Why do men cheat?
A recent study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, suggests that performance anxiety might be one major affair predictor for men.
According to the study, men who suffer from performance anxiety or sexual-related insecurity are significantly more likely to go astray than men who are satisfied with their bedroom endeavors. Seems strange, right? If he’s anxious about his performance why would he seek out a new partner instead of staying with the one with whom he may imagine he has less to prove?
However, men derive a large part of their confidence and sense of self from how they feel in the bedroom, which is no surprise because they have been socialized to believe that “real” men are always in the mood, virile, and never have sexual issues. Obviously, this is a fallacy. The irony is that performance anxiety, like a panic attack, feeds on itself. If he experiences erectile dysfunction or delayed orgasm one or two times at random, it can be difficult to avoid performance anxiety the next time. And the performance anxiety causes distraction and blood vessel constriction that only exacerbates the sexual symptoms. It is a vicious cycle that can seem endless and impossible to stop.
He may imagine that with a new partner he will actually have less to prove, especially if it’s a one-night stand. If his partner is frustrated or judgmental that only enhances his anxiety and he may seek out or respond to a new partner imagining she may be more sympathetic or perhaps the pressure will feel less intense without as much on the line.
This is not to say that when men cheat it is the other person’s fault. Cheating is always a choice and my clinical experience has taught me that it usually has little to do with the partner’s behaviors or sexual shortcomings, but more to do with the cheater’s perspective and what’s happening inside their own head.
So what makes someone become a cheater? In the end, it seems to be sadness, fear, and insecurity, particularly when it is dealt with in a dysfunctional and avoidant way. However all of these feelings, while troublesome and painful, are resolvable with some solid insights, open communication, and help from a physician and/or therapist when indicated. Certainly, if you find yourself in a vicious cycle of performance anxiety or disconnection, it’s time to seek outside help.
Ultimately what separates cheaters from non-cheaters is not just ethics and a commitment to fidelity. What is most important for keeping your relationship solid and committed is a strong sense of self-awareness and a willingness to tackle and discuss issues head-on in a supported and loving way.