Why Do People Cheat? 9 Reasons For Infidelity That Have Nothing To Do With Sex

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When you think about all the reasons why people cheat, sex usually lands at the top of the list. If a person is going behind their partner's back, and hooking up with someone else, it stands to reason their main interest is that physical satisfaction, or the thrill of doing the deed with somebody new.

But experts say sex and physical attraction aren't the only reasons why people have affairs, or seek random hookups. "Cheating is so much more than just sex," Lori Bizzoco, relationship expert and founder of CupidsPulse, tells Bustle. Many times, people turn to cheating as a way of dealing with emotions they aren't handling well in their relationship, problems they're experiencing at work, and so on.

For example, someone might have an affair as a way of distracting themselves from their stress, or as a way of getting more emotional support or validation. "This is why it is always important to address your and your partner’s feelings in the best way possible so that both people feel that their needs are being satisfied," Bizzoco says. In doing so, it can help prevent a painful affair from happening. Here, a few more reasons why people cheat that have nothing to do with sex.

1. They're Avoiding Conflict

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Sometimes, when a relationship is riddled with conflict, it can cause a person to panic and run to the arms of another. So their affair isn't so much about the physical side of things, as much as it is a way of relieving stress and skipping out on their worries for an evening.

"Cheating allows them to escape," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "They can be with a person where problems and conflicts don’t exist, where they get respite, support, and validation."

Instead of speaking with their partner about the issue, working out differences, or going to couples therapy, they might take this drastic measure as a way of experiencing relief. "Cheating is often a fear move," he says. But it only makes things worse.

2. They Have Weak Boundaries

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"Sometimes people cheat because they've developed too much intimacy with a friend or coworker over time," Raffi Bilek, marriage counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Bustle. And when that happens, it's often all-too-easy to let things spiral out of control, and turn into an affair.

"It is natural for us to want to connect with those around us, and it's natural to want to take that to the next level — a romantic one — when emotional intimacy is growing," Bilek says. "People with weak boundaries are more likely to fall into this trap, which is why keeping firm boundaries at work and in social situations is critical for maintaining fidelity in a relationship."

3. They Want To Feel Validated

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"The majority of people who cheat are not fulfilled emotionally," Ellen Bolin, a Certified Professional Relationship Coach, tells Bustle, which explains why so many people turn to emotional affairs — which often lead to physical affairs — as a way of finding support and validation.

This is, of course, not the best way to solve the issue. Painful affairs can be avoided if couples speak up and let one another know when/if they've feeling neglected, unheard, or lonely.

4. They Want To Save The Relationship

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Weirdly enough, some people use cheating as "a cry for help to save the relationship before they give up on it entirely," Bethany Ricciardi, a relationship expert with Too Timid, tells Bustle. Yes, the cheater may go out and have sex. But that wasn't technically their main goal or interest. The affair may be the cheating partner's (unhealthy) way of telling their significant other that they've been unhappy, and want to get a conversation started.

5. They Want To End The Relationship

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On the flip side, some folks turn to cheating as a way of breaking up with their partner. "Rather than come out and say that they want to end the relationship, the person cheats hoping that their partner will find out and break up with them," psychology expert Emily Mendez, MS, EdS, tells Bustle. But obviously, it's much healthier — and way kinder — to simply have the conversation.

6. They're Angry

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People may also cheat as a way of dealing with pent up anger in their relationship. "They are frustrated in their relationship, they feel like their partner doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, doesn’t support them," Dr. Klapow says. "In an act of defiance but also avoidance of the problem at hand — the person cheats. So instead of directly confronting the problem, they avoid it and act out by cheating." And that's not cool.

7. They Need A Boost Of Self-Esteem

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Not everyone who lacks confidence will have an affair in order to feel better. But it does happen. "When someone is feeling down about [themselves] the thrill of sex with a new/forbidden person provides a temporary feeling of self-worth," couples therapist Tracy K. Ross, LCSW tells Bustle. "For example if things aren't going well at work and [they] feel uncertain about [their] value, an outside lover can temporarily address that feeling," in the form of the aforementioned validation.

8. They Feel Bored

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If someone is bored with their relationship, it makes sense why they might turn to cheating to spice things up for themselves — even though that's not the healthiest way to do it. But cheating can also seem like a good idea when someone isn't feeling fulfilled by their life in general.

"More often than not cheating doesn't focus on the sex," Ross says. "It's a way to feel alive, special, seen by someone else, ... [and] the sneaking around is often more exciting than the sex itself." Having something to hide, and something that adds a bit of danger to their life, can be what they're really looking for.

9. They're Seeking Revenge

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Cheating can also be an act of revenge, that may stem from anger. "These feelings can become your motivation if you set out to hurt your partner instead of talking to them and helping them understand how they made you feel," Diana and Todd Mitchem, relationship coaches at EnariLove, tell Bustle. "Lack of communication or misunderstanding cause anger and resentment, that after a while of being bottled up can finally explode and lead ... to have an affair."

Knowing that an affair wasn't all about sex won't make it any less painful to the person who was cheated on, but it may help both members of the relationship understand why it happened in the first place. By talking about relationship problems before they get out of hand — and making sure you're both fulfilled — an affair doesn't have to happen.