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Why do men cheat on women? Show more Show less
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Heterosexual infidelity is increasingly common. Statistics vary, but most estimate that 20% of married men have secret extramarital sexual relationships at one point or another. Why? This illicit betrayal can ruin lives and tear families apart. So, what drives men to cheat on women?

Psychological factors cause men to cheat Show more Show less

Infidelity changes the way men think about themselves and view the the object of their affair.
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Men fall in love with a "fantasy"

Infidelity begins with lust. This results from a man projecting his own fantasies onto the object of his desire.
Gender Infidelity Love Marriage Monogamy Relationships Sex

Context

The motivating factor in many cases of infidelity is lust or sexual desire. What psychologists William Cupach and Brian Spitzberg describe as having "the wish to experience sexual union with another."[1] The factors that motivate this are far from obvious. Psychological research overwhelmingly shows that lust is an expression and projection of emotional memory. It is as much linked to past events as the present realities of another person: "Yet whatever is triggered in your psyche regarding the lustful qualities of another person is something specific to your own history."[2] The unique experiences a person has in childhood, for example, can later affect how they experience sexual desire. The base components of lust are therefore linked to these deeper historical events. When a man lusts after a woman, he is projecting a "fantasy" of his own making, based on these components.

The Argument

If we assume that cheating must be driven in part by a sexual desire, it is crucial to understand what that desire actually is. Research shows that lust is so powerful because it is a reflection of the self. Lust occurs when a person projects their unconscious memories of attachment and love, as well as their present ambitions, interests and passions. These two factors work together to create a fantasy version of a potential affair partner in a person's mind. As psychologist Dr Mary Lamia writes, "...at times lust is an unbridled sexual attraction that seeks expression, where the physical appearance and attributes of one person ignite emotions of intense interest and excitement in another. This is because such passion is a construct of implicit memory that becomes enhanced by conscious imagination."[3]

Counter arguments

There are several issues with this claim. Falling in love with a fantasy may hold true for long-term infidelity, where feelings have been allowed to grow. Yet, this does not explain instances of "unplanned infidelity", where the cheating party has not met the person beforehand. Research shows that these idealised projections have a lifespan. While lust can obscure the realities of a person, it cannot do so forever. In affairs, where unions can last years, lust does not explain how these develop and sustain.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Infidelity is predicated on lust [P2] Lust occurs when a person projects a fantasy onto another [P3]Affairs are predicated on fantasy

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Infidelity is not predicated on lust

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic145
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201210/deconstructing-lust
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201210/deconstructing-lust
This page was last edited on Monday, 9 Nov 2020 at 22:05 UTC

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