and tell me how they’ve helped.

    It’s as though people these days have to be told how to be happy, told what it takes to be happy. Couple this with feminism, masculism and everything in between, I’m surprised anyone knows how to live their lives.

    I did a Google search … over 3 million hits one “mashed potato recipes” … “What is Romance”? Over 600 million. Turn off your TV’s and computers, close your books and start living your life. For every so called professional that says XYZ, you’re gonna find hundreds that will counter it.

    Why do men cheat? Does it matter??? If they’re married, then they shouldn’t cheat. It’s that simple. What makes their relationship so special that we can in any way shape or form justify it. Get a divorce and move on or MAKE IT WORK with the women you vowed to make it work with.

  19. What forms the bulwark that enables men and women to be faithful in a marital state? Certainly the loss of community support, the ebbing of religious, social and family values, have made an impact on the overall sense of values toward monogamy. The formation of solid moral values and the development of moral character in men is one answer to the compelling social issue of infidelity. The highest level of moral development in a man or woman is when they must face themselves as the final arbiter for their moral behavior.

    If “morality” is the key, why do many prominent conservative “family-values” types get caught with their dicks where they don’t belong?

    • wellokaythen says:

      And, although divorce rates are definitely higher than they were in the 1950′s, is the rate of infidelity any higher today? To be fair, it’s hard to find reliable numbers on that, but I tend to think we are not much worse than earlier generations. We just can’t keep quiet about it like they did.

  20. FlyingKal says:

    The highest level of moral development in a man or woman is when they must face themselves as the final arbiter for their moral behavior.

    What is moral, and who’s to decide what the highest level of moral development is?

    What to do if I time and time again try to articulate the insecurities and unimportance I feel, but don’t get any responce or even get ridiculed for it?

  21. @Wellokthen:This was all started as part of the feminists attempt to gain a higher profile and the media,because ratings were good,fell for it.This was seen in the crazy explosion of talk-show theology- of the 70′s,80′s.The media was awash in evil men who beat their wives for not having dinner ready on time,beat their children and had affairs with wet holes in the ground.The proliferation of man-hating talk show hosts launched Oprah’s career.

  22. @Archy:Romance was started in various cultures sometime around 1500′s,some earlier.It was started by court commissioned artist’s.The common person was poor,didn’t read or write and was more concerned with finding the next meal.Romance was an elitist idea,like ostentatious weddings,that trickled down to common folk.Romance took time and money, not many people had both.Even for many elites,marrying for love, had nothing to do with relationships.Romance is not natural nor has it been around for thousands of years.

    • @Ogwriter, I define it as the small things we do to win our partners hearts but I may be wrong. I think of it as what we do when we’re in love, all the good from strong love for our family n friends but a much bigger step where we treat someone special and unique, where we focus a lot of our attention on them and enjoy time together. To me romance would be spending time with a special someone and doing stuff together that don’t have to include sex, I’m sure couples looked at sunsets together before the 1500′s? Hell I find working on a house together to make it a home as romantic but I may be an odd duck. :P

  23. I completely agree with ogwriter!

  24. @Archy: I’m with you Arch!I should have written that traditional forms of romance are not natural. I love to watch and garden with women and get dirty and sweaty…

  25. Joan“`Consider this. If as you wrote,(I’m paraphrasing),”In my 20s I said I didn’t need men.” was also the mantra taught to two generations of women, boys, girls and men, what do imagine the outcome of that would be? I can tell you how it made me feel.At first, I understood that women were angry and I made allowances for that.

    Then as the years turned into decades and narrative grew louder, I grew hardened and bitter and hurt. I don’t know if I can articulate how deep and profound and life changing this hurt has been. Over the years, this mantra morphed into a thousand rueful insults shouted from the highest spire in the town square: All men are bad,all men are rapist,all men are violent, all men love war. At some point, the constant barrage of insults had a dehumanizing effect on me and eventually took an unexpected turn.

    I began to doubt myself,my gender. and whether I could ever overcome the burden of my existence to become human. Again. You see as a man of color, proving one’s claim to humanity is a daily affair.,At some point, I think after the Color Purple came out,I rebelled.Not against the shadowy patriarchy, a club which I, a poor black man, like other men, didn’t have a membership, but against women. I had good reason too.

    My mother, an abusive, alcoholic feminist, woke me up. I immediately noticed that feminists and women in general were as fucked up as any one else.Why? Because they were not interested in whether or not my mother abused her children. They WERE interested in politically exploiting abuse that happened to her.I was a naive 15 year old and was crushed to find out how cold and cynical this thing called fem inism was. Ask yourself, Joan, if women crave attention from men, how would they react if tomorrow men said, “we don’t need women.” Eventually they would grow disoriented, confused,perhaps despondent and in crisis about their femininity. and place in society. I bring this stuff up because I don’t suspect that many women who adopted the I don’t need a man narrative has a clue to the corrosive impact on society and relationships this has had. I think most women think, “Well I don’t believe that anymore, no harm, no foul.”

  26. Erin… there is a rule in writing I am sure you know quite well, know one’s audience.I think Mr Cloke missed that.


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