Tag Archives: infidelity

Why Men And Women Cheat (And Lessons To Learn From It)


As an unapologetic romance fan, I concede that I often talk about love the same way dog lovers talk about puppies. I go on and on about how wonderful it is, but often gloss over the nasty parts. In the same way those dog lovers don’t dwell on all the times their beloved companion shits on the rug, I don’t dwell on the more painful aspect of romance.

Well, in the same way ignoring the pile of dog poop doesn’t make the stench go away, ignoring those painful elements of romance doesn’t make them any less relevant. Even those who aren’t romance fans understand that romance often involves tragedy. It’s no coincidence that some of the most famous love stories, from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Titanic,” involve a hefty bit of heartache.

I would argue that’s exactly what makes love and stories about romance so powerful. There’s a significant risk of heartache, rejection, and loss. There’s real pain that comes with pursuing romance, but the we gladly risk that pain because the rewards can be as fulfilling as they are sexy. I’ve done more to highlight the breadth of those rewards in my novels, especially with stories like “Passion Relapse.”

However, the pain that comes from the other side of that coin can be just as dramatic, if not more so. Anyone who has ever seen old episodes of “Jerry Springer” understands this to some extent. It’s not usually the kind of drama that ends with two lovers dying in each other’s arms or Rose not making room for Jack on that floating plank. More often than not, it’s a more frustrating kind of drama.

In many respects, the unsexiest version of this drama has to do with cheating. To some, that’s the much more dreaded C-word. Cheating is to romance what food poisoning is to Thanksgiving dinner. It is the worst-case scenario for those seeking the joys and appeals associated with romance. It is also one of those unfortunate elements that plays out in real life more often than it does in sexy romance novels.

It’s unromantic, but inescapable. Cheating happens and it happens a lot. While it doesn’t happen as often as “Jerry Springer” might have us believe, it happens often enough that it’s a legitimate concern among lovers. That’s why modern marriage laws, however skewed they might be, often account for infidelity.

In the same way there has never been a drug-free society, there has never been a society where cheating and infidelity has not occurred to some extent. From our caveman ancestors to the increasingly-uptight Millennials, the risk of cheating is there and the rise of social media and online dating sites like Ashley Madison are only making it easier.

I’ve talked a bit about cheating when I’ve discussed jealousy and our approach to marriage in modern society. Within the context of those discussions, cheating is a significant portion of those issues, but it’s still only part of a larger whole. It’s still a significant stain on the pursuit of romance, but it doesn’t completely overshadow it.

To make sense of it, as difficult as that may be, it’s necessary to focus on the reasons why people cheat. To anyone who has ever been the victim of a cheating lover, that may mean poking at old wounds and for that, I apologize. I admit it’s somewhat underhanded to suggest there are reasons why people cheat instead of just excuses, but to make sense of cheating overall, we need to accept that there are reasons behind it.

Listen to any story about cheating, be it a magazine article or a poorly-directed reality show, and you’ll notice a few themes about cheating. For one, there is a gender disparity in the numbers. Statistically speaking, men do cheat more often than women. However, the difference in those numbers isn’t quite as vast as the “Mad Men” stereotypes would have us believe.

As to why the gender disparity exists, there are just as many theories about that as well. I’ve talked somewhat about those disparities in discussions about sexual promiscuity and gender double standards. However, those theories don’t always explain the reasons behind cheating. In fact, the process for gathering data on cheating is exceedingly tricky.

Absent an underlying theory, we’re left with a diverse list of reasons that men and women give for their infidelity. According to WebMD, men and women cheat in different ways. For men, it’s often physical, a method of meeting unmet needs. For whatever reason, they’re no longer satisfied with their spouse and cheating is either a way to meet those needs or escape from that spouse.

For women, the act of cheating often has more emotional connotations. While meeting a physical need is part of it, women are more inclined to seek an emotional connection when they cheat. That’s not to say that some women just want some sexual variety or some men don’t fall in love with those they’re cheating with, but these are the popular narratives and some of it does bear out in the data.

Like I said earlier, though, the disparity in that data is not exceedingly vast and there are a lot of issues associated with gathering that data in the first place. If you accept the rule of the great Dr. House, “The most successful marriages are based on lies,” then it’s almost impossible to ascertain just how much cheating is going on and why it’s happening.

Even if it’s impossible to know, there are lessons we can learn from the reasons and excuses that people give. Chief among the reasons men give for cheating involve seeking new intimate experiences, either out of dissatisfaction or boredom. Given how I’ve explored the impact of boredom before, I think that is likely a bigger factor than most care to admit.

