I have been cheated on and I have cheated.
I cheated on several of my boyfriends out of emotional insecurity. I had low self-worth, refused to believe they actually liked me, and sought attention elsewhere every time I felt pangs of self doubt that I was unable to communicate in a mature, healthy manner. It had nothing to do with not caring about my partners, if anything it had to do with co-dependence, attatchment, and caring about them too much. And my lack of communication skills.
When my boyfriend cheated on me, it was a whole other story. He cheated on me with as many girls as he could. And typically, I knew the girls he was cheating on me with. It was as if we were all in a polygamous relationship together, but none of us got the memo. His actions were malicious and narcissistic. It was all about power.
Here, Redbook breaks down Why Men Cheat.
Okay, so here's the bad news: Some men cheat. Not all men, but some men (and, hey, some women!) commit acts of infidelity. And when they do, it's worth understanding why they do — not that it makes it okay, and not that it doesn't make you want to throw your wedding china across the kitchen or a enact a Carrie Underwood-style revenge (um, don't do that).
But should you be concerned your partner has been unfaithful, here's what you should know.
The truth is, there's never one reason why a guy strays.
The whole cheating thing would be a lot easier if there was a blanket diagnosis for all men on the face of the earth. But the truth is, men — like women! — are complicated creatures with a multitude of reasons for doing what they do.
Men might cheat for a multitude of reasons, says Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based marriage and sex therapist and author of How Could You Do This to Me? Learning to Trust After Betrayal: "the thrill of the chase and conquest, a sexual addiction, [feeling that he's] deprived or unhappy with the amount of sex they're having with their partner, emotionally upset and feel their needs aren't met by their partner," or that he wants to boost his ego and feel attractive...or he might be afraid of real intimacy.
There are, however, usually two clear-cut, overarching reasons that men cheat: Something's going wrong in the relationship, or there's something in that guy's DNA that predisposes his eye to wander.
"Cheating is a symptom generally of relational problems, and sometimes cheating is indicative of an individual's problem," says Laurie Watson, sex therapist and host of the podcast Foreplay. "The philandering guy who's got a girlfriend at every hotel for business, that's a different kind of cheating than the man who has an affair with his colleague."
More often than not, there's something off in the relationship.
"Typically, if someone's cheating, it's because needs aren't being met in a marriage or relationship," Dr. Megan Fleming, licensed sex and relationship therapist, says.
That can mean sexual needs — but often means someone's emotional needs aren't being met.
In fact, when marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman spoke to 200 cheating and non-cheating men for his book The Truth About Cheating, he found that 47 percent of the men he spoke to cheated because they were emotional unsatisfied, something that runs counterintuitive to what popular culture might dictate that we believe.
"Our culture tells us that all men need to be happy is sex," Neuman says. "But men are emotionally-driven beings, too. They want their wives to show them that they're appreciated, and they want women to understand how hard they're trying to get things right."
The problem is that men are less likely than women to express these feelings, so you won't always know when your guy is in need of a little affirmation. "Most men consider it unmanly to ask for a pat on the back, which is why their emotional needs are often overlooked," Neuman says. "But you can create a marital culture of appreciation and thoughtfulness — and once you set the tone, he's likely to match it."
Of course, that can be terrifying, because as Dr. Fleming points out, real intimacy often occurs in sharing lots of details with another person, which thereby makes emotional affairs feel that much more threatening.
It's not just about being tired of routine — it's about a lack of communication.
Here's a stereotype you might be familiar with: A man comes home from his long work day to his rightfully exhausted wife with the kids, doesn't get laid, and feels stir-crazy. More often than not, though, it's not just the routine that makes a man look outside — it could be because his partner doesn't listen when he tries to break out of the rut.
"It's often a result of long-term chronic frustration with a non-responsive partner," Watson says. "There's a sensation of not wanting to live in a routine, rote life — they want some kind of excitement."
It's not because of your appearance.
Neuman said that only 12 percent of the men he surveyed said the woman they slept with was more attractive than their partners.
"Often times, women take way too much responsibility [for their cheating partner, saying], 'if I were thinner, if I were more [insert variable here]...but sometimes, truly, their partner's going though a a mid-life crisis or is struggling with his own mortality or is frustrated at work." She says women should own whats theirs, but not what isn't.
It's not because they're totally aloof and have defunct consciences.
Sixty-six percent of the men that Neuman surveyed felt guilty when they cheated, which makes sense, and Watson says that plenty of ethical people cheat…and they recognize that it's bad. So, yes, genuinely good guys have confessed to screwing up.
That doesn't mean it's easy to forgive, and it doesn't make the actions right. And though infidelity can trigger a divorce, many times, Watson says, a marriage can emerge stronger once a couple works through it — but the crucial thing is that the couple has to actually be willing to work on it and want to repair the marriage. As with most parts of life, it doesn't just fix itself.