Men, Their Needs, and What It Has to Do With Affairs

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Dana Vince, M.A., LPC, MHSP, maintains a website at I am a licensed Professional Counselor practicing in the Knoxville area of ...Read More

What Does a Married Man Want in an Affair?

Married men may seek affairs due to a variety of motivations, including feelings of dissatisfaction or lack of emotional fulfillment in their primary relationship, curiosity, desire for excitement or novelty, or seeking validation and affirmation of masculinity. [1] Understanding these motivations requires exploring the complex interplay of psychological, emotional, and social factors that influence a man’s behaviors within the context of intimate relationships. 

Key Reasons for Affairs

Although men may cheat on their wives for many reasons, here are some of the top reasons they report for engaging in affairs:[1]

  • Emotional disconnection: Some men may seek affairs due to feelings of emotional disconnection or dissatisfaction within their marriage, longing for deeper emotional intimacy and understanding.
  • Desire for validation: Married men may engage in affairs to seek validation and affirmation of their attractiveness, desirability, or masculinity outside of their primary relationship.
  • Sexual fulfillment: Some men may pursue affairs to fulfill sexual desires or explore sexual fantasies that they feel are unmet within their marriage.
  • Excitement and novelty: The desire for excitement, novelty, and adventure can motivate married men to seek affairs.
  • Escape from routine: Affairs may offer an escape from the routine and responsibilities of married life, providing a temporary respite from stress and monotony.

Emotional Needs and Affairs

Marriages may sometimes fail to fulfill certain emotional needs, which can contribute to the occurrence of affairs. Some common emotional needs that may go unmet include:[2]

  • Some married men (and other genders) may seek affirmation and acknowledgment for their efforts and contributions within the relationship, longing to feel valued and appreciated by their partner(s).
  • People often have a desire to be admired and respected and when that is lacking, they may seek validation and recognition from others.
  • Feeling desired and wanted by one’s spouse is important for maintaining emotional intimacy and connection, and when this need is unmet, men may seek others to confirm their desirability.

Emotional affairs occur when individuals form deep emotional connections and attachments with someone outside of their primary relationship. While these relationships may not involve physical intimacy, they can be just as impactful and significant. Emotional affairs often involve sharing intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone other than one’s partner(s), leading to a breach of trust and emotional betrayal. This type of affair can erode trust, intimacy, and commitment within the primary relationship.[2]

Physical vs. Emotional Intimacy

Within affairs, men may pursue physical intimacy and emotional connection for different reasons, reflecting distinct needs and desires within the relationship:

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  • Physical intimacy: The pursuit of physical intimacy in affairs often stems from a desire for immediate gratification, excitement, and novelty. Physical intimacy may provide a temporary escape from the routine and responsibilities of married life, offering moments of pleasure and thrill.
  • Emotional connection: On the other hand, the deeper longing for emotional connection in affairs reflects a fundamental need for intimacy, understanding, and validation. Men seek emotional connection to feel understood, valued, and appreciated on a deeper level, fostering a sense of emotional fulfillment and belonging.

While physical intimacy may offer temporary satisfaction, emotional connection fulfills a deeper longing for intimacy and companionship. Emotional connection involves sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone who truly understands and accepts you, fostering a sense of emotional intimacy and closeness that physical intimacy alone cannot provide.

A Professional’s Perspective on Affairs

I’d like to preface this article by stating that this article is intended to focus on the needs and roles of men in marriage. Women have important needs in marriage, but that is not the focus of this article.

Laura Schlessinger wrote a controversial book called The Care and Feeding of Husbands. Well, she tends to be a controversial figure in this field because of her bold views and I won’t debate them here, but why this book was so controversial is because it was offensive to feminist women who don’t want to cater to their husbands. (I’m sure I may get some of those responses here as well!)

Men’s needs in marriage differ from women’s needs. We are often attuned to what women need in our culture today and men have had to work hard to better understand the needs of women. But how much do women understand what men truly need? In a culture where women have worked so hard to achieve equality (a work still in progress, but we’ve come a long way), and women have more power of choice in their lives and don’t depend on men for financial survival, what is happening to men in marriage?

Willard Harvey, in his book His Needs/Her Needs, states the five top needs of men in marriage. Those five needs are admiration, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, sexual fulfillment, and domestic support. The need that is often most neglected and that I want to focus on here is the need for admiration.

Women in our culture have become independent and self-sufficient. This is a wonderful thing, but men are suffering in many marriages because of it. Many have lost their place in their marriage. Men want to feel useful, purposeful, and admired for their use and purpose. When women are too independent and don’t “need” their partner for anything, men can become lost in where their place is. I see problems occur when women become critical toward their partner because he is not fulfilling emotional needs or needs for help around the home. Men put forth effort and it isn’t recognized or it is criticized as not being good enough.

Affairs occur for many different reasons and I am only touching on one of them here. When a lot of couples come to me for help after an affair, I see this pattern occurring. The husband does not feel admired in the relationship and he becomes vulnerable when a woman at work, or a female friend shows that admiration. Men bear responsibility here as well, they have a choice, and certainly, an affair doesn’t have to be one of them. But in examining what makes marriage successful, we have to be aware of and acknowledge the needs of both partners.

Many women who come into my counseling office don’t take men’s need for sex seriously. They dismiss it as him “caring about one thing” or having a “one-track mind”. But for many men, it is through sex that they feel emotionally connected, admired, and desired. Typically women are the opposite, they need to feel emotionally connected (usually through thoughtful acts and conversation) before they want to or are inspired to engage in sex. So if a woman is not feeling emotionally fulfilled in her marriage, she will often stop having sex. This is one need in a marriage that is not acceptable to get met elsewhere. In order to be successful at preventing affairs, we have to be aware of and able to navigate this difference between needs among men and women.

Criticism is the worst offender. That’s true for all of us. But it goes right to the core of the man’s need for admiration. So the first step is working toward eliminating criticism of your partner. Notice and acknowledge his efforts. Even though a woman does not need a man for survival, she certainly needs him for the relationship to survive. So what does admiration look like in a marriage? This is a question best asked to the man in your life. I think many men might answer that feeling desired, sexual fulfillment, being responsive sexually, acknowledging the efforts and contributions he makes, and through actions showing him why he’s the man you chose to spend your life with. These gestures go a long way toward preventing affairs.

Keep Reading By Author Dana Vince, M.A., LPC, MHSP
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