Many say, “I am a one-woman man”, but how many of them can fulfill this promise? With temptations like adultery and infidelity, extramarital affairs are eroding countless couple relationships, just like a termite. Everybody knows that extramarital relationships are common and that more men have extramarital affairs than women, but the question is, why?
According to an article in the New York Times, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy conducted a national survey that indicates that 15% of married women and 25% of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20% higher when relationships without intercourse are included.
A hard-hitting reality is that an extramarital affair sees no young or old, rich or poor. It just attacks the vulnerabilities in a couple’s life and puts their marriage at risk. But if you think all extramarital affairs result from a common temptation, then you might be wrong.
The fact is, infidelity is common in middle-aged married men. While some conveniently blame it on astrological influence, the answer to the question, “Why do men have affairs?”, isn’t that simple. With the help of consultant psychologist Jaseena Backer (MS Psychology), who is a gender and relationship management expert, let’s take a look at the causes of extramarital affairs.
Why Extramarital Affairs Happen?
Causes of extramarital affairs range from boredom in long-term relationships to frequent disagreements among couples and fizzling out of sexual chemistry. At the root of it, unhappiness in any shape or form in a marriage is one major reason why men start looking for physical (or emotional) intimacy outside the marriage.
Though unhappiness is perhaps the most accurate answer to why do men have affairs, Jaseena explains why unhappiness doesn’t and never will be reason enough to commit infidelity. “If you look at any relationship, happiness is not something that is consistent. If people believe that you are going to be happy throughout a relationship, it’s the most detrimental assumption they can have. Happiness is supposed to be transient, it comes and goes.
“If you are not happy in a marriage, it’s not reason enough for you to cheat, instead, you should be focusing on fixing the problems that are infecting your marriage. Is it incompatibility? A lack of communication? A lack of interest in each other? Whatever it is, the best solution is to deal with it or leave before committing infidelity. For example, if you’re not happy with a friend, you try to sort things out. But if that doesn’t work and there’s still toxicity, you walk out of it. Right?
“In a utopian world, that’s how it should be in every relationship. But perhaps the men who have affairs are uninterested in fixing their marriage, don’t respect their partner or have a flawed perception of happiness.” Of course, the real reasons why men have affairs depend on each individual. Nonetheless, most extramarital affairs have a similar anatomy. Boy falls madly in love with a girl, they tie the knot and start the grind called marriage.
Inevitably, the excitement is lost and that’s when men start looking for adventures outside the marriage. This is not only true for men; it’s true for women too. While more women look for an emotional anchor outside the marriage and get involved in emotional affairs, men more often tend to look for physical gratification.
Related Reading: When To Walk Away After Infidelity: 10 Signs To Know
12 Reasons Why Men Have Extramarital Affairs
Why do husbands have extramarital affairs? There are many reasons why men engage in cheating their spouses. According to the Institute For Family Studies, men cheat more than women do, and tend to do so for attention and sexual gratification. In another well-known stage of confusion in a man’s life, infamously known as the mid-life crisis, many men seek external sources of emotional and sexual pleasure.
Some affairs generally start as emotional affairs, and men do not even count them as cheating. Let us look at some of the breeding grounds that push many men towards extramarital affairs:
1. Why do men have affairs? Because they don’t feel valued in marriage
A man seeks love outside the marriage when he does not feel valued in the marriage. A marriage is successful only when both the partners are valued for their strengths. But often, it has been observed that a woman is too consumed in balancing her personal and professional responsibilities. In such situations, she may neglect or ignore her partner or may take him for granted. Or she may unconsciously turn him down or devalue his opinions regularly.
This continuous pattern may obstruct the quality of communication between the couple. Already dejected, such a man may look for “appreciation and acceptance” from a close friend of the opposite sex and give in to the temptations of an emotional affair. This is another major reason for a husband to have an extramarital affair. However, Jaseena explains how taking the easy way out shouldn’t be an option.
“When you talk of feeling valued, you’re talking about being respected. Respect is not something you can command in a relationship. You get respect for your behavior. While it’s true that one of the causes of extramarital affairs can be disrespect, what’s more important is to look at why it’s there.
“What behavior of yours doesn’t resonate with your partner, and elicits disrespect? However, once again, not enough importance is given to fixing what’s wrong, and instead, partners end up taking the easy route out.”
2. Think early marriage was a “mistake”
What makes a man seek love outside? When he starts to regard his marriage as a mistake, a man starts looking for love outside of it. Many men who marry in their early 20s feel that they have committed to marriage too soon. Due to a lack of experience in life and family responsibilities, many of them regret missing all the fun in life.
