Why Men Cheat, Even When They Know They'll Get Caught

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man in suite spraying perfume

Why do men cheat? It’s an age-old question with a whole lot of answers. 

Every man has a different reason why they cheat. Maybe they’re looking for a small bit of solace after enduring a painful relationship. Maybe they’re just so self-centered that they can’t think past their own need for pleasure.

Or maybe they’re just a very sad, stupid person with a penchant for self-destruction.

While cheating men might always look like a bad Hollywood cliché — hitting on the babysitter or coming home with lipstick on their collar — most men do have their own unique reasons for why they look for sex and affection outside of an existing relationship.

But one recurring theme that speaks to why men cheat is the theme of narcissism.

It doesn’t matter if they’re a slick lothario or a hen-pecked sad sack, when men cheat, they’re not normally thinking beyond themselves.

Cheating is an extremely selfish act. While, yes, infidelity does usually take two to accomplish, men aren’t usually that interested in the emotional needs of their mistresses.

They’re trying to address a very personal need for themselves, and the pursuit of that need often makes them oblivious to the impact of their actions.

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Here are 5 things men never think about when cheating and that get them caught:

1. Keeping a secret is exhausting

In the beginning, infidelity feels so much fun. “We’re doing something naughty! We’re tasting forbidden fruit! All this sneaking around makes us feel like spies!”

But have you ever seen a spy movie where the agent in question spends too much time behind enemy lines? They crack. They all crack because leading a double life takes a profound amount of mental energy.

Yes, the sneaky sexiness might be invigorating in the beginning, but, eventually, keeping track of your lies, hiding your text messages, and living a double life will take an enormous toll on your mental and physical well-being.

2. Birth control is all about trust

Men have taken birth control for granted for as long as it’s existed. They’ll reluctantly put on a condom under duress, but will fully expect that the woman will be on the pill, find a “Morning After” solution (need be), or “take care” of a pregnancy if something really unexpected happens.

That’s a whole lot of responsibility and trust that they’re placing on a person with whom they’re having a secret affair that’s built on a foundation of lies. When men are oblivious about birth control while cheating, it can raise the stakes of their deception to a life-changing degree.

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3. We’re all connected now

Years ago, if a man was having an affair with a woman he worked with, his wife/girlfriend wouldn’t have many ways to find out about their relationship. But now, it’s almost too easy to have a secret rendezvous inadvertently broadcast to the world by social networking.

Maybe a co-worker tags the man in a work picture where he’s a little too friendly with his co-worker. Maybe his mistress and his wife share Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections.

Maybe his suspicious wife starts using the mistress’ Twitter accounts to keep track of her movements. Like we said earlier, keeping infidelity secret is hard enough, but social media makes exposing infidelity almost too easy.

4. In the end, the truth always comes out

It does. It always does. Even if they keep the secret for decades, eventually, the cheaters always get caught. Sometimes they want to get caught and sometimes they don’t. But 99.9% of the time, the truth eventually comes out, and, somehow, they never see it coming.

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5. The cheating isn’t just about HIM

This is one of the hardest lessons an oblivious man can learn about cheating. They normally start the affair completely focused on themselves. The “I” statements run rampant — “I NEED some affection… I DESERVE this… I WANT to feel desirable…”

But, once their infidelity is uncovered, they quickly realize that their actions have an impact on SO many people beyond the “I.”

Their partner feels betrayed and wounded. It might be years before they trust someone again. If the couple has children, it breaks apart their home and their family. They permanently lose their sense of familial security.

And the person they’re cheating with gets to see their relationship portrayed as something foul and illicit, wounding their self-esteem and making them feel diminished by society’s reaction to something they once treasured as fulfilling and exciting.

Cheating always ends messy. It always does.

But, for some reason, men, in particular, are so good at being oblivious, that they can’t anticipate the inevitable conclusion and the consequences of that conclusion until it’s five inches from their face.

Why do men cheat? Who knows? But if men are going to keep cheating, they need to step outside of their narcissistic tendencies for a moment and really look at the long-term impact of their actions.

Who will be hurt in this scenario? What should they think about before they take this life-changing step?

If more men considered those questions, they might cheat less or, at the very least, they might own their decisions and their potential fallout with more openness and confidence.

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Tom Burns is a writer who focuses on love, marriage, and family. His writing has been featured on Babble, Brightly, and Mom.me, Time Magazine, Reading Rainbow, The Huffington Post, xoJane, and various other sites.