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Do men cheat because they can or because they're unhappily married

(124 Posts)
iwashappy Sun 29-Nov-15 16:30:45

Does a man have to be unhappily married to cheat on his wife? Or is it possible a man has been married a long time and maybe it's not that exciting anymore but he's basically happy and thinks he'll get away with it.

It's a year next week I ended my marriage after discovering my husband was having an affair. I'm feeling a bit reflective at the moment probably because of the upcoming date and because a few things have been said recently.

When he was trying to persuade me to give him another chance he said he was happy with me. He excused his cheating by saying it didn't mean anything and he didn't think I would find out. He said he was frustrated by our infrequent sex life and he liked the attention he got elsewhere. He insisted he loved me, never meant to hurt me and didn't want to leave.

Now he's all loved up with the OW and says if he had hindsight he would have left. He stayed because we had commitments together. He said he wasn't honest with me and told me what I wanted to hear. He said he stuck at it because of our children and for financial reasons but there were a lot of reasons he wasn't happy. Apart from our sex life and lack of attention I nagged him too much. We had different views on things and weren't well suited in many ways, I wasn't exciting enough. We didn't have that much in common, I wasn't interested in what he was doing and we led fairly separate lives. I didn't make him feel wanted, I didn't share his interests. I talked about the children all the time and didn't make enough time for him. I didn't show him affection and there was no passion in our marriage anymore.

He said being with OW and getting all of that from her has made him realise how our marriage should have been but hadn't been for a long time. He said he had forgotten what it was like to miss your partner when you were apart.

It suited me to believe my husband had been happy with me despite his cheating. That he was just incredibly selfish and entitled and thought he would get away with it.

However, I know I would never have cheated on him. Leaving aside marriage vows and the children I could never have cheated because I was happy with him. I can't fathom how you can cheat on someone you are happy with. I could maybe understand a one night stand if drunk and full of regret the next day but not an affair.

For context and to not drip feed it turned out my now ex-husband had cheated on me for over twenty years with various women which I was oblivious too. He'd also cheated on his first wife which he'd lied to me about.

I'm thinking that rather than it just being a case of re-writing history my ex-husband wasn't actually happy because I just can't comprehend doing what he did if he had been happy with me.

I know everyone is different and women cheat too so I'm not generalising. I'd just like a bit of insight to see if people think there is a link between unhappiness and cheating or not.

LetGoOrBeDragged Sun 29-Nov-15 16:37:17

He is rewriting history to justify what he did.
He probably wasn't desperately unhappy - he liked the attention and the feeling of excitement that cheating gave him. Simple as! You (and his first wife) didn't do anything 'wrong', to make this happen - it's just who he is. A selfish, immature man!

He has to convince himself that ow is his soul mate, otherwise it means admitting he is just a bit of a prick really. Maybe she will turn out to be the love of his life, but I wouldn't put money on it. If they do the distance, it is likely to be because he is getting on in years and doesnt have the looks to pull as easily as he used to!

TimeToMuskUp Sun 29-Nov-15 16:39:46

Nope I don't think it can be attributed to happiness levels or tough times in your marriage or life generally. I think some people just genuinely are inclined to cheat on everyone they pretend to love, and it wouldn't matter if you had the patience of Ghandi coupled with the sex drive of Debbie Does Dallas and a body like Marilyn Monroe, some people just cannot remain faithful no matter what they have.

I see it like this, though, that if someone cheats on you, in all probability they'll continue cheating throughout their lives and will reach their old age unhappily. Your Ex will undoubtedly cheat on OW, and she'll no doubt cheat on him. You will have moved forwards and be feeling less raw, they'll be breaking one another's hearts and finding replacements. This is not about you, or what you did and didn't give to him. This is something inherently wrong within him that he refuses to try and fix.

LetGoOrBeDragged Sun 29-Nov-15 16:41:10

I didn't answer your question. I think some people cheat just because they can, others because they are a bit bored with everyday life and the attention makes them feel good and some because they are desperately unhappy.

They don't have to be really unhappy to cheat, there are loads of men who would have described their relationships as fundamentally good, but who cheated anyway.

