Keeping Him Faithful 1.0: Five guys to watch (out) for

Dear Duana,

From ex-boyfriends to an ex-husband, most men in my life cheated on me, even during good times.  I felt less to blame after learning that men’s happiness is unrelated to their affairs, until I realized the depressing flip side:  Doing my part in a relationship won’t protect it.         

Before I abandon all hope, is there any way to find and keep a man who’s monogamous and emotionally invested in me—and me only?      



Dear Belinda,

Ouch.  You’re right—a happy relationship does *not* prevent male cheating.  Most studies find *no* relationship between men’s happiness and whether they stray…and one found that  unfaithful men were actually the most happily married .          

But before you join a convent, let’s note that cheating is far from guaranteed.  Globally, for every man who has affair(s), there’s at least one who never does.    


So what’s the source of your unusually bad luck?  I suspect it has something to do with repeatedly saying Yes to cheating’s 5 Usual Suspects:         


—Mr. All That

Review your exes.  Were they Catnip For Women—tall, handsome, charming, intelligent, accomplished, educated, generous and rich?  Were they Rock Stars—metaphorically or in reality? 

If so, you’ve been hanging around with the Likely To Cheat crowd—the guys who give off the signs of superior genes and/or protection and provision every girl wants.  And therefore, the guys other women will continually compete against you to have.   

And some research indicates that a wedding ring on his finger only makes many women want him more

Fact is, the single-biggest factor in men’s cheating is simple Opportunity.  In the presence of the Aggressively Willing, neither male Genes nor most cultures have prepared guys to say No to a shot at biological immortality—nevermind the immediate joy of sex. 

Most men, of course, will *never* know what that feels like; a few will be pursued once in a lifetime.  But He Who Has It All is often literally surrounded by Temptation.  For some, it eventually goes to their heads (and other parts). 

And that’s how Tiger became a Cheetah, and Letterman endured more than a few not-so-funny moments. 

And, I’m guessing, how Opportunity knocked when you weren’t home.


—Mr. Globetrotter

Speaking of home, a special case of Opportunity is…the Suit Case.  Men who travel, especially in tandem with beautiful women, are an affair risk just because travel creates more Opportunity for secret liaisons.  And if his Travels are combined with Power/Stardom…don’t say you weren’t warned. 


—Mr. History

I’ll never forget the guy who guiltily revealed his sexual escapades with his (ex) best friend’s wife.  Did I continue dating him?  Noooo.  Did I learn he had cheated on other friends and lovers—and his former wife?  Yeeees. 

As every good intro psych student knows, the future is actually quite predictable:  What people have done before, they’re highly likely to do again in similar circumstances.  It’s so reliable, it’s Psychology’s only Law.   

Find out your partners’ histories *before* you get seriously involved.  You’ll be amazed by what men—and their friends— will tell…if only you ask. 


—Mr. Personality 

I wouldn’t have guessed this, but compared with Opportunity, personality plays a relatively minor role in men’s cheating. 

But.  Willful Philanderers and bona fide Narcissists and men with Low Commitment to a particular woman exist—sometimes wrapped up in one package.  They tend to regard playing around as their right, regardless of how it hurts their partner, and when discovered, they aren’t sorry they cheated—just that they got caught. 

(Genes may play a role in men’s unfaithful personalities.  For around $100 USD, you can even buy a test to see if your guy is a high affair risk at the level of his DNA.  But for various reasons, I cannot recommend this, scientifically or otherwise.)   

Not surprisingly, these folks are high affair risks.  And they may begin their infidelity very early in the relationship—say, during the courtship or engagement or honeymoon—a particularly bad sign that you can indeed trust them…to cheat again. 

To a lesser degree, people with an insecure attachment style—who chronically feel the need for a ‘back-up’ in case their current mate loves them too little—are likelier than secure lovers to cheat, ironically causing the end they fear.      


Contrast that with the man *you* seek—someone who is highly Committed to you, and to the idea of Commitment itself.  Self-identified One-Woman Men seek and value all forms of fidelity in themselves and their mates.  Scientists find that these guys, too, exist.

Insist on finding out which Type you’ve got, asap.  As a male Love Science reader wrote, “Seems like the lion’s share of the responsibility for keeping HIM faithful belongs to HIM.  Best first step would be to find a HIM that accepts, nay, embraces, that responsibility.” 



—Mr. (In)Experienced

Have your past paramours had many sexual partners—Easy come, easy go, as it were?   

