Mad Men Commentary: Why Do Men Really Have Affairs?

why men cheatI watch Mad Men. If you do too, you’ll understand why I want to use the show’s plot lines and episodes as starting points to glean important lessons related to relationships and love. If you’re not a Mad Men viewer, I’ll give you enough background to get you up to speed on the topic under discussion.

In last week’s episode Don Draper and Pete Campbell both engage in extramarital affairs. They are both married to beautiful women who love them dearly. In fact, Don’s wife would seem to be the perfect trophy wife, the kind of woman who you would have expected him to have an affair with. And yet, as we watched the show, my wife asked me the seemingly obvious question, “why in the world would Don cheat on her? She’s so beautiful. Is he crazy?”

Here’s what I answered her: affairs have nothing to do with how beautiful or wonderful the wife is. Just take a look at the celebrity world. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s affair to remember with a former maid behind the back of his model, celebrity wife? It’s just one example. There are even studies that show that most men who cheat do so with women that are less attractive than their wives. So clearly, physical appearance has little to do with why men cheat.

So why do men cheat? Obviously, there’s no excuse for breaking the bond of loyalty and trust entered into with marriage, so I’m in no way condoning cheating in any shape or form. But we still need to understand the underlying motivation behind Don and Pete, and the millions of real life men who engage in the despicable deception.

It seems like men cheat out of boredom. They want something new, even if it’s not as good as what they already have. The very fact that it is new makes it exciting and challenging. Best of all it is totally commitment free. The very premise of the entire affair is that both parties realize and accept that there will be no expectation of commitment of any kind. The moment one party changes those rules is when the affair loses luster and turns downright distasteful if not dangerous (as in the case of Pete Campbell’s latest fling).

Relationships, especially marriage, need to based on more than physical attraction to be real and lasting. A man (or woman) who chooses a partner or spouse based solely on physical appearance and attraction will face a very challenging environment when that initial physical spark fades with familiarity. The relationship must be based primarily on personality, emotional and spiritual connections in order to grow and persevere for the long haul.

Maybe Don and Peter are just dishonest, disloyal jerks constantly looking for new adventure? Or maybe they chose to marry the wrong women for the wrong reasons? What do you think?

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[For Men]

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