Lots of married men are cheap
Having an extramarital affair takes money. Even if you don't have to shell out for airplane tickets and hotel rooms, sooner or later you're going to have to pony up for meals, flowers, chocolates, theater tickets, lingerie. "If your girlfriend is really into Barbra Streisand or Andrea Bocelli, the concert tickets alone could bankrupt you," a reformed cheater ruefully observes, "especially if you have to take your wife to the same concert the very next night."
Men fear getting caught
According to a Gallup poll, only 6 percent of Americans view cheating as acceptable. And 64 percent say that it is an unforgivable offense. Which means that the risks are enormous. Many men would cheat on their wives if they thought they could get away with it, but know that they can't get away with it because they're sloppy, forgetful, disorganized, dumb.
They're going to put the motel charge on their credit card instead of paying cash. Or they're going to pay cash for the three-hour day rate in the motel but forget to tell the seedy desk clerk in the Black Sabbath T-shirt not to put the minibar charges on the Visa. They're going to make too many late-night calls to the same mysterious phone number in Vegas or Amarillo or Buenos Aires. They're going to get caught, they know they're going to get caught, and they don't want to have to deal with the consequences of getting caught. And that's why they don't cheat. If they coulda, they woulda. But they couldn't, so they didn't.
Affairs are time-consuming
"There aren't enough hours in the day to be married and maintain an extramarital affair," says a veteran philanderer I know. "At a certain point, having a mistress just becomes another job. And if your girlfriend lives in another city, the travel will eventually wear you down."
Bores can't get dates
Just because you'd like to cheat doesn't automatically mean that you're going to find someone willing to take you in. Much like the ugly guys, boring guys count their lucky stars that they were able to find one woman capable of staying awake while they moan about the latest Financial Accounting Standards Board standards or complain that no one ever plays Seals and Crofts or Bobby Vinton at weddings anymore. Finding a second woman who would put up with this stuff can be a stretch.
Men have seen Fatal Attraction
Michael Douglas meets the One-Night-Stand-From-Hell. 'Nuff said.
In proposing all this, I do not mean to disparage the millions and millions of men who remain scrupulously faithful to their wives because they love them, honor them, cherish them and can't imagine ever being unfaithful to them. Those guys are great; those guys rule the world. All I'm saying is that marital fidelity is not always the direct result of a romantic disposition or an ironclad values system.
Some men would cheat on their wives — at least once — if they knew they could get away with it, if they didn't have to worry about the blowback (e.g., bunny boiling). But in the final analysis, I suspect that some men don't cheat for the same reason that they don't water-ski: They're not really good at it, there's no learning curve for this sort of thing, and the results could be disastrous.
By the way, women already know all this.
Joe Queenan is the author of One for the Books and Closing Time. He writes the Moving Targets column for the Wall Street Journal.
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