Why men cheat on overachieving women.

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On Thursday, after more than three years of consistent and mounting rumour, Jay Z admitted to cheating on wife Beyonce in an interview with T-Magazine.

It floated into the conversation as a kind of by-the-way, a casual admission of one of the celebrity world’s most shamefully sought-after secrets.

“The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself,” the 47-year-old said.

“I grew so much from the experience [of seeing a therapist]. But I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such … an advantage.

“We used our art like a therapy session. The best place is right in the middle of the pain.

“And that’s where we were sitting. And it was uncomfortable. And we had a lot of conversations.”

Image: Getty.

Of course, there's an argument - a valid one, too - that the complexities of their relationship are not worthy of our speculation. Put simply, that they're not ours to make sense of.

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But then, you could argue, there is both a merit and a right for us to talk the pitfalls of this relationship in particular.

Firstly, because Jay Z wants us to. It may just sell him some albums, so calculated was his decision to talk about infidelity at this very moment. But also, for another reason: There's nothing to say we can't learn from the life and times of those in the public eye. Their successes, their losses, their afflictions. Our fixation on celebrities is as much about glamour as it is about holding a mirror to ourselves, our insecurities and our flaws.

If a man like Jay Z just cheated on a woman like Beyonce - a marriage that was, from the outside looking in, glossy and well-formed and excellent - what does it mean for the rest of us? Does it speak to money and power, or monogamy and the fragility of long-term relationships?

Curiously, much of the subsequent and very public pop culture conversation has surrounded how anyone can cheat on a woman as successful and attractive as Beyonce. But a dig a little deeper, and the man that cheats on the overachieving woman isn't the anomaly. He is the pattern.

Because the man who cheats on the successful woman is often threatened by the money and fame and power.

According to a 2015 study showcased in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, men who are 100 per cent economically dependent on their spouses were most at risk for cheating. In fact, they were three times more at risk than women married to male breadwinners.

Listen: Esther Perel speaks to Mia Freedman about why it has never been easier to have an affair, the reason happy people cheat and how infidelity can sometimes make a relationship better. (Post continues...)

Of course, in the curious case of Jay Z and Beyonce, money plays less of a part when both have large enough incomes to keep small nations afloat. However, there is something to be said about what this study says about the expectations of what it means to be a man today.

"I think it has to do with our cultural notions of what it means to be a man and what... the social expectations are for masculinity," the study's author, Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, told CNN at the time.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Ana Nogales calls it "The Sandra Bullock-Jesse James Syndrome". Successful women, cheating husbands.

"Whatever the reasons, it seems that men who cheat on their successful wives are becoming a common breed. It's interesting, too, that such men tend to choose as lovers women who aren't nearly as accomplished as their wives," she once wrote for Psychology Today.

"Many men can't handle being in the shadow of a woman who is more successful. When it's obvious that his partner's star shines far brighter than his own, a man may react on an almost primal level. His impulse may be to restore his superiority by taking her down."

Sure, we can get bogged down in the nuance of success, and whether Jay Z does boast greater success than his wife of nearly 10 years. But the bedrocks of the point are still relevant: Small men can struggle with the star power of their spouses.

It's also intriguing to note that what many consider the height of Beyonce's commercial and artistic success - the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, when her self-titled visual album was named the fastest selling in iTunes history - was when Jay Z is thought to have cheated.

The moment his wife was enjoying the greatest level of adoration and success in her career, was the moment Jay Z betrayed her.

And although this might not be the exact tale of Mr and Mrs Carter, it provides worthy insight for their fans who are left wondering why a successful, powerful, feminist-boasting musician would have a husband with the nerve to betray her.

Because it was never about her. It was always so much more about men, masculinity and the role we've always told them they've been born to play: The dominator.

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