To “undo” this mistake, many young men may indulge in extramarital affairs to bring excitement and fun to their lives. As they are more settled financially and socially by the time they hit their mid-30s, they indulge in extramarital affairs to add a zing to their otherwise dull lives. Early marriage could be a major reason a husband has an extramarital affair.
3. Married due to pressure or influence
On the contrary, if a person gets married too soon because they thought the time was “running out”, it’s possible they may end up regretting their marriage and indulge in sometimes lifelong extramarital affairs. This choice of life partner is a potential life gamble which may or may not work for such men. Maybe they are all too consumed with their thoughts to match the energy of the spouse.
In other cases, the wife may turn out to be a nagging partner who fails to understand them. This dissatisfaction and unhappiness in marriage open up doors for infidelity in men. They might find themselves immediately attracted to someone who could be a better match than their current spouse and cheat on them. This is one of the major reasons why men have extramarital affairs.
It often starts as innocent flirting, graduating to an emotional affair, and finally ending up as a full-fledged extramarital affair. What does a married man want in an affair? He wants what he thinks he lacks in his marriage since the grass always looks so much greener on the other side.
Related Reading: The 6 Infidelity Recovery Stages: Practical Tips To Heal
4. Cheating as a distraction from midlife crisis
Getting attention and admiration from a young woman boosts confidence and self-worth in an aging man. In his life at home, he often feels like he is taken for granted by his wife and children. The humdrum of life could get to him, and he may start questioning his own worth.
In this phase, if a potentially younger woman acknowledges his strengths, life experience and maturity, he may love the attention and give in to the temptation to get rid of the mid-life crisis. So, this irresistible chemistry could lead to an intense affair.
“A midlife crisis is a time of confusion. A midlife crisis is a phase where people think things like, “Am I still desirable?” “Do I still have libido?” “Do women still get attracted to me?” since the woman in the house may not be expressing her attraction to him. It’s an attempt at feeling validated, in terms of their looks, desirability and libido,” says Jaseena.
In many situations, he can be a sugar daddy for the affair partner, helping her get through life. Some men also have affairs purely for career advancement, especially if their superior is a woman. This is another good reason for a husband to get into an extramarital affair.
5. The entry of an ex in life
The entry of an old flame or reconnecting with an ex while married could trigger an extramarital affair in an already disconnected couple. Many men feel an ex could fill the emotional void and may feel tempted to rekindle the long-lost romance. Most men and women who have been through a relationship at one point in time feel immediately attracted to each other when they meet after some years. The entry of an ex is a lethal reason for a husband to have an extramarital affair.
The toll of boring everyday life and the mid-life crisis plays its part and they feel drawn. This could be a potent reason for men to cheat on their spouses, even when their married life is sailing smoothly. So, in the end, it’s hard to understand the psychology behind an extramarital affair.
“I don’t know the real reasons why men have affairs, but I know they can’t say no to any new validation that comes their way, especially in the form of an ex,” Kristina, a 34-year-old divorcee whose marriage ended because of infidelity, told us. “It started off as a friendship that he told me about. Suddenly, he stopped mentioning her completely. When I found him sexting with his ex, I knew things were over,” she added.
As was the case with Kristina, a person might seem happy in his marriage but still have an affair. When push comes to shove, using the excitement of a forbidden romance as an antidote for the boredom in a relationship could be a reason for an extramarital relationship.
6. An escape from a life of boredom
Adultery in men is of different sorts. Some men simply engage in an extramarital relationship out of pure boredom and the mundane nature of their sexless married life. Life with wife and kids becomes monotonous, predictable and the pure risk of an affair sparks a new spirit in them.
This could bring adventure in a dull and bland life and is an easy escape for such individuals. Many men feel alive after having an affair, and the need to keep it as a naughty secret is what they thrive on. It’s also the reason why some men have lifelong extramarital affairs since the excitement of having a mistress is what gets their blood pumping.
Related Reading: How To Forgive Your Cheating Partner And Should You?
7. Men who have affairs look for commitment-free satisfaction of sexual desires
Men who are sexually starved look for consenting married women to fulfill their sexual desires. The lack of action in their marriage often drives them to get involved in adultery. Especially after children, many couples refrain from sex in marriage. This leads to physical dissatisfaction in marriage and prompts men to get involved in a commitment-free extramarital affair. This extramarital relationship is of convenience.
