At least that’s the assertion put forth by American sociologist Dr. Eric Anderson author of The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating. The Huffington Post conducted an on-line interview with Dr. Anderson, which you can read in full here: Why Men Need to Cheat.
Dr. Anderson argues that monogamy is not natural for most people, especially men. In his opinion, and I agree, most men can sleep around without developing significant emotional attachment to women outside of their relationship. While this does not account for all men, some committed men simply want to sleep around without the intention of ever developing a connection beyond the physical, what he calls “recreational sex.” Huffington Post writes:
[Dr. Anderson] wonders why we stigmatize someone who has a fling more than couples who divorce — throwing away a marriage rich in history and love, upsetting their kids’ lives — over something like sex.
Whether you agree monogamy is natural or unnatural, for men or women, I think we can all agree monogamy is a choice and so is infidelity. However, Dr. Anderson’s theory is that if you choose to cheat sexually, but not emotionally, it should not be the sole justification to terminate an otherwise happy and successful relationship. Since most men cannot have the best of both worlds, they choose the selfish route – cheating physically, while remaining faithful emotionally. Observing this phenomenon, Dr. Anderson sought to understand why habitually unfaithful men would even want monogamous relationships in the first place. A quote from the article:
Cheating, however, serves men pretty well. An undiscovered affair allows them to keep their relationship and emotional intimacy, and even if they’re busted it’s a lot easier than admitting that they wanted to screw someone else in the first place.
The good doctor alleges that men, even unfaithful men, desire emotional commitment. It is the physical commitment they struggle with because men are naturally designed to crave sex with other women. For example, his non-statistical study of 120 undergrads showed enjoyment of monogamous sex dipped precipitously after only two years. Assuming these are not leap years, that’s a mere 730 days for those of you keeping track at home. In summary:
The reason men lie about cheating is mostly because they know that if they ask for permission to have recreational sex: 1) they will be denied 2) after they are denied, they will be subject to scrutiny and increased relationship policing; 3) they will be stigmatized as immoral, and most likely broken up with. Thus, honesty doesn’t meet their desires of having both a long-term partner and recreational sex with others.
The way cheating men see it, it’s either cheat or don’t cheat, but telling their partners they want sex outside the relationship, or telling their partners that they actually cheated, is viewed as a surefire way of achieving relationship termination. When men cheat for recreational sex — not affairs — they DO love their partners. If they didn’t, they would break up with them.
John Legend, who is not a doctor, covered this subject years earlier in his song Number One where he croons the following romantic lyrics, “You can’t say I don’t love you, Just because I cheat on you, Cuz you can’t see all I do, To keep you from knowing the things I do, Like erase my phone, And keep it out of town, I keep it strapped up when I sleep around.”
As a man, the only thing shocking about Dr. Anderson’s (and John Legend) theories on monogamy and infidelity is the fact that they are so accurate. They correctly explain how unfaithful men justify their actions but that doesn’t mean the actions of unfaithful men should be defended…or should they?
Is the key to a successful relationship, like that of the Army preluding the presidency of Barack Obama, simply necessitate the implementation of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy? Is emotional cheating (on-going affair) and physical cheating (recreational sex/flings) equivalent? Is cheating cheating regardless of the means of application? Assuming you would never find out, do you still want to know if your partner was unfaithful whether it be physically or emotionally? Has it become unreasonable to expect men (or women) of our generation to remain monogamous?