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Cheating 101

Does power make them do it? Read More


But still doesn't it come back to ego, if a person feels fundamentally weak in some way? They may lack a healthy self-regard, either they think too much, or too little of themselves, but they are still acting out of a desire to feel better about themselves (strangely enough). I find it fascinating that, going along with your point, Broadwell was Petraeus' biographer, someone who probably reassured him over and over that he was one of the greatest men and finest military minds that ever lived. She probably told him he was a good lover, too. These kinds of blandishments are difficult for anyone to resist, and yes the fact that he needed to hear them speaks to a fundamental chink in his ego-armor. It's the way a man seeks to patch that armor that results in cheating.

I would agree

Yes, I think that's true. Well said. Thank you!

Why men cheat

You are overthinking this way too much. Men cheat *because they can.* So do women. Opportunity + perception of low risk of getting caught = likelihood of cheating. It's really not rocket science.

I don't agree.

Why get married then? The question is why do they want to cheat. Certainly, lots of men don't even though "they can" too. Something motivates the behavior.

Again, why...

You mistakenly assume that marriage and loving one's spouse should mean that one should no longer with to engage in sexual activity with others. What an ethnocentric, Disney-esque view you have. You are naive. I cheated tonight. Why? Because I had an opportunity to do so, risk-free. Does this mean I love my spouse less? No. Does this mean I dislike marriage and wish to be single? No. I love my wife. But the sex is rare and tedious, and other opportunities are more exciting. Start with the simplest explanation!

Actually not

That actually is not my view. My view is that with all those things being true, just be open about it. It's human. It's life. It's the truth. (You should read my post about sexless marriages) My issue is with making an agreement with someone in the name of love, then changing the rules (to which you've agreed to share mutually) without telling the other person. It's cowardly and if there are kids, selfish. It's the lying, sneaking around and hiding that I don't think align with love, nor do I think that deceiving someone is showing love toward him/her. Being open and honest does, regardless of how difficult it may be to do.

Has it occurred to anyone that the "rules"

Are the main part of the problem?

In fact, as an unspoken benchmark (and let's cut the niceties, that what's they are) the "rules" are deeply flawed and have always been. The "rules" referred to of course are the unspoken expectations of exclusivity/monogamy. These so-called rules that were imposed on us from childhood and reinforced on a daily basis take as an article of faith that sexual/emotional intimacy can only be within the confines of monogamy/marriage and are built on ancient ideas of "morality" that were unrealistic then and are much more so today in a world where travel and human social interaction are almost completely unrecognisable to what existed centuries and millennia ago.

I understand, Dr Flagg, the view that PEOPLE should be more open if they feel they cannot be or remain monogamous/exclusive. *That* I won't argue; I don't think there there is anyone who really wants to be lied to and deceived, particularly when it deal with sexual intimacy. You said that your issue is with those who make an agreement with someone in the name of love, then changing the rules.....without telling the other person. Fine. But that's what you get when a unifocal view of sexual morality is projected, demonising others as aberrations, freaky "alternative lifestyles" and surrounding them with ideas of guilt and sin.

Most people who "make an agreement" only know or were told about the monogamous agreement; to this day we look around at the rom-coms, love songs, sermons and novels and overwhelmingly they all reinforce the "Disney-esque" ideas of love, commitment, the One (soulmate) and fidelity; all based on patriarchal/patricentric ideas that see only one view and completely disregard all others -- because such is the nature of the patricentric mindset. These ideas are simplistic, naive and, it needs to be said misogynist. The fact that it is women who are the most vigorous upholders of it do not make it any less so. Why, for instance, was there not so much as one line questioning the rules themselves? I know there have been other articles on the subject of non-monogamy, open relationships, etc. However, this latest example of overdramatised nonsense involving Gen. Petraeus -- who is only condemned as immoral because he had an affair, not when he was overseeing the killing thousands of innocent people -- underlines the need to use any and every opportunity to interrogate and de-construct these egregious expectations as the *only* legitimate form of sexual/intimate interaction.

For there to be more open expressing of what a person will or will not be in a relationship, we all need to fully understand and accept that humans are extremely diverse and have very different preferences. Human sexuality is very complex and is also evolving (something else not often discussed). That complexity, by the way, should also take into consideration that not in every case of people having an affair, there is something necessarily missing from their marriage/relationship. In Lynn Atwater's 1982 book The Extramarital Connection among the women she interviewed were several who said that there was nothing "wrong" in the marriage, they loved their husband and their sex life was great. So let us not fall into the other trap of thinking that something is necessarily missing as this in some way reinforces the toxic idea of the "one" who is "everything" you are looking for in a mate.


Why do women cheat ?? Whats up with all these school teachers having relations with their male students (often underage at that)? @ why do most of these women get a slap on the wrist.These gals rarely get prison yet when a man does this to one of his female students society and the justice system wants to put him under the prison...and yet women cry about double standards and want to over analyze and generalize men ? and why they cheat ? (even though most men do NOT cheat)ha!....typical.

You're right

But lots of time those school teachers aren't married. For sure, some are and I agree, rules should be applied evenly across the board. But for Paula, with two small kids, I'm pretty sure most people, regardless of gender, would say it was a really shitty, selfish thing to do.

