There are so many people in today’s day and age that wind up having to face the acute pain that comes with being cheated on. They are frustrated, heartbroken, and confused about why something so terrible happened to them, if there were any indicators that they should have taken note of before it happened, and if there’s anything to do to save their relationship now or prevent it from happening to them again in the future. When you are faced with something like this, it’s perfectly normal that you would start to feel very vulnerable and experience waves of self doubt, so I wanted to write this article today to answer your questions, give you some clarity, and guidance.
When people come to me asking, “Why do people cheat,” there are a couple different elements that I like to go over with them, so I am going to be diving into all the reasons behind it in this article. There are some reasons that will seem very obvious to you, but after all these years of coaching men and women in these types of situations, I can tell you that there are some other reasons that might catch you off guard.
Together we will dive into the psychology behind cheating so that you can gain insight on why it might have happened in your relationship, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
Why do people cheat: The primary reason
I can tell you right now that more often than not, a person will cheat on the one they say they love because they are insecure. Not because their partner is lacking something, not because they’re malicious, and not because it’s stemming from a place of greed… It’s simply because they are using cheating as a way to somehow reassure themselves about themselves.
As I write this, a very specific example springs to mind. One of my clients, Alicia, came to me asking “Why do people cheat,” because she had just found out that her husband of thirty years had been having an affair with another woman for the last few years. They live in Germany but her husband would need to be in Sweden pretty regularly for work, and he was seeing another woman while he was there. It all came to light when Alicia asked him why he had gone off the radar one weekend in fall. His response?
“I was with another woman.”
She was shellshocked by the news, but also by his matter-of-factness. When she came to me for help, I began to ask her questions about her husband’s life. He was in his mid 50s, he had lost his high power job, their daughters had gone off to college, and the new job he was supposed to get in Paris fell through. After doing some digging, we were seeing the classic signs of a midlife crisis in him.
His ego had taken a blow, he had lost confidence in what he brought to the table, he was not earning money, and quite frankly, he decided to look outside of the relationship with his wife to find a reason to feel desired and excited. Unfortunately, the consequences of his actions were severe. The fact that he had been unfaithful was one thing, but the fact that he seemingly had no remorse was another. Alicia and I are now working on what she needs in order to feel happy and fulfilled in her own life, so that she can set herself up for a future full of happiness.
So as you can see, her husband’s behavior was the classic example of someone cheating because they had very low self confidence, but that’s not the only reason behind cheating wives and husbands.
Why do people cheat in relationships: Exploring the other reasons
There are two types of people. One will cheat because of something going on in the relationship, and the other will cheat for reasons that are completely unrelated to the relationship. You can try anything to fix the problem, but they will still cheat.
So when you’re wondering, “Why do people cheat,” it’s important to think about what kind of person you’re dealing with. To help you get a clear picture, let me go over some of the different aspects of cheating behavior.
Why do people cheat on people they love: Neglect
For some people, they will feel the need to look outside of a relationship in order to find something that is missing from their relationship. I often see this happen when two people have been together for a while and the spark between them has started to dwindle. Things start to become routine, monotonous and predictable, and they start to crave the excitement that used to exist in the beginning of the relationship.
It’s not unusual for people to start to look for love and affection outside of the relationship if they’re no longer getting it within the relationship. On top of that, a lot of people are not good at communicating their needs so their partner doesn’t even know how to provide them with what they end up looking for in another relationship. So this doesn’t mean that is it all your fault if your partner cheated on you because they were dissatisfied in the relationship! Cheating is often a symptom of a problem, but not the problem itself, and relationships are a two way road. So if you’ve been affected by this and you’re now wondering why people cheat, now is the ideal time to analyze your relationship and see what your partner may have been feeling.
Why do people cheat on their partners: Broken trust
Another common reason behind cheating in relationships is when the person who cheats actually feels like their relationship is not solid. On a deep level, they might actually feel that they’d rather seek love and affection outside of the relationship because it will help them to detach from the relationship, and therefore serve as a sense of self protection.
