Unfortunately, cheating is quite common in relationships. While there may be reasons men and women cheat, the outcomes are still the same. Both parties get hurt.
Cheating can be quite simple, or it can be complicated. Psychologists have many theories behind the reasons men and women cheat. It may seem that the cheater is simply a jerk or a horrible person, but psychology suggests that these issues may run deeper than that. The next section dives into the psychology behind cheating.
Psychology Behind Cheating
Understanding cheaters can be hard, especially if you’re the one who has been cheated on. Victims often fall into a pattern of blaming themselves, wondering what they did wrong to make the other person cheat. The truth is you can’t make a person cheat. That’s a personal choice that they make due to underlying issues they may have.
According to clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., most people cheat for more than one reason. It’s due to a collection of psychological patterns. These patterns don’t usually have anything to do with the person being cheated on.
Dr. Robin Haight, a clinical psychologist, believes that people who cheat are looking for their partner to make them happy. However, that doesn’t happen, so they end up cheating. It’s not that they want to cheat, it’s that they’re looking for something. “It can get complicated,” says Dr. Haight.
Despite the complicated psychological background of cheaters, there are some surface reasons men and women cheat that are easier to understand. The next section covers 15 of these reasons.
Reasons Men and Women Cheat
1. Lack of communication in the relationship.
It can be incredibly frustrating when there is a lack of communication in a relationship. Without open and honest communication, one or both people in the relationship can feel ignored and unimportant. After dealing with this for an extended period, it can lead to cheating.
Cheating due to a lack of communication is a way that the cheater is expressing themselves. Since they feel they can’t do this with their partner, they find alternative ways to do it. Some people choose drugs or alcohol. Others choose to cheat. Either way, it’s devastating to a relationship.
2. They’re punishing their partner.
As odd as it seems, some people use cheating as a form of punishment to their partner. It could be payback because their partner cheated, or it could be some other reason. What is clear is that the cheater is angry with their partner and this is the way they are showing it.
Sometimes, punishing their partner in secret can be more satisfying than doing it in person. With cheating, the idea of secret infidelity makes the cheater feel better. It’s the feeling of power and control that the cheater likes, not necessarily the infidelity itself.
3. They feel like their partner doesn’t appreciate them.
No one forces anyone to cheat. That’s all a personal decision. However, decisions can be influenced by how a person feels like they’re being treated.
Notice that the sentence says, “feels like”. A person may not be mistreated, but they simply feel like they are for whatever reason. It could be a lack of communication, a lack of passion, or even mental instability.
The point is they feel underappreciated and they probably feel invisible in the relationship. This can lead to infidelity because they simply want to feel wanted or needed.
4. They want to break up, but they don’t know how.
One of the big reasons men and women cheat is that they don’t want to be in their current relationship, but they have no idea how to tell their significant other. They don’t want to hurt their partner and they don’t want to be the bad guy. It’s possible that they don’t want to appear as a failure to others.
Not being upfront about feelings can easily turn a person into a cheater. In this case, they may not even try to hide the cheating very well. They want to get caught so they’ll have a way out of the relationship. Sometimes this is easier than words.
5. The passion disappears from the relationship.
One of the biggest reasons men and women cheat is that passion disappears from the relationship. It’s not that they don’t care about their partner. They may love their partner with everything they have. However, the relationship has just grown stagnant or boring and they can’t figure out how to fix it.
It’s extremely hard to maintain a long term relationship with no passion. Sometimes love simply isn’t enough. Having a good connection and a strong sexual desire is a must. Without it, the relationship will degrade because the romantic needs aren’t being met.
6. The person has commitment issues.
Commitment issues can lead to cheating in a number of different ways. The first is the most obvious, they’re afraid or unwilling to commit. Cheating is basically they’re way of not committing. There is a whole psychological reason behind this and that’s information for another article.
Another way to look at this is that people have different definitions of commitment. Communication problems are usually to blame for the misunderstanding. One person may think a certain stage of the relationship means monogamy while the other doesn’t think the relationship is at that point. Good communication is the best way to avoid this problem.
7. They feel lonely.
Loneliness can make people act out of character. This can be a result of a lack of communication or from the person not getting enough attention from their partner. Humans aren’t meant to be lonely, which is why they seek out meaningful relationships. Friendships help, but interactive romantic relationships are a necessity.
