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When men are tempted to cheat

In our highly sexualized culture, being tempted to cheat is as likely to affect women as it it is men. It’s an established fact that, as a rule, men’s sexual impulses are stronger than women’s, however. Or is it that women have better self-control?

Both theories were considered in research published recently in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The study consisted of two separate experiments. The first determined how men and women reacted to real-life sexual temptations in their past. The second was a rapid-fire reaction time test designed to pick apart sexual impulses and self-control. The verdict?

“Overall, these studies suggest that men are more likely to give in to sexual temptations because they tend to have stronger sexual impulse strength than women do,” says Natasha Tidwell, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Texas A&M University, who authored the study.

The study showed that when men reflected on past sexual behavior, they had stronger impulses and were more likely to act on them. But they said that when they actually did exert self-control in sexual situations, it was enough to overcome the stronger impulse.

A study a few years back by researchers at Canada’s McGill University came to similar findings. And it offered insight into the difference between men’s and women’s temptation, as well as how they process it.

McGill researchers looked at men and women in ongoing relationships. To no surprise, they found that men approached by an available female were more likely to be tempted to cheat. Women, though, were more likely to protect their existing relationship from the outside threat when approached by an attractive man.

Like researchers in Texas, Canadian researchers didn’t buy that men had less self-control than women to handle the temptation. As lead researcher John Lydon says:

“Women have been socialized to be wary of the advances of attractive men. These findings show that even if a man is committed to his relationship, he may still need to formulate strategies to protect his relationship by avoiding that available, attractive woman. The success rate of such strategies may not be 100 percent but it is likely to be significantly higher than if the man was not made aware of the specific consequences of his actions.”

As I read about the research, I couldn’t help but think of countless admonitions in the Bible, mostly involving men, that encouraged a plan of action to avoid temptation. Genesis has a narrative of how Joseph avoided the sexual approaches of an aggressive woman by running away. Job speaks of how he made a pact with his eyes not to look lustfully at a woman (Job 31:1-12). Proverbs is loaded with counsel, including wisdom from a father to a son about proactively guarding himself from flirtatious women. (Proverbs 6:20-7:27). Jesus said that a man who entertains impure thoughts about a woman has already committed adultery in his heart, and encouraged him to take drastic precautions to avoid the temptation (Matthew 5:27-30).

Realistically speaking, both men and women face strong temptation in today’s culture to sacrifice a marriage for the hope of something more exciting or fulfilling. The temptation to compromise — sexually or emotionally — can happen almost anywhere today: in the workplace, on Facebook, and sadly to say, even at church. We would all be wise to do as Job did and weigh the consequences of such indiscretions, and to guard our moral and spiritual purity by proactively thinking of how we can avoid compromising situations, and to escape them if or when they happen.

What do you do to resist temptation? What guidelines do you set to avoid getting into compromising situations? If you have any suggestions, share them so other men can benefit.


  1. Keith's Gravatar Keith
    January 17, 2014    

    Loyalty has always been a very important character trait to me and I have thankfully been able to resist any advances made by women other than my wife. Nearly four years ago a confession was made to me that forever changed my life. After picking up the pieces, and with God’s help being able to forgive, I can honestly say that unfaithfulness is the most painful wound a person can inflict on their spouse. Having been through that I am ever vigilant against any threat and can say with all confidence that I could not do that to my wife. I hope others here won’t have to learn that lesson the way I did. Fellas, the grass isn’t greeener on the other side. Nothing but pain and utter destruction awaits for those that defile their wedding vows. Do whatever you have to do to prevent that from happening.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 21, 2014    

      Keith, thanks so much for your personal testimony, encouragement and admonition. Hopefully, many men will read and heed your words.

      I pray you and your wife have reconciled and that even in spite of the intense hurt, you have been able to forgive. I pray the same restoration for her. As you wisely stated, unfaithfulness is a most painful of emotional wounds. Thankfully we have a God who is faithful to heal wounds and restore relationships. And He who strengthens us in our weaknesses, whether it’s the weakness of overwhelming hurt or the weakness of temptation to cheat.

  2. Kyle Arn's Gravatar Kyle Arn
    January 17, 2014    

    I think everyone has struggled with there sexual temptations. The problem is that when you take God away from your world view. There is no guide line to how to live your life. The expectations of this culture and for this generation have dropped. It would be expected of you now to look at pornography and Same sex marriage is normal. Expectations have dropped because the idea of God has dropped. People are becoming lazy they do not discipline them self’s and so after they take out God it is to much work to put him back in. And do to the fact that expectations have dropped. It is becoming more easier to do wrong.

    Do not guard your children from the world and there ways. List your expectations and let them see what the world has to offer. And guide them to God. Because if you just guard them they will never learn. “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day teach a man to fish you feed him for a life time”.

    But how can you expect your children to do good if you yourself are doing evil. Take whatever it is that is straying you from God. If it is pornography fast from your electronic devise. If it is an affair only leave your house to go to church. What ever it is fast from it. I have heard it said that once you get a hold of sin your mind will be on it. So set your mind on God. By fasting. If your parents are alive let them know. Let your wife and your pastor. And whatever friend you trust hold you accountable. Start fasting as soon as you have witnesses and clear it with your boss or take a vacation week.

    The bible says that if your eyes cause you to sin gouge them out if your hand causes you to sin cut them of. For it is better to enter heaven with out these then to enter hell with these. As a 15 year old teenager i face most of the problems of this culture “When you relies God is all you need you will not look for more if you think God is nothing you will always look for more”. “For if you have nothing but God you have everything if you have everything but God you have nothing”

    Take into consideration all that the bible says for fleeing the tempter. Therefor that is all i have to say my brothers in Christ Jesus our lord and savior.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 21, 2014    

      Wise words, Kyle. Sometimes the bravest thing a man can do is run away. Anything you find that is stealing away from your commitment to God and to those who He has committed to your care is probably worthy of fasting from.

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