Skip to main content

5 Reasons People Cheat - In a Relationship


A cheat. From small children this word has been programmed into our brains to be associated with a taboo. Being called a cheat is just as bad as being branded a liar, manipulator, dishonest, a lowly fraud. But have we ever thought of what makes a cheat do what they do? Are they really a bad person who deserves the worst karma? Or is this behaviour out of their control?

I’ve been asking this question for a while now. Why do some people cheat and there are others that don’t? Perhaps the answer is not that simple as there are many shades to human motivation. Yet through my own research and interviewing a diversity of people who have admitted to cheating, I have narrowed the motives to five common reasons.

1. The Ego Gratifier

The ego gratifier may possess all the traits of a committed man or women in love. Loyal, affectionate and giving. These cheating individuals could be in fact madly in love with their spouse. Their friends envy their model relationship and each day this couple engulf us with nauseating facebook statuses. ‘Melissa, could there be a more picture perfect creature than you!’ – ‘John, my soul has escaped hell and found an eternal bliss.’ Expect things are not as they seem. One of them is an ego gratifier, they are highly insecure and have a desperate need to feel worthy. Yes they cheat and many times their cheating has nothing to do with sexual tendencies, but rather the urge to feel needed by more than one person. This person could have an inferiority complex in their relationship and need to reassure their ego that they are special. Sometimes they don’t start out as insecure but the lack of attention given both physically and emotionally from their spouse may shatter their once certain confidence in themselves and could drive them to seek self assurance from someplace else. I know a man, let’s call him Tim. He explains that although he has a low sex drive, he has cheated on his girlfriend on various occasions. He is crazy about her, idolizes her to the point of a higher power, and yes at times he does write melodramatic crap on facebook about his devotion to her. She, the girlfriend is often cold and emotionally unavailable. At times she gets mean by verbally abusing him. So when Tim goes out, he likes