The Vastly Different Reason Why Men & Women Cheat

Men and women cheat for different reasons.

Last updated on Jan 23, 2024

Cheating Edward Eyer | Pexels 

Cheating and infidelity have no place in relationships and marriage. But, unfortunately, it still occurs. But why do people cheat, in the first place?

There are many reasons why people cheat on partners they claim to love and want to be with. However, a cheating husband's reasons may differ from that of a cheating wife.

There is a school of thought that says if a woman cheats, it is more likely to signal an end to her primary relationship than if a man cheats. This may be the case because men and women tend to think and feel differently about intimacy and relationships.


RELATED: Relationships That Survive Cheating Have These 4 Things In Common

Why do men cheat? For starters, men are usually able to separate and compartmentalize intimacy and intimate connections, while women typically cannot.

For most men, being intimate is just physical; and relationships are relationships — the two things do not necessarily overlap. Thus, a man who casually cheats can do so without feeling a significant degree of emotional connection, while a woman who cheats tends to see things differently.

Now, why do women cheat? For most women, intimacy and emotional connections are intermingled in ways that make this type of compartmentalization difficult.


Stated another way, when women cheat, there is usually an element of romance, intimacy, connection, and love. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to cheat to satisfy their urges, with few or even no thoughts of intimacy.

Sure, many men cheat because they feel in love as well as physical attraction, but many more don’t. For them, infidelity can be an opportunistic, in-the-moment, and primarily physical action that, in their minds, does not affect their primary relationship.



In fact, when asked, many such men will tell you they’re perfectly happy in their primary relationship — they love their siWhener dearly, their love life is great, and despite their cheating, they have no intention of ending their primary relationship.


Women just don’t operate that way because they feel that a sense of relational intimacy is every bit as important as the physical act — and often more important.

As such, women tend to not cheat unless they feel either unhappiness in their primary relationship or an intimate connection with their extracurricular partner. And either could cause her to move on from her primary relationship.

For evidence of this male-female dichotomy, consider the results of a well-known study in which men and women were shown videos of two men being intimate and two women being intimate.

Male test subjects’ responses were highly gender-specific. Straight guys were turned on only by the videos of women, and gay guys were turned on only by the videos of men.


RELATED: 5 Types Of People Most Likely To Cheat, According To Science

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the women, regardless of their orientation, were aroused by both male and female stimuli — in particular, the videos that displayed or at least hinted at an emotional and psychological connection. And this research is hardly an outlier.

Numerous other studies have produced similar results, confirming that, generally speaking, women are attracted to and turned on by emotional intimacy (especially in committed relationships), while men are turned on by body parts and the act itself.

So for women, emotional connection and arousal tend to be deeply intertwined; for men, not so much.


Put another way, male desire tends to be driven by physiological rather than psychological factors. This is why adult sites created for male users feature short scenarios focused on body parts and overt intimate acts and not much else.

In male-oriented adult videos, there is rarely a storyline, kissing, or romantic interaction. For the unbridled male brain, it’s just being intimate, body parts, and more intimacy. Even adult literature for men tends to focus more on body parts and intimate acts than relationships and feelings.

Not so for women. Open up a romance novel or tune in to True Blood, the Twilight movies, or any other female-oriented romance book and you’ll see this rather clearly.

Photo: Book Hut/Pexels


In these stories, you find very little in the way of purely objectified, non-relational intimacy. Instead, you get a bunch of broad-chested, square-jawed, deep-voiced bad boys who melt when they spot the story’s heroine.

This is true, even with the more overtly racy Fifty Shades of Grey books and movies, where a really bad boy meets a really nice girl who knows in her heart that she can find the good in him and make the relationship work.

So, while male videos focus mostly on T&A, adult books for women focus on who the man is, his emotional connection to the woman, and how they make each other feel.

One easy way to think about a cheating spouse's reasons for infidelity involves "Or vs And."


For men, being turned on is a matter of "or." A guy sees a woman with great breasts or a nice butt or a short skirt or whatever — pretty much anything at all that seems even remotely intimate to him — and he gets turned on.

RELATED: Divorce Attorney Reveals The Professions Most (And Least) Likely To Cheat

Sure, men can be attracted by a nice personality as well, but more often they’re turned on by specific body parts. Thus, men typically do not need to be in love to enjoy intimacy. In fact, they don’t even need to be in like. They just have to be turned on.

Generally, it’s far more difficult to get a woTheyd in it because, for women, it’s not a matter of "or", it’s a matter of "and." Women want a deep voice and big biceps and a sense of humor and a guy who listens and a desire to have kids and fix up a house together and a whole bunch of other stuff.


This difference is most likely the product of thousands of years of evolution.

Researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam describe this as well as anyone, writing in their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts:

"When contemplating being with a man, a woman has to consider the long-term. This consideration may not even be conscious but rather is part of the unconscious software that has evolved to protect women over hundreds of thousands of years. Intimacy could commit a woman to a substantial, life-altering investment: pregnancy, nursing, and more than a decade of child-raising. These commitments require enormous time, resources, and energy. Being intimate with the wrong guy could lead to many unpleasant outcomes."


Ogas and Gaddam call this feminine need to thoroughly vet a potential partner’s physical and character traits before becoming both physically and psychologically turned on "Miss Marple", referencing novelist Agatha Christie’s celebrated female detective.

They note that this internal safety mechanism is not willing to give cognitive approval for intimacy until multiple conditions are met. A woman’s inner detective says, "Sure, he’s cute, but does he want to be with me beyond tonight? Will he be nice to me when intimacy isn’t on the agenda? Is he stable?

(Note: women with histories of trauma tend to not have this self-defense mechanism. As such, they are more likely to engage in casual cheating and also more likely to be further victimized as adults.)

Men have less of a need to guard against the dangers of casual intimacy, so they have not developed this inner detective. Thus, they will sometimes cheat just to be intimate, even when they are perfectly happy with their primary relationship.


This is why a relationship damaged by a man’s infidelity might be more likely to survive (and potentially even thrive) after the infidelity is uncovered, as opposed to when a woman has cheated.

Men can and do cheat on a good relationship and good relationships are worth saving. Meanwhile, women are more likely to cheat (to seek emotional connection and fulfillment elsewhere) when their primary relationship is not going well.

And that type of already troubled connection might not be worth the pain and effort that is required to rebuild relationship trust, emotional intimacy, and long-term harmony.

RELATED: 4 Little Things Women Do That Men Count As Cheating


Dr. Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT has been an educator, author, and licensed clinician for nearly 30 years. He has served as a subject-matter expert for numerous major media outlets, including CNN, NPR, and The New York Times, among others.