Almost everyone you ask about it will have a strong opinion on infidelity. And for good reason, too. Many have scoured the internet for psychological facts about cheating to soften the blow. Here’s what we know.
There’s something about cheating that strikes a chord. It hurts to have someone you love dearly hurt you so badly. It’s even worse when a friend or someone you know is involved, and it can cause a lot of anxiety in unexpected ways. Infidelity can potentially ruin relationships and change how one views oneself and romantic relationships in general.
You may be looking for answers to why your partner is cheating or why people generally cheat. Unfortunately, conventional “wisdom” and the usual retorts you’ve probably heard before don’t hold water when looking at the psychology behind infidelity.
Here are thirty-one psychological facts about cheating.
31 Psychological Facts About Cheating
You may not be aware of all the causes of cheating. Here’s a list of important facts about infidelity.
1. A Person Who’s Cheated in the Past Can Change
“Once a cheater, always a cheater,” right? Wrong. This may sound like conventional “wisdom,” but it isn’t. A person who’s slipped up can reflect on bad decisions they’ve made and decide not to repeat the behavior in the future.
However, this is not the case for habitual cheaters. People who have a repetitive behavior of cheating continue cheating unless they find a way to break the cycle. This involves unearthing and resolving deep-rooted issues.
2. Working Through Infidelity Can Strengthen a Relationship
As heartbreaking and devastating as cheating is, couples who dig deep and do the work to repair their relationship often report that their relationship has strengthened and their intimacy has skyrocketed.
Whether you choose to work on your relationship is up to you. A couple of intimate questions could help rebuild what was lost. It is possible to make it to the other side of infidelity. However, it will require honesty, accountability, and a willingness to change. In the end, forgiveness is possible, but it’s a choice.
3. 54.5% of Couples Break Up Due to An Admission of Cheating
Of the 441 people who did Health Testing Center’s 2021 survey on infidelity, 54.5% reported that they immediately broke up upon the revelation of an affair.
In addition, 15.6% of these respondents said they were still in a relationship, while 30% revealed they broke up despite their efforts to stay together.
4. Sometimes People Cheat, Even When They’re “Happy”
You don’t have to be unhappy in your relationship to cheat. This goes against what many people think is the cause of infidelity, but even happy people in happy relationships cheat.
Your partner’s cheating can stem from many reasons, such as being a non-committal person or having dominant polyamory traits. These top traits for polyamory are openness and honesty, flexibility and adaptability, non-conformance to tradition, empathy, and patience.
5. Cheating Can “Just Happen”
It is certainly possible that a monogamous person can uncharacteristically cheat on their partner. Infidelity can “just happen.”
This could be due to external stressors or situational variables that create a setting conducive to infidelity. Examples include couples not spending enough time together or not paying enough attention to one another.
This includes being stressed out at work and your work husband/wife being at the right place, at the right time. You may get “too familiar” with your work spouse and lean on them emotionally beyond normal co-worker relations or even get physical with them.
6. 47% of People Who Admit Infidelity Feel Guilty
Although it doesn’t change that your partner may have cheated on you, it may offer some solace to know that your significant other felt bad for deceiving you.
Note that only 47% of cheaters admitted to infidelity in the Health Testing Centers’ survey. On the other hand, 39.8% of respondents reported that they weren’t happy and needed their partners to know.
7. Some Partners Cheat to Get Revenge
This is a passive-aggressive way to “get your licks in.” It appears less confrontational but is still hurtful. People who cheat to avenge themselves do so because their partner had cheated on them in the past or wanted to get back at their significant other for something else. This could entail past hurts and disagreements.
People who cheat as a form of revenge often feel justified in doing so.
8. People Who Cheat Tend to Minimize Their Behavior
Everyone comes up with excuses for behaving a certain way, and cheating is no exception. Cheaters often rationalize their behavior by saying it’s not a big deal or that their partner will never find out. Another excuse is that they didn’t go all the way — they only kissed or cuddled.
Whatever the reason, you must admit that it probably isn’t something you should be doing if you wouldn’t want your partner to find out about it.
