Why do cheating men risk a lifetime in the doghouse?

Why do men stray?

With two high profile affairs making the headlines these days, that of former presidential candidate John Edwards and that of reality star Jon Gosselin of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" fame, everyone from political commentators to my 11-year-old is asking, "Why?"

The Edwards affair is a rehash, reignited with the publication of Mrs. Edwards new book "Resilience," and the Gosselin affair is, as of this writing, still speculation. But it doesn't matter whether it's old news or unconfirmed news, people, well, mostly female people, still want to know why.

Why does a man risk his career, his family and a lifetime in the doghouse simply for a meaningless fling?

In her recent interview with Oprah, Elizabeth Edwards said, "I'm a puzzle doer, I had some pieces of the puzzle, and I felt it was going to make sense if I had all the pieces."

However, throughout the interview it became obvious that Edwards, like so many other wives, couldn't reconcile the loving husband she knew with the man who put his career and family in peril just for a romp with a starstruck staffer.

Is it only women who don't understand this behavior?

I'll refrain from commenting on the Jon and Kate saga, since nothing has been confirmed. Although I've certainly enjoyed having to explain to my "Jon and Kate" loving fifth-grader what an affair is.

But reality stars aside, it's an all too familiar story. The high-profile man cheats, gets caught, expresses remorse, saying that he can't believe he hurt his family like this, and then the couple may or may not try to put their marriage back together.

But what causes these men - men who claim to love their wives - to engage in such risky behavior? Why does a man risk ruin for cheap sex? The obvious answer is, well, cheap sex.

However, in most of these situations, the sex actually ends up being quite costly. One look at John Edwards' face when Oprah and her camera crew showed up, and you know that guy is going to be paying for his mistake for the rest of his life.

Yes, I know women cheat too, but it's usually because they've disengaged from their marriage.

But most of the cheating men claim that their affairs were meaningless. Yet their cheating was clearly not meaningless to their wives, revealing, yet again, another fundamental difference between men and women.

I asked several male friends why so many high-profile guys cheat and the most common answer I got was, "They cheat because they can." One friend summed it up, saying, "Men are dogs."

An answer I find totally depressing. But he said it, not me.

Maybe men really are dogs, and the more powerful a dog is, the harder he is to keep chained to the porch. Is the only real answer is a good choke collar?

Whatever the case, perhaps it's worth reminding the cheaters, there's somewhere worse than the doghouse. It's called the pound, and they have quite an efficient system for dealing with dirty old strays.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.