What makes a person cheat in a relationship? Psychologists, relationship experts, and divorce attorneys alike all have their theories on the reasons why people cheat on their partners. According to a 2013 gallup poll, about 94 percent of Americans feel that cheating on a spouse is wrong. But that doesn't mean it doesn't still happen. A 2013 study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information of newlywed couples found that 25 percent of married men and 20 percent of married women are unfaithful.
What are the most common reasons for infidelity? Being unhappy tops the list of reasons from a study done by the Archives of Sexual Behavior. But what causes couples to become unhappy with each other? Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and every situation is different. From lack of communication to jealousy and even too much nagging, the reasons that a relationship stops working can run the gamut.
So if your relationship isn't working, what makes people decide that instead of calling it quits, it'd be better to stay together while getting some action on the side? It's not always an easy question to answer, but nonetheless, I asked a few men and women to explain the reasons behind their decisions to cheat. Here are their stories of infidelity, which may make total sense, keep you up at night, or something in between.
But first, check out the latest episode of our Sex and Relationships podcast, I Want It That Way:
1. Sam, 29
We had been together since we were in high school, and by the end of college we had grown apart. I didn't want to break up with her, but I did want to experience sex with other people, so I screwed around during our last semester. Eventually she found out and we ended things. I felt horrible.
2. Shannon, 31
During my final year of grad school and my then boyfriend's residency, we decided to live together since we'd both be holding down such hectic schedules and wouldn't be able to see each other as often as we'd like. The plan sort of backfired — we barely spoke except for our exhausted conversations as we were both drifting off to sleep. I missed having someone to talk to, and a guy in one of my grad school classes began to fill that void. Then I let it go too far.
3. Raina, 25
I had been with my boyfriend for over a year, and even though things were going well in most aspects, I felt like he never really opened up to me. This hit me hardest when he brought me to meet his parents. We pulled up to his house and it was an entire estate. He had never told me that his father holds patents for some of the most loved children's toys of the '90s. I started to feel alone in the relationship, and one night his friend and I ran into each other at a party. I told him what was going on and how I was feeling, and he shared a similar situation he had dealt with regarding his ex. One thing led to another, and we ended up hooking up. We broke up the next day.
4. Steve, 24
Everything with my ex was a fight. Things started off so well between us, but I felt like once we were official she had this idea of the guy I would turn into, and it just wasn't going to happen. Even when I'd try to make her happy, like bring her flowers, she'd have something to say about it. If they were roses, she'd say they were cliche. If they weren't roses, she'd say I was being cheap. I couldn't win. She was away with her family on vacation when my buddy had a going away party, and a cute girl asked me if I had an extra cigarette. I handed her one and lit it for her and it made her so happy that she called me her hero. Lame, I know, but I was so used to feeling like I was the worst that I couldn't help myself. We did it right there in my van.
5. Kyle, 27
I had what I considered at the time to be a very supportive partner who loved me for me, more or less. What I didn’t realize in my youth was that the reason why I had entered the relationship at the time was that I had bought into a false sense of congruency and alignment on what I thought were shared goals and an agreed upon lifestyle. Especially in regards to financial success and entrepreneurship. As the relationship progressed over the years I found out more and more as I would take on a new venture or a new risk that she wasn’t quite who she had sold herself to be. She didn’t seem to have the stomach for entrepreneurship whatsoever, was not into the active lifestyle I was into, and definitely had no passion for adventure.
6. Jennifer, 30
My circumstances were that I wasn't getting what I needed out of the relationship. I was the only one paying bills, keeping up the house, taking care of the kids. Another guy came along and gave me attention, money, took me out on actual dates, so I did what I did.
7. Leslie, 26
I cheated because I wasn't happy with myself and didn't know what I wanted from my relationship, career and life in general. I was so lost, I had no way to communicate my unhappiness to my partner or even identify with the feelings I was having at the time. The actual act of cheating was a lashing out, a peak of pure frustration, a release from the pressure of figuring it all out. It was the most intense and amazing sex I ever had. Then, the guilt, the shame, the reality came pouring down and my life crashed. I was forced to face what I was avoiding. It took two years of therapy to face my shadows and to feel comfortable in my own skin.
8. Lyle, 25
Things were getting serious, and I panicked. I know you probably want to hear some concrete reason. I think all girls really want to hear us guys say something like, 'Just don't do this and this and this and you'll keep your man forever.' But my girlfriend at the time did nothing wrong. It was the opposite -- she was too good to be true. I started getting this feeling like maybe she was the girl I was going to end up with, and that scared the shit out of me. So one night I cheated, just to, I don't know, have one more notch in my belt.
9. Kevin, 23
I had a crush on my childhood friend forever, but she always kept me in the friend zone, even throughout college. After graduation we both moved back home, and I started dating a girl I had met at my internship who lived in the town neighboring ours. As soon as we were a serious thing, that friend confessed to me that she was starting to have feelings for me. Being with her was all I had wanted for years, and even though things were going well with the girl I was dating, I was powerless against not acting on the feelings I'd tried to ignore for her for so many years. As soon as my friend finally had me, she lost interest. And the girl I had been dating found out and got rid of me too.
10. Christina, 25
I had been in a relationship with a guy for a few years. When we met I wasn't immediately attracted to him. He was one of my co-workers at my part time bartending job during college, but we grew on each other over the semester that we worked together, and the relationship evolved from the friendship that we had. He was my first relationship, so I had never experienced that spark that people talk about. When I met John at my internship the following summer, I finally understood what people meant when they talked about having butterflies. We were both so attracted to each other, and it would make my stomach do somersaults when we'd accidentally brush against one another in the elevator. I tried to be faithful, but one night we were working late on an assignment and he kissed me. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I felt like I needed to experience it all the way.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy