images-492Though men and women’s sexual behaviors seem to blur on TV, movies and entertainment, researchers and professionals who treat couples indicate key differences persist.

In a recent study of predictors of infidelity in couple relationships, the findings overall indicated men and women overall seem to follow the stereotypes. The focus on sex, performance, variety and frequency tends to be driven by men, while the focus on emotional connection and nonsexual affection by women.

Drs. Mark, Janssen and Milhausen found no significant differences in rates of infidelity of men, with 23 percent for men and 19 percent for women, however, what predicted infidelity differed for men and women. Predictors for men in the study had more to do with personality traits, such as performance anxiety, a propensity for getting sexually excited by triggers, and so on, whereas relationship factors, such as emotional intimacy, partnership, feeling ignored, craving closeness or affection, etc., carried significantly more weight for women.

The reasons women cheat seem more related to unfulfilled expectations or failure, their own or partner’s, with regard to developing a deeper emotional connection. In contrast, author and sex addiction expert Robert Weiss states in an article on why men cheat that when it comes to sex, “men tend to be most aroused by a visual succession of body parts and sexual acts” where as women are “aroused by sexualized and romanticized emotional connections between people more than body parts.”

According to Weiss, men also have a “greater psychological capacity overall to engage in objectified, even anonymous sexual experiences, which are devoid of any relationship or personal connection,” which explains why men turn to pornography and strip clubs — venues that allow them to sexally objectify body parts. In contrast, if women objectify, they are likely to objectify relationships rather than visual images.

This begs the question of whether men’s propensity to engage in sexual acts devoid of personal or emotional connection is a “biological” capacity per se — or (more likely) a product of cultural definitions for “masculinity” that make it taboo for men from boyhood to express emotions of vulnerability, such as desire for nonsexual affection and closeness, pain and hurt?

Though the causal effect of testosterone levels on sex and aggression is noted in males in studies of animals, most psychological research is wary of making causal statements and evidence only refers mostly to correlations.

That makes sense, human behaviors are incomparably complex, making it necessary to consider personality, past experience and contextual variables.

For example studies show that those with a history of childhood sexual abuse, are at higher risk of engaging in sexually risky behaviors, according to a study by Drs. Solleen Dilorio, Tyler Hartwell and Nellie Hansen published in the American Journal of Public Health. The findings also showed the likelihood was significantly higher for men than women.

The differences however are not necessarily biological. The impact of socialization is significant, as is early childhood sexual abuse and other forms of premature exposure to sexual stimuli.

Perhaps the most formidable force however to ever enter the equation of what socializes and shapes men and women’s thoughts, beliefs and behaviors is unquestionably mass media and entertainment industries.

For human beings, beliefs are the most potent drivers of behaviors, ask any successful marketing company. Or, ask cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Liption. According to his research, published in a best selling book, The Biology of Belief, perception (beliefs) not only influence human behavior, they actually change and even create new genes.

The human capacity for imagination is a powerful creative force like no other. What we focus on, and what captures and creates pictures in our minds is pure life and behavior shaping energy that galvanizes and directs inner firing and wiring of neurons within us to, literally, produce what we see and desire and want today to grow outcomes and shape our future.

Mass media and marketing campaigns have proven their power to direct our behaviors as consumers by manipulating our beliefs. In much the same way that once thrifty Americans prior to the 50s were taught to love being shopping junkies by profit-driven mass media campaigns were turned into in shopping loving junkies, the most powerful shaper of men and women’s behaviors today.

More specifically, porn industries in particular in the last few decades have increasingly not only permeated most aspects of society (fashion, entertainment, art, etc.) to successfully profit from selling sex (primarily to men), they have also made sex a multi-billion dollar industry that utterly dominates all others  — topping the annual revenues of Amazon, Google, Microsot, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and Earthlink combined.

According to infidelity author and expert Michelle Langley in Living in Limbo: What Women Really Mean When They Say, “I’m Not Happy” the estimated rates of women who have had intimate encounters with someone outside their marriage is between 14 and 40 percent. Langley states that, “Women tend to keep these things to themselves, but there are signs that they’re catching up with the guys.”

Though the reasons men and women cheat tend to be different, today there is also much overlap, such as:

History of sexual abuse in childhood.

Early childhood sexual abuse and related trauma, left untreated, often lead men and women to experience an array of intimacy disorders and addictions, to include sexual promiscuity, sex and love addiction. Infidelity is a futile attempt to fulfill unmet needs for love and affection, belonging and sense of worth and esteem by a constant stream of intense activity related to sex or romance that literally avoids genuine emotional intimacy, building of healthy and secure love relationship.,

History of promiscuity.

Contrary to the myth, partners who’ve had many partners have a hard time becoming monogamous. They are significantly more at risk of straying than someone who’s had little or no prior sexual experience.

Sex and love addiction.

