Why can't you just be faithful? Any man who has ever been on the
receiving end of that question, whether dodging crockery or wiping away his
wife's tears, knows that some women would really like an answer. Do men who
cheat really outnumber their female counterparts? Does infidelity in marriage
come more naturally to men than women? And do some husbands think that
"monogamy" is a board game?
"There's no question that men cheat more than women," says Steven Nock, PhD,
a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, who has followed the
marriages of more than 6,000 men since 1979. "In the bad old days, when we had
to prove why we were getting divorced, that was the leading cause." This was
mostly because husbands were guiltier of infidelity in marriage than their
wives, but also because "society is more tolerant of men's misdeeds," says
Nock. It was OK for a marriage to end because the husband had been unfaithful
l- you know how men are - while a faithless wife was a true pariah. As you may
remember from your American literature class, it was Hester Prynne who wore the
scarlet letter, not the man with whom she had the affair.
Dates that end with lovemaking often begin with dining out, so that the meal
itself can be seen as a form of sexual foreplay -- in more ways than one. How
many times has this happened to you: You take your woman out to dinner at a
nice restaurant. The waiter takes your drink orders and tells you of the
specials, a busboy brings you a choice of savory breads, and you get down to
the business of perusing the menu. Your eye is on the right side of the page --
steak? lobster? steak and lobster?...
"Men and women cheat in different ways," says Mark Epstein, MD, a
psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan and author of Open To Desire:
Embracing a Lust for Life. "It's more like an appetite thing for men, more
oral in a way. Their partners are more disposable. And the experiences are more
Infidelity in men: Does the biological argument hold up?
Wives often find their husbands disposable when they discover they've
cheated on them, though still they wonder why they did it. Could it be a
biological imperative, as some scientists have allowed? Cole Porter may have
thought that the birds and bees who "do it" were falling in love, but if love
is what you're calling it, there is plenty of evidence that the animal kingdom
pretty much falls in love indiscriminately. And even Homo sapiens have
spent more evolutionary time seeking multiple partners than in pursuit of
romantic matrimony and monogamy.
"There is a natural tendency that is pretty hardwired in us as a species
that suggests putting your seed in as many places as possible. It's what got
humanity to this point in history," says Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, a marriage
and family therapist and board-certified sex therapist in Fair Oaks,
California. "That non-monogamous urge persists in many men - though many manage
serial monogamy despite that urge."
This would seem to argue for a behavioral cure to what may be only partially
a biological problem. (Besides, the evolutionary argument will only get you so
far. One could argue that men also used to beat each other with clubs, but this
practice is generally frowned upon today - at least in most places. And there
are no country songs about it.) Can counseling, for instance, get a man to stop