As a past Love Science showed, it appears that the more sexual partners a guy has had, the more he’s wired to “disengage” from you post-coitally.  It may be a mechanism that helped ancestral men leave more progeny without losing commitment to their primary partner, but nevermind—whatever the reason, it’s a bad bet for *you*. 

Virgins, men with little experience, and men with extensive experience in very few (and deeply committed) former relationships are a good bet.  They’re more likely to use sex for emotional bonding, rather than pure physical pleasure—and to stick around faithfully after the lovin’. 


Belinda, maybe you’ve been *picking* wrong partners—men who, for any of these reasons, are likely to Cheat.  If so, the path ahead for you is clear:    

Interview men and their friends and consult your own Inherited Mating Psychology gut, and then select from the many men who have a history of fidelity; of not cheating even when opportunities arose; of dogged persistence at a few choice relationships rather than rampant meaningless liaisons.  Find men who *want* to give and receive with only One.  And consort with other mere mortals, avoiding Rock Stars unless you are a Supermodel—and can brook further infidelity. 


But what if you picked the right ones—and later, things went wrong?  That’s what we’ll cover next at Love Science. 

Until then—choose wisely.





Related Love Science articles:










The author wishes to acknowledge the following scientists & sources:

Shirley Glass, for authoring THE book on affair prevention and recovery—Not “Just Friends” : Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal —and doing much of the research showing what works and what doesn’t. 

David M. Buss (and his related book, The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and Sex) and Todd K. Shackelford, for research into the personality variables involved in infidelity—and for showing that Opportunity is the more important factor. 

Jena Pincott, for her science-based book and blog regarding sex, dating, love…and science.  I especially liked these two links for today’s Love Science posting:




If this article intrigued, surprised, affirmed or enlightened you, please click “Share Article” below to link it with your favorite social media website. 

All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. and Love Science Media, 2010

Do you have a question for Duana?  Contact her at Duana@LoveScienceMedia.com




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Reader Comments (34)


As far as infidelity being an inevitable thing for some men:

I don’t think anyone’s actually “hardwired” for infidelity (please see response to Todd, above)—but some folks are definitely more inclined towards affairs than others.

Which brings us to your question, Diana: Does keeping your relationship out of a rut help keep your mate from rutting with others?

Well….not if your mate’s a man.

Turns out, plenty of men in happy marriages are having affairs, and plenty of men in miserable or boring marriages are not having affairs, and some research by Shirley Glass actually shows quite well that many cheating men are not giving *too much* at home…but rather are giving *too little*.

They are expected to do so very little to maintain their relationships, that they lose their emotional investment in, and fidelity to that mate. .

But, Diana, that does not negate the value of your helping your husband be happy in the marriage. Just be sure he’s helping *you* be happy, too (which is good in and of itself, and lowers the likelihood of *your* infidelity). It’s definitely a two-way street, and the investment of *both* parties is required.

And there are other things you can do to affair-proof your union as well. Those are the topic of the upcoming Love Science article. Thank you for writing!

October 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Dear Gillian:
Good to hear from you again! Just yesterday, someone went out of their way to tell me they wanted to let you know, through me, how much they appreciate and enjoy your contributions. Love Science would not be the same without your input.

As for the head/heart debate:

I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dry, either-or. I would never suggest to anyone that they marry someone they don’t love…just that they put themselves in a position to love someone Good for them.

What I’m suggesting with Belinda is that she quit doing this deal all-heart, because doing it that way has meant, for her, a broken heart. I want her to begin using her cool rational self as part of the Guidance system.

Getting cheated on is a less-than-chance bet. More than half the guys never cheat. Yet she’s told me in private that nearly *every* one of Belinda’s relationships has involved the man’s infidelity.

When that happens, it’s time to assume you’ve got a pattern. She wanted help with ending it—with becoming conscious of what was happening so she could start falling in love with the men least likely to break her heart.

What I recommended to her privately, and carried through to a full article here, was identifying the sorts of men she’s been involved with, and seeing if she’s been Choosing those who represent the highest likelihood of infidelity.

By avoiding men who fit The Cheater’s Profile, she’s then in a position to fall in love with anyone from among the many, many non-cheaters who are ready and eager for one—and only one!--woman just like her.

In short, I want Belinda to use her head *and* her heart, instead of relying on just one or the other. It may not sound romantic—but it’s much more romantic than repeated heartbreak.

October 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

What a fascinating and thought-provoking topic!

I am afraid that, given the opportunity, the majority of men would give in to temptation - if they were 100 % sure they would not get gaught. And especially if they thought that everybody else is doing it. So powerful is the male sexuality and mating predisposition. Think about war rapes. A minority, who would not, is equipped with either exceptionally low sexual drive or exceptionally high morals, or a combination of both.