Maybe True May not

I have several male friends that have cheated. These guys are smart, kind, funny..and I'd trust them with my life (but not my wife). Why do they do it? Various reasons. Fell out of love with their wives but want to stay married for the sake of the kids. Love the thrill of having numerous lovers. Living life to the fullest. Do I agree with these reasons of course not. Can I understand them, absolutely.

Most of the men I know who

Most of the men I know who have cheated on their wives/committed partners don't seem to feel inadequate or to dislike themselves.

(They might momentarily act like, and even momentarily sincerely feel like, they greatly dislike themselves *right after* their peccadilloes are found out by the wrong people?)

They can compartmentalize various people and relationships - they can act one way in one circumstance and with certain people, another way in another circumstance and with other people - and can still feel cheerful and as if they are mainly being good guys. Cognitive dissonance hardly makes a peep, at least in the moment -- and in the string of moments that comprise their day-to-day lives.

I read the other day where David Letterman said he always thought he was a good guy even while he was cheating on his wife (with several different women over years), until the attempted blackmail by an ex-girlfriend's boyfriend caused his behavior to become public knowledge, and then he realized he hadn't been acting like a "good" person and he decided to see a therapist to learn more about himself (and try to save his marriage).

I think a lot of Americans actually think it's okay to have secret affairs and to break their commitment vows. Maybe most of them wouldn't be in favor of their spouses doing it as well, at least for anyone to find out about it, but they figure that if they keep it somewhat private, it's okay for themselves to do.

Throughout history, no matter what the culture (love marriages, arranged marriages, highly conservative, very liberal, etc.), people have broken marriage/commitment vows, sometimes getting away with it, sometimes being severely punished. It's normal.

In the last 15 years or so, even though I am pretty much a temperate, "decent" kind of woman whom most people find off-puttingly ethical and exhaustingly "clean-living", I have been propositioned quite a few times by married men (and by engaged men) - coworkers, bosses, fellow PhD students, professors, strangers, clients - and it no longer surprises me at all.

Most of these guys generally aren't tortured or weak - most of them are confident, risk-taking, action-oriented, multi-faceted, intelligent, effective - and sometimes even sensitive and thoughtful. (A few are obnoxious jerks, to be sure.)

Not to dismiss what you say but......

Not discounting some of what you said here; and not wishing to belabour a point, but answers like this in my opinion refuse to confront one of the main elephants in the room, namely the flaw in the"commitment" argument.

As I was trying to point out in the post I raised above, while I don't seek to condone deception (which I think is what most people really have an issue with), the argument that most people "think it's okay to have affairs and break their commitment vows" overlook the fact that the commitment vow itself is based on some egregious ideas of human sexuality and particularly women's sexuality -- which is so ironic given that today, the most vocal defenders of exclusive monogamy are now women.

I mean yes, the ideal is if one makes a commitment to "stay faithful" (another term I find in dire need of thorough deconstruction), then they should honour that vow. But I have argued that the real problem lies in the one-morality-size-fits-all that has everyone brought up from childhood believing that the only legitimate (ie moral) sexual union is the exclusive monogamous model because whoever is "the One" or your "soulmate" or whatever other stupid toxic term will be thought up in the future is supposed to satisfy your security, intellectual, spiritual, sexual and emotional need. Absolute egregious rubbish but a rubbish that is lauded every single day and held up as the model by love songs, rom-coms, the pulpit and popular culture. It's like it's a given and no one even bothers to ask if it is appropriate for living in modern society where the reality of travel, work and technology is radically different from centuries ago. To say nothing of course of anyone doing any serious investigation as to the scandalous history behind how this model even came to be in the first place.

What we need to be doing is moving to a consciousness or environment where different forms of sexual/intimate interaction are available as legitimate options without the judgmental foolishness that usually comes with arrangements that are counter to the exclusive monogamy ideal. This is not to dispense with monogamy but simply to create that mindset that understand that there are legitimate and normal options for consenting adults.

what the hell is the big mystery here!

People, I am a man.

There is no mystery here at all. I agree with Corey on virtually everything, but, this does really boil down to t-h-e most basic sexual agenda's that the 2 sex's have.

MEN- Quantity and risk. Powerful Innate drive that comes with Testosterone

WOMEN- Quality and security. Powerful innate drive that comes with estrogen

What women don't seem to understand is that quantity "is" quality for men. We are stuck between the desire for raising a family, and, a deep desire to "jump" every women who we find attractive. The sexual part of a man's brain dedicated to sex is about 4 to 5 times bigger than a woman's. Yes, we can control it, but, it is relentless and brings no peace what so ever to a man. Life can be too long for some things, and this is one of them. The rules are not realistic and so, men lie. I am on my second marriage and older now, we have our own "rules" about our marriage and sex. Thank god I met someone who sees the unrealistic view (rules) about marriage and sex. No more lying for me.
Everyone human adult should read these 2 books,


It does not get any simpler that these books.

To all the above

Then please explain the hurt and betrayal you feel when you find out you've been cheated on?

If it is so simple, I do not expect a wall of text.

If you can't put it simply, you simply don't understand it.

If you insist on it being put simply......

....then you clearly aren't inclined to thinking deeply on anything of this nature.

Neither have you read the responses carefully, if at all.

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Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.


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