There is no excuse for it though. Marriages dont get any happier by one person shagging around.

tribpot Sun 29-Nov-15 16:42:53

I don't think you can generalise. In the case of your ex, he is clearly one of those people (and I know some of both sexes) who is incapable of monogamy. It sounds as if he has cheated his entire adult life, and might have been a great deal happier (certainly his partners would have been) if he could have been open from the beginning about the fact he enjoys having multiple sexual partners but also enjoys having a long term relationship with one person. An open relationship on that basis would have been a lot more honest and perfectly achievable.

You're trying to explain his behaviour in terms of your own values, and I think that's why you're tied up in knots. He's basically an old shagger who, when he got caught out, turned it round on you (a) to get you off his case and (b) to make himself feel better with lots of self-important justification about his own need for happiness. It's not more complicated than that.

It sounds as if he craves attention, and is likely always to end up searching for it outside his primary relationship, because very few people can permanently live their lives purely focused on one other person, i.e. him.

I understand why it's hard to move past this when you've been betrayed, lied to and verbally attacked. But ultimately it doesn't really matter - he did it, it's done. Nothing you did made it happen.

tabulahrasa Sun 29-Nov-15 16:47:31

Personally my opinion is that half decent people who are unhappy in a relationship finish that one before starting a new one...being unhappy isn't justification for cheating.

Kr1stina Sun 29-Nov-15 16:50:14

I was wondering - why don't serial cheaters just find other serial cheaters and have an open relationship ? Then they could do their own thing without breaking other people's hearts .

Why do they enter monagmaous relationships when they have no intentions of being faithful ?

venusandmars Sun 29-Nov-15 17:01:40

I think he may have been unhappy, but if he was, it was because of HIM, not be cause of you. In your OP you describe it as "he was unhappy because I did x....." or "he was unhappy because I didn't do y... "

If he was unhappy it was because HE was investing emotionally and physically in other relationships, it was because HE chose to make unfair comparisons, it was because HE preferred to get attention than to lavish his attention on his wife and children, it was because HE didn't make the effort to find some things that you both had in common, it was because HE was always wiling to be distracted from your relationship... an so on.

He stayed (and wanted to stay longer) because HE wanted to look like a happily married family man, and because HE didn't want to adjust his standard of living, and because HE thought it would be too much hassle to disentangle your commitments.

But I bet that he didn't really notice much of that at the time. It was only when there seemed to be an 'easy' opportunity that all his unhappiness emerged.

Bottom line - he was, and is, an entitle, selfish, prick.

lighteningirl Sun 29-Nov-15 17:03:56

I think lots of what's he's said is his truth doesn't mean it's THE truth what does matter is that he cheated he left and you deserve better. I don't think there is just one type of cheater, male or female any more than there is one reason for cheating. You will be different in your next relationship and your next partner will be different to your ex, this time pay attention to your relationship and make sure both of you are happy you will never know if ex was happy or not as he will rewrite history but you know if you are happy and next time to make sure your partner is too. Lack of sex is huge for many people it's ok when kids are very young but if it carries on it can be a deal breaker for women as well as men. Don't join the bitter divorcee/all men are lying cocklodgers/we were perfect wives club it is a very unpleasant and hard club to leave (lived there for several years). You get to start again to have some blissful single years without picking up anyone else's shit enjoy and try to forget him and his reasons.

Fairylea Sun 29-Nov-15 17:04:18

I think the people who cheat are the ones who are in love with the idea of "being in love" and when that wears off they begin seeking it again. It's addictive, akin to drug taking actually. They say there is no madness like being in love.

Cabrinha Sun 29-Nov-15 17:09:25

Because they want it both ways.
They want whatever they get from cheating (more sex, different person sex, ego boost?) but they also want the family life.

I agree that you can't generalise.

I do now know that my XH cheated all the time he was with me, and has cheated on his new girlfriend (of 18 months) since at the latest 6 weeks in. So NO WAY could it be either of us women's fault that he was unhappy! After 6 weeks?! He's just a selfish arsehole who wants to have his cake and eat it.

