Why People Really Cheat On Their Partners, According To Science
What really compels a person to cheat? The reality is, people will cheat for a number of reasons, and a new study published The Journal of Sex Research found the biggest reasons why people are unfaithful.
Researchers conducted a survey of 495 adults with an average age of 20 who were asked if they've ever cheated in a relationship and if so, what their motivation for doing it was. Since the survey was pretty open-ended, researchers grouped the responses by commonality to find that there were 77 motivations for infidelity.
Among all the reasons given, the number one reason as to why people cheat is a "lack of love." In fact, 77 percent of the responses either explicitly stated it (i.e. "I had 'fallen out of love with' my primary partner") or alluded to it in some way. "While the guttural reaction to being cheated on is often that the person cheating has fallen out of love, the more accurate reasoning is that the person cheating no longer feels loved by his or her partner," Chelsea Leigh Trescott relationship expert and Founder of Breakupward tells Bustle.
Relationship and Wellness Coach, Shula Melamed MA MPH agrees that "a lack of love" could also mean the person feels a lack of appreciation, attention, and playfulness in the relationship. Of course, a healthier approach to dealing with these issues would be to put more effort into the relationship and communicating with their partner instead of infidelity . "Love is a verb, an action, and a skill," she says. "It's a dynamic process of doing rather than something you're simply just in. Love needs to be nurtured, replenished and not taken for granted."
So feeling a lack of love in the relationship is the biggest motivator to cheat, but what are others? Here are seven of the other biggest reasons, according to the study.
1. They Wanted A Variety Of Sexual Partners
Responses such as “I wanted a greater variety of sexual partners” was the second biggest reason for cheating. Like every other reason for cheating, licensed marriage and family therapist, Racine R. Henry, Ph.D., tells Bustle, "it’s very rarely about the way one partner feels about another. Most often, the perpetrator feels neglected, bored, and/or invincible." So if you've ever been cheated on don't ever think it's because you're lacking in some area, like the bedroom.
2. They Felt Neglected
"A lack in feeling loved and appreciated often leads to cheating," marriage and family therapist, Dr. Caroline Madden tells Bustle. When one partner feels rejected, hurt, or unappreciated, but doesn't want to break up, cheating can seem like the best way to get the attention they crave. As the study found, 70 percent say they cheated because they felt neglected.
3. A Situational Reason
"I was drunk and not thinking clearly" or similar types of excuses were given by 70 percent of people. If you've been given the excuse that your partner was drunk and they didn't know what was going on, you might find yourself looking for any "true" motivations behind it. You may feel like they don't really love you or maybe they don't really want to be with you if they can easily cheat when they're drunk — but that's not always the case.
"In general, cheating does not necessarily parallel to the love of one's partner," family and relationship psychotherapist and author, Dr. Fran Walfish tells Bustle. "If the person cheated only one time, and demonstrates genuine remorse, regret, empathy, and apologizes, the breach of trust can be repaired with two willing partners."
4. To Boost Their Own Self-Esteem
The need to boost their own self-esteem was a big motivator for 57 percent of people. "They consciously or unconsciously are feeling insecure and use the seduction and conquest of an extramarital encounter to feel good about themselves," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and Founder of online relationship community, Relationup tells Bustle.
Maybe they feel insecure about something external, like their career, age, or appearance. Other times, they just feel powerless in their relationship and need a way to regain that power. "Sometimes, however, they cheat because their insecurity stems from feelings of insignificance or unworthiness that they experienced in their family of origin that continue to plague them," she says.
5. Out Of Anger
Getting back at their partner for cheating or just being angry after a fight was the sixth biggest reason for why people cheated, with 43 percent saying it was their biggest motivator.
6. Feeling Unattached To Their Partner
Feeling very little commitment to their partner was the reason 41 percent of people said they cheated.
7. For Physical Sex
About a third of people said they cheated for no other reason than the fact that they just wanted to have sex.
In general, the study found men were likely to cheat for variety, the sex and situational reasons, while women were more likely to cheat because they felt ignored or neglected. Personality type also played a role in why someone chose to cheat. For instance, people with commitment issues were more motivated by sexual variety while hopeless romantics cheated because of lack of love and commitment.
But overall, experts say it's important to know that being cheated on is not your fault. Regardless of what someone's reason for cheating is, at the end of the day, it really is about them and not you.