It's completely expected for a marriage to suffer ups and downs, but one thing is for sure: cheating is never the answer. Bob Tomes and Jane Warren at YourTango explain what it is that attracts men to cheating when they're unhappy in their marriage and what positive, honest steps can be taken to avoid cheating in the first place.
For all the miserable husbands out there . . .
When Ashley Madison's confidential data leaked, extremely Christian Josh Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting was exposed as a member of the controversial affair website. But he was just ONE of 39 million subscribers in 53 countries on Ashley Madison. Is no one faithful these days? Do all men cheat? And if so, why do men cheat?
What I've found through my practice over the years are 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 the intimacy, seriously!)
So, how do we solve this problem?
Certainly, we do not condone or excuse the act of infidelity but we do want to decrease the odds of him cheating. 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.
Yes, the obvious answer is that if he's unhappy he should leave the relationship, but as most things in life, it's not usually a black and white situation. 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.
So men, if you're unhappy but are not planning on leaving, here's what men should do instead of cheat.
1. Be upfront about what you want.
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 what you want and what you need. Then the possibility of creating something very different and special can exist.
2. Take responsibility for your actions.
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. It's not only about your partner, it's about you, too.
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 because it's not an excuse. There is no excuse.
If you really are not fulfilled 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. Make your relationship your top priority.
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 our intimate 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.
You may be wondering: "why do men cheat?" And there are a variety of answers. But here are the main five things men are looking for when they cheat:
- An emotional connection: This one may be shocking to some out there. 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. And that makes an emotional connection with his spouse that much more difficult.
Over time he begins to miss 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 that 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. It's a vicious cycle. Might I suggest for us men to get our struggle with power in check?
- Appreciation: When appreciation stops being quite so obvious and 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 in the first flush of a new relationship.
- 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. If this is at all surprising it may be from the fact that men don't generally know how to communicate this.
In their existing relationship, they have the tendency to think, "We're married so therefore I know everything about you." In a new relationship everything is new and exciting and learning about the new partner is initially easy and the feeling of intimate connection is created.
- 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 he is taken for granted. Meaning, he feels like he only matters because of what he can provide, not because of who he is. In a new relationship suddenly he matters again.
- Sex: I said it wasn't all about sex, not that sex wasn't involved. Men generally do want this, and obviously the more the better. It's one way that men feel connected to their partner.
Men also feel appreciated and wanted when they sleep with their partner. So for men, this level of intimacy 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, this tends to be a lot more frequent. At least initially.
Bob Tomes and Jane Warren provide support across the relationship life cycle. SpringBoard Divorce focuses on using the pain of divorce to springboard yourself into your vibrant new life. Vibrant Couples focuses on starting, re-igniting and evolving your intimate relationship into the creation of a lifetime of passion and play. Wherever you are, they are here to help.
Check out more great stories from YourTango:
- The Unexpected Reasons Some People Cheat (& How to Stop It From Happening to You)
- What Women Should Know About How Men Choose Affair Partners—According to 400 Men
- 10 Ways to Keep Him Completely, Utterly In Love With Only You