I will admit that I battle with monogamy and don't "feel" monogamous. In that, I don't actually feel any guilt about wanting more than one person. I can completely separate it. And it's not unhappiness or one being wrong for me. Simply, different men offer me different things. However, I don't want "just sex" - I'd actually like two or three boyfriends, on differing scales. But!!! I know my boyfriend wouldn't accept that and cheating would devastate him. So - not being a selfish arsehole, I don't do it.

So I think I understand why people can live with themselves for wanting it all. I just couldn't live with myself for TAKING it all.

FredaMayor Sun 29-Nov-15 17:14:15

I look at it this way - not everyone is or wants to be unfaithful, but when they do the cheater no longer respects their OH not to cheat.

On that basis alone I would ditch a cheater.

NewLife4Me Sun 29-Nov-15 17:15:52

A mix of both I think.
If they were happy at home they wouldn't go looking elsewhere.
Not that I blame their oh of course.
It's not only men, women too go looking when they aren't happy.

Of course they don't want to get caught as it rocks the boat, causes long term damage etc. They aren't happy in the relationship though.

I think saying it's because they want the best of both worlds, is a cop out, there is always something that isn't making them happy.
It's a cowards way really.

VocationalGoat Sun 29-Nov-15 17:26:20

The thing is, all relationships go through stagnant periods. Sometimes, even within the context of a partnership, we do live a bit separately, affection can and does wax and wane, but if couples can come back, almost like the tide, and return to that a united place and remember that special connection that bonds them, then it's a good marriage. It's OK to not have periods of difficulty and even boredom. But it sounds as if you feel that deeply rooted connection- the anchor during times of struggle- wasn't there.

I admire your strength and insight OP. I admire you, full stop. You're very insightful and brave for being able to observe and reflect on what must be the most painful incident in your life. I think your exH will never find what he's looking for. He sounds like a dog chasing its tail. I am not saying this lightly or to make you feel better (though I hope it does), but his junk will travel with him. And maybe it will work with the OW, maybe not. But guaranteed, the stuff that made him incomplete in his marriage to you will follow him into every relationship. We all have our stuff.

I hope love will find you soon again and give you a second shot at a fulfilling, meaningful relationship... one that is bonding, where you deeply connect with a caring partner. In the meantime, have a good relationship with yourself. It's you time now. Treat yourself beautifully.

pocketsaviour Sun 29-Nov-15 17:27:39

Some people cheat because they are unhappy. Some people cheat just because they (think they) can get away with it, and they like the variety.

Many people (probably the majority of people) aren't monogamous by nature, but societal expectations put them in the position of disowning their natures.

Poly has really only become a known thing in the last 5 years or so.

I spent most of my life since a teenager cheating on partners. (And all of my partners also cheated on me.) It was less than 10 years ago that I worked out I simply wasn't cut out for monogamy, and that some people actually are. I just thought everyone cheated and lied about it, like me. Now I am open and honest, which still has its drawbacks.

The last dude I had a LTR with, I explained going in that I wasn't the monogamous type. After we got a bit serious, he said that he didn't want to see me any more if I couldn't commit to being exclusive. I weighed it up and decided okay, I would give it a try. TBH he made me feel like a bit of a slag sad

Anyone want to guess the deliciously ironic ending? I stayed faithful, while he cheated on me numerous times, I discovered by the end of the relationship. LOL. No more "exclusive" relationships for me. Any partners can accept an open situation, or they can do one.

Kr1stina Sun 29-Nov-15 17:29:12

But is not as black and white as being happy or unhappy , is it ? No one is 100% happy with their relationship . But reasonable and honest people will either

Accept its not perfect but it's good enough or
Work on it to try and change it or
Tell their partner it's over and leave

A dishonest coward will focus on the part of their relationship that's not working / makes them unhappy and tell themselves that it makes it ok to cheat .

VocationalGoat Sun 29-Nov-15 17:29:08

Sorry, I meant to say it is OK to have periods of difficulty and even boredom

Kr1stina Sun 29-Nov-15 17:34:00

Pocket saviour - have you any idea why some people who are clearly not into monohany then chose partners who want monogamy and then lie to them ? That's the bit I can't understand .

It makes sense to me that people who want an open relathioships ( like you ) would choose someone who wants the same thing . I mean it's not rocket science is it eg Muslims might look for another Muslim to marry because they want then same things in life / lifestyle .

