At the heart of most people’s relationship insecurities is a fear of infidelity. The dishonesty and betrayal can be too much to bear, and a significant portion of marriages end when the affair is revealed. Cheating, however, remains common. Slightly under half of men and women admit to at least one instance of unfaithfulness. Infidelity is so common that some marriage and sex experts have argued in favor of loosening the rules. Sex columnist Dan Savage, for example, argues that monogamy shouldn’t be a marital deal breaker and that couples should be flexible with their approach to monogamy. The reasons people cheat are as diverse and varied as people themselves, but some common themes run through most infidelity stories.
Relationship dissatisfaction plays a significant role in infidelity, although it’s important to note that some people who cheat are delighted in their marriages. Unhappiness can come from various sources and can be fleeting or long-term. Some familiar sources of dissatisfaction include:
- Feeling like the “spark” has died
- Frequent arguments
- Feeling misunderstood
- Fights about money, chores, and time
- Feeling under-appreciated or unwanted and seeking appreciation elsewhere
- Anger or hostility toward one’s spouse; some people cheat to get “revenge” for a partner’s previous infidelity.
A new relationship is exciting, and the spark has been snuffed out for many people in committed relationships. Consequently, when a new person shows interest, the temptation to cheat can be irresistible. Everyone likes to feel desired and to experience the thrill of a new adventure, and cheating can provide this outlet for some people. Couples who want to avoid this problem can work to create mini-adventures within their current relationship by trying new things together and engaging in an ongoing process of mutual discovery.
Sometimes cheating has little to do with the relationship and instead marks a compulsive pattern. People with sex addictions are highly likely to cheat, but other addictions can also play a role. Drug, alcohol, and behavioral addictions can compromise a person’s judgment, leading them to infidelity.
Some cheat not because they dislike their partners but because they feel abandoned by them. Cheating is especially likely to occur when one member of a couple travels out of town frequently, but daily neglect can also play a role. Couples who don’t regularly talk, have few positive interactions, or don’t enjoy leisure time together are especially susceptible to loneliness-induced cheating.
Sometimes cheating is just about sex. Unsatisfying sex life can contribute to infidelity in several ways. When one partner loses interest in sex, for example, the other partner might seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere, although a lacking sex life is not a guarantee that cheating will happen. Cheating is also common when one member of a couple is left unsatisfied by the couple’s sex life. This can occur when one spouse has an unfulfilled kink, is bored by the couple’s sex life, or feels that sex has become boring. Because sex with a new partner tends to be highly exciting, cheating that occurs because of unsatisfying sex can be self-reinforcing. A partner strays to gain more satisfying sex, and when the sex is indeed gratifying, it might continue to wander.
- Infidelity. (n.d.). American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
- Retrieved from http://www.aamft.org/imis15/content/Consumer_Updates/Infidelity.aspx
- Infidelity statistics. (n.d.). Infidelity Facts. Retrieved from http://www.infidelityfacts.com/infidelity-statistics.html
Reich, A. (2013, January 22). Why people cheat: ‘The Normal Bar’ reveals infidelity causes.
- The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/why-people-cheat_n_2483371