At first, the cheater may feel revitalized. However, after those initial feelings of revitalization disappear, they’re often left feeling confused and lonelier than ever. After all, they didn’t gain the attention from their partner that they really want. This may lead to more cheating in an effort to fill the void.
8. Someone’s needs aren’t being met.
Some people simply aren’t a good fit for each other due to different needs. Sure, they may love each other but one person may be incapable of meeting the other person’s needs. Sometimes, both people can’t meet the other’s needs.
This can manifest itself in many ways. Two people may have different sex drives, different emotional needs, different definitions of the relationship, different religious beliefs, or different desires for the amount of quality time they spend with their significant other. When a person’s needs aren’t being met, it can drive them to cheat.
In cases like this, people cheat because they just want to have sex – a lot of it. It doesn’t mean there are problems in the relationship, that their needs aren’t being met, that they’re insecure, or anything else on this list. They just simply can’t control their sexual desires.
This compulsive sexual desire is known as hypersexuality. This behavior is a mental disorder in which the person will need to seek professional help. Often the person will feel ashamed of their behavior so they may hide it as long as possible. Hopefully, they can get the help they need before their relationship is ruined.
10. They have low emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to control and express your emotions properly as well as the ability to properly handle interpersonal relationships. Some people simply don’t have this ability, or they may not be good at it. In other words, they don’t really know themselves well enough to carry on a relationship.
A low emotional intelligence could also result in a person not knowing how to communicate what they really want. This means that their partner won’t know either, so the person ends up cheating due to being bad at communicating.
11. They cheat in an effort to save the relationship.
This may seem backward, but some people cheat to save their relationship. This almost never works, but for some reason, some people think it will. This usually happens because there is a need or needs that aren’t being met, but the cheater still wants to keep the relationship.
Their reasoning is that if they can meet that one needs in some other way, they can live without getting that need from their partner. It almost makes sense except that the cheater must live a double life and when their partner finds out it can ruin the relationship they fought so hard to keep.
12. They may not think that cheating is a big deal.
Just like people have a different definition of commitment, they can have a different definition of cheating. One person may think flirting is cheating while the other thinks it’s harmless. One person may believe that sex without love is not cheating, while the other sees it as a major violation.
This is another communication issue. Most people don’t want to discuss the idea of cheating, but it’s important that couples discuss this early in the relationship, just like they should discuss commitment or any other aspect of the relationship. Making sure you’re on the same page as your partner can help prevent cheating (or point out that your partner has no plans to be faithful).
13. The cheater has low self-esteem.
It may seem strange that low self-esteem could make a person cheat, but it’s not as strange as you think. People with low self-esteem can look for validation by being with as many partners as they can. It’s not that they are trying to add notches to their belts, it that they eventually feel like the person they’re in a relationship with doesn’t really love them.
As insecurities begin to surface and they feel less and less loved, they start seeking attention elsewhere. In the next relationship the same thing will happen. This leads to a vicious cycle of cheating because they never fix their insecurities.
14. The opportunity presents itself.
Some people have exceptionally low will power. If the opportunity to cheat without getting caught presents itself, they’d be more likely to take the opportunity. There may not even be any serious problems in their relationship. They just can’t help themselves.
People like this will almost always feel extremely guilty afterward. They may even end up telling their partner out of guilt. However, this doesn’t mean there was no motivating factor. Any of the reasons men and women cheat listed above could be combined with the opportunity and be enough to push the person over the fence.
15. The cheater is a narcissist.
If the cheater is a narcissist, they probably don’t care how their cheating makes their significant other feel. In fact, they may rationalize the cheating. Even worse, the narcissist may convince their partner that it’s the partner’s fault.
Narcissists are so bad that they may not even attempt to hide their infidelities very well. They are incapable of considering their partner’s feelings. If the cheater is a narcissist, the cheating is probably the least of concerns about the relationship.
There are many reasons why men and women cheat, even more than the reason on this list. Cheating almost always has some psychological driving factor behind it. Sometimes it can be a mental or emotional problem (such as in the case of hypersexuality or the case of a narcissist).
No matter what the reason is, it’s still wrong. No one deserves to be in a relationship with someone who will constantly be unfaithful. It may be possible to fix the issues that cause a person to cheat, but they must be willing to work on it and the trust must be restored in the relationship. Psychologists all agree that while it may be hard to repair the damage, it’s not impossible.