Part 2 of 2
I get asked, why do men cheat, a lot by women. Some questions are both simple and hard to answer - why do men cheat is one of them.
The wife of a cheating man recently asked me to help her understand why do men cheat in more depth. I've answered her 'how' questions in the previous post, How Do Men Cheat. Now, here are my answers to her 'why' questions. Here's part of her original request:
There are many variations in peoples situations, I know, but a general look at 'common' behaviors & attitudes affair partners may go through would be helpful to those left behind.”
Why do cheating men re-write history & blame everything on their partners?
In one of my answers in the previous post about how men cheat I wrote,
How men cheat is by dealing with the reality that they’ve hurt another by denying it. You don’t have to deal with something that is not a reality to you.”
Since denial is one of the coping mechanisms that cheating men use to mentally make it okay to cheat, rewriting history and blaming their partners shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
When cheaters rewrite history and blame everything on their partners, there’s even less that they have to deny. Men who are cheating will try anything to avoid taking responsibility for their wrong behavior, and re-writing history and blaming others is one of the best ways to do that.
How do cheaters deal with the fact that they've hurt another?
They don’t deal with it since it’s not something that they think about (see the denial technique described above). Cheating is selfish. It says my needs are more important than anyone else’s. When you’re cheating, you’re in 'it’s all about me' mode. The obsession on meeting your needs doesn’t allow for thinking about your partner’s feelings. Meeting their own needs is at the core of why do men cheat.
Sadly, the selfishness that underlies cheating overrides any concern or empathy for hurting their partner. Expecting anything different from a man who's cheating is completely unrealistic.
Why do the partners who have been left become the bad guy?
First, see the answer to the first question above. Second, see the answer to the second question above. Okay, now you have some idea of the cheater's mindset. When you're denying reality, seeking to blame others and avoid responsibility, then making your ex-partner the bad guy is really pretty easy and makes sense. Making your partner out to be the bad one, and the one who has done wrong, can make your wrong behavior seem right.
Another reason why partners become the bad guy is because cheating men want to feel justified in their actions. So if in their minds they believe their partner has done something wrong or is not meeting their needs they can tell themselves that their wrong behavior really isn't wrong - it's deserved, justified, and right.
Why do cheating men continue to lie, even when the affair is out in the open?
One of the core components of cheating is dishonesty. Dishonesty is what allows cheating to occur. Lying is like rolling a snowball down hill. Like a snowball, lies just keep getting bigger and bigger, and they're hard to stop once started.
I've worked with cheating men (and cheating women, too) who've been lying for so long, and in so many ways, that they've created such a web of lies that even they sometimes don't remember the truth. For some people lying can become a way thinking that's hard to stop.
Admitting the cheating is just the first step in ending the lying. Even when they're trying to be honest, cheaters (men and women) will still limit how much truth they'll tell about details of the affair because they don't want to hurt their partner more, and want to avoid feeling more pain and embarrassment themselves. Unfortunately, deception at this stage just slows down the recovery for both partners.
Why do they become so selfish often at the expense of their own children?
Cheaters never mean to hurt their children. Some don't mind hurting their partner, but not their children. Sadly, hurting our kids' other parent hurts our kids too.
So if cheaters don't mean to, or want to, hurt their kids, why do they? As I described above, it's because cheaters are in “it’s all about me” mode. Cheaters put their needs above everyone else's, even their kids. Many cheaters are cheating to make themselves feel better (another reason why men cheat), and it's hard to give up something that makes you hurt less, even if it hurts your kids.
Here's another place where the denial kicks in and men fool themselves in believing that they're not really hurting their kids. A man I'm counseling right now who's cheating thinks that the new family he has with his girlfriend is good for his kids since he's taking his kids and hers to Disneyland for spring break.
What are cheating men thinking, feeling, dealing with?
This may come as a surprise given how men who are cheating can look so happy and carefree on the outside, but many cheaters are really struggling with the mess they've created. Often cheating men come to me for counseling help because they're very torn-up over the dual lives they're living.
Most cheating men are very confused about what they want and what they should do about the circumstances they're in. Many don't want to lose their partner and the life they have together, but they also don't want to lose the new happiness they've found either. Again, these true feelings are rarely revealed to their partner, but they're almost always there.
Why do cheaters not show any sorrow or remorse?
Having worked with a lot of cheaters I can tell you that many, even most, have remorse. They just hide it really, really well. And since they're cheating at least partly arises out of displeasure with their partner (why do men cheat answer), showing their partner any remorse is highly unlikely. When I help them tear down the lies, the denial, the blame they've built up, hidden beneath is often regret and remorse.
For women who've been cheated on, these explanations may not make you sympathetic towards your man, and they shouldn't. But if they can help you understand a little more why do men cheat, and more specifically, why did your man cheat, then maybe you can begin to heal.
You can read Part 1 of this series about How Men Cheat here.
Important Note: I've used 'men' throughout this post because I was asked about men who cheat and why, not because I'm saying only men cheat. I've worked with a number of men who've been cheated on by the women in their lives. All of these answers apply to women who have had affairs, too. Substitute 'women' for 'men' anywhere in this post and you'll have the answers for women who cheat.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 31, 2013 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- How Do Men Cheat & Not Feel Guilty? (Part 1)
- Surviving And Thriving After Infidelity Is Possible
- After We Had A Baby, I'm No Longer Attractive To My Husband
- Get More Help with a Cheating Spouse