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Why do people cheat? 14 fresh perspectives on infidelity

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If you’ve ever been cheated on, you’ve probably spent hours agonizing over the ‘why.’

You try to figure out why they did it. What went wrong? Was it about them? Or was it something you did?

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you probably flipped between blaming them and blaming yourself…

…but, chances are, you never came to a satisfactory conclusion about the whole thing.

It can be impossible to get your head around what drives someone to cheat, given the inevitable consequences, pain, and heartbreak that it causes for everyone involved.

And the bad news is, you probably won’t ever know for sure what the reasons behind it were.

It’s always good to reflect briefly on what might have led to unfaithfulness in a relationship, so that you can do your best to make sure it doesn’t happen again in a future one.

But it’s important not to dwell on it for too long, as you’ll never truly be able to figure out what went on in someone else’s head.

Obsessing over the thought processes that led them to cheat will do far more harm than good.

So, this article is here to help you reflect on the ‘why’ behind the cheating, get a bit of clarity around the whole situation, and lay the foundation for you to move forwards.

Getting over being cheated on is never easy, but processing it properly is important to make sure that it doesn’t have a negative impact on future relationships, or on your current one, if you decide to forgive the infidelity.

Ready to get stuck in?

If the betrayal is fresh, this might not make for easy reading, but don’t worry, you’re strong enough to handle this.

You’re going to come out of this situation fighting, whether you decide to continue a relationship with a partner who has cheated, or to move on.

Of course, these are reasons, not excuses. They might explain why someone behaved in a certain way, but they don’t justify or condone it.

When we’ve given our word to someone that we’ll be faithful, it’s never okay to betray that trust.

Oh, and bear in mind that cheating is never normally caused by just one of these reasons on its own.

It’ll probably be a combination of several overlapping factors, and the person who’s cheated often won’t be able to articulate what it was that drove them to it.

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you deal with being cheated on if you’re unlucky enough to be in this situation. You may want to try speaking to someone via for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

1. They fall out of love with their partner.

One of the most basic reasons why someone cheats is because they simply don’t love the person they’re with anymore.

They might still be very fond of them and care for them, but they’re no longer feeling romantic love, and start to look for it elsewhere.

2. They fall in love with someone else.

On the flip side, it might not necessarily be that they fall out of love with their existing partner, but that they fall in love with someone else.

If they’ve been physically unfaithful, it might have been driven by having fallen in love, not just lust.

3. They want variety.

Sexual infidelity can be motivated by a desire for sexual variety. Some people find it hard to explore their sexual desires in a monogamous relationship.

They may not know how to express what they want to their partner or simply not be sexually satisfied with just one partner, and so are driven to look elsewhere.

4. They’re bored.

If someone’s unfaithful, it might be down to nothing more than boredom. They’re bored, and looking for entertainment that they don’t feel their partner can give them.

5. They want revenge.

Cheating can sometimes be motivated by revenge.

If a partner has cheated in the past, whether emotionally or physically, the other person in the relationship might decide that, to punish them, they’re going to give them a taste of their own medicine, to see how they like it.

6. They’re looking for an ego boost.

After a long time in a monogamous relationship, some people’s self-esteem can start to suffer.

They no longer get the validation from multiple members of the opposite sex that they had been used to.

They might not feel like their partner is still attracted to them in the way they were, so they start to doubt their attractiveness.

This is particularly common as people enter their forties and fifties and want to know if they could still attract someone, or if they’ve lost their touch.

7. They’re not satisfied sexually.

If someone’s in a relationship in which their sexual needs aren’t being met for an extended period of time, they might look elsewhere to get them satisfied.

8. They’re not satisfied emotionally.

It might not be the lack of sex in their relationship which is the problem.

They might be feeling neglected emotionally, like their partner doesn’t pay them enough attention, listen to them, or value them.

They might end up being sexually unfaithful, but what they’re really looking for is an emotional connection with someone.

9. An opportunity presents itself.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as having the opportunity to be unfaithful placed squarely in front of them.

A person who would never actively look for opportunities to cheat on their partner might not have the willpower to resist when the chance to be with someone else is presented to them.

Examples of this might be someone running into an old flame or being propositioned in a bar. They would never have gone out in search of that old lover or hit on someone in a bar, but when it’s offered to them on a plate, they don’t know how to say no.

10. Clear lines were never drawn.

It might be that clear lines were never drawn in the sand at the beginning of a relationship.

If you don’t talk about exactly what being in a monogamous, exclusive relationship means to you when you first get into one, there’s always the risk that the two of you might have different ideas about what cheating actually means.

For example, one of you might think flirting, hugging, or even kissing is totally acceptable, and the other might think that even smiling at an attractive member of the opposite sex isn’t okay.

It’s important to talk about these things when you get into a relationship and that you both understand exactly where the line is, so you know when you’ve crossed it.

11. They want a way out of the relationship.

Sad as it is, some people turn to cheating when they want to end a relationship, but they just don’t know how to do it.

Their cheating gives them a reason to leave a relationship, even though it will be far more painful for their partner than if they were to be honest and break up with them.

12. They’re scared of commitment.

Again, cheating can be a very effective way to sabotage a relationship.

If someone’s scared of the way things are going with a partner and don’t know how to put the breaks on, they might be tempted to cheat so that they don’t have to confront their commitment issues.

13. They feel insecure in the relationship.

Sometimes, part of the reason why people cheat is that they don’t feel secure in their partner’s love.

They’re worried that their partner doesn’t love them, or will abandon them, so they turn to someone else for comfort.

14. They haven’t thought it through.

Most people that cheat don’t take the time to truly contemplate the potential consequences before they do it.

If they’d realized just how much hurt they’d cause before they’d done it, they may well have had second thoughts.

It’s Not About You

As you can see, there might be a few things about the state of the relationship that have contributed to the infidelity.

Just be clear on one thing: that in no way means it’s your fault, or that you drove them to it.

The fact that your relationship has its flaws isn’t a personal reflection on you, and you’ve done nothing to deserve the pain of being cheated on.

Most of the time, it’s the person that does the cheating that has the issues. Although there might be all kinds of extenuating circumstances, the fault lies with them.

Be honest with yourself about what could have motivated the cheating, but don’t allow yourself to obsess over it.

It’s important to make peace with it, and move forward having learned a few lessons, but with your ability to trust and love firmly intact.

Still struggling to understand why your partner (or recent ex) cheated on you? It’s not an easy situation to be in, and it might be all the more difficult if you don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Talking to someone is a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.

Speak to an experienced relationship expert about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can listen to you and offer tailored advice to help you move on from the infidelity you have suffered regardless of your current relationship status.

Relationship Hero is a website where you can connect with a relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.

While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people – both couples and individuals – try to muddle through and do their best to solve problems that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.

You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to an expert. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.