Contrary to popular belief, a lack of sexual satisfaction in a relationship is not the primary reason that men cheat; there are actually a number of surprising factors that lead to infidelity.
Evolutionary scientists argue that men are often driven to stray by a primal urge to “spread their seed”—though this theory is becoming increasingly unpopular. Research has shown that everything from whether or not your partner’s parents were faithful to one another to a man’s hormone levels to his age play a significant role in the decision to break the trust in a relationship.
The reasons a man might have for cheating can also range from feeling ignored in a marriage to experiencing a midlife crisis to having doubts about the relationship. Though, that being said, a recent survey of over 2,000 Europeans and Americans found that the primary reason that American men gave for committing infidelity were “the other person was really hot” and “people were hitting on me.” So…maybe sometimes they’re not that complex.
But the number one reason why men cheat seems to be to get an ego boost. It’s no secret that people who have low self-esteem are more likely to cheat; low self-worth creates a craving for external validation, and getting it from one person frequently just isn’t enough. Unfortunately for their partners, men with self-esteem issues are less likely to leave a relationship that doesn’t fulfill their needs, because they fear being alone, and are therefore more likely to use cheating as a coping mechanism for their own insecurities.
But it’s also widely accepted that the male ego is more intrinsically linked to sex than the female ego, which is why men still tend to fixate on their penis size and their sexual “performance” more so than women. This is probably one of the reasons that they are more likely to cheat when they get older—they still need validation from women to feel desirable, and sometimes, getting that attention from their partner alone just won’t cut it. It’s also at the center of this depressing May 2015 study that found that men who are 100% financially dependent on their wives are three times more likely to cheat than men who live in households in which they are the breadwinner.
“I think it has to do with our cultural notions of what it means to be a man and what … the social expectations are for masculinity,” said the study author, Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. Because he feels like his masculinity is threatened, he might overcompensate by engaging in behavior associated with masculinity, like sex with strangers.
So if staying faithful is something that’s important to you, be sure to pick a partner who doesn’t have an ego the size of a penny. Your heart will thank you for it.
And for more on men and infidelity, find out the Age When Men Are Most Likely to Cheat.