Q&A for “Keeping Him Faithful 1.0: Five guys to watch (out) for”

Wise Readers,  

Per our recent article, the first step in *keeping* him faithful is *finding* a him who wants to be true to begin with—and who lacks the Opportunity, History & Experience to cheat. 

But what if he’s got a History—and claims to have reformed?  Can anyone make the Badboy mend his ways?  Why *not* use the genetic test for men’s fidelity?  Is there a fidelity test to use on women?  And isn’t being so logical kind of killing love’s buzz? 

 Read on! 

Cheers, Duana



But what if he’s got a History—and claims to have reformed? 

(Can anyone make the Badboy mend his ways?)


From Michelle:

I’ve got a few follow-up questions!

This is my situation:
He cheated on his first wife, confessed to her and they get divorced. After a couple of years of healing, therapy, short-term relationships (& other sexual encounters that were primarily physical), he & I entered into a serious, long-term relationship. He began early on talking about marriage because he still wants to be married and believes he’s grown a lot over the past few years (plus, of course, stated & demonstrated commitment to me). However, he still worries that he will cheat again. He’s basically a Mr. History worried about being a Mr. Personality. So what is the likelihood that he will cheat? Are his fears justified? Should I be worried? What advice do you have for me besides running (I would like to think that grace & my experience with him trump previous failures!)? Does remorse have anything to do with repeat behaviors?

Thanks for your research! I love this site!

Duana responds:

Hi, Michelle, and thank you.  It’s great to hear a new voice—welcome!

Relationships, like everything else, are about odds.  Although common belief holds that it’s random which marriages will succeed or fail, that’s not so.  In reality, the odds are significantly stacked in favor of some unions, and against others

What kind of probability do you and your man have for a faithful marriage? 


Ask yourself (and him, and the people he knows and knew through his life, who research suggests will give you a truer picture than he can give): 

How important has fidelity been to him? 

How often has he broken faith and hearts? 

What were the circumstances surrounding his affair(s)?  Did they start from a place of intentionally seeking sex/saying yes to Opportunities for sex—or because he accidentally (and over a long timeframe) let down his guard with a female friend who became so much more? 

What’s the longest amount of time he was faithful to any one woman?  

How old was his marriage when he began his affair? 

How genuine is his remorse—and how long has he mended his ways? 

Michelle, to the extent that your guy has been a player *in and out of relationships*; and to the extent he’s cheated more early and more often in relationships; and to the extent he’s cheated on more than one woman in his life; and to the extent that he’s intentionally sought affairs for sex (as opposed to falling for a friend, once and once only, out of ignorance of how dangerous that is); and to the extent he’s sorrier he got caught than that he cheated; and even to the extent that he still does not trust *himself*

this guy is a poor risk.  He’s got a lot of History, Experience, and maybe even the Personality that predispose affairs.   And he himself is worried!

Some leopards change their spots—but not many.  Those who do are those who made a mistake *once*, felt horrible about it (even if they didn’t get caught!), vowed within themselves (even if they never got caught!) never ever to do it again, and showed through several *years* of behavior that they *didn’t* repeat their infidelity…with anyone.  These are the people who have decided that cheating isn’t worth it, *not* because they could get caught, but because they feel like bad people, and who *actively avoid situations that would bring Opportunity knocking*. 

Those who reform are, in short, guided by a strong sense that affairs are against who they are, and that full commitment is what they expect of themselves.  Again, even if they would never get caught. 

But your guy is worried about his own ability to remain faithful—not exactly a sign that he’s solidly past his, um, past.  And in the interim between his marriage and his relationship with you, he’s basically been a player.  His history of fidelity sounds brief and conflicted and riddled with meaningless, casual sexual relationships.    

My concern, then, is not so much that he’s worried…but that you haven’t been. 

And my advice is to carefully and truthfully assess his behavior from the questions above—and to then do one of the following:

If I’m wrong and he is genuinely remorseful and would never again cheat and had an affair accidentally, once, and vowed never to do it again and is willing to live within the boundaries I’ll be publishing in the next Love Science—  proceed with caution.

If I’m right and this guy is Mr. History, Mr. Experience *and* possibly Mr. Personality— 

a)     Run! Or

b)     Decide you can live with a cheating mate, because that’s what you’re likely to have. 

I fear my answer may be coming too late.  You’re very emotionally involved with your man, and what I’ve said would be a lot easier to hear if your relationship were newer. 

