Social Question

GladysMensch's avatar

I read once that women are more likely to view infidelity as an attack on their dignity. Whereas, men are more likely to view infidelity as an attack on their manhood. Is this how you see it?

Asked by GladysMensch (6506points) March 31st, 2012

So the argument goes that a woman will think that she was cheated on because her man didn’t love her and respect her. And a man will think that he was cheated on because he didn’t satisfy her.
As a man, I would certainly feel that way if my wife cheated on me.
Any truth to this?

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26 Answers

filmfann's avatar

My first girlfriend was a cheater, because her father made her feel unattractive. He belittled her at every turn, and always refered to her as ugly. In the end, she was trying to prove she was desireable by bedding every guy she could.

quiddidyquestions's avatar

I think your premise is generally correct. I think it boils down to that for many women (not all) sex with their partner is primarily a reflection of the love and trust they share. To many men (not all) sex is primarily a reflection of their virility. Yes, I know there are components of both in both sexes.
Isn’t there a partially true saying that women get turned on by their brains, while men get turned on by their eyes or something like that?

Blackberry's avatar

I see it as an attack on the social institution of monogamy, lol.

Trillian's avatar

May they all crash and burn. (Cackles maniacally, rocking back and forth) Huh? Oh sorry, got a bit distracted there. Who knows what goes through the head of a man? I never read the Venus/Mars thing. It happened to me and I felt that he had absolutely no love or respect for me. Christ, I hate being right all the time.
Later, when he was coming around hoping to get back with me I lied and told him I was seeing someone with material things he didn’t have. Two reasons; 1. I knew he wouldn’t quit bugging me for any other reason, and 2. I know it ate and ate at him thinking about how much better this guy was, how much more he had, yadda yadda yadda. He had a real inferiority thing which I never used against him in all the time we were together. So I basically got a little of my own back. Hey, I’m human too, despite vicious rumors to the contrary.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t know if it’s universally true (so little ever is). As a woman, I wouldn’t feel like I’d been cheated on because I wasn’t good in bed, but I don’t know that I’d jump right to “he doesn’t love me”, either. I guess it depends on the situation.

chewhorse's avatar

No, it’s an attack on the dignity of both sexes.. The man usually has to have another excuse as well because this is the way they look at it, like.. “Am I that bad in bed?”.. as a personal thing.

PurpleClouds's avatar

It’s not an attack at all. It’s a breach of a promise and trustbuster. It seems that when people cheat they don’t do it to hurt their wife or husband. They know if will hurt if discovered but,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think it has anything to do with dignity. It’s a rupture in the trust that was the foundation of your relationship.

Charles's avatar

Men are biologically programmed to be “cheaters”. Two or three thousand years of the social programming of monogamy can’t/hasn’t/won’t override the millions of years of conditioning to mate with as many females as possible. If a guy doesn’t (admit to) “looking around” he’s either ill, gay, or lying. However, women can be like some birds: mate with one guy and nest with another guy. (People ask me if these are my kids and I reply “Probably, and for tax purposes they are, but I never actually took a blood test.”) Mate for genetics (the stud pool boy) and nest with the breadwinner, the geeky pot belly dude who makes decent money who can support her and her offspring.

whitenoise's avatar

Man is likely to cheat. That includes the women.

Coloma's avatar

More than anything it is a lack of character on behalf of either sex.
Everyone can appreciate a sexually attractive person but only those that lack character cheat.
Cheating is always more about the dishonesty and deception than it is the sex.
Being a man with a higher sex drive, being unhappy in a relationship, being “confused” as to what one really wants, being a coward and cheating rather than splitting first, the “cake & eat it too” attitude…ALL of these things point to flimsy character not just raging testosterone or estrogen.

blueiiznh's avatar

Been there. No machismo involved for me..

Cheating is cheating. It is a pure sign of vulnerability and lack of respect.

wundayatta's avatar

I wonder if you can really say much about cheating unless you’ve done it. I think people do it for an awful lot of reasons. I think mostly those reasons have to do with what the person is looking for or lacking. In my case, I started out thinking I was looking for sex and ended up realizing that what I really wanted was love.

I was really afraid that if I pushed my wife for sex, she would divorce me, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I thought if I could get what I needed without her knowing, maybe I could manage to keep our marriage together.

Eventually, I decided that the marriage had to be over, and so I told my wife what I had been doing. Instead of acting out on her major freakout feelings at the time, she took me to a psychiatrist who told me I was bipolar.

This diagnosis kind of allowed us both to save face and agree to get therapy, which helped keep our marriage together for another four years and counting.