I often see this type of thing happening when someone has been cheated on in the past. I also worked with someone recently who was cheating on her boyfriend because she was actually suspicious that he was cheating on her! So interestingly enough, sometimes people cheat on the person they love as a defense mechanism against getting hurt.
I’ve also seen some cases in which a person will cheat on their partners because they’ve been cheated on in the past, and they now think that its nothing out of the ordinary for trust to be broken tike that. That’s why it’s so important to know where your partner is coming from and what kinds of things in his or her life could attribute to their infidelity.
Why people cheat: Lack of intimacy in the relationship
This point goes hand in hand with what I was saying above about what happens when there is a lack of something in the relationship. It comes as no surprise that if a relationship becomes basically abstinent and a person still has a sexual appetite, that they might start to think about other people in a sexual way, or that they would perhaps even begin to cheat.
By the way, when it comes to why people cheat when they are in love, it’s also important to make sure that you and your significant other are on the same page when it comes to what constitutes as cheating in your minds. You have to be very clear about your definitions because for some people, flirtation with a member of the opposite sex could count as cheating whereas for others, only sex counts as cheating.
Can cheating be a biological impulse for men and women?
Studies are starting to show that there are other, biologic reasons behind infidelity in relationships. For men, it has been established that they can experience a evolutionary, impulsive need to cheat because it increases their odds of having more “offspring.” But what about women? Why do some women exhibit repetitive unfaithfulness? Interestingly enough, research has shown that women can exhibit can experience a biological compulsion to stray from their significant other as well!
While most often the reason is rooted in insecurity or feeling like the relationship is lacking in some way, some research is suggesting that in some individuals, cheating is actually linked to surplus or deficits of certain chemicals called oxytocin and vasopressin.
“Brendan P. Zietsch, a psychologist at the University of Queensland, Australia, has tried to determine whether some people are just more inclined toward infidelity. In a study of nearly 7,400 Finnish twins and their siblings who had all been in a relationship for at least one year, Dr. Zietsch looked at the link between promiscuity and specific variants of vasopressin and oxytocin receptor genes. Vasopressin is a hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust, empathy and sexual bonding in humans and other animals. So it makes sense that mutations in the vasopressin receptor gene — which can alter its function — could affect human sexual behavior […] His study, published [in 2014] in Evolution and Human Behavior, found a significant association between five different variants of the vasopressin gene and infidelity in women only and no relationship between the oxytocin genes and sexual behavior for either sex. That was impressive: Forty percent of the variation in promiscuous behavior in women could be attributed to genes.”
Another thing that this fascinating article highlighted was the fact that cheating is also something that releases dopamine, so someone who begins to cheat can experience a rush that becomes addictive. There is the sensation of novelty, of excitement, of something being of a forbidden nature, and it can actually give them a high that they begin to crave. Another study in 2010 found that young, healthy people who carried a dopamine receptor subtype, called the D4 receptor, were 50% more likely to stray from their partners.
Pretty interesting stuff huh? Now, all of this does not give a person with a mutation of the vasopressin gene or the D4 receptor a free pass because we are all still able to make choices.
Why do people cheat on their spouses or partners: Protecting your relationship
At the end of the day, the best way to guard against cheating in your relationship is by learning how to communicate honestly and openly with each other about what you need in order to feel fulfilled in this relationship. Discuss your pasts and any wounds that might be lurking beneath the surface. Talk about how you can come up with ways to keep your relationship exciting still. Think about how you can build each other up and make each other feel loved and desired.
Cheating usually comes from insecurity, neglect, routine broken trust, or the need for a defense mechanism. In some cases, it might come from a deeper rooted, biological place.
The important thing is to make sure that you can have open, honest conversations with each other and work as a team. If cheating has already occurred in your relationship and you want to know how to heal your bond, you can reach out to me or a member of my team by clicking here! If you’re wondering why some people cheat, join the Happily Committed Project and learn how to transform your relationship in a meaningful and dignified way!
I sincerely wish you all the best in life and love,
Your coach when you’re wondering “Why do people cheat?”