People have their reasons for cheating. What actually counts as cheating also depends on the couple or individual. For instance, some believe that physical cheating is the only thing that counts, while others believe emotional cheating is much worse. Although cheating can hurt regardless of what form it takes, experts say there are some key differences between
cheating that's motivated by love and cheating that's motivated by lust. But does it really matter?
"The obvious difference, first and foremost, is
cheating due to lust is purely a physical response," relationship coach, Jenna Ponaman, CPC, tells Bustle. Cheating due to love, on the other hand, is connected to a "lack of deep emotional desire."
So while it's easy to think that cheating means that your partner doesn't love you anymore, that's not necessarily that case. According to Ponaman, it's easy for someone to physically cheat and not create an emotional bond with the one they cheated with while still maintaining an emotional connection with the person they love. Someone who cheats for love is usually searching for a deeper bond with someone, but may be too scared to leave the relationship that's
not fulfilling them emotionally, she says.
While those are the most obvious differences between cheating due to love and cheating due to lust, here are some unexpected differences, according to experts.
When Someone Is Cheating Due To Love, Meet Ups Are Usually Planned In Advance
"Often, cheating that occurs due to love is planned and conscious," Rachel Perlstein, LCSW, relationship coach and co-founder of
A Good First Date, tells Bustle. The dates will likely be much more thoughtful in nature because the cheater actually cares about the one they're cheating with. When someone is cheating just to get their physical needs met, there's no need to plan in advance. According to Perlstein, there will be more inconsistency when it's all about lust. Many times, these encounters tend to happen spontaneously.
When Someone Is Cheating Due To Love, There's Going To Be More Communication
You can't really have love without an emotional connection. In order to build emotional intimacy, people need to communicate and be vulnerable with each other. Because of that, Perlstein says that there's often more communication between people who are cheating due to love than lust. They've likely built a much deeper attachment to each other and are basically in a relationship whether they recognize it or not. "When it's cheating due to lust, there's usually an absence of emotional attachment and the person may be more of a fantasy or an escape than another significant other," she says.
Cheating Due To Love Usually Takes Longer To Build
Building a deep emotional connection with someone takes time. You need to be comfortable enough with the person to open up and be vulnerable. That's why Perlstein says cheating that's motivated by love is usually a situation that has been going on for a longer period of time. Cheating due to lust is more likely to be spur of the moment.
Cheating Due To Lust Is A Behavior That May Be Easier To Control
"There are some people who get so fascinated by physical experiences that they'll be willing to cheat in order to satisfy their curiosity," author and therapist,
Connie Omari, LPC, tells Bustle. If someone's primary motivation for physical cheating is "external in nature" such as being attracted to a stranger, Omari says that curiosity is something that can be controlled with discipline. When someone is motivated to cheat by internal factors such as feelings of passion and desire, it's much harder to control because "attraction is more psychological and emotional," she says.
Cheating Due To Love Is Less Of A Conscious Choice
Just to be clear, the act of physical cheating is a choice that someone makes. A person may feel lust or love for someone other than their partner, but not act on it. But in general, falling in love isn't really a choice you make. "They may know the person they end up cheating with because they may be a friend or coworker, or they may have met them elsewhere," relationship expert,
Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle. "Over time, they may find that they not only like them, but they also love them and may become lovers because their affection for one another is that strong." Basically, emotional cheating can hit you out of nowhere and sometimes people won't even realize they're crossing boundaries that shouldn't be crossed.
Cheating Due To Lust May Come With A Lot More Risk
Cheating is risky. But according to Omari, cheating due to lust comes with its share of "unnecessary risks." Since lust usually results in physical cheating that's usually unplanned, there are the risks of "extreme consequences" such as sexually transmitted diseases or even unwanted pregnancies. "This is an act that is often made based off opportunity," she says. While this isn't always the case, there may be a lack of planning and care that go into these situations.
Cheating Due To Love May Be Harder To Overcome
"The cheater involved in this relationship will likely want to continue it, even after being exposed," Omari says. "This will make the cheating experience harder to overcome because infidelity remains a threat." Cheating due to lust usually results in one night stands or short-lived affairs. But when cheating is motivated by love, there's attachment and connection. "It holds a force that resembles an 'invisible magnet' that can be hard to break," she says. You can always end a physical affair. But getting someone off your mind who you have a strong connection to is going to be really hard. For that reason alone, Omari says it will be much harder for a couple to recover if a partner cheats because they fell in love with someone else.
Overall, cheating that's motivated by lust and love may differ. But at the end of the day, what matters most is if a couple is willing to overcome the infidelity, and work together to be stronger.