The majority of women would not - whilst they are presented with far more opportunities to fool around on their partners than men. Lots of women get approached and hit by men on on a daily basis.

But all males share the same inherent procreation makeup – desire for multiple partners in order to pass on their genes as widely and as efficiently as possible. As a male relationship coach once put it, a fundamentally decent citizen - an honourable taxpayer and a devoted, kind and caring husband and father - quite probably possesses the moral rectitude of a garden lizard when it comes to other women ;-).

And, unfortunately, the woman’s similar or even higher status (looks, youth) relative to the man’s does not necessarily do the trick to protect her – men are known not to be too picky in their extra-curricular relationships. The thrill and excitement of a new woman *per se* is the thing. And, somewhat chockingly, the thrill and excitement of *the cheating* per se. The lure of a challenge. I take the liberty of citing a marital therapist, familiar with male infidelity: "The thrill of being able to date other women and keeping their partners in the dark provides cheating men with an adrenalin rush akin to that of watching a spy movie. The clandestine meetings, the feigning, the palpitations when you nearly get caught literally provides them a thrill similar to that of a hunt." -And when got caught and asked why: They were so enthralled in the excitement of the actual act of cheating that they had no real logical reason behind doing it. So it basically boils down to: needing the thrill of cheating that develops through the sex drive impulse.

Not very encouraging, from a woman's point of view...

Societal norms and culture of course play a part. The more liberal and tolerant the society towards (male) infidelity, the more wide-spread it is - and the harder individuals (=women) themselves must fight it. -Ironically, in officially polygamous cultures women are actually spared the double insult and pain - the one of first getting cheated on and then getting blamed for it - in openly polygamous societies, men need not try to shift the blame (there is no blame) and justify their desire for other women by finding fault with their primary partner and/or the relationship ;-).

Yes, it is warfare. The male mating psychology is the Threat and Enemy No. 1 - to a man's female partner, to the relationship, to children, and to the man himself. I am very interested and looking forward to seeing what weapons our Good Dr. Duana has come up with in Version 2.0!

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Oh Ellen!!! I appreciate your comments, but I cannot allow them to slip through uncontested!
The sweeping assertion that a man must either have a low sex drive or exquisitely high morals to pass on an opportunity for a 100 percent undetectable liaison is ridiculous!
That the honorable man probably possesses the moral rectitude of a garden lizard is patently absurd.
When I was married, did I have opportunities for no-strings, 100 percent undetectable liaisons? Yes, many times. Was I tempted? Yes!
Even as a single guy, I'm interested and sexual only with the lady I'm seeing, otherwise I move on, never to return.
Your cultural experiences are obviously from the UK, given your English spellings, which I enjoy more than our simplified American English.
What really interests me is the way you have linked the warrior mentality, with it's predisposition to violence, with unfaithfulness and rape.
Sex is not intended to be a violent act. It is multifaceted and that further separates mankind
from the lesser animal kingdom.
Further, a clever, erotic imagination with an equally matched lover is more than enough to satisfy me. Granted, some of my lesser brethren don't understand a lot of this - find someone with matching intellect.
I like fantasy play with my lady. Buying her sexy lingerie, meeting at a bar as secret lovers,
role-play games; all of the 007 excitement can be mine in a monogamous relationship.
If I am not feeling satisfied, I can have any woman my fantasy and imagination desire; why would I need to physically cheat?
Ellen, I think you have been hurt and now you are expressing your anger. Don't condemn us all. Also keep in mind, you seldom find gemstones in a rubbish pile.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Hello Bryan, and thank you for your interesting comments. Yes, I am from Europe but not from the UK, and English is not my native language - hence the exotic spelling....;-)

May I ask what prevented you from those liaisons during your marriage you mentioned? Not lack of interest, though - you said you were tempted. High morals?

Another question: How would you explain war rapes?

And still one: Do you think fidelity is a question of intellect?



October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Ellen, I don't know why I didn't. I am not religeous, but ethical and open minded. I think I would have felt guilty maybe. Some of the women were co-workers or clients. Seems like that's never a good idea in any case. Some I just wasn't attracted to. Maybe it's that delayed gratification is a middle class virtue?
I won't address the rape question as it exceeds the scope and dignity of the topic at hand.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Dear Ellen and Bryan,

Welcome, both of you--I don't think either of you posted before this particular article, and you've added much with your lively, well-thought-out debate.