9. The Offender Has Low Self-Esteem
This is unfortunate because cheating can cause its victims to develop esteem issues, thus adding to their partners’ insecurities. People who cheat sometimes have low self-esteem. They may cheat because they feel they have something to prove or can’t believe they managed to snag such an incredible partner.
10. Only 1 in 5 Relationships End Because of Cheating
This may come as a surprise, but only 20% of relationships end because of cheating. Many people say, “Oh, I’d never get back with a cheater,” or “She should leave him!” However, people don’t leave their relationships in reality. There can be several reasons why someone would not leave a cheater. Maybe they are financially dependent on their partner. Perhaps they have kids and don’t want to traumatize them with a divorce.
Whatever the case may be, 80% of relationships survive infidelity.
11. A Cheater May Be Trying to Assert Dominance
People who feel like they are not in control and want to assert their position may conclude that cheating is the best option. It may sound strange, but it makes sense when you take a closer look.
The offending party might cheat to “restore balance” in their relationship if their partner cheated in the past. Another way of looking at it is when someone cheats because it’s the one aspect of their life they feel they have control over.
12. Some People Cheat to Avoid Relationship Issues
This is counterintuitive because cheating can and often does cause relationship issues. But this makes total sense to the offending party. Some people cheat to avoid confronting issues in their romantic lives.
It may be easier to cheat than to have a frank discussion with your partner about them not fulfilling certain obligations within your relationship. You may be afraid of confrontation, so you resort to cheating instead.
13. Some Cheat to “Feel Something”
If you’ve watched Cheaters or confronted a cheater, you may be familiar with the line: “I just wanted to feel something!”
It sounds thoughtless and gut-wrenching, but it’s how the offending party feels. Some people cheat because it adds excitement to their lives. These are usually people who have a strong desire for novelty. As sad as it may sound, some cheaters become “bored” in their relationships and seek excitement outside the boundaries of monogamy.
14. Infidelity is Responsible for 20–40% of Divorces in America
Of those who divorce, 20-40% of them report that infidelity was the cause for the breakdown of the relationship. Couples that remained married reported happier lives after working through infidelity. This is according to a study released in 2014 by the American Psychological Association and led by renowned psychologists Dr. Andrew Chrsitensen and Dr. Rebecca Marin-Cordero.
15. A Cheater Can Still Love Their Primary Partner
It may sound conflicting because you’d think that someone who loves their partner wouldn’t do anything to hurt them. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than that.
As stated previously, there are many reasons for cheating. A cheater may feel undeserving of their partner and cheat. Or they may cheat because they’re looking for something outside their relationship.
16. You Could Still Get Cheated On Even If You Have a Great Sex Life
Unfortunately, having a great sex life doesn’t affair-proof a relationship. Some cheaters may seek novelty and variety beyond what’s in their bedroom, so they step out on their partners. Others may cheat due to lacking commitment to their partners.
That being said, it’s important to understand that a relationship consists of more than just sex, and cheating can happen for other reasons.
17. On The Other Hand, Sexual Desires Not Being Met Could Be a Reason For Infidelity
Some people may feel like their sexual desires aren’t being met or that their partner is unwilling to listen to their sexual requests, so they decide to step out.
It must be noted that some cheaters may not communicate their sexual desires to their partners because of several reasons. They may fear making their sexual desires known to their partners for fear of being judged or their partners not being receptive and open to their most intimate desires.
Unfortunately, the offending party decides to cheat as they believe they can still hold onto their relationship while getting their sexual needs met outside.
18. Some Cheaters Have Low Commitment
You may find it confusing that someone in a relationship has low commitment. The frustration you may have at this is entirely understandable.
A person can be in an exclusive relationship with their significant other while also having low commitment. This occurs when the cheater is not committed to their primary partner and doesn’t value monogamy. In addition, it could also happen because the offender doesn’t see their current partner as their “forever person.”
It’s essential to make sure one’s relationship values are aligned with their partner’s to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
19. 67.4% of Married People Regret Cheating
According to the 2021 survey by the Health Testing Center, 67.4% of married people regret cheating. It’s easy to see why. Cheating can lead to divorce, and divorce can have significant consequences, financial and otherwise.