But a broken engagement is easier mended than broken marriages, broken families and broken hearts.  Now is the time for utter honesty within yourself about your man and your own ability to tolerate infidelity.  I wish you well. 


From Bryan:

Basically, in a real relationship, you should always be able to know your significant other has your back and your best interest, without question.
Trustworthiness allows lovers to be completely open and honest with one another, sharing their secrets in confidence desires and feeling safe.
Infidelity destroys that trust and in my opinion is a deal breaker. Why? Because I think it’s a symptom of a failed relationship.

@ Michelle: if he is really worried that he may cheat again he is admitting that he has a lack of self-control or that given the same circumstances he might do it again.
Maybe he is just being honest. Or telling you he’s not ready to commit.


From Penelope:

I have a gorgeous, sexy, successful, funny, talented man as my husband. Oh yeah, he travels, too. And yet I have great confidence in his faithfulness to me because he is just that kind of guy. I know something could “just happen”, but he knows that, too, and chooses fidelity because it is such an important part of our relationship.


From CJ:

I love this post but it is difficult to not panic when I am currently with a man who is amazing. Has an amazing personality - can befriend anyone and is a pleasure to be around, VERY handsome and humble about his good looks, has been in bands before and is working on being a “rock star” -with promising hope -, and he will be traveling once the tours start………

He assures me constantly that he cares very much for me and has never (and would never) cheat. He seems mildly insecure about our developing feelings (moreso worried that I am not “in love” ) and I think that is why he has not dropped the L bomb yet, but he is by far the best man I have *ever* dated.
What should I do? How do I keep this from *not* keeping me up at night wondering if I’m naive to all of these things?

Duana responds: 

Dear CJ,

I wish you and Penelope knew one another in real life, because I think Penelope could set your mind a bit at ease.  (And…well-said, Bryan.) 


From what Penelope is saying, I’m betting:

— she has status that matches her husband’s;

—her husband has actually turned down Opportunities before (because given her description of him, I promise you he’s had plenty of options);

—he self-identifies as wanting to be faithful;

—he has a history of fidelity in prior relationships;

—and that they have mutually-established Boundaries and transparency of action that helps them both to remain faithful  (this last part will be covered in Version 2.0 of the Keeping Him Faithful topic, upcoming soon). 

 (Penelope, feel free to jump in here and correct me!)


In short, I’m betting that although Penelope’s husband is at risk for affairs from the Opportunity standpoint, all the other stuff runs in favor of their relationship being emotionally and sexually monogamous.   And they’ve done what it takes to mitigate Opportunity as a threat (again, that’ll be covered in the next LS entry). 


Another reason I’m betting on the fidelity within Penelope’s relationship is Penelope’s unconcern.  Jealousy, as scientists such as David Buss are increasingly learning, is akin to a smoke detector: Most people who feel jealousy feel it for a reason, and that reason is that their mate is thinking about cheating or is actually cheating (pathologically jealous types need not apply). 


Women are particularly alert to their mate’s emotional (but not necessarily sexual) wanderings, which could spell trouble because men who fall in love with (instead of just have sex with) other women, are the guys most likely to abandon their mate. 


In other words, men have often gotten away with sexual flings, undetected, because sexual flings historically were not a threat to women’s and their kids’ survival—whereas having their man fall in love with another woman *was* (and remains) such a threat. 


So, if Penelope’s husband were to have a fling—she might not ever know.  But if he’d ever become emotionally involved, I’ll bet her smoke alarm would have set off by now. 


The only part of Penelope’s response I can’t go with is the “he’s just that kind of guy” logic.  Researchers such as Shirley Glass have long known that one of the stunners for women who discover their husband’s cheating is that “he couldn’t have done it!  He’s just not that kind of guy!” 


Remember: Most of the men who cheat *aren’t* “that kind of guy”.  Personality is one of the very worst predictors of cheating—Opportunity and History are the best.  Many a staunchly religious, overtly moralistic, seemingly devoted guy has had an affair just because the option turned up, or because he accidentally fell for a “friend” and erroneously hoped his solid marriage would save him from running afoul of his own belief system. 


All that said—what should *you* do, CJ? 


  1. Look for Patterns in his History, History, History: 


Although the men voted Most Likely To Cheat have at least one (and often several) of the Five characteristics in the article, none of these by itself is a guarantee of infidelity.  It’s about odds, not certainties. 


So when you think about your boyfriend, consider this:

How much opportunity has he already had?  Are women throwing themselves at him already?  If so, how has he handled that?  

