Why Do People Cheat? Understanding Infidelity

Infidelity has major consequences: pain, anger, insecurity, and the breakdown of relationships. If we all know this, then why do people cheat?

Relationships can’t last without mutual trust. That’s why, regardless of how different people define what cheating is in a relationship, it’s seen as a major violation and one of the ultimate relationship sins.

You’d be surprised by how many people cheat in relationships, and by the fact that each person tends to have their own definition of what cheating in a relationship actually is.

Why do people cheat? The reasons are never simple and will differ for every person and couple. While there’s more to cheating than the usual He’s just a bad guy stereotype, multiple studies have shown that there are a number of common reasons why normal people cheat.

Passionate couple in bed together

What is cheating in a relationship?

Different people’s definitions of what counts as cheating vary drastically. What is cheating in a relationship? Fantasizing? Flirting on the internet? Kissing? Going to a strip club? Going out for dinner with someone you find attractive? Sexual intercourse?

Typically, men are more threatened by physical infidelity, and women by emotional.

Cheating is the most common reason for divorce, and many more people cheat than is openly recognized and discussed. It can happen to anyone, even people in stable and happy relationships.

But cheating doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. Every couple is different and some come out the other side even stronger. But this takes work, trust, communication, and a shared willingness to let go of the past.

So, if we know cheating could risk our relationship and cause our partner pain, why do people cheat?

Upset couple at home arguing

Why Do People Cheat? 6 Common Reasons for Infidelity

1. Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is a big factor in many cases of infidelity. If someone dislikes themself or is unhappy with where they are in life, an affair or just romantic or sexual attention from someone else can make them feel confident, attractive, and desired.

2. Lack of love, connection, or commitment

Another one of the most common reasons people cheat is because they feel a lack of connection or commitment to their partner or relationship. If they’re not fully ‘in’, they can more easily give in to an outside temptation that fills a void in the relationship.

If someone is falling out of love or isn’t 100% sure about the relationship, they could commit infidelity as a conscious or unconscious way to end the relationship.

3. Neglect

Feeling neglected within a relationship is one of the main reasons women cheat.

Sleeping woman in lingerie behind net

If someone feels they are not getting enough love or attention from their partner, they could look to other people to make them feel loved and regain feelings of power and autonomy and feel like they aren’t completely dependent on their partner’s attention.

This can happen due to either a real or just perceived lack of attention.

4. Variety, excitement, and novelty

It’s natural to feel desire for people outside your relationship and to crave newness, especially if you’ve been in a monogamous relationship for a long time. In fact, novelty is part of common sexual fantasies.

The dopamine rush that’s released when we meet someone we crush on for the first time feels amazing. Many people cheat not because they are unhappy in their relationship, but because they simply long for a feeling they can only get from someone new.

Some people might crave the thrill of new emotional connections, others, the satisfaction and fireworks of a brand new sexual experience. If you’re experiencing this and don’t want to leave your partner, you could discuss opening your relationship.

Top view couple pose together sexy in bed

5. Anger

Why do people cheat? In some cases, infidelity comes from feelings of anger or a desire for revenge. Why? Perhaps because they themselves have been cheated on, have been mistreated by their partner, or had an argument that left them feeling bruised.

People who cheat for these reasons might fantasize or really want their partner to find out, so they can get attention and regain a feeling of autonomy, or cause their partner pain.

6. Opportunity

A lot of infidelities are purely circumstantial. Someone got a different job or moved to a new city, got drunk one night, and let a flirtation go too far.

Why do people cheat? If someone cheats for this reason, they are probably impulsive, not thinking through the consequences, got caught up in a moment of excitement, and didn’t think they would get caught.

People who cheat for these reasons often don’t tell their partners. A relationship is less likely to break down if infidelity occurred for this reason if the cheating partner knows they did wrong and truly doesn’t want it repeated.

Woman beckoning towards camera to bed

Of course, there are people who cheat simply because they want to and they can, who don’t see it as a big deal or just don’t think it matters, but these people are rare. And more often than not, cheating is actually a good person doing a bad thing.

What have we learned about why people cheat and what cheating in a relationship actually is? If you’re recovering from being cheated on, remember that it’s probably about them, not you.

And while it’s not healthy to obsess over why something went wrong, understanding the motivations behind your partner’s or your own infidelity can be helpful to the process of looking forward and moving on.