To complete our How to Tell If Your Man is Cheating series, Sisters of Resistance have compiled information on the psychological and emotional profiles of men who cheat, based upon real-life experiences collectively referred to as relationship field research. In this article, we answer the questions:
“What kind of man cheats?”
“How does the cheating show up in his emotions?”
“What are the structural inequalities that enable men to cheat?”
“What does this mean for me?”
We hope these insights will help our readers to identify cheating men, as well as reveal why, if they have been cheated on, it is not their fault.
What kind of man cheats?
Below are some of the personality characteristics we have found in men who cheat. They may exhibit some or all of these characteristics in various combinations, with different aspects rising to the surface at different times.
Egotistical. The egotistical cheating man cheats because he thinks he’s the shit. He feels entitled to have sex or relationships with multiple women, or, in extreme cases, whoever he wants, whenever he wants.
He cheats for the thrill, because it strokes his ego and plays into his arrogance. He has no problems cheating with whoever he is attracted to, and he will regularly cheat when he/his partner is away or traveling. He thinks he can do no wrong, until he is caught, but sometimes not even then.
Insecure. The insecure cheating man feels inherently inferior, either to his partner or other men. He may have had a bad relationship with his father, brothers, or schoolmates, subject to teasing, bullying, harassment or abuse. This may coincide with the fact that his partner makes more money, is more intelligent, charming, or attractive, has a better family or social life, or is more capable, accomplished or respected than him. This further deflates his naturally low self-esteem, so he cheats to make himself feel better.
In Denial. Men who cheat do not consider the feelings of the person they are cheating on. Most are simply not thinking about the consequences of their actions, with many believing they have done nothing wrong. This is a serious state of denial, which will continue even after being caught.
Sexual Shame. Men who cheat may have sexual desires that they are too ashamed to reveal to a partner. They may be addicted to sex, porn or aroused by people or fetishes they would never bring up around others. These men cheat to fulfill these sexual urges secretly, and may frequent sex workers, chat with or meet partners online, cheat at sex parties or clubs, or travel far from home to cheat.
False Beliefs about Men and Women. Men who cheat generally hold – consciously or subconsciously – many untrue beliefs about women and men. These sexist lies are present in and reinforced by many areas of society, from the family to media, business, education and government, and will likely include variations on the following:
- worth less than men
- not as intelligent as men
- incapable of thinking for themselves
- better off doing what men say
- not sexual beings
- too emotional
- impossible to satisfy
- either hos or housewives
- bitches if they stand up for themselves
- “sluts”/“slags”/“skets” if they enjoy sex
- better than women
- smarter/more capable/more rational than women
- driven to cheat because of “hormones”
- “naturally” more sexual than women and so should have more partners
- incapable of monogamy
- “playboys” or “players” if they have many sexual partners
- more deserving of love, affection, and sex than women
- entitled to “approve” of women, their looks, dress, habits or actions
- entitled to seek sexual satisfaction whenever they desire
- “just being men” (also “Boys will be boys”)
Men who believe these lies will rely on them to justify their deep-seated sexism and cheating behaviour.
How does the cheating show up in his emotions?
Attention/affection. Many women have reported a significant increase in the level of attention and affection their man gives them, later realising that he had been cheating. He may have been feeling guilty for his actions or trying to convince you that nothing was wrong, in order to ease any suspicions.
Fear and guilt. Men who cheat may feel guilt at their actions or subconsciously fear being found out. Because patriarchy teaches men that cheating is normal, that they have a right to sex and that guilt is no big deal, these emotions are repressed and can often emerge as something even more harmful, like jealousy or anger.
Jealousy and possessiveness. Jealousy and possessiveness are what happens when a cheating man’s guilt and fear are projected onto their partner. Although patriarchy encourages men to be possessive, men who become intensely, unusually jealous or possessive could be projecting their guilt about cheating. These men may try to deflect blame by accusing you of being unfaithful.
Some dominating men will try to use “jealousy” as an excuse for a woman not to heed the advice of friends and family who are advising her that he is cheating or to leave him, e.g. “Don’t listen to her — she’s just jealous. I’m the one you should believe.” (See also: Lies About Other Women.)
Your friends and family have no reason to lie about your man cheating, but he does. His possessiveness and manipulative ways of separating you from healthy relationships in your life are attempts to cover his tracks and make you emotionally dependent on him.
Anger. Deep down, men who cheat are usually angry at themselves for any or all of the reasons listed above – they hate their overinflated ego, they are insecure, they feel guilty for cheating on someone they love or they are afraid of being caught. But because patriarchy does not provide any productive way for men to cope with these feelings honestly, they get suppressed until they merge into one confused, angry emotional mass. Sudden shouting, intimidation, abuse or other dominance tactics, although always unacceptable, can also be a sign that he is hiding something.
What are the structural inequalities that keep men cheating?
Unfortunately, basic systems of social organization in place in the world today encourage heterosexual men to cheat by way of the messages they promote and reinforce through society and culture.
Patriarchy. The systematic or institutional (political, economic, social & cultural) domination of men over women.
Sexism. The attitude that women are inferior to men and the actions that occur as a result of this attitude, e.g. the double standard: “player” vs. “slag”
Misogyny. The hatred of women – a direct result of centuries of patriarchy and sexism, e.g. sexist stereotypes, violence against women.
Capitalism. This economic system considers a person’s worth or value to be equal to their possessions. Since under patriarchy, women are nothing but men’s property, the more women a man “has” in a capitalist system, the more he feels he is worth. This can also go the other direction: the more a man feels he is worth, the more women he believes he is entitled to “have.”
What does this mean for me?
The number one thing to remember when dealing with a man who is cheating on you is that You have done nothing to deserve this. His cheating has nothing to do with your looks, your sex appeal, your intelligence, your behaviour, how you treat him, your history, your family, your life together, or how good you are in bed.
What it does mean is that this man has a fundamentally disrespectful attitude towards women. He believes that his partner doesn’t deserve to be told the truth or to be respected. And you don’t need anyone like that in your life.
As we’ve seen, men who cheat are egotistical, insecure, ashamed, in denial or deluded about women, men or likely both. These are emotional conditions that are a part of him because of the society we live in, and as such, they existed long before you ever met him. So what happens because of them cannot be your responsibility, and is not your fault.
If you are not sure if he is cheating, the fact that you suspect it enough to search for information online is a sure signal that you are sensing something different or unusual in your relationship. Believe what your body tells you, confront him with the evidence and leave him.