I'd like to address some points in each:

1. It's absolutely clear that the male desire for many sexual partners is greater than the female desire for same. The Coolidge Effect is one example; you summarized that, Ellen, when you noted that "unfortunately, the woman’s similar or even higher status (looks, youth) relative to the man’s does not necessarily do the trick to protect her – men are known not to be too picky in their extra-curricular relationships. The thrill and excitement of a new woman *per se* is the thing."

Multi-cultural research with hidden-camera technology shows that 3/4ths of men will say yes to sex with an absolute stranger--and zero women have thus far said yes under identical circumstances.

And research on male sexual fantasy is clear that men often don't even include a face, just myriad nubile strangers' bodies--whereas women usually fantasize about the man they're actually involved with in real life.

All this apparently arises from the reality that men who had numerous partners *and* a legitimate mate in the ancient human past were the ones who "won", genetically speaking, leaving behind more offspring than either men who *only* played around, or men who *only* stayed with one woman. Over thousands of generations, any behavior that leaves more offspring behind, eventually becomes a behavior that is *desired* if not actively pursued by the entirety of that gender or population.

So nevermind that today, male promiscuity can result in diseases and child support payments for the guy--those weren't threats to the ancients. Our mating psychology comes from the ancient past, and in that past, indiscriminate fornication plus having wifey in the cave was a win for men, and not for women.

2. It's equally clear that many men never act on that desire. Siding with Bryan here, it's obvious that some guys say No even when Yes is batting her pretty eyelashes at them; indeed, some of these guys don't even want to cheat (although research and Bryan both seem to indicate that they still fantasize quite differently than women habitually do).

Whereas it's quite clear how ancestral men would have benefited from having a wife and many lovers--it's less clear how ancestral men could have passed forward a preference *not* to do that very thing.

Maybe the Desire for abundant nubile partners is not yet truly universal--to wit, the Genes that seem to predispose some men's fidelity might not exist otherwise.

My guess, though, is that Individual Differences in experience play a large role. I have a male acquaintance who is consistently offered sex from young, beautiful women in his workplace. He says no because of personal experiences of having had *eight* stepdads during his childhood. He is so totally turned-off by easy women and what that cost him as a child, that he will not have a woman who would easily have him.

Besides individual differences in Genes and Experience, there can be differences in Religion (as Ellen noted, what one's friends and culture think is appropriate is important for behavior) and in Personality. (But then again, Personality research shows that's much more genetic than environmental, so we're back to Genes again).

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDuana

Ellen and Bryan, regarding Ellen's two questions:

1. Do you think fidelity is a question of intellect?

Yes, intellect does seem to play a role. On the one hand, smarter guys tend to have more sexual opportunities--but on the other hand, some of the smarter guys have excellent delayed gratification among their intellectual, um, tools.

Science in developmental psychology has shown that smarter kids tend to be better at delaying something they badly want. For instance, Mischel did research on whether four-year-olds can keep themselves from eating a marshmallow now, in order to get three more later. Those who could turned out to be more successful and happy and well-educated adults two decades later than those kids who could not keep themselves from gobbling the lone 'mallow.

Literally, morality is tied to the ability to delay gratification.

Which means, Bryan, you hit the nail on the head: Delayed gratification *is* key in some men's decision *not* to take an illicit or immediate sexual opportunity--however appealing.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDuana

2. How would you explain war rapes?

For decades, feminist scholars have popularized the idea that rape of strangers is committed as a display of power over women...that it's about power and making women feel powerless, even more than it's about sex.

I think science has pretty much blown that idea to smithereens ("smithereens" is a scientific term...right?).

Evolutionary theorists have offered an alternative, much more plausible, hypothesis that men who commit acts of rape--either stranger rape or rape during wars--are doing so as one of many unconscious male strategems for casting their Genes forward.

The evidence supports them. For instance, using this logic, evolutionary psychologists have predicted that rape is *not* evenly distributed among a population's women--but that those most likely to be raped will be women in their peak fertility years.

They're right.

Moreover, most of the men doing the raping "should" theoretically be men with few other mating options--men who aren't successful enough for fertile women to voluntarily say "Yes" to.

Right again.

Although we don't like to think about it, rape is probably one of a host of strategies that some ancestral men would have used to cast their Genes forward--especially low-status men women would have nothing to do with, given any shot at escape. Rape has always existed, and I believe it has always existed because it enabled some otherwise Deadbeat Genes to force themselves forward in the larger human population.

Where we'd be remiss is in thinking that explaining rape's origins makes rape in any way acceptable. It is not. The original scientific theorists on this make no bones about decrying rape, nor do I.

But we do know, now, where it comes from: A time when life was "nasty, brutish and short."

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDuana
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