Are We Making Excuses for Cheating Men?

Is looking for answers about why men cheat a way of letting them off the hook?

You earn too much money. You’re not successful enough. It’s because you’re so beautiful. You’ve gained weight. You’ve gone gray and stopped dressing sexy. He has too much testosterone. Regardless, it's somehow your fault.

We’ve lost track of all the recent headlines about celebrities cheating on their spouses. And, while the infidelity itself is hardly newsworthy, what’s becoming increasingly trendy is the rationalization: Let's give cheaters a break; it's not entirely their fault.

What's worse, even some relationship experts say sometimes, cheating is justified. “Yes, there are times when straying is okay,” says Steve Santagati, who dishes out love advice at “Straying is taking care of yourself because you’re being neglected.” He cites certain scenarios when cheating is defensible: “If [your partner] has let him or herself go physically; has a prolonged drug or alcohol problem; stops having sex with you for over four months and has declined to work on it with you,” and our favorite, “if he or she cheated on you first.” Really? Because we weren’t aware that the traditional marriage vows provided so much room for interpretation.

Granted, not all experts endorse stepping outside of a monogamous commtment. Ian Kerner, Ph.D., sex therapist, contributor to and author of Be Honest—You're Not That Into Him Either: Raise Your Standards and Reach for the Love You Deserve, is one believer. “Cheating is never justified, whether it's a drunken one-night mistake or a long-term calculated affair,” he says. “That said, to have a satisfying sex life, you need to have the sort of relationship that supports having a healthy sex life, and many people are not in healthy relationships.” He believes that anyone who’s considering cheating may want to end the relationship instead.

After all, cheating is never a permanent fix. “Long-term relationships are built on routine, trust, transparency and dependency,” says Kerner. “Sexual attraction thrives on the opposite: Mystery, unpredictability, spontaneity and passion.” And, he adds, “Those two poles are hard to reconcile in a relationship.” So if cheating won’t help, what will? Bonnie Eaker Weil, author of Adultery: The Forgivable Sin, explains that many people cheat in an attempt to achieve that feeling you had when you first fell in love. “I recommend having an affair,” she says, “But with your own partner.” For example, she suggests more affection. “A 30-second kiss increases the chemical oxytocin and a 20-second hug increases the dopamine level. [Each of those will boost] the feelings of happiness and love.”

Bottom line: While it takes two people to be in a relationship, only one person is responsible for being unfaithful. When it comes down to it, the person who was cheated on isn’t to blame. Regardless of the reason for the infidelity --weight gain, boredom, less frequent sex -- the fact remains: It’s only the cheater who ultimately makes the decision to cross that line.

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