The Real Reasons Cheaters Cheat, According To Experts
Ashley Batz/Bustle

If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering "Why do I cheat?", you're not the only one. Cheaters' motives aren't always obvious even to themselves. Often, they reflect deeply rooted emotions and beliefs about ourselves, our partners, and our relationships.

A YouGov poll found that around one in five Americans have cheated at some point, so if you’ve cheated, you’re far from alone. There could be a thousand reasons behind this, and only you can really know why, but one thing we can probably say is that it’s not purely physical. “People often think the main reason people cheat are related to sexual needs,” relationship coach Laney Zukerman tells Bustle. “Though sex may play a role, the majority of affairs often start out as emotional affairs due to an addiction to attention and a proneness to boredom in any long term relationship they are in.”

Once you’ve cheated, the first step to move forward is to figure out whether or not to tell your partner. That’ll depend on the situation, but generally, experts say you should keep it to yourself if you don’t plan to repeat it and don’t believe they’ll find out. The next step will mostly likely be to either end your relationship or work on repairing it. Either way, understanding why you’ve cheated is a good start. So, here are some possible underlying causes of infidelity.


You’re Just Not Cut Out For Monogamy

For those who bore easily, seek thrills, and crave sexual or romantic variety, staying faithful is like adhering to a highly restrictive diet, Kevin Darné, relationship expert and author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), tells Bustle. If you’ve cheated in every long-term relationship you’ve been in, chances are you’re just not cut out for monogamy. Better to admit this to yourself than habitually enter relationships where you feel stifled.


You’ve Got FOMO

Another type of cheater is one Darné calls the “unbelievable opportunity cheater.” You might have a fear of missing out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like sex with someone very good looking, and you cheat so that you’re not always left wondering what you could’ve gotten out of the experience.


You’re Unhappy In Your Relationship

Some people turn to others to meet emotional or physical needs that their partners aren’t meeting. “After asking for what they want and not getting it several times, a stranger or whomever comes along, puts a smile on their face and in their heart,” says Darné. “Suddenly, they're feeling good about themselves again, and they desire to spend more time with the one who makes them feel good than the one who does not.”


You Want To Break Up

You might subconsciously feel like cheating won’t make much of a difference, since you’re going to break up soon anyway, Paul DePompo, Psy.D., psychologist and author of The Other Woman’s Affair, tells Bustle. Or, you might be cheating as a way to provoke your partner to end the relationship because you’re too scared to do it yourself.


You Want To Feel Appreciated

Knowing we can attract not just one but two or more partners can be an ego boost. So, some people cheat out of a need for validation, says DePompo. This may come from insecurity. “Often, cheaters feel invaluable or insignificant in their relationship or life in general,” therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. “Cheating gives their ego a boost when they don't have healthier coping skills to deal with their issues.”


You And Your Partner Are Sexually Incompatible

If you have a higher sex drive than your partner or a kink they’re not into, you might turn to cheating to get these desires fulfilled. But motives for cheating in this situation go deeper than just physical desires. You may be “doubting yourself and fearing the loss of your sexuality,” says DePompo. “You cheat to regain your sexual identity.”


You’re Bored

When we first fall in love, our brains flood with feel-good chemicals, certified counselor and relationship coach Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. After that stage fades, we may crave the way we felt in the beginning and seek it by creating a new beginning with someone else.


You’re An Adrenaline Junkie

Some people just like to break the rules in general. It may even give you an ego boost to feel like you can get away with things others can’t. “The challenge of not getting caught and the appeal of forbidden romance can be very enticing to adrenaline junkies,” says Bennett.


You Genuinely Have A Connection With Someone Else

Sometimes, even if we’re not habitual cheaters, a superlative connection comes along and tests our morals, says Bennett. Then, we have to decide: If this person’s worth cheating on our partners for, is it worth leaving them for?

Cheating doesn’t make you a bad person, but it could indicate that something’s wrong in your relationship or life. So, if you can confront it, you’ll probably come out the better for it.