TempusEedjit Sun 29-Nov-15 17:51:39

I doubt there are many people who are comfortable with a genuinely open relationship (you excluded pocketsaviour). I recently saw a TV programme about swingers and what struck me was that in a significant proportion of the couples featured one partner (nearly always the man) was clearly the one who'd pushed for an open relationship but as soon as his wife/girlfriend got attention from other men you could see it made them really uncomfortable.

It's like when you see men with multiple wives where the wives are expected to stay faithful to him.

I think it's an ego thing rather than an unhappy thing.

pocketsaviour Sun 29-Nov-15 17:53:29

Kr1stina, I think it's because people don't want to stand out and say they're different. There is also a lot of societal condemnation of people who aren't monogamous, especially women who aren't monogamous. Men are still players, women are still sluts. Etc.

Or that, like me, they think everyone does it anyway so what's the point of being honest? (Bear in mind my dad cheated on my mum pretty much constantly throughout my childhood, periodically leaving and then coming back when the latest OW realised what a prick he was and threw him out. So my viewpoint was somewhat unconventional, I realise now, but I didn't realise it was unconventional at the time, if that makes sense.)

Or, they are a hypocritical fucker and want to control their partner's sex life while still putting it about themselves. (See: my ex.)

Lollipopgirl8 Sun 29-Nov-15 17:55:19

I genuinely think some men just are not cut out for a monogamous relationship

pocketsaviour Sun 29-Nov-15 17:59:15

I don't know Tempus, I know a few poly people now (including my best friend) and they seem to make it work, although it takes more work than a 2-person arrangement because they need to keep checking in with all of the partners to make sure everyone's needs are being met and nobody's feeling left out or insecure.

I think the thing is, we only hear about the failure stories. Everyone knows someone who says "Oh we tried swinging once, it was awful and we split up/nearly split up/I felt terribly insecure." That's because very rarely do people just mention "yeah my DH/DW and I go swinging/have a regular third/are in a poly relationship." There's a lot of misunderstandings and misapprehensions and if you only hear about these things when they fail, you get confirmation bias that it doesn't work for most people.

A bit like hanging out on the relationships board on mumsnet and concluding that all marriages are doomed to fail, all men are cheats, and all MILs are domineerings crackpots grin

iwashappy Sun 29-Nov-15 18:12:42

Thank you for some of your reassurances that it is him. I have been wondering if it may have been down to me in some way. Thinking if I had done this or that would he have gone elsewhere. Seeing him all jovial and the change in his demeanour is very difficult. He used to be like that with me and then we had our son and I was exhausted all the time and focused on our son more than I did him. Quite normal I think and I didn't think there was a problem but it seemed he did.

So seeing him all jovial again has made me think it might have been me. If I'd made more effort with him when our son was a baby he might not have cheated then which is when he claimed he first did. I think once he'd crossed that line it was easier for him to do so again.

In recent years he didn't want to do much with me, go out for meals or spend much time together other than family times around meals at home. He said he had things to do at work which I know he did and he was too busy. Now he doesn't work anywhere near the hours he did in the evenings so I think he just preferred to spend time working than with me.

But I did think we were happy, he was always supportive and did his fair share with the children. We did have differences but I thought we were a good partnership.

VocationalGoat I did think we had that connection. He was great when I lost my mum, when I needed to support my sister, when there was a tragedy with friends of ours. I thought we shared a lot of the same values morally and worked together. That's what has made it hard; thinking everything was fine and then realising that perhaps it wasn't. It all feels a lie.

My ex likes to think of himself as a good, decent man who did something wrong rather than as a cheating bastard.

Headmelt Sun 29-Nov-15 18:24:05

I think some people will find an excuse (in their heads) to justify cheating. Your ex accepted his responsibility to see if you would take him back. When you were strong enough to turn him down, it was suddenly all your fault because he cheated hmm.
He was/is always going to cheat, ow will no doubt be on the receiving end one day. You and your dc are better off without him, you deserve better. You made the right choice. Well done on having the bottle to be true to yourself

HustleRussell Sun 29-Nov-15 18:37:24

Long term relationships often become samey. The chance of excitement with someone else is often a pull enough..

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