If he’s young, how has he used his sexuality so far—more for recreation, or more for emotional bonding?

And let’s not forget Family History.  Men whose fathers cheated are more likely to be cheaters themselves.  It’s not clear whether this is because the father and son share genes, an environment, back-slaps over conquests, or all of the above.  But it’s clear that men whose dads were faithful, tend to be faithful men themselves. 


The best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior—so if your man has already turned down women who were attractive and willing; if he’s used sexuality for bonding, not scoring; and if he’s from a family with a history of fidelity—these are all very strong points in his favor. 



2. Assess your own status relative to his: 

—What’s your status –in terms of your age, your youth, your beauty—relative to his? 

If fidelity is hugely important to you, then it’s important for anyone—male or female— *not* to date or marry someone out of one’s league. 

What this means?  If he is gorgeous, you need to be, too.  If he is rich, you need to have the youth and beauty to balance that out.  If he’s past his early 30’s, you need to be significantly younger the more successful he is. 


Why?  As discussed elsewhere at Love Science, fertility cues in women (youth/beauty) and provision/protection cues in men (income/ education/ fame/ influence/height) helped our ancestors’ survival and procreation—so we, the inheritors of ancestral mating practices that Worked, carry these preferences forward. 


And power imbalances are scientifically *known* to create cheating in the More Powerful mate.  What does the Less Powerful person usually do?  Hang in there and wait for the affair(s) to end.  Ugh.    

So the short answer, CJ, is that I don’t know whether you should worry about your guy or not—I don’t have enough information.  But *you* do—or can get it

If you do everything I advised Belinda to do, including asking questions of CJ and his friends and family; if you listen to your own Gut, which you inherited from your maternal ancestors; and if you pay really close attention to the information that is *already* available about him—then you should be able to answer your own concerns.

Whatever you find out, I wish you peace and a good life with someone who will be faithful—whether this man or another. 


From Monica:

My husband likes to say, “For a lot of people, fidelity is simply a function of the lack of opportunity.” It’s easy to be faithful when no one’s trying to get into your pants. On the other hand, I find it remarkable that some men are able to resist daily temptation — until recently I never knew this sort of man existed.

Duana responds:

That’s a wise husband you’ve got there, Monica.  Virtue untested may not be virtue at all.

I agree with you that it’s more surprising that we’ve got Rock Stars who don’t cheat—politicians, athletes, brainiacs, uber-wealthy men of the world who are faithful despite continuous Temptation.  I would love to see a study regarding how these men with abundant Opportunity are not only able, but willing to say No. 

Until then, I’m going to continue being pleasantly surprised (and filled with admiration) when our Leaders *don’t* have affairs, rather than utterly flabbergasted when they do…


From Anonymous:

Here’s a question. Let’s assume I picked the wrong one. (I didn’t but I almost did. And at a very young age, too. Thank goodness life intervened and sent him away to a boot camp/reform school. Literally.)

He was a rockstar. Badboy. Handsome. Rich. Pilot. Motorcycle. His momma bought him an airplane when he was in college. Self-centered. Once in high school, the live-in maid (hoping to please him) brought his favorite homemade French fries out to the pool where we were sitting. He stuck his nose in the air and waived her off, not even speaking to her. (!)

[I [put up with it].  It wasn’t so much that I thought I’d end up alone. It’s that I was super attracted to this Badboy and wanted him. Today, much older and wiser, I am content in my marriage, no longer looking for a rockstar, and no longer tolerate nastiness.]

Even this young man’s father told me privately, “Neither of my sons is marriage material.” Can you imagine???

Most every girl wanted him (except those with good sense) and he dated anyone and everyone he could get his hands on.

I’ve often wondered what would have happened had I married him. Does the science say nothing in my behavior or within my realm of control could have kept him faithful …?

From Kay:

Separately from worrying about him being faithful, I wouldn’t want to be married to any guy who arrogantly dismissed a kind gesture. That would have been a deal-breaker on its own….. Whhhhy do we always make excuses for behavior like that?


Duana responds: 

Dear Anonymous (and Kay),

I share your gratitude and relief that you escaped from that relationship uncommitted and unscathed. 

Because No:  Nothing in your realm of control can reform someone whose behavior screams out “Narcissist”—and even if he *had* been faithful, what would it have mattered?  He would never have been kind.  

(The French Fry Incident was oh-so-telling, which is why you told it!)


