Why do men cheat?

Kim asks: Why do guys cheat?

Hi Kim –

What a great question.  I know you’re asking about males in particular, but I have to ask my version: why do people cheat!

We dogs are very loyal, and often jealous.  I would never “cheat” on Handsome; I really wouldn’t know how.  And when I see him petting another dog too much, I get furious…  at that other dog!  I don’t see Handsome as a cheater at all; I just make sure that other dog understands that that man is mine!

But at the same time, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m just a pathetic boring mutt who can’t enjoy anyone else but my owner.  I love to play with other people, I love going to other people’s homes, and I love them and lick them and will lie down to sleep on their beds by them if they let me.  Is that cheating?  It’s really not, not when I do it.  And Handsome doesn’t think it’s cheating either.

So why is it different if a person’s husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend goes off and cuddles or kisses or goes to sleep with someone else?  When that happens, humans feel betrayed, devastated, and furious.  And it’s absolutely called Cheating.

The difference is in how the people involved conceive of their relationship.  Do you know the words “subjective” and “objective?”  Subjective means it’s all about how someone perceives something, while Objective means absolute clear reality.  Cheating is a completely Subjective act.

Think of it this way:  If you see a game of Rugby, or American or Australian Football, where a person runs holding a ball, being chased by the other team, no one’s cheating.  But if you see a game of World Cup Football (what some call Soccer), and someone picks up a ball and runs with it, they’re totally cheating!

So all this yammering I’ve done is to make one point clear:  Only humans cheat, because only humans have a conception of rules in relationships.  And of course, both men and women cheat.  Often.

But is there a difference in the reasons why men and women cheat?  Many would say that yes, there are.  Some would point to the days of primitive man, when the human race only succeeded because men went around impregnating all the women they could, while women stayed home raising their young.  Those people will say men cheat because they’re programmed that way, and point to ancient religious texts that talk about moral men with hundreds of wives, and say that’s how people ought to be.

Others would say that men are told by society that having lots of women is a sign of success, and that if you’re not running around hitting on lots of women like James Bond, you’re not fully a man.  They’ll point to the fact that so many of our sports heroes and top politicians have cheated in their marriages, and argue that, at the same time that we criticize their behavior, we idolize it too.

But others will say that men and women cheat for the same reason.  They cheat because they’re in relationships that aren’t giving them all they need, but they don’t want to leave what’s good about the relationship.  They refer to the old line about “wanting to have your cake and eat it too.”


But you know what?  I’ll give you my answer.  People cheat because they want to.  If they didn’t want to, they wouldn’t cheat.  If I grab a piece of chicken off a plate on a table, we can look deeply into all sort of psychological reasons why I might do it, or we might just say “Shirelle felt like grabbing that piece of chicken, and considered it worth whatever consequences she might suffer for it.”  Maybe I was really hungry, maybe I was mad at Handsome and wanted to do something to annoy him, maybe I just felt rebellious that day.

But fundamentally, I took it because I wanted to.

And when men – or women – argue that they cheated because of some big powerful force, my response is that yes, that force might have been there, but You Chose To Cheat, and You Chose To Because You Wanted To.  And all the rest is secondary.


Thanks for the great question!


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