Find out what drives men to cheat and learn some effective ways to prevent infidelity.
With the past disclosures from General David Petraeus — who resigned as head of the CIA after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer — stacked on top of all the other recent political figures who have cheated on their spouses, we're asking the question, "What are men looking for when they cheat?"
Statistics indicate that cheating is much more common than we might like to believe for both men and women. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of "After the Affair," says that infidelity now affects one out of every 2.7 couples. Then there's the dating site for married people looking to have affairs, AshleyMadison.com, which boasts of having almost 17 million anonymous members. It's clear that something is missing in many marriages these days.
Based on my (Bob) own life and the conversations I've had with other men, including my male coaching clients, I've assembled the top five things men are looking for when they decide to enter into an extramarital affair — unconsciously in many cases. It's really not just about thesex!
Five things men are looking for when they cheat:
1.Emotional connection. As relationships mature, power struggles tend to become more prevalent (as obvious as the "I'm Right"/"No, I'm Right" conversation and as subtle as the timing and frequency of sex). When a man experiences repeated power struggles with his spouse, his natural tendency is to "go to his cave", which really means get quiet and distant and grumpy! Which makes emotional connection that much more difficult. Over time he misses the emotional connection he previously felt with his spouse.
When he meets someone new and they accept him for "who he is" it's much easier for him to connect with his emotions and feel connection with this new and interesting person. Of course when the lust and honeymoon period are over and the power struggles start to arise in the new relationship he'll likely revert to his well-learned pattern and his struggles will start all over again.
2. Appreciation. Men loved to be appreciated and like so many people they don't really know how to accept appreciation! Or how to ask for it or even how to give it to themselves (or to other people for that matter). So when it stops being quite so plentiful from their spouse and if the relationship contains a heavy dose of blame and criticism (as most do) or even possibly contempt, men start looking for positive affirmations from others. With the new love interest everything is wonderful — he is wonderful — in the first flush of a new relationship — then we all tend to fall into upping criticism and dropping appreciation.
3. Intimacy. Men want a partner who will listen, who will volunteer information about their own lives and discoveries and someone who smiles and excitedly shares their hopes and dreams. Of course, men don't generally know how to communicate this. In their existing relationship the tendency is to think, "We're married, I know everything about you … " In their new relationship everything is new and exciting and learning about the new partner is initially easy and the feeling of intimate connection is created.
4. Feeling wanted. Everyone wants to feel wanted regardless of age, gender or occupation. Men are no different. And men tend to be socialized to provide security and strength as an expectation, rather than something to be appreciated for. As life moves along a man can often feel like his contribution is taken for granted and who he is, as opposed to what he can provide, becomes less important. In a new relationship suddenly he matters again.
5. Sex. Speaking of fun activities, men generally do want sex and the more the better. Sex is one way that men feel connected to their partner. Men also feel appreciated and wanted when they have sex with their partner. So for men, sex provides the first four items on our list plus physical pleasure that allows men to focus totally on the present moment. In a new relationship the sex tends to be a lot more frequent. At least initially!
So what's the answer?
When a man thinks about cheating it's likely that he's not happy about the relationship he's in and/or that something is missing. What also seems to happen is that men feel victimized by their relationship and believe they have no power to influence a change. "If only she would …" is often a refrain that many married men espouse and yet they say nothing to their partner. Or complain that when they try, she just doesn't listen.
Sure there's a part that the partner plays in all this but I'm talking about the male side of the equation and what the man can do to find what he's looking for within his relationship.
I see four main approaches being part of the cure:
1. Be brave. Speak up about what is concerning you or lacking in your relationship — regardless of the response that comes up from your partner. If you want something different in your relationship, you need to become courageous and communicate clearly. Then the possibility for creating something very different and special can exist.
2. Take responsibility. Be open and interested in what you are doing to contribute to the state of your relationship. And be willing to make your own changes.
3. Recognize the difference between feeling sexual and taking action. Sexual feelings, like all our other feelings, are not under our control. Acting on our sexual feelings is totally under our control. Don't use the "I just couldn't help myself" line to excuse your behavior.
If you really are not fulfilled, sexually or otherwise in your relationship and you think that the answer is to cheat, think again. The answer is to delve into yourself and your partner and your relationship to create something new. And if that is not possible then the answer may be to leave the relationship — openly, clearly and courageously.
4. Shoot for the moon. Maybe we've taken our relationships for granted or maybe we set our relationship goals too low. What would happen if we shot for the moon when it comes to ourintimate relationship and make this partnership our highest priority? Through making our connection our highest priority we can begin to learn so much about our partner and ourselves such that life feels exciting and alive all the time.
With this approach men can look inside their relationship for the answers rather than to the next exciting fling. And with more than 25% of divorces now coming from the over 50 crowd, with withdrawal being the leading indicator, it's time to make our closest relationship vibrant once again!