Researchers have found eight motivations for cheating: “anger, self-esteem, lack of love, low commitment, need for variety, neglect, sexual desire, and circumstance.” Of course, few actions have just one cause, and cheating is likely brought on by a combination of the above. In a relationship there are two players, and each have a part to play.
As psychotherapist and sexuality expert Esther Perel explained in The Atlantic in 2017, cheating is rarely if ever clear cut—and people can cheat even if they are in a perfectly functional relationship. The varied motivations uncovered by this study show that cheating can be brought on by personal issues (self-esteem, need for variety) just as likely as it can be brought on by more direct personal conflict (anger, lack of love).
Emotions can also get complex. The excuse that “it’s just sex” doesn’t appear to be true, according to the research. About two-thirds of participants expressed some kind of affection for the person they cheated with—but not necessarily to an extreme extent. One in ten participants admits to telling the person, “I love you.” In fact, for about half of participants, sex isn’t even a part of the equation: about 50% of participants reported vaginal intercourse, but nearly 87% reported kissing.
There is some evidence that suggests Millennials are less likely to cheat in relationships than previous generations—though the evidence isn’t conclusive enough to say that 100%, The Atlantic reported in 2019. This may be because younger generations are waiting longer to get married and are, in general, becoming more selective in marriages: They might just be more likely to end up with the right person (though, ultimately, that’s not necessarily a preventative to cheating).
Why do people serial cheat?
There is some truth to the belief that once someone is a cheater, they’re always a cheater. A 2017 study found that participants who reported cheating in their relationship were three times as likely to cheat in their next relationship, compared to those who didn’t. This can also be incredibly destabilising for the partner that was cheated on: those who were suspicious of their partner cheating were four times more likely to report suspicion of cheating in their next relationship.
Why do happy people cheat?
As terrible as it is to hear the cliché, “it’s not you, it’s me,” there is some truth to that statement when it comes to cheating. According to Perel, sometimes happy people cheat simply because they’re experiencing a longing for something new. This could be because an affair offers them a sense of novelty and excitement, even if their relationship—or marriage—is perfectly stable. “Being with a different person offers a chance to redefine themselves and explore different components of their personality that they may not feel able to explore in the confines of their relationship. “It’s not that the individuals having the affairs want to leave their partners, but the people they have become.
Of course, cheating is never an answer to problems like this, and there are other ways to achieve this kind of personal development. “I often say to my patients that if they could bring into their marriage one-tenth of the boldness and the playfulness that they bring to their affair, their home life would feel quite different.
Does cheating always mean the end of a relationship?
What cheating does to a relationship varies? The 2020 study found that only about 20% of relationships ended because of the affair—but only about a third of participants who cheated admitted their infidelity to their partners. About 20% of couples stayed together despite one partner finding out the other cheated. It’s far less likely for cheating to lead to a new relationship, too: only 11% percent of participants who reported cheating had broken up with their partner to be with the person they had cheated with. It seems like an affair is an escape—but not to a new, healthy relationship.
Perel herself—while certainly not an advocate for cheating—understands that cheating doesn’t have to end a relationship. But to heal from it, she stresses the importance of both parties getting an understanding of the other (which might sound crazy, but bear with her for a moment): If the party that was cheated on can, for a moment, try to learn what cheating did for the person who committed the act and how it made them feel, then both parties may turn “the experience of infidelity into an enlarging emotional journey.
That doesn’t mean that forgiveness has to be instant, or that it even has to happen at all—it depends on the person, the relationship, and how you might consider changing going forward. If you do decide to stay together, that might mean trying to reignite the flame.
The bottom line? There’s no guaranteed way to prevent cheating, and whether an affair will signal the end of your relationship depends on a wide range of factors, all of which are personal to the individual. And, yes, it hurts all around.
Infidelity does not mean that the love is gone or never existed. The reality is that you can love someone and still cheat on them. In fact, many affairs happen in relationships that are otherwise very happy.
Even if the love is still there, in general a woman who’s unhappy in her relationship may be more inclined to cheat. Whether because of anger, home, financial problems, family trouble—a dismissive unemotional partner-the list goes on—they may feel cheating will offer them what their current relationship isn’t.
Individual Risk Factors
The general rule is that it takes two to tango, or in this case, to mess up their marriage with an affair, but there are certainly exceptions. Individual factors that may increase the chance of infidelity include:
- Addiction: Substance abuse issues, whether it’s addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or something else, are clear risk factors. Alcohol, in particular, can reduce inhibitions so that a person who wouldn’t consider having an affair when sober, may cross the line.
- Attachment style: Some attachment styles, such as attachment avoidance or attachment insecurity, as well as intimacy disorders have also been looked at in relationship to a propensity to cheat. Poor self-esteem and insecurity can also raise the risk of an affair as a way to prove worthiness. (this is a very common)
- Childhood trauma: Having a history of childhood trauma (such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect) is associated with a higher chance that a person will cheat (if he or she has not addressed the trauma and has unresolved issues). (This is very common)
- Exposure to infidelity in childhood: Previous experience with cheating can also increase the risk of infidelity. A 2015 review found that children who are exposed to a parent having an affair are twice as likely to have an affair themselves.5
- Mental illness: Some mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder are a risk factor for cheating in marriage.
- Psychological issues: Narcissistic traits or personality disorders are associated with a greater likelihood of cheating. With narcissism, an affair may be driven by ego and a sense of entitlement. In addition to being self-centred, people with these disorders often lack empathy, so they don’t appreciate the impact of their actions on their spouse.
Cry for Help vs. Exit Strategy
In some marriages, an affair is a cry for help, a way to force the couple to finally face the problems that an individual or both parties are aware of but aren’t addressing. In some cases the partner often actually tries to get caught as a way of bringing the issue to the fore. Other times a partner may simply see infidelity as an exit strategy—a way to end an unhappy marriage.
Regardless of the underlying reason a spouse cheats, it can either devastate a marriage or be the catalyst for rebuilding it, depending upon how the infidelity is dealt with.
Research for you further interest: Clinical Phycologist Dr Jordan Peterson If Someone BETRAYED Your Trust In A Relationship, WATCH THIS! | Jordan Peterson – YouTube