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Why Do Married Men Cheat? Learn The 3 Reasons

Posted by Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC on Sat, Nov 17, 2012

why do married men cheatWondering why do married men cheat? Let’s examine the latest high profile cheater, General David Petraeus, to find some answers. Below are excerpts from a USA Today article on Why Do the Powerful Cheat. It gives us a few starting points in understanding why do married men cheat.

David Petraeus is not your run-of-the-mill husband with a wandering eye. He's not just another philandering politician or celebrity cheater, like so many others whose indiscretions have come to light in recent years.

He's a retired Army general who designed and led the military surge in Iraq and was top commander in Afghanistan. He had been deployed much of his career until he was named CIA director last year. His abrupt resignation amid news of his extramarital affair with a married Army Reserve officer brings a new wrinkle into an old story of why yet another powerful man risks so much for a woman.

Yes, Petraeus joins the list of wayward sons: Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards, Mark Sanford and Eliot Spitzer — just to name a few.

All of these men were married, so are nearly all the men I counsel after having an affair. But if you already have a relationship, why would you be looking for another one? If it's not the need for a relationship, then why do married men cheat? Here are some of the article's suggested reasons why powerful married men cheat:

Risk takers "tend to believe they control their destiny or fate," Farley says. "The risk-taking personality has a bold quality. It's at the heart of great leadership, and sometimes it overrides what many Americans would call common sense."

Risk taking? Married men cheat because they're risk takers? Well, maybe. Certainly no one will argue that cheating isn't risky. But is this really why married men cheat? I don't believe so. Although I would agree that for risk takers it's easier to cross the line and cheat.

Add in a dose of entitlement, suggests Mira Kirshenbaum, clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute in Boston who has written books about infidelity.

"Power and success give people a sense of invulnerability," she says. "A lot of guys like Petraeus have worked awfully hard, and yes, they have a lot to show for it, but day-to-day mostly what they face is more hard work. Where's the big reward? An affair can seem like a long-deserved perk."

Entitlement? Now we're getting closer to one of the real reasons for an affair. Nearly all cheating married men I've counseled have been unhappy in their marriage. This unhappiness, whether about the sex life, not feeling respected respect, conflict with their wife, or a number of other factors, does contribute to them feeling entitled to finding pleasure elsewhere and thus to cheat.

Petraeus' resignation letter, which cites "very poor judgment," is particularly troubling to Dan Crum, a former CIA polygraph examiner and now consultant in Fairfax, Va.

"When he said he showed poor judgment, it minimizes the affair and characterizes it more as a one time poor decision than an extended period of decisions to maintain and continue the affair," he says. "It's almost like a 'How dare you?' response. It's part of that almost arrogance — 'Who are you to question me? I'm the one giving the orders here.' "

Crum says the fact that there was an e-mail trail "demonstrates a level of arrogance and a feeling that you're above the law."

Arrogance? Yes and no. Certainly arrogance and entitlement go hand in hand. I think arrogance explains more why men continue the affair even after the first indiscretion. Whereas entitlement can be more of the reason why do married men cheat in the first place.

New research by sociologist Andrew London, a senior fellow at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in New York, has found increased risk for extramarital sex among veterans. One study online now in the Journal of Family Issues used 1992 data from 2,308 ever-married people to find that more than 32% of veterans reported extramarital sex -- about twice the rate among ever-married non-veterans.

A follow-up that includes data from 2010 finds "elevated odds for extramarital sex were higher among both male and female veterans," he says. London, the lead author, also finds that those who served in the military four years or longer had a particularly high risk.

Cregg Chandler of Sumter, S.C., has seen it firsthand. He retired in 2007 after 29 years in the Air Force, including the last nine as a chaplain at bases in the USA as well as overseas in Korea and Spain. He says infidelity appears to have escalated in recent years. That's why he wrote A Separation Survival Guide for Military Couples, out earlier this year. He says military life often brings stress, isolation and frustration, which can lead to infidelity.

Military separations, which are recurring and often long-term, create loneliness without the family support system.

"They have a saying in the military: 'What happens TDY (temporary duty assignment) stays TDY.' I'm not saying it's an overall mentality, but they have that saying." (from Why Do The Powerful Cheat)

Opportunity? Yes, now were getting to the real answers to the question why do married men cheat. How married men cheating happens is very much like how fire starts. To start a fire you need to combine 3 ingredients: Oxygen, heat and fuel. In another words, when you put a combustible material (unhappy husband) together with oxygen (marriage not addressing the problems) and provide spark (opportunity for relationship with an appealing woman) you get fire (cheating). Unlike fire, this combination does not always result in cheating, but it does frequently.

Why do married men cheat? First, because they're unhappy, lonely, stressed...(fill in any combination of unpleasant feelings). Second, because they're in a marriage that is not meeting nor addressing those needs not being met (which is both partners' fault). Third, opportunity presents itself in the form of another woman not to feel those unpleasant feelings. Spark. Fire. Cheating. And that's why married men cheat.

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Tags: Cheating Spouse