Why Do Men Cheat?

It's Not Just About Sex...and She May Not Be Any Better-Looking Than You

Man with phone in bed, looking at woman asleep
Peter Cade/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Some men cheat. For half the women reading these words, that fact may be as inevitable as death and taxes. Some statistics say that roughly 50% of married men will cheat, and the vast majority won't admit to it even after a woman asks the searing question, "Have you been unfaithful to me?"

If the odds of infidelity are the same as a random coin toss, it would help to know: Why do men cheat?

A marriage counselor for over 20 years, rabbi and author Gary Neuman conducted a two-year study involving 200 men -- 100 who cheated and 100 who remained faithful. His findings form the basis of his 2008 book The Truth About Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do To Prevent It.

What Neuman learned defies most commonly-held beliefs about why men cheat.

Of the men surveyed:

  • 92% say it's not just about sex
  • 88% say the other woman isn't better looking or in better shape
  • 55% don't tell their wives or deny cheating even when confronted with evidence
  • 48% say cheating is about an emotional disconnection from their wives
  • 12% would cheat no matter what

In a September 2008 interview with Newsweek, Neuman explained that cheating has a lot to do with male insecurity and the desire to win. Childhood teaches boys that winning and achievement are what defines them, and this way of thinking influences their adult behavior.

Men are much more emotional than women realize. Husbands regard pleasing their wives as akin to 'winning.' If they feel valued, they won't stray; but if they feel under-appreciated they turn elsewhere or behave in ways that push their wives away. Men who try to please their wives but are met with criticism begin to think they can't win.

"Appreciation is what they first and foremost get from the mistress," said Neuman.

Finding out the truth is another matter. Neuman's study found that if a husband cheats, there's a 93% chance he won't admit it. And 12% of the men he surveyed will cheat no matter what.

"Besides sex -- other reasons men cheat." Oprah.com at CNN.com/living. 3 October 2008.
Ramirez, Jessica. "How To Keep Him From Cheating." Newsweek.com. 25 September 2008.