As we know from John Gottman’s research on hundreds of couples over nearly four decades, the presence of contemptuous, disrespectful, dismissive behavior—and the lack of kindness—kills relationship more surely than anything else. 


If I could give just one piece of advice, and only one, to those who are Dating, it would be: Find Kindness and Embody Kindness


Fortunately, though, my job permits me to give advice every week ;). 

But I think you and Kay bring up another valuable point, which is why your Narcissistic Badboy had such a pick of girls.  Why did you—a clearly intelligent person—fall for him?  Why did others?

I’ll do an article on Badboys in the future.  For now, though, let’s note that the guy you dated had *so* many markers of Status—especially for a young guy—that it would have been amazing had you *not* been attracted.  He was rich, accomplished, and handsome at a time when most guys are struggling in most regards. 


So, I hope this answer clears up how you could have been attracted to an Unworthy—because your mating psychology recognized some ancient signs of at least short-term worthiness in him


Ultimately, though, research shows men and women around the world want the following *same* things in a mate: kindness, intelligence similar to their own, lovingness, and loyalty. 


Your former boyfriend had the Status markers—but he lacked the kindness that *must* be present.  He had loads of part of what was needed—and an utter lack of other Requirements. 


No wonder you were confused.  No wonder other girls were, too.  And thank God you’re outta there! 


 —Why *not* use the genetic test for men’s fidelity? 

—Is there a fidelity test to use on women? 

From Todd:

Really interesting. I expected to be angry after reading this, but I’m the faithful type so it only made me look good, lol.

But I am curious why you don’t tell women to get the genetic fidelity test done on their boyfriends or husbands? And also, I wonder if there’s a test like that for detecting infidelity in women?


Duana responds: 


Dear Todd, 

Good to hear from you, and I love your questions. 


There’s no corresponding test for infidelity detection in women, probably because the impetus for all this was research on small mammals called voles


In some male voles, promiscuity is rampant—yet their close cousins are faithful ‘husbands’ for always.  It turns out that the difference is in how much vasopressin the vole-dudes have coursing through their bods.  Those with more—or those whom nature endowed with little vasopressin, but who were scientifically engineered to have more vasopressin—were unswervingly faithful; the reverse was true for the cheating male voles.  No corresponding effect exists for the females. 


Regardless, though:  I can’t and don’t advise women to put their men to the genetic fidelity testThat’s because all complicated human behavior has more than one cause. 


Cheating is a complicated behavior with many origins.  So in my scientific opinion, Genes are unlikely to cause cheating all by themselves—and cheating can and does occur without the “right” Genes.   

To explain, let’s start by discussing something really sexy: Calluses.  Every person carries the genes for calluses, yet only some of us express those genes by actually developing calluses.  Why?  Experience.  The callus  genes only turn on when an environmental pressure literally bears on hands or feet. 


Or consider alcoholism.  It appears there are genes that predispose people to addictions…yet many people who carry these genes *aren’t* addicts, and never will be.  Someone who never drinks or uses drugs won’t even know they could be an addict; their genes have no environmental encouragement.  And others may not have the genes—yet they drink so often and so much that they behave themselves into addiction. 


So, some men clearly come into the world more (or less) prepared to desire and enjoy full sexual and emotional commitment with just one partner.  But if a guy has the “infidelity Genes”, he might never know…unless his experiences of casual sex turn them on.  And carrying “fidelity Genes” might not protect against turning into a man-slut if one continually behaves as if women were in direly short supply!


All of which is to say that I think the test is usually not only unfair, but a waste of money.  In my opinion, it unjustly implicates some men who won’t ever cheat, and indicates that some future cheaters wouldn’t. 


*Past behavior* will remain the best predictor of the future.  It is, after all, past behavior that turns on so many Genes, or creates behavior problems where none were predisposed. 


Or, as Lynda, a commenter at another site, opined, “Genes load the gun; environment pulls the trigger.” 


(You can read more here:  http://jenapincott.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/cheating-gene-mouth-swab-test-available/)


 —How is women’s cheating different from (and similar to) men’s, anyway? 

(And are guys truly ‘hardwired’ to cheat???)


From Bryan:

Thanks Duana, as always, an interesting topic. I’d like to remind everyone that it’s not just the men at fault. I know married and single men and women who have been or are involved with other marrieds and singles. Takes two to play pitch and catch!

From Diana:

I know there are plenty of guys who are just hardwired to cheat, but it seems like the other men and women who cheat do so because they are lonely from the day-to-day “uninterestingness” of their comfortable relationships. Am I totally wrong about this? I’ve tried really hard to be sure my husband knows how much I appreciate him and still find him interesting and appealing after all these years, hoping that he won’t feel the need to get that affirmation from someone (maddeningly younger) else.

Duana responds:

Dear Bryan and Diana:

Agreed.  Affairs take two people, and both share culpability.  Yet, most studies have found more cheating men than women.  How can that be? 

First, married men sometimes select single women as affair partners.  (Married women usually cheat with married men.)  So, in that case, the men are cheating—the single women are not blameless, but not cheating.

Also, studies have shown that men are much likelier to have flings with prostitutes than women are.  Which means that again, you’ve got a scenario where the guy is cheating, and the woman—although getting in the way of his marriage—is not cheating. 


BTWay, if either of you wants to read more about why *women* cheat, two former Love Science articles contain that information




As you can see, most women cheat because

a) they’re miserable in their marriage (not a factor in male cheating);

b) they’re unhappy with their sexual relationship with their husband;

c) they’re unconsciously seeking ‘mate insurance’ in case things with their current man don’t work out and they’ll need a new provider/protector;

d) they’re getting the chance to cast their own Genes far and wide through “sexy sons” they’ll have with their ultra-unfaithful (seed-spreading) affair partners. 

e) All of the above!  Every one of those ideas has a great deal of data behind it

And although Opportunity is *not* a good predictor of women’s cheating, Past Experience is.  Women with many partners at a young age are particularly likely to be unfaithful later, with affair rates rivaling male affair rates. 

Likewise, History is a good predictor of women’s affairs.  If they cheated before, they’re likely to do it again, given similar circumstances. 



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 important in and of itself and is vital for *your* faithfulness.  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!


—Isn’t being so logical kind of killing love’s buzz? 

From Gillian:

As usual, I love the article! Also, I like the concept of serial articles to address the serial cheaters :)

I realize Miss Duana doesn’t make the rules, she only reports and analyzes them (quite beautifully, I might add). But if I were Belinda, I might feel disheartened. Love is an emotional thing, but to find a faithful man, Belinda must avoid her emotions (?). Apparently, choosing men that way isn’t working for her.

Rather, Belinda using a cool heart and a cool head must interview prospective mates to assess their backgrounds which will reveal their tendency toward future fidelity. Sounds reasonable, but not very romantic.

This is all swimming around in my head, and I’m having trouble articulating my thoughts …

Is the choice really choosing a mate based on emotion (and experiencing euphoric love, and possibly getting hurt) or making the choice based on science (and experiencing stability, but possibly not love …)? Maybe there’s a way to have it *all*?


Duana responds:

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




Miscellaneous Musings:  Why some men say No to promiscuity—and why rapes happen: 


From Ellen:

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 caught. 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 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….

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  [as they do in ‘monogamous’ societies] ;-).

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!


From Bryan:

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 its 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?….

From Ellen:

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?


From Bryan:

Ellen, I don’t know why I didn’t. I am not religious, 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.


Duana responds:  Why some men stay faithful even when they’ve got the chance to cheat

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, wherein nearly all male mammals exhibit renewed sexual interest with the presentation of each *new* female—and then tire of her.  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.”

Other examples? 

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).


Duana responds:  Is fidelity a question of intellect? 

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, Walter 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 adolescents (and later, adults) than those kids who could not keep themselves from gobbling the lone ‘mallow.   (Here’s a link to one of Mischel’s famous experiments.) 

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.


Duana’s response: How science explains rapes—and how this is tied to male mating psychology

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 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 stratagems for casting their Genes forward.

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 them.

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, in philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ words, life was “nasty, brutish and short.”



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:




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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 (2)


In the news:

One of the trapped Chilean miners is dreading his rescue after his wife met his secret mistress at the entrance to the San Jose mine, The Sun reported Thursday.

Yonni Barrios' wife, Marta Salinas, and Barrios' lover, Susana Valenzuela, were both holding vigils for him outside the mine.

Salinas was stunned when she heard Valenzuela shouting his name amid a crowd of miners' loved ones.

Salinas, 56, is said to be "horrified". However, she is determined not to give up her man to her love rival.

She told friends: "Barrios is my husband. He loves me and I am his devoted wife. This woman has no legitimacy."

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But Valenzuela said the 50-year-old miner, who she met on a training course five years ago, was planning to leave his wife for her.

She said: "We are in love. I'll wait for him."

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

That does, indeed, sound awkward.

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDuana
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