The Reasons Why People Cheat Might Be Way More Complex Than You Think
Cheating will no doubt leave you feeling hurt, angry and confused. But as sucky as it feels when you find out, it’s what you do next that can be particularly tricky (sorry to break it to you). Moving on — whether that’s alone or with your partner — calls for a healthy dose of listening which is probably the last thing you’re in the mood to do with someone who just betrayed you. But, trust, hearing your partner out will help you feel more grounded when things are at their rockiest.
After all, it’s either this or allowing your imagination to run wild with answers to “why do people cheat?” that are sure to send you down an endless rabbit hole. With all the information at your disposal, you’ll be able to come up with a game plan for what comes next so you can come out on the other side of all this.
To be honest, when you first ask your partner why they cheated, you might get a few iterations of “it just happened,” but that’s rarely the case. In fact, there are a ton of reasons someone might cheat, and it all comes down to, well, the cheater, says Dr Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the Personology podcast. Ahead, she’s broken down some of the most common ones for you. If one feels like a fit for your relationship, decide whether it’s a deal-breaker for you or whether it’s worth calling up your relationship therapist and putting in the work to repair the relationship.
1. They’re falling out of love.
For some, cheating can be a way of sabotaging their relationship. “Cheating is essentially a stepping stone out of their marriage,” says Saltz. They may want out, but are just too afraid to speak up or would rather avoid conflict than confront it directly. So, instead of doing something about it, they’ll hold on to their comfortable life with you and go and make new connections with someone else, too.
2. Your partner was feeling neglected.
“Feeling lonely because your partner is neglecting you emotionally or physically leaves the neglected person more vulnerable to attention from someone else or to an emotional connection to someone else. Hence it leaves the neglected person more vulnerable to infidelity,” Saltz explains. The beginning of a relationship is often filled with butterflies. But when the honeymoon stage is over, it can be hard to maintain that exhilarating feeling that’s often present at the start of a new relationship. Maybe there aren’t as many gifts or compliments anymore, and for some, they may feel pressured to find this attention elsewhere.
3. They’re doing it out of anger or revenge.
In some relationships, when one partner cheats, the other may be tempted to get back at them by doing the same thing. They think this kind of revenge will make the other partner understand how hurtful their behaviour was. But this is rarely the case, says Saltz. “This never ends well, as generally the [relationship] has become so toxic it’s better off ending.” Other times, a partner may treat cheating as some sort of punishment, even if the other partner hasn’t cheated. This will inevitably make the relationship a lot worse.
4. They have unmet needs.
“Everyone has some unmet needs,” says Saltz. But if your partner isn’t willing to try or compromise, they might find someone else who is. Unmet needs can refer to anything from a lack of sex to not being present in your relationship. In Saltz’s experience, she’s found that for men this often refers to unmet sexual needs, and for women, it’s usually unmet emotional needs or their partner not showing up for important moments. If getting past infidelity is the goal in this situation, then these unmet needs need to be identified and acknowledged by both partners. At some point, someone’s going to have to give.
5. They have low self-esteem.
Saltz says this reason for cheating usually points to a need for attention. It tends to happen when one partner needs more attention than the other can give, so they’ll find someone who’ll give it to them — usually over and over again making them serial cheaters. In other cases, this happens when someone is repeatedly put down by their partner, so they go out and find someone who shows them some appreciation.
6. They have commitment issues.
Someone with commitment issues will use cheating as a way to tame their fears. “The commitment-phobic person who marries anyway may use cheating as a method of dealing with their constant fear they have been trapped and to mentally tell themselves they aren’t truly committed because they can choose to go elsewhere at any time,” says Saltz. While this is technically true, they’re putting their relationship in danger, and ultimately risking the supposedly monogamous relationship they’d committed to.
7. They were drinking.
Though alcohol can push people to act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t, it isn’t a free pass for cheating, and Saltz says, alcohol can actually push you to act on things you’ve already been pondering. “Generally alcohol is a disinhibitor, so while someone may slip up and cross a line while drunk, they likely had it in their mind to consider crossing the line in the first place,” she explains.
8. They’re bored or want to experience new sexual partners.
If your partner gives this as a reason, Saltz warns cheating is usually prompted by more than just boredom. “It’s more a matter of not enough sex or an unwillingness to try something exceedingly important to their partner than pure boredom.” This is one instance where both partners should identify what each could be doing better—if they’re both willing to try a repair the relationship. Cheating is inexcusable, but compromise is necessary to save any failing or toxic relationship.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com