Yes it is possible to heal from sex and love addiction, however, not likely without a lot of effort, and for that to happen, the first and most important step is for a partner to recognize their pattern of infidelity is damaging to their couple relationship — and thus also to them personally as individuals. It is not easy to let go of all the beliefs that make sex and love addiction one of the most potent drugs, according to some studies, it lights up our brains more than drugs like heroin. Arousal addictions also seem to fall along gender lines; it’s sex addiction for men, and love addiction for women. Though most researchers are wary of making causal connections between testosterone and sexual behaviors of men and women, it is noted among professionals who work with men that men are more easily stimulated, whereas what turns women on are commitment behaviors, such as  partnering with household chores and children. As therapists are prone to say, “men are like microwaves; women are like slow cookers.”

Same-sex friends who cheat.

A partner that has and stays in contact with friends that cheat on their partners is likely to follow suit and be unfaithful. Even in cases where the friend does not openly encourage them to do so, there is a certain group-think among persons who cheat that leads them to believe in the myth and illusion that cheating gives them power of their partners, thus, proves they are superior.

Hooked on lying as a defense.

Partners who habitually lie to avoid conflict and confrontation are at risk of wiring their brains to associate lies and deceitful actions with giving them a sense of power over their partner. It can also have low tolerance for boredom, have thinking patterns that blame their partners for their unhappiness, coupled with low tolerance for the natural tensions of a couple relationship, are at risk of getting hooked on telling lies, keeping secrets, and the like. To them, the deception and thrill of cheating their partner is irresistible. yet get easily bored because of their own reluctance to take action and form healthy habits to engage in meaningful habits and activities. They do not seek just any excitement, but associate thrill with deception, lies and secrecy.

Believe the lies they tell (themselves and others).

Partners who cheat tell lies as way of coping with stress (protective, defense strategy) are susceptible to infidelity. They go out of their way to avoid conflict, confrontations, or may even feel making demands of others is selfish. They may even enjoy the rush of feel-good sensations that outsmarting someone who to them acts bossy. And the human brain loves games, never mind that they are toxic and harm or destroy key relationships. They tell themselves no one will find out, even though they typically leave a trail that everyone but them see. Perhaps subconsciously they are so proud of their ability to deceive and lie, or they feel so heavy deep down inside, or both.

Family history.

While this is in no way genetic, infidelity tends to repeat itself in patterns, along with a host of other patterns, healthy and unhealthy, that get reenacted. A partner raised in family in which a parent was unfaithful can grow up to think it is normal to be unfaithful and sleep around.

Close friendships with opposite sex.

A partner that has many or regular friendships with members of the opposite sex, and “thinks” it is okay to continue to be “just friends” with ex-lovers is at high risk of cheating. The temptation to take it another level when circumstances arise that make sparks happen are ever present, especially considering that, in a normal couple relationship, there will be growing pains in the form of conflicts on a regular basis. A “just friend” provides an unhealthy exit for a partner’s frustration, and, unless there are conscious efforts and protective buffers in place, human beings are wired to take the “path of least resistance” as a default.

A needy ego.

A partner may have a wonderful and loving spouse and yet be so insecure and unprepared for the emotional demands of building healthy intimacy in a relationship. that they compulsively seek affirmation from others rather than engage in essential behaviors that would create a deeper connection with their partner, however, make them feel inadequate, thus uncomfortable and anxious. , constantly needing evidence that they are still desirable and wanted. Also, persons with needy egos often feel anxious about getting closer, and thus infidelity lowers their anxiety, gives them the best of both worlds, albeit an illusion of closeness and illusion of surrendering love to another.

A hurt ego or retaliation.

A partner that feels hurt, used when they discover they’ve been cheated on, may turn to thoughts that either justify indulging in infidelity or seek to retaliate and hurt their partner in return. Such thought patterns have an instant appeal, and most partners who have been betrayed at least entertain them. Retaliatory infidelity can seem like a quick fix way to heal, however, like junk food, the feel-good feelings are temporary and the aftereffects are costly.

In sum…

In a nutshell, cheating is on the rise for both men and women, and women are catching up.  Overall it’s still mostly about sex and performance for men, and the quality of emotional connection in the relationship for women. Listen a little more closely when men and women talk — or sing — about love and closeness. Women mostly mean emotional intimacy (except when they are lying to tell men what they want to hear…); whereas men mean sex (except when they are telling women what they want to hear…).

Are the findings a surprise, however, considering how heavy handed we are as a culture in shaming men into “proving” they’re men by associating softer emotions of love and tenderness, with weakness, inferiority, children — and even worse — women and girls?

Don’t we demand emotional detachment from whatever “women” are interested in (love, relationships, etc.) as proof men are “real” men?

It’s a game, a toxic one and even worse it’s health and life draining.

According to infidelity researcher Michelle Langley, men and women are “cheating and relationships are ending because men and women lack necessary information. In a revealing and insightful book titled, Women’s Infidelity: Living in Limbo What Women Really Mean When They Say ‘I’m Not Happy,’ she brings a must read to help partners bridge the gap and serve as material for much needed open dialogue.

It’s  impossible today for you and your partner to establish healthy sexual relations without understanding the natural differences (celebrations!) you bring to your relationship as men and women, as well as the impact of not only your past experiences, and any trauma, but also the old and new forces that act subconsciously to shape and mold your behaviors that have had a dehumanizing effect on men and women’s relations, and in particular how men think of and relate to women.