After almost three decades of working with couples decimated by infidelity, I can tell you that men who cheat on a beloved wife or girlfriend can be amazingly creative when they try to explain why. Sometimes cheating men tell me, and the women they love, that their behavior doesn’t really count as cheating, because it didn’t involve actual sex. Other times, they find ways to blame others for their choices – their spouse, their boss, even the other woman.
[Yes, I understand that women also cheat. I have written about that numerous times, including here. However, this article, based on my new book Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating, is about cheating men.]
As a therapist, I find most of the reasons that cheating men use to justify their infidelity fascinating — because almost all of these reasons imply that cheating was the only logical solution to their relationship issues and other life problems. I often find myself thinking, “Sure, cheating is an option, but only one among many. How about taking up a hobby, or volunteering to make the world a better place, or actually talking to your significant other about what you’re feeling and how the two of you might be able to craft a more fulfilling relationship? Wouldn’t any of those choices be better that lying, manipulating, and keeping important secrets from a woman you truly care about?”
But most men don’t have that type of insight. So when confronted, they minimize, rationalize, and justify their behavior with statements like:
In the therapy business, we have a name for this type of reasoning: Denial. From a psychotherapy perspective, denial is a series of internal lies and deceits people tell themselves to make their questionable behaviors seem OK (at least in their own mind). Typically, each self-deception is supported by one or more rationalizations, with each one bolstered by still more falsehoods. In the eyes of an impartial observer, such as a therapist, a cheating man’s denial typically looks about as solid as a house of cards in a stiff breeze, yet these men will doggedly insist their rationale is sound.
This, of course, begs the question: Why? Why do men really cheat? And why do they sometimes continue cheating after they’re caught, even in the face of profoundly unwanted consequences like divorce, loss of parental contact, loss of social standing, and the like?
The truth is that all sorts of dynamics can play into a man’s decision to engage in infidelity. Generally, though, his choice to cheat is driven by one or more of the following factors:
For most men, no single factor drives the decision to cheat. And sometimes a man’s reasons for infidelity evolve as his life circumstances change. Regardless of his true reasons for cheating, he didn’t have to do it. There are always other options – couple’s therapy, golf, being open and honest with a mate and working to improve the relationship, or separation or divorce. A man always has choices that don’t involve degrading and potentially ruining his integrity and the life he and his significant other have created. Still, knowing why he cheated can be helpful in terms of not repeating the behavior in the future.
For more information about infidelity and overcoming it after it’s been discovered, check out my recently published book, Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship-Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is a digital-age intimacy and relationships expert specializing in infidelity and addictions. He is the author of several highly regarded books. Currently, he is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health, creating and overseeing addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities. For more information, please visit his website, robertweissmsw.com, or follow him on Twitter, @RobWeissMSW.
Be sure to read the following responses to this post by our bloggers: