Why Men Have Affairs

A man thinking of having an affair talking to a woman at a bar.

What makes men stray from marriages? In some cases, it’s the desire for something new—the curiosity after years of monogamy, a situation that escalates without a sense of the consequences. But often, the issues around why men have affairs are more deep-seated and yet perhaps also more understandable. Relationship and marriage experts explain what leads men to cheat.

Feeling emasculated. While dating expert Yue Xu says that women have affairs because they don’t feel desired, she explains that “men, on the other hand, have affairs when they feel emasculated in a relationship. There could be a plethora of reasons for this: His partner makes more money than he, [the] lack of words of affirmation, his partner is constantly disappointed with him, etc.”

Looking for affirmation. “When a man feels emasculated, he usually finds comfort in women who show admiration and respect for him,” Xu says. “Usually younger, less experienced women; in many of the clients I’ve had, men have cheated with a subordinate or student. In the cases I’ve seen, men don’t necessarily leave their partners, but what usually causes the separation or divorce is getting caught by their significant other.”

One thing leads to another. Drawing from her clients’ experiences, relationship coach Norva Abiona lays out a pattern: “[Being] ignored sexually for a long time makes it easy for him to respond positively to a flirtatious woman… Not respected by his spouse leads to him looking for other ways to pass time away from her. In the new environment, a relationship develops, and over time they fall in love.” Or perhaps it’s not even that straightforward: “A great conversation with a pretty woman leads from one thing to another; the affair isn’t planned or expected at all.”

Lack of respect for marriage. “People who are separated or divorced often have a unique perspective on affairs,” says Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and dating coach. “In many cases, that separation or divorce is due to an affair, whether they are the ones who cheated or were victims of cheating. If a person has been cheated on, this can create a strong aversion to having an affair with another person. Usually those who have experienced the pain of being cheated on will be reluctant to harm others in the same way. However, those who cheated on their spouse previously sometimes care little about the sanctity of other marriages. They might have empathy for a married spouse who feels emotionally and sexually frustrated and be willing to engage in an affair with that person.”

It’s important to remember that men don’t always cheat for petty reasons, and that straying from a marriage is often due to problems with both spouses. To keep a marriage strong and not something to be disregarded, communication and affirmation must go both ways.

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