With women, the reasons often involve a lack of satisfaction that goes beyond physical. It’s not just that they feel unsatisfied. The underlying theme often involves their sentiment that their partner is no longer putting in the kind of effort they did when they fell in love. That lack of effort gives the impression that they don’t care anymore, leading women to seek out someone who does care.

In scrutinizing these reasons that vary widely between gender, cultures, and personality types, there does appear to be one common theme that binds both genders when it comes to cheating. Whether it’s physical or emotional, it often comes down to the perception that someone in the relationship isn’t putting in the effort anymore. Either they don’t have the energy or just don’t care enough.

In either case, the context of the cheating seems less about meeting a need and more about finding someone who will match your passionate efforts. Regardless of whatever gender disparity may or may not be at work with cheating, there’s no denying that men and women are passionate creatures. We each seek outlets for our passion and if we’re not getting it from that outlet, we’re going to seek another.

That’s not to say that some who cheat are just looking for an exciting and novel experience. That’s another inclination that is hard-wired into both genders in ways that go beyond sex, romance, or fidelity. When it comes specifically to cheating, though, the primary catalyst often comes back to passion and how it’s being channeled.

Cheating and being cheated on often comes with many hard lessons, some of which leave deeper scars than others. Whether you’re a romantic like me, a jaded heart with cynical views on love, or believe that human beings aren’t meant to just love one person for the rest of their lives, the betrayal and dishonesty associated with cheating still hurts us. If nothing else, it’s a harsh reminder of how deep our passions run.

If there’s a lesson that both genders can and should learn from the pain of cheating, it’s the importance of understanding and channeling those passions. When two people share the kind of passion that keeps their love, sex, and relationship strong, then there’s no reason for either of them to cheat. It’s not easy sharing that kind of passion, but the fact we risk the pain of being cheated on shows it’s a risk worth taking.

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Filed under gender issues, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

Cheating And Other Flaws In The Standard Model Of Romance

Why is it that stories of cheating, infidelity, and affairs get us feeling giddier than a kid in a room full of puppies? What is it about these stories that fascinate/disgust/arouse us so much? We can’t ignore our reaction to it. There’s a very good reason why Jerry Springer had so much success and it wasn’t just because he’d bring out the occasional midget.

Cheating, infidelity, or whatever you want to call it has always been an obsession of sorts, both in today’s culture and throughout history. Go all the way back to Greek mythology and you’ll get philandering cheats like Zeus, whose track record of infidelity would shock even Jerry Springer.

Fast forward 2,000 years and we still have things link Brangelina, which ended recently in divorce, but for a time was its own cottage industry of sorts, having been built on a foundation of alleged infidelity. Whether we’re in ancient Athens or Newark, New Jersey, we as a society are fascinated by cheating.

That leaves us with an uncomfortable, but sexually suggestive question. Why? This is actually one of those things that can’t be explained solely within the context of caveman logic. The concept of infidelity, as well as the very concept of marriage, takes on a very different context in the caveman mind. The vastly different courtship practices of hunter/gatherer societies are proof enough of that.

As with so many other complex human traits, our caveman brains can’t be precise, accurate, or even logical. They can only do what they must to help us survive and reproduce. It is, as I’ve said before, a blunt instrument that’s prone to error. That error is compounded with infidelity, which is why there are so many theories as to why people cheat.

Our brains still don’t know that we’re not cavemen living in hunter/gatherer societies anymore. Humans, like every other species, are at the mercy of the slow pace of evolution. To be fair to evolution though, humans have been subject to some major upheavals in recent times.

According to most estimates not made by update Texas pastors, the human species has been on this planet for about 200,000 years. It’s only in the last 10,000 years or so that the agricultural revolution laid the foundation for our civilization.

It’s this major shift that laid the foundation for our current concept infidelity. It’s this system of society that helped establish the marriage, child-rearing, and gender roles of civilization that have persisted for most of human history. It’s also this system that made infidelity such a big freakin’ deal to begin with.

I bring this up because last month, I talked about a new book I had been reading called “Sex At Dawn” by Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha, Allyson Johnson, and Jonathan Davis. This book attempts to break down the standard model of romance and expose the flaws within.

I touched on some of those flaws before I even read the book, but it has been very insightful (and very sexy) in fleshing out those flaws in ways I never could. Recently, I got to the part of the book where cheating is discussed and it put the whole concept into a new context, one that can really inspire an aspiring erotica/romance writer.