I keep telling this story because I think the devil is in the details. I think these sayings and bits of conventional wisdom about infidelity are pretty much worthless. I think it makes sense to talk about our own feelings based on our own experiences. Both @Coloma and @blueiiznh have been cheated on, if I remember their past stories correctly. What is interesting, I think, is how it made them feel.

However to make generalizations based on any one person’s experience doesn’t make sense. Maybe character is involved. But if so, what is “character?” Is it a “pure” sign of vulnerability and lack of respect? I doubt it. I’m sure those things are somewhat involved, but I am also positive that that is not the whole story. I think those are stories we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. But they do not get anywhere close to the heart of the matter.

I think to get to the heart, you have to take some responsibility. Infidelity is never just one person’s fault. The infidelity is not to one other person, but to the relationship. The relationship is made up of two people, and no one is completely blameless.

But it’s stupid to talk about blame if you want to try to fix a relationship. You assign blame after the thing has blown up. If you want to fix the relationship, you can’t afford to assign blame. Right or wrong, you both have to take complete responsibility for fixing the relationship. If you are all about assigning blame, then it’s just an end game thing. It’s about making yourself feel better and about helping yourself avoid accepting any responsibility.

I’ve seen numbers all over the place. Some say three-quarters of men cheat and three-fifths of women. Others say less than ten percent of either cheat. If you average the studies , then somewhere between one-third and one-half cheat. Take your pick. Half of all marriages end in divorce in the US. The major cause of divorce is infidelity.

What this says to me is that it could be a very common behavior, but whether three-quarters or only ten percent do it, I think we all need to be prepared for it, and we need to think about what we want to do about it if it happens. I think we need better relationship skills. I think few of us are prepared for the real difficulties in relationships.

Once infidelity appears, most people are just ready to let go. It is seen, I believe, as a black and white thing. There’s no hope after that kind of breach of trust.

If that’s how you think, then yes, it will be over. I know in my case, we both agreed to share the blame. That was at our first session. We put that part of the discussion behind us and focused on giving each other what we wanted. It was a negotiation and a learning and it was hard and there was and is no guarantee of a future. Our future depends on a daily dealing with our own feelings and each other’s feelings, and some days we do a decent job and some days, frankly, we suck at it.

One day at a time. It works for depression. It works for addictions. It works for marriage, too. Marriage is a lot harder, I think, than most people will admit. Few are willing to be honest about the problems, particularly when you have to admit to cheating. I think that cheating is human. It happens to paragons of virtue as well as to people who lack “character.” I think that it should be destigmatized if we ever want to help people do less of it.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta Infidelity is not always a sign of relationship issues. In some cases yes, it is a reflection of a relationship gone sour, however, it is also true that infidelity is as much a sign of weak character, immaturity, selfishness, opportunism and a sense of entitlement that many have. All issues of character IMO. I agree that open, honest communication is key, and yes, humans are subject to falling from grace and anyone can fall from grace once, but those that are chronic cheaters, lack remorse, blame others for their choices, blame anything/anyone other than themselves for the choices they make are cowards lacking in character.

It’s a fact that certain personality disordered types are much more prone to cheating in relationship because of lack of character/conscience, selfishness, a sense of entitlement, and for many with these personality issues it is their own desires that trump any true sense of commitment to their relationships.
For those that are serial cheaters the issues go much deeper than mere marital discord and a one time slip.
There is no big stigma surrounding cheating, some do, some don’t, and some are simply weak minded and weak willed and who wants to be with a person of weak character that is so easily seduced?

Also, whatever the issues in the relationship one can pretty much assume they’ve nailed the lid of their relational coffin shut after infidelity. It’s a rare couple that can move on from such breaches of trust and grow in intimacy. The vast majority do not. So as a methodology for preserving an already wheezing relationship, infidelity just kicks the death rattle into high gear for the vast majority.

The only couples I know that have survived infidelity and are still together are those that are too afraid to leave, feel bound by their financial entanglements/children/grandchildren, wish to preserve their comfortable lifestyles which a divorce would crumble.
I do not know ONE couple that has truly transcended their partners indiscretions and blossomed into a new and deeper sense of intimacy. Maybe you’ll be one of the success stories.

I’d also ad that it doesn’t always take two to make or break a relationship, another relationship myth.
One person is perfectly capable of ruining a relationship all by themselves, happens all the time, and the quickest path to destruction is to tamper with the trust of a relationship.

blueiiznh's avatar

I could not have said it any better than ^^^^^^^

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma so what is the relationship between character and a relationship? I.e., if a person enters a relationship with another person of poor character, are you saying that somehow the fact that one person has poor character has nothing to do with the person who chooses to get involved with the person of poor character? I.e., if your partner has poor character, are you resolved of any responsibility for getting involved with the person?

