The thing to keep in mind, when it comes to cheating, is that it's never one person's fault. What makes someone cheat is a tricky question that often doesn't have one answer, or may involve a whole mess of reasons that have nothing to do with you. There are, however, unhealthy relationship patterns that can make cheating more likely, according to experts.
If one or both of you isn't getting your needs met, for whatever reason, looking for love and connection outside your relationship — in the form of an emotional or physical affair — may start to seem like a "good" idea. In most cases, this'll have something to do with a lack of communication, which can lead to a lack of connection and feelings of isolation. (Two things, as you'll see below, that may contribute to a partner cheating.)
"In a relationship we must be able to talk about what we need and we must put the effort in to provide our partner the needs they ask for," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web Radio Show, tells Bustle. "When communication is gone and we are not in sync, the relationship can go astray and we may find cheating as the short-term answer."
It's important to remember that a partner's infidelity is not your fault, but if you notice these unhealthy habits happening in your relationship, that you discuss them with your partner to try and work through potential issues. Here are few mistakes that may lead to cheating, according to experts.
1. Trying To Control Your Partner's Every Move
In order to have a healthy relationship, you both need to trust each other and give each other plenty of space. If you try to control your partner's every move, it can lead to a feeling of suffocation, which might cause them to react in a dramatic way in order to feel "free" again.
As licensed counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle, "No one likes being controlled and those who feel that way often look for independence and meet that need through either casual hookups, or through an affair that they hope will deliver them from the control."
2. Letting Distance Get Between You
If you've been feeling distant and disconnected, it doesn't guarantee your partner will cheat. But if you consistently fail to reconnect at the end of a long day, or to support each other during tough times, it may become more likely.
"Many affairs begin due to an emotional void in the relationship," says Drenner. "If your partner does not feel emotionally connected to you then they can look for that emotional connection through another relationship. Taking the time to make an emotional connection on a regular basis can help prevent this from occurring."
3. Not Offering Love & Support
Whether it's rooting each other on while looking for new jobs, or simply listening to each other vent, if you don't offer support in your relationship, it can cause one or both of you to look for that support somewhere else.
"Feeling supported from our partner is not a want but a need," psychotherapist Rose Lawrence, LPCC, LCPC, NCC, owner of Mind Balance, Inc tells Bustle. "When we do not experience support in the way we need it can lead us to seek support outside of the relationship. At first this can be innocent, but can lead to different forms of disloyalty to the relationship."
4. Failing To Communicate In A Healthy Way
Honest communication is the foundation of a good relationship. So make the time to check in, and always be open about the things you need, and the problems you're having.
"Not communicating in a relationship causes disconnection and isolation," says Lawrence. "Over time, lack of communication will begin to slowly fracture your relationship, leaving it vulnerable for outside influences to take its place — such as emotional or sexual cheating or just looking for something else that feels good."
If you're having communication problems and finding it difficult to get to the root of the issue, seeing a couples therapist may help bridge the gap.
5. Skipping Out On Date Night
You can certainly have lives outside your relationship. But it's always important to make time for your partner in your busy schedule. Whether it be a movie night in, or a date night out, finding time for your partner let's them know that they matter to you.
"Couples need to connect doing activities as a couple," Lawrence says. "Sex, date nights, long talks about nothing and everything, sharing some popcorn over a TV show — all of these types of behaviors that were there and important are no longer a priority. If it doesn’t happen naturally then you plan it, knowing that is is crucial to help keep outside influences such as affairs away from your relationship."
6. Not Keeping That Spark Alive
Once the honeymoon phase is over, it can be tempting to look towards other people to feel that fun "spark" again. And while that's understandable, if you want to keep your current relationship going, it'll be important to look for that spark in your own relationship — not somewhere else.
"When people feel like they know everything about their partner, there is a lot more room for intrigue to be filled by other people," certified sex therapist Michael J. Salas, MA tells Bustle. "For those who want monogamous relationships, they need to work on learning new things about their partner. This can be a never-ending process, but it takes mindful effort to make it happen."
7. Picking On Them & Criticizing Every Thing They Do
While you should certainly speak up if something's bothering you, straight up criticizing your partner is never a good idea. "In relationships, 'venting' to your partner about how much they irritate, frustrate, or anger you may feel good in the moment, but is incredibly dysfunctional and damaging in the long term," relationship counselor Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, tells Bustle. "It can carry a sting that lasts a lifetime and can create chronic disconnection, which often leads to a [significant other] looking elsewhere for closeness and connection."
Even if you don't realize it, constantly calling your partner out for what they're doing wrong will frustrate your partner, leading them to think they can't do anything right. If you notice your criticisms are frequent, try toning it down.
8. Being Afraid To Ask For What You Want
"When we don’t know how or are afraid to tell our partner what we need from them, we put ourselves at risk and the relationship at risk," Klapow says. "From attention, to nurturing, to intimacy, to support, to freedom — very often we can’t articulate or we are afraid to articulate what we want." But if you want a healthy relationship, it all needs to be said.
9. Failing To Make Changes
Another bad habit, that branches off of communication, is failing to make the changes you two have talked about. Let's say your partner comes to you and says they really need something. If you ignore them, or fail to make changes going forward, it kinda makes sense why they'd get frustrated.
While cheating isn't the most mature reaction, it can happen if this cycle keeps on repeating. "When we do communicate what we need or want and we are rejected, we feel vulnerable," Klapow says. "We often look someplace else to have our needs met."
10. Complaining 24/7
It's up to you and your partner to set the tone for your relationship. If you contribute by complaining all the time, or venting about your troubles without making moves to change things, it can cause your relationship to feel super heavy — instead of fun, positive, or supportive. And balance is key.
When that happens, your relationship can go downhill. "They may stop talking to you and seek out someone they can talk to without any drama," psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. Obviously real life isn't all fun and games, and your partner should be able to stick it out in a mature way through the tough times. But there's a big difference between venting about a problem, and just being negative.
11. Being Super Distracted All The Time
This one seems small, but if you're constantly staring into your phone instead acknowledging your partner, they can start to feel unimportant. "Couples who are distracted by their electronic devices, or work, or TV are really sending a message to their [significant other] that 'you are not that important,'" Derichs says. "And when someone feels unimportant, it opens the door to seeing someone who helps them feel desired and worthy of attention."
If your partner is going to cheat, it won't be your fault. But, that doesn't mean there aren't things you should both be doing to create a healthy relationship, where both your needs are being met.