Why Do People Cheat?

Monday, June 10th, 2024

When someone’s cheated on by their partner, they’re often left asking: why?

How could someone they trusted and loved – and who they thought loved them back – betray them in such a shocking and hurtful way? There’s usually not only a sense of anger and upset, but also total disbelief.

The reasons people cheat are varied, but there are a number that crop up time and again in the counselling room. If you’re currently struggling to understand why this has happened to you, you may find it useful to think about some of the following.

Disconnection

One of the most common reasons for infidelity is the feeling that you and your partner have drifted apart. In this case, cheating can feel like a way of finding something new and exciting when your relationship has become predictable and familiar. A sense of disconnection from one’s partner can happen for a variety of reasons. There may be a lack of proper communication in the relationship (talking about specific issues or just generally keeping in touch about how you feel). Or life may have become dominated by work or looking after kids, so time together has become more functional than loving.

Feeling unloved

In counselling, we often use the term ‘love languages’ to describe how people express affection to one another. Some partners communicate more verbally by saying nice things, whereas others might prefer to express affection physically by cuddling or kissing. If your love language is different to your partners, that can leave you feeling unloved – and potentially more open to the affections of someone who seems to understand you better.

Imbalance

If there’s a lack of balance in a relationship, one partner can begin to feel a bit like a parent and the other like a child. For example, one partner may feel like they have to be the responsible one, making all the decisions, organising the home, managing the finances and so on, while their partner doesn’t pull their weight. An affair might then be tempting in order to feel appreciated and equal. Equally, the partner in the ‘child’ position may feel criticised and as if nothing they do seems to be enough, meaning an affair might feel like a way of reclaiming some sense of independence and authority.

Fear of commitment

Sometimes, affairs occur at times when you might assume people would be the most secure in their relationship, such as after getting engaged or when someone is pregnant. But worries over-commitment can be very destabilising. Sometimes, people can sabotage what they have, consciously or unconsciously, as a way of rejecting feelings of responsibility. Some relationships work when there is a third party involved so that this third party can moderate how intimate and truly invested the individuals in the couple are. It could be work, an obsessive hobby or an affair.

Issues related to self-esteem

Affairs can also arise from personal insecurities. Low self-esteem can cause people to be very dependent on the attentions of others—and in some cases, the attention of just one person isn’t enough. They need validation from an external source constantly. It may also cause someone to feel insecure in their own relationship, so much so that they might cheat as a way of rejecting rather than being rejected.

Sexually addictive behaviour

Affairs can commonly be linked to problems with sexually addictive behaviours. This is where someone habitually engages in sexual activity as a way of satisfying desires and relieving negative feelings they find hard to control. These desires can be compulsive in the way that a drug or alcohol addiction might be. For some people, this can mean they end up engaging in affairs repeatedly or in multiple relationships.

To end the relationship

Ending a relationship when your partner is seemingly great is a hard thing to do. Often, we can’t make sense of or explain our loss of feelings to ourselves let alone our partner. This might be a subconscious process which means we might act out the one thing that is guaranteed to end it.

How we can help

Relationship Therapy can help you navigate through these feelings, process what has happened and discuss how to move forward from the betrayal, either in your own time or with further Therapy.

Rebuilding trust after cheating takes time. Relationship therapy equips you with tools to communicate effectively, set boundaries, and work towards rebuilding trust, either on your own, or as a couple.

Ready to move forward and recover from cheating? Book a Therapy session with us to speak with a counsellor at a time that works for you and take the first step in resolving the problem you’re facing.