If not, then what does it say about you that you have gotten involved with a person of poor character? Are you a dupe? Or do you have your own weak character and that’s why you got involved with the other person with bad character? If you are a dupe, does that absolve you of any responsibility for any damage done you by being in the relationship?

josie's avatar

Probably true, from what I hear from both sides.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m a woman and I’d think the man cheated because he was unsatisfied by me.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta Character is often revealed in time, people are deceived, it happens, and yes, nobody is responsible for the choices of another. No absolution necessary.

whitenoise's avatar

@wundayatta I fullheartedly agree with you.

Life isn’t black and white. It is far more complex than that and being human comes with having challenges temptations and weaknesses.

I have had periods of depression and walking into someone in those days that was admiring me, would make me so feel good. My wife was not admiring me… she was coping with my moods.

I was so tempted to cheat with this girl that adored my projected happy me. Whether I would or wouldn’t have, would not have been a reflection of my fidelity to my wife or relationship, it would have been a reflection of my mental state at the time. Depression put me in a place where I could imagine killing myself. I could have done a lot of other things as well.

People shouldn’t so easily judge. I adore my wife and I love her as much as I can anyone. But I have been tempted to cheat on her and in all honesty, I cannot truly say why i didn’t. It sure wasn’t because I have a flawless character.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m sure there are many different reasons for infidelity so one needs to tread lightly here. As I’ve gotten older having my ‘manhood’ attacked has little meaning to me. I do feel that cheating in many cases is a sign of disrespect. It would be much better to end the relationship than to subject a partner to such drama. Many people will try to justify their disrespect of others but in the end disrespect is disrespect regardless, and respect needs to be mutual.

Coloma's avatar


Exactly. On both counts. Trust & respect are the cornerstone of healthy relationship and the reasons for cheating are varied, from stupidity and selfishness to far deeper issues such as sexual addiction and mental health issues. No one size fits all but the end result is always the same, someone, and usually more than one, children, friends, extended family that are all effected by the fallout person gets hurt.
There is nothing wrong with certain “judgments”, if I was about to become involved with someone and found out they had a history of unfaithful behavior in their relationships I’d back out, in the same way I’d back out of buying a car that has numerous recall bulletins issued on it’s make and model.

This isn’t “judgment” it is discernment. Nobody wants to drive a lemon and nobody wants to marry or be in a relationship with one either. lol

Paradox25's avatar

@Coloma Well I’m one of those people that truly believes that the way we behave is the result of personal choice, not biological programming. I guess I could say that because of biological programming and evolution that we can justify all of the bad things that we do to others, and this mentality just doesn’t fly with me. I’m not faulting you personally for this but I’m responding to the typical stereotypes that seem to be associated with behaviors from members of each sex.

The dating culture paradigm in most cultures is what I blame for the majority of the distress that exists in dating, whether trying to find someone or whether already with someone. I blame the dating culture paradigm for most of the problems that exist with dating/relationships today because it was formulated out of social gender role constructions. Social gender role constructions manufacture sexism against both sexes, not just women. As a result we see in this sexist attitude about why it is acceptable for one gender to behave in a certain way but not the other. Social gender role constructions also seem to make exceptions when it comes to respect and dignity, since SGRC deem it as being more important to play out your correct gender role than actually having a truly loving relationship. I bring up SGRC here because it is still extremely prevailent in magazines, dating advice ‘experts’, the net, the media, tv, etc despite being the year 2012.

Coloma's avatar

—@Paradox25 Agree. The “old” way of relationship is obsolete, and I also agree that biology is not an excuse for not being able to help oneself. Reality based relationships operate on a regular “evaluation” of how well each parties needs are being met in the present moment, and mature decisions are made without need for deceptive practices.

Paradox25's avatar

@Coloma What shocks me (and one of the reasons why I continue to live like a recluse) is how many people (especially other guys) seem to value how they started their relationship more than the actual value of the relationship itself. When the game becomes more important than other people’s feelings than nothing good will ever come from this. I’m not saying that all infidelity is the result of games and lack of feelings but I do feel that there is a correlation between social gender role construction and the majority of relationship/dating problems that we see today.

Coloma's avatar

@Paradox25 Agreed, again. lol Yep, this is one reason, aside from liking my space and freedom, that I have not pursued romantic relationship the last handful of years. Very few PEOPLE do any personal or self awareness growth work, and I’m not willing to engage with those that have not with my current level of awareness.

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