The biological predisposition to infidelity

Tammy Nelson, PhD, explains the biological predisposition to infidelity and gender differences when it comes to cheating
Relationship Advice | Biology, monogamy, and differences between how men and women handle fidelity
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The biological predisposition to infidelity

Well you know, it's interesting. We used to think that men were genetically predisposed to cheating, to not being monogamous. And there are really a couple of parts to this. So one is sort of how we think about the male species. We used to think that there were only a few species that were monogamous, like geese for instance. So if you're holding onto the idea that geese mate for life, then turn this video off now. Because the reality is that with DNA testing, we've found that the eggs that the female geese are sitting on are actually half the time from other geese. So that doesn't mean that the males are cheating. It means that the females are cheating. But the geese actually do mate for life. So they live together forever. They pick one person to live with, but the females will make sure that they mate with other people sexually to determine that the procreation is successful, if you will. So what we've found in a lot of species, like Bonobo chimps, for instance. Bonobo chimps are the closest primate to us. Female Bonobo chimps are the most promiscuous of all mammals. They'll take one monkey from the group, drag him out to the jungle, have hot monkey sex with him for like two weeks, come back, and drag another male monkey out. Female mammals in general are not necessarily more prone to monogamy than male mammals. But we have this sort of misunderstanding in our culture that men are prone to spreading their seed. That's not necessarily true in the new genetic studies. So I think we have to be really careful before we give men a pass and say, well they're just a guy. And at the same time, acknowledge that women have the capacity to cheat just like men, but they hide it more. Women have historically been punished more, have lost their kids, and been thrown out of society when they've cheated or for infidelity. So it's been much more dangerous historically for women to cheat. Now it is interesting that if you're a male, you do have the tendency and the capacity to compartmentalize sex differently than women do. So sometimes in gay male relationships, they can have sex with other people in their monogamy agreement, and it's not considered cheating. But having an emotional relationship with someone else can be a real betrayal. Many times you can see gay men walking down the street checking out other guys together. You never see two women that are in a relationship checking out other women. So there's something about the way that we see sexuality if we're a male or if we're a female. The capacity to compartmentalize, to put sex in a compartment like a waffle, so that for men sex is in this compartment, work is in this compartment, kids are in this compartment, and everything in each compartment is fine. For women, we have the tendency to be like a big bowl of spaghetti. We're always in the relationship bowl. So everything affects everything. So are we more promiscuous or less? We're sort of always in that place where everything affects everything. And men have the tendency to be able to shut it off when they come home.

Tammy Nelson, PhD, explains the biological predisposition to infidelity and gender differences when it comes to cheating


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Tammy Nelson, PhD

Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert

Tammy Nelson PhD is the author of several books including, “Getting the Sex You Want; Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together”  (2008) and  “What’s Eating You? A Workbook for Anorexia and Bulimia (2004)” and her latest  book “The New Monogamy; Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity” (January 2013) is receiving critical acclaim.  She has been a featured expert in New York Times, Washington Post, Self,  Glamour Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, MSNBC,  Shape, Men’s Health, Women’s Health Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, and a source in Time Magazine. She writes for the Huffington Post, YourTango and can be followed on her blog

Tammy Nelson is a Board Certified Sexologist, a Certified Sex Therapist and an Imago Relationship Therapist.  She is an international speaker and a licensed psychotherapist in private practice with over 25 years of experience working with individuals and couples.  She travels and lectures internationally on her quest for global relational change.

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