Another reason is that after cheating, one finds out that it doesn’t quite offer what they were looking for. The grass is greener where you water it, so look at ways to improve your relationship so you don’t step outside your union and regret it.
20. A Need for Variety Could Be a Reason for Cheating
Some people cheat because they want to explore what’s out there. A person with a high desire for novelty and thrill-seeking is at a higher risk of being unfaithful. This leads to behaviors that seek to achieve higher pleasure sensations (that release the neurotransmitter dopamine) and loads of excitement.
These behaviors can also be risky to one’s physical and mental health, so look out for that.
21. Women Are More Likely To Cheat For Emotional Reasons
Women are more inclined to cheat on their partners for emotional reasons than men rather than solely for physical reasons or instant gratification. In addition, they have a stronger emotional bond with their partners and are more inclined to have affairs due to loneliness.
When women cheat, they report that it’s due to feeling miserable in their current relationship, whereas men can be happy in their primary relationships and still cheat.
22. The Cheater May Have Felt Neglected
People who’ve cheated report doing so because they felt neglected by their partners. They report not feeling taken care of emotionally, so they decided to meet those needs outside of the relationship.
It’s also reported that women who feel close to their affair partners find their affairs more emotionally satisfying.
23. Reasons for Cheating Could Be Situational
A person may have experienced tremendous loss in their life (e.g., losing a job or the death of a relative) or some other event that caused immense stress. This may have prompted them to cheat to relieve stress or tension.
24. Opposites Attract — And Retract
A couple who doesn’t share the same religious values, socio-economic background, educational levels, or ethics is more vulnerable to cheating than other couples.
These significant differences can lead to conflict, leading to partners looking for a connection elsewhere.
25. Some Cheaters Hope to Get Caught
Some people lack the courage to call a relationship quits, so they cheat in hopes of getting caught so their partner can effectively “fire them” from the relationship. This is effectively an “exit strategy.”
In addition, some offending parties aren’t too bothered about being discreet in public when out and about with their affair partner.
26. A Cheater May Be Motivated By a Lack of Love
A motivation behind cheating is that the offending partner may not be sure they really love their partner. They may also not be sure if their primary partner is the right person for them.
It’s been reported that offending partners were more sexually happy with their affair partner when they cheated due to a lack of love.
27. Some Cheaters Lack The Ability To Self-regulate
Studies show that the human mind has the ability to self-regulate. Self-awareness and an understanding of social expectations are required for this to occur.
Self-control is a trait and skill that must be developed. People may be compelled to commit behaviors such as cheating if they have not worked on improving self-regulation.
28. Those Who’ve Confessed To Cheating May Have Had Ulterior Motives
Those who revealed that they’ve cheated did so because they wanted to hurt their partner rather than be honest. This is suggested by the revelation that cheating was more likely due to anger or neglect and not because of lust or a need for variety.
29. Those Who’ve Confessed To Cheating Are More Likely To Have a Serious Relationship With The Affair Partner
It makes sense, doesn’t it? You would rather confess and ruin what you have when you have an alternative — your affair partner.
Considering and developing a new relationship before breaking up with your current partner is known as monkey branching. And those who’ve confessed to cheating are more likely to have employed this technique.
30. 46% of People Confess to Cheating
According to a 2021 survey conducted by Health Centers, 46% of the 441 participants stated that they were unfaithful in their relationships. Yikes. On the flip side, 54% of the 441 participants were faithful in their relationships.
31. Men and Women May View Infidelity Differently
According to Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., men and women may view cheating differently. Physical infidelity upsets men, whereas women value emotional disclosure.
Final Thoughts About Cheating
If there’s one thing we know for sure, cheating is not black and white. There are many psychological reasons people cheat. While it’s impossible to “affair-proof” one’s relationships, you need to strengthen the emotional bond you have with your partner and be open and honest.
You may think you need to keep an eye on everyone who looks at your partner. Instead, focus on staying committed to your partner and not on “keeping others out.” With that being said, cheating is never your fault. And you should only take responsibility for the decisions you’ve made.
Think about the mental agony you could cause your partner, such as anxiety or depression (yes, depression). It’s important to consider the effect your behavior could have on your loved one.
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