“Not just a man, but women cheat too, to fulfill their excess sexual desires. What is ‘excess’ is very difficult to define, and depends on each individual. In essence, the ‘excess’ is what the person isn’t getting from their marriage. In the end, it all falls down to not communicating what’s been bothering them in the marriage, and looking to meet their needs elsewhere,” says Jaseena.
The old cliche rings true. What does a married man want in an affair? Sexual gratification is among the top pursuits in such liaisons. At least that’s what all the data tells us. Plus, the men who have affairs don’t have a hard time trying to find them either.
There are a number of online adult dating sites, where married men post their requirements for getting involved with someone strictly in a “no-strings-attached” (NSA) physical relationship. Some married men are charmers and woo single women, while some get into physical relationships with married women to avoid complications.
8. Forget specific sexual desires, men could just be looking for a sex life
Often, a man’s parameter of a successful marriage lies in sex and intimacy. It gives him self-worth and opens up ways to communicate and bond with his wife. But if the husband and the wife are not on the same page, then the lack of intimacy can tempt him to fulfill his physical needs outside the marriage.
This could be purely physical or emotional, depending on the man’s needs. Men who have extramarital affairs are not looking for any kind of long-term relationship, but their need to get involved in infidelity is mostly due to the need to spice up their sex life easily.
But in other cases, there are married men who post their requirement of getting emotionally engaged with someone out of marriage. The lack of emotional connection between a husband and wife often opens up situations wherein the man seeks emotional support and friendship from someone else. A dead bedroom is a reason most men go for an extramarital affair.
9. Seek intellectual stimulation with the “other woman”
An extramarital affair doesn’t always have to be sexual. The difference in professions between the husband and the wife often opens up scope for extramarital affairs. In most cases, a professional man married to a housewife might feel emotionally neglected or may not experience intellectual stimulation.
For that reason, he seeks someone from his work or similar background to gain emotional fulfillment. “Seeking intellectual stimulation, emotional affairs continue to be the cause of extramarital affairs. Emotional cheating is an attachment to another person or a dependency on another person. It usually happens because of an emotional void in a marriage, so a person seeks it out elsewhere,” says Jaseena.
You wouldn’t expect the answer to “Why do men have affairs?” to be concerned with intellectual stimulation, but when it starts to feel like there’s no emotional connection between spouses anymore, they may start to look for it elsewhere.
10. Why do men have affairs? When the “work wife” gets too close
Nowadays, such extramarital affairs are very common among corporate men. Men in extramarital affairs are most often involved in workplace affairs. They may get exceptionally close to a coworker who gives them energy at work and they often get seriously involved with their affairs. They arrange tours and trips with the person they are involved with while balancing the commitments at home.
Many rich businessmen often seek bold secretaries and assistants with the motive of adultery. In such cases, the employers enter into a pre-agreed contract with the chosen employee based on mutual benefits. However, these kinds of affairs are mostly physical and they hardly contain any emotional element.
Also, such workplace affairs with a much younger woman may put such bosses in a more vulnerable position where they may be accused of sexual harassment.
11. Disagreements on core value and priorities
Why do men have extramarital affairs? What are the causes of extramarital affairs? Incessant arguments could be on top of the list. Arguments are a part of any couple’s life. But in tough situations, these arguments might expose some serious compatibility issues. Different expectations from life and clashing core values can put a dent in the marriage. In many cases, such continuous disagreements make a marriage toxic for a couple.
Over time, differences become so huge that a couple finds it impossible to agree on basic, everyday decisions. Such irreconcilable differences and daily bickering could prompt a man to be in an extramarital affair for emotional support. A woman who lends an ear to such a man gets all his attention and love, and slowly they develop an intimate bond.
Related Reading: 10 Signs Your Husband Is Having An Emotional Affair
12. Get validation in life
Men are always driven toward younger and more beautiful women. Dating a younger woman could be a big boost to his self-worth against spending a dull life with an aging spouse who is not concerned about her looks and self-image. This new company may make him feel special and may draw him into a hot and happening affair. The thrill and excitement help break the monotony of life for men and they feel happy and elated.
In the words of Chuck Swindoll, “An extramarital affair starts in the head, long before it ends up in the bed.” These potential triggers can tempt many men to cheat on their wives.
In these situations, we may introduce men to the truth of the moment. Adultery may seem like an easy escape from a troubled marriage, but in reality, it will increase the complications in your life. Instead of landing in an extramarital affair and complicating relationship equations, why not address the actual problems in your marriage?
Through communication, effective conflict resolution and developing mutual respect, you’ll be able to tackle the relationship problems and improve the quality of life. If your marriage is currently in a rocky phase, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists can help you through this difficult time.