Why Do People Cheat? 5 Reasons Cheating Isn't OK But Makes Sense Scientifically

It's a question that's been asked for centuries. When contemplating why people cheat, and on people they love, you're right to be baffled. At its core, it doesn't make sense. Most of us know what it feels like to be in love. When you love someone, waking up in the morning has a bit more meaning. The world looks fuller, more colorful, and vivid. Everything is OK even when it's not, because your partner is there. Given all of this, it's very difficult for most of us to conceive of how or why anyone would throw that away on fleeting physical interaction.

Granted, there are no blacks and whites; each situation is different and those who do stray typically don't do so simply because they need physical attention. Emotional cheating, when it happens to women, has been found even more detrimental to a relationship than the physical kind. We may never have all the answers. What we do know is that authorities on the matter, like biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, have broken the scientific explanation down for the rest of us to understand as best as possible, and to help us understand why it kinda...makes sense that human beings cheat. As Fisher outlines in a TED talk, different parts of the brain control different human needs and desires, which often lends to contradictory behaviors. Here are five steps to understanding why we cheat on the people we love.

1. Romantic love itself is simply the product of a chemical our brain creates called dopamine.

Sorry to burst your love bubbles guys, but our biological processes are the source of even the most romantic of thoughts and feelings. This is not to say that your love for your SO is any less real, but it is the product of this particular reward hormone; romantic love is a drive, not an emotion, and humans are capable of multiple drives at a time. In other words, multiple loves at a time.

2. There are actually three brain systems related to love, and they all have different end goals.

Sex drive (the desire to have sex with as many people as possible), romantic love (covered above) and attachment (that feeling that occurs so that we have the incentive to stay with one person and raise le bebes) are three separate systems that we tend to mistakenly mix into one. While we can have all of these feelings about one person, it's often that we have two of the three or even just one, and it's not the one we need in order to be driven to remain loyal to one single person.

3. Therefore, while you might feel romantic love with someone, you might not feel the attachment you need for a long-term commitment.

You might feel the drive of romantic love toward someone else, or the drive to have sex with someone else. In this way, that attachment is the elusive unicorn that means a lesser chance of cheating.

4. Romantic love is an obsession, so you might not realize until later on that they don't have the qualities you need to become attached.

We've all been there; we feel very strongly about someone, love them very much but are eventually unable to stay with them because they're not quite right for us. Some people handle this by breaking up; others by cheating.

5. Like it or not, human beings were not made to fall in love — they were made to reproduce.

I'm the romance-sucking fairy today but hey, science is science. As Fisher puts it,

"In short, we're capable of loving more than one person at a time...it's as if there's a committee meeting going on inside your head as you try to decide what to do. I don't think honestly that we're an animal that was built to be happy - we're an animal that was built to reproduce. I think the happiness we find, we make."

To learn more about the science behind cheating, dive into Fisher's TED Talk.

TED on YouTube

Images: Nicolas DECOOPMAN/Flickr; TED/YouTube; Giphy (5)