Can this book explain why men really cheat?
A new study on the subject of male infidelity has left Ed Power unsettled – and not in the way that he expected
Why do men cheat? Or, to be more accurate, why do some men cheat while others do not? In a new book that is sure to raise controversy, a psychologist has adduced what he believes to be the hallmarks of husbands and boyfriends with a pathological tendency to stray.
Martyn Stewart identifies 27 distinct 'types' of men, some programmed to be faithful, others naturally inclined towards hooking up behind their partner's back.
Some of these categories are more common than others, he says – such as the 'opportunist', the 'rationaliser', the 'charmer', the 'sucker for love' and the 'easily influenced'. And a few are to be avoided at all costs.
Those to cross off your list as potential relationship material include the 'lad's lad' (gets drunk easily, is swayed by others and will cheat without giving it too much thought) and Mr Stupid Mistake (follows his impulses and tots up the emotional cost after the event).
You should also keep clear of the 'disdainful', who have such a low opinion of women (and of men actually) that they don't see cheating as wrong. The rules that everybody else observes simply do not apply. And feel free to give a wide berth to the 'manipulator' (who will keep a second, secret mobile phone) and the 'opportunist', the destructively carefree chap for whom causal liaisons are to be accepted if and when they arise. With so many crafty ne'er do wells on the loose, do women have any hope of a committed relationship? Well, yes, says Stewart. There is no such thing as the archetypal knight in shining armour – rather there are several 'appealing' varieties of men, who may think about cheating as much as their peers, but are not moved to act on their impulses.
By Stewart's telling you should thus be on the lookout for the 'family man', 'Mr Secure' or the 'appreciator'.
The first, as the handle suggests, places his home life above all else and finds temptation straightforward to reject. "From an early age, he has known what he wants for his life and he actually sticks to it. His personal insecurities are minimised by the strength of his views on family unit and values."
Meanwhile, Mr Secure "has everything: charisma, maturity, an edge, power, principles" and the appreciator is grateful for everything he received: "he is the type of man to stand up for women if they are being belittled, ridiculed or marginalised".
Yes, he has insecurities – however, they do not relate to his love life. Rather, they are tied to "not wanting to be perceived as insincere or ungrateful for anything he is given".
Even if you do manage to end up with one of these decent few, the bad news, according to Stewart, is that, at a strictly biological level, men are programmed to cheat. It's to do with our genes – or rather, our desire to pass those onto the next generation.
"By nature, humans will engage in behaviours that will promote our survival and ensure that our genes pass on to the next generation," he writes. "In terms of having children, a woman's reproductive capacity is relatively low compared to a man's. In theory, if a woman had sex with 100 men in a year she could only get pregnant at best twice that year. On the other hand, if a man has sex with 100 women, each one of them could give birth during that same year.
Thus, he suggests, a "desire for sexual variety" was cemented into males. "It increase the chances that their genes would survive to the next generation. They played the percentages and thus had a beneficial impact on the overall survival of the human species during our evolutionary past."
For anyone inclined to believe love can conquer all (or at least prove the basis for a solid relationship), that's a gloomy prognosis. We're enslaved by our genes so resistance is futile, right? Not necessarily. Just because we are by nature inclined towards a course of action does not mean we invariably act on those impulses, says Stewart. Consider violence. Tens of thousands of years ago, male aggression was a fact of daily life. The pre-modern world was a horrifically violent place. Nowadays, who settles a dispute with their fists?
Similarly, he suggests, we have tacked and trimmed our sexual inclinations so that they cleave to latter-day sensibilities. The fact that most men aren't constantly on the prowl for meaningless hook-ups shows just how civilised we have become. Surely that should be a cause for celebration rather than woe?
The book Why Men Really Cheat is out now.