Why men cheat

Are some men hardwired to be adulterers or is it brazen opportunism? Peadar de Burca spoke to 250 unfaithful men to discover the answer.

May 17, 2011
Peadar de Burca
Nelson Simoneau
Why men cheat

There is nothing as attractive as confidence. The very last person I interviewed about infidelity was called Richard. He was very confident.

A 45-year-old American of wealth and taste, Richard juggled 10 women at a time and had a 1990s-era Clintonesque charisma. On the surface, he was every inch what you’d expect a practiced cheat to be: vital, charming.

We were driving together in his Land Rover. He was taking me to an orgy; as a non-participant, I was denied admission to the adult fun castle. I stepped out of the car and asked him the questions that would end any pretense of friendship on either side.

“Why do you cheat, Richard?”
“Leave it.”
“Are you distracting yourself from something?”
“Leave it, okay?”
But I wouldn’t. I rode his wave of anger. “You don’t even enjoy the sex. What’s in it for you personally?”
“If I don’t, I’ll die. Can we leave it at that? Can we?”
We did. We left it at that.

Before Richard, I had interviewed 249 men who cheated on their partners. They wore me out, but I learned a lot: Give me 10 minutes with any man, young or old, and I’ll tell you if he’s a cheat or not. In five years of interviews, I would always ask what the “other woman” was like: appearance, personality, profession. There was one constant. Longer hair. (Now you know why women compliment other women after a haircut: another rival out of the equation.)

Why did I interview these men? I wanted to find out why men cheat so that I wouldn’t make any mistakes when I met the woman I loved.

The media glorifies seemingly potent, powerful Clinton-like men no matter how they misbehave. But let me show you what real cheats are like. They’re not vital or confident, not deep down. They are the most miserable men on earth.

A man who cheats is not a man who is secured by the ballast of maturity and empathy. Many women don’t spot these defects. And many women are surprised to know that cheating has little to do with sex. The men I talked to spoke more of “new experiences.” Let me explain: We live in a time when everything is quantified. Women are forced to focus on size and weight. Confidence can’t be measured, so they measure calories instead. Similarly, with unhappy men, sex is a barometer of success. It defines vitality. But when my interviewees recollected their affairs, talk of sex was absent. The memory of great sex will fade as quickly as the memory of a great meal. What animated their stories was being born again in another’s eyes. A new woman meant a new them; briefly they could stop being their old hated self.

What doesn’t fade is the thrill of having a secret life, a parallel universe where they are the stars in a movie that is dramatic, full of hidden moments and original scents. The life domestic becomes the life mundane. Most cheats are escaping the mundane. But the worst ones need to escape themselves.

The persistent cheats want to flee themselves because they hate themselves. They aren’t happy. One word to describe a cheat? Insecure. Regardless of looks or income, these men are lacking. Richard wasn’t the first to get angry with me when I pushed him to face himself.

Find out what happens when this writer interviews more unfaithful men on the next page...


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