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The Science Behind “Cheating” Men

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

As a holistic wellness practitioner, I often explain that weight is not only about what we eat, but other conditions that trouble us on the cellular level, at the core.  In going through levels of coaching, I find that people (mostly women because they make up a large part of my practice) have been hurt or mislead somewhere down the line.  This, among other factors, is part of their reason for their weight struggle.  It is an outward expression of an inner pain.  A lot of this connects to relationships with others and the self, namely male/female love relationships and specifically infidelity.

Let’s start with a few infidelity stats from Statistic Brain:

  1. 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would not get caught

  2. 57% of men and 54% of women admit to infidelity at some point in their relationship(s)

  3. The average length of an affair is two years

Obviously we have similarities, but clearly, women and men are wired differently.  Men thrive on the thrill of pursuit.  Women want to be pursued.  It has been this way since the beginning of time. However, there is a gap of understanding between men and women relative to maintaining happy, healthy, monogamous relationships.  Perhaps the answer is in simple science.

Before I dive into the nuts and bolts of this blog, I must clarify a few things.  First, this is not a pass for men (or women) to cheat. No matter the scientific reasoning, we all have the gift of choice.  Second, this is not a male bashing blog about no good men.  I appreciate men and this is merely to shed some light on the insides of how things work so that we can at least apply reasoning in our situations.  Third, in order for someone to cheat, there has to be a clear understanding of the relationship boundaries.  A person is not cheating if they have not mate it clear that they are committing to you. Women often think that if they have sex, that means monogamy.  However, men can have sex and think of it as just sex.  Therefore it is important to be clear about intentions, desires and expectations so there is no room for misguided assumptions.  With that said, let’s start with the hormones.

Scientific evidence proves that mammals (humans) possess three hormones that determine how monogamous we are: oxytocin, arginine vasopressin, and testosterone.

  1. Oxytocin is a hormone stored in the brain. When it is released, especially through orgasm, it results in feelings of attachment and bonding.  It creates the closeness couples often feel after sex. Women feel this attachment more than men and this is part of the reason women are cautioned not to have sex too soon.  It is bonding and God created it to be that way – between spouses.  Oxytocin is also partly responsible for the bond between a mother and her new-born baby.  It is the “warm-fuzzy, I’m-soooooo-in-love, and I-love-you-no-matter-what” hormone. Women and men have equal amounts of oxytocin, but women feel the impact of it more than men. It’s the attachment hormone.

  2. Arginine vasopressin is the hormone that determines the preference and support of a mate.  It is also the “parenting” hormone that makes us support our offspring and those we love.  It’s the “I choose you, baby,” hormone.  Also an important aspect of bonding between couples. Oxytocin and arginine vasopressin work together in favor of monogamous relationships. However, there is one more hormone to add to this mix. The raging testosterone.

  3. Testosterone hormone conflicts with the bonding effects of oxytocin and arginine vasopressin.  It’s the force that drives one to seek multiple sexual partners, to be single-minded, self-serving and to take risks.  It is associated with libido, sex drive, and male physical characteristics such as muscular structure.  A high level of testosterone influences impulse for instant satisfaction.  This is the fuel behind the cocky feeling men get when they drive up close to another car and suddenly want to race to show they are faster, or the chest beating when they win at a competitive game or close a business deal.  Men usually have up to ten times more testosterone than women.


By no means does this explanation give approval for cheating. Although influences can be different between male and female, we are still responsible for the decision to act upon our impulse. So hormones are not the only answer to why men cheat.

It's Harmless, Right?

Sometime men have difficulty in navigating and creating a successful relationship. Instead of dealing with their hang-ups, like fear of connection or fear of intimacy, they entertain the idea that an affair is superficial and, therefore, safe. However, anyone who has been on the opposite end of infidelity knows it is anything but “safe.”

Others cheat because of feelings of loneliness, or suppressed anger. Instead of methodically addressing issues, they may avoid or redirect the attention to something less critical.  It’s a coping mechanism. Cheating can be closely connected with men’s inability to address issues in their lives.  Part of this is a learned behavior as men are taught early on to do “manly” things like sow wild oats and suppress emotions by manning-up. Unfortunately, this is obviously detrimental to any relationship and can be drilled down further into infidelity types.

Five Types of Infidelity

There are different types of infidelity and not all involve physical connection.

  1. Opportunistic Infidelity – You have a partner but lust and attraction for someone else at the moment overrides logic. Many men enjoy this type of risky, spontaneous adrenaline rush.

  2. Obligatory Infidelity – This stems from the need for approval and is based on fear of rejection.  Assuming the other person will reject them if they do not engage.

  3. Romantic Infidelity – Looking for new and fresh “love” because a relationship has lost it’s spark. As the legendary B.B. King sang, “The Thrill is Gone!”

  4. Conflicted Romantic Infidelity – A strong sexual desire for several people at the same time, while keeping a committed intimate relationship. Confiding in the intimate partner is not an option unless you are in an ‘open relationship.’

  5. Remembrance Infidelity – You’ve fallen completely out of love with your current partner and want to be in love again.

Cheating Yourself

So who are men really cheating when they step outside of their committed relationship?Themselves first, and of course, their partner who assumes monogamy.  Most infidelity involves making something appear true that isn’t.  It is lying to self and personal honesty is the best way to address it.  The goal is to be forthcoming about what you really want and allow the other person to make a decision. Don’t promise to be anything that you are not. Don’t start creating false pretenses by telling a woman you only want her if that is not entirely true.  It is best to say upfront where you are and let things unfold as you both agree.  This way no one feels mislead or betrayed.

Realistically, we can’t help but to notice an attractive person or feel the pull of polarity (drawing energy between two opposites). There will always be that one opportunity or chance that could change everything.  The decision to take it further remains yours to make.  Your hormones may create urges, but they do not drive you.  Mature men know how to reel them and draw the line for themselves and others they claim to love.


VKNOX is a holistic nutrition wellness practitioner, behavior change specialist, fitness nutrition educator, lifestyle transformation coach and author. She is the creator of the R.A.W. Lifestyle System.

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