First, the book lays out the standard model of romance. Anyone who ever watched a sitcom in the 1950s knows what that model looks like. It’s basically one man, one woman, one house with a white picket fence, and exceedingly rigid roles for everyone involved.

The man works to provide money for the family. The woman stays home to raise the kids. The kids get into trouble every now and then, requiring a lecture from their wise father to fix everything. Everybody goes to bed having learned a lesson. It’s basically the exact opposite of the Simpsons.

The Rick Santorums of the world praise this model. At times, they deify it the same way the entire state of Massachusetts deifies Tom Brady. They see it as the perfect ideal that must be pursued, protected, and championed, even if it means bashing homosexuals and screwing over single parents.

There are many problems with this model and even more with the uptight people who champion it, but “Sex At Dawn” singles one in particular out when it comes to infidelity. Don’t worry though. It’s the sexy kind of problem.

The book sets up a fairly standard scenario not much different from the 50s sitcom model. Picture a man and a woman together. They’re married. They’re fairly normal. They’re as typical as typical can be in a country that makes bacon-flavored lube.

The man provides a stable, comfortable home for the woman. He works a job that pays the bills, allowing the woman to stay at home to keep it in one piece. He’s not an overly exciting man. She’s not an overly exciting woman. Their sex life is the antithesis of an old Motley Crue music video. It may as well be as routine as doing the laundry.

So why is this a problem? Well, “Sex At Dawn” makes it a point to note that evolution creates numerous incentives that we don’t already recognize, let alone understand. Remember, our brains and bodies are built for survival and reproduction. The standard model does provide some of that, but it’s not entirely a safe bet.

In that model, the man and the woman are gambling with their evolutionary imperatives. The man is only impregnating one woman in this model. What if that woman has health issues that render her infertile? What if the children she has suffer birth defects? What if she’s only able to have one or two kids at the most?

The are just as many risks for the woman. What if the man’s genes aren’t that good? What if the man’s fertility is limited at best? What if the children she bears aren’t particularly talented or advantaged in any way?

That’s a lot of gambling in the game of evolution. Like immature children who try to cheat at monopoly, we humans will try to bend the rules when we can. This leads to the kind of sexy scenarios that makes “Sex At Dawn” one of the most colorful and insightful books an erotica/romance writer can reference.

For the man, evolution provides an incentive not to hedge his bets. That means the inclination to spend some extra time with their hot young secretary is pretty strong. Unlike a woman, a man can hump multiple women and has a chance at impregnating them all. Sure, those kids will be at a disadvantage if their father is not involved, but the law of averages said at least one of those kids will survive to carry on his genes.

Like I said, evolution has the maturity of a 13-year-old watching Game of Thrones. It’s basically a recipe for extra-marital humping.

For the woman, there are other incentives, but they’re just as powerful and just as sexy. A woman with a boring, but faithful husband will likely have children who share that trait. The boys she bears will be boring and faithful, still having to rely on one woman to propagate their lineage.

Enter the bad boy rebel who will hump anything with legs and a pulse. He’s James Dean. He’s Wolverine. He’s Johnny Cash. This man, for perverse reasons that evolution fuels, gets the woman horny enough to do some extra humping on the side. Sure, it requires that she go behind her hubby’s back, but as women and men alike know all too well, we do crazy things when we’re really horny.

On top of the toe-curling pleasure that comes with exciting, bad-boy sex, she may now bear a child who can hump more women and make more stud babies. Those stud babies have a much better chance at passing on the woman’s genes so she has a powerful evolutionary incentive to make sure all her sons are Wilt Chamberlin and all her daughters are Kardashians.

In light of these evolutionary incentives, coupled with the rigid social order imposed by the “Leave It To Beaver” crowd, it makes perfect evolutionary sense. Evolution forged our basic drives and imperatives. Evolution, being the imperfect process it is, doesn’t give a two whiffs of a skunks ass what laws, taboos, and Jerry Springer says. If it propagates a species, then that’s all it needs.

It’s because of these evolutionary forces and powerful incentives that infidelity makes a perverse kind of sense. For years, I struggled to understand why women wanted to sleep with the bad boys, knowing they weren’t going to stick around or be faithful. Now, when I think about it from the “stud baby” perspective, it does make sense.

It also reveals how imperfect our current assumptions about relationships and romance are, even in the 21st century. Granted, there have been improvements since the Victorian Era, but I think we, as a society, can do better. I don’t claim to have a solution, but I will definitely explore a few sexy possibilities on this blog and in my novels.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights