Cheating is widely regarded as one of the worst things someone can do in a relationship. When someone cheats, they deliberately break the bond of trust that two people have formed, causing emotional damage and potentially ending the relationship forever.
Given its consequences, lots of people wonder why people cheat in the first place. In truth, people can cheat for a variety of reasons, some of them mostly conscious, others primarily subconscious. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind cheating and good ways to ensure you don’t feel tempted to cheat.
1. Unfulfilled Sexual Desire
One of the most common reasons people cheat is unfulfilled sexual desire. Sex drive differences, in particular, can be a strong driver of cheating behavior — for example, one partner has a relatively low sex drive, and the other has a high sex drive. Over time, the partner with a high sex drive doesn’t feel like their sexual needs are being met, so they look for fulfillment outside the primary relationship with a new partner.
Unfulfilled sexual desire can occur or crop up at the beginning of a relationship or much later down the road. Many long-term, otherwise healthy couples discover sexual compatibility problems shortly after having children or getting married.
In any case, sexual needs not being met are common causes of cheating. Couples that communicate healthily about sexual needs and who prioritize maintaining their sexual connection have a significantly lower likelihood of being affected by cheating (or either partner being tempted to cheat in the first place).
2. Low Self-Esteem
However, other cheaters may feel the temptation to cheat because of low self-esteem. This can feel counterintuitive to the cheating victim, but it makes sense once you understand how self-esteem can manifest in self-destructive behaviors.
For instance, imagine a scenario where a person in an otherwise happy relationship feels low self-esteem because of depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. They feel that they aren’t good enough for their partner or that they are irretrievably broken because of past mistakes.
Rather than face the problem, they sabotage the relationship and cheat by having an extramarital affair. In a roundabout, mostly subconscious way, it’s easier to cheat and destroy the relationship than it is to do the hard work of repairing a broken bond or facing one’s fears.
This is one reason why pursuing long-term relationships is important only when you’re feeling healthy and stable.
3. Mental Health Struggles
In fact, mental health challenges can also lead to cheating or the temptation to cheat in a committed relationship. For instance, if someone has intense depression, getting married or being in a generally stable relationship could inadvertently exacerbate their symptoms.
The depressed individual might feel stifled, uncreative, or like they aren’t able to express themselves. Because they feel many of these things at home in the presence of their partner, they could end up looking for rejuvenation or vitality elsewhere.
Mental health struggles are not an excuse for cheating under any circumstances. But some mental health difficulties can make controlling one’s behavior quite difficult, such as bipolar disorder. In a manic state, the bipolar individual may do things they would never do while in the right state of mind.
In such cases, the couple needs to work hard on rebuilding trust after the cheating incident. It’s also important for individuals with mental health challenges to seek out and acquire health at the earliest opportunity.
4. Feeling a Lack of Love in a Primary Relationship
By far, however, the most common reason why people cheat is that they feel a lack of love or care in a primary relationship. For many people, especially men, one’s marriage or long-term romantic relationship is the most important in their life.
When a person doesn’t get love or affection from their romantic relationship or marriage, it can have a devastating effect on their psyche and self-respect. This can occur inadvertently or intentionally if one partner in a relationship is deliberately cruel or mean to the other (as seen in relationships with narcissists).
On the inadvertent side of things, it may be due to a miscommunication. People have different love languages, which are ways in which they give and receive love most effectively. For example, someone might have a love language of gift-giving, while another might have a love language of physical touch.
If both partners don’t communicate, they can feel that the other isn’t giving them love in the way they need, leading to disappointment, bitterness, and a desire to look elsewhere for affection.
5. Dissatisfaction with a Monogamous Relationship
Some people have difficulty committing to monogamous relationships in the long term. Monogamy is the cultural standard in the Western world, but that’s slowly changing. Some individuals do better with serial monogamy – such as engaging in multiple long-term relationships but never getting married – while others do better with polygamy, which means having multiple romantic partners simultaneously or in rapid succession.
If a person gets married while they are young and don’t fully know themselves, they could discover that they are more polygamous or are unsuited to monogamous life for one reason or another. However, it can be difficult to confess this to one’s partner, which will inevitably involve a lot of emotional turmoil and potential divorce.
Instead of facing this difficulty, the partner decides to cheat. This may later lead to even more turmoil, but it prevents the partner from having to face their fears in the meantime.
6. Emotional Affairs
Not all married couples or long-term partners work together or spend a lot of time together. For example, a married couple with a few kids might only have one or two hours per week to bond and converse like friends.
In the meantime, one or both partners may spend more time bonding and converse with others in their life, like work peers or close friends. This can lead to the development of emotional affairs, where a married or committed person feels more of an emotional connection to someone other than their spouse or partner.
Emotional affairs can all too easily lead to physical cheating. That’s why it’s important to be aware of this possibility if you spend a lot of time at work around people you are attracted to.
How To Have a Healthier Relationship (and Avoid the Temptation To Cheat)
It’s important to respect your loved one and do the work involved in maintaining and nurturing your long-term relationship. Happy relationships result from the emotional efforts of both partners, not just one.
If you’ve ever been tempted to cheat, don’t feel bad – you haven’t yet done anything wrong. If you have cheated in the past, you need to take steps to prevent it from happening again. Luckily, there are lots of ways in which you can have a healthy relationship and build up your current partnership to be even stronger in the future.
- Get off social media. For many people, social media serves as nothing more than a way to compare their life to others. Comparison is the thief of joy and can make your relationship seem lackluster compared to others.
- Visit a psychotherapist if you have mental health difficulties or experience conditions like sex addiction. Therapy can help you understand yourself better than ever, plus help you develop tools to rebuild emotional intimacy with your partner. A sex therapist can help with sexual needs or issues, while a general therapist can help you overcome self-esteem issues or problems with validation.
- Communicate regularly with your partner about your emotional needs. Open, clear, honest communication with your partner builds emotional connections and ensures that both of you know how to treat the other as well as possible.
At the same time, look for warning signs of cheating, like inattention to your needs, disinterest in your life, or spending time away from you and your family. If you suspect your partner is cheating or having an emotional affair, confront them and try to rebuild your relationship.
Ultimately, people may decide to cheat on their romantic partners for one reason or several. But it’s always harmful; the partner who is cheated on feels betrayed and taken for granted, causing severe emotional friction.
In short, cheating is always a bad thing. That’s why it’s important to be on guard against the temptation to cheat and to put more work into building up your romantic relationship, so it’s a healthy, thriving aspect of your life. 1AND1’s other guides and resources can help you pursue this goal and make your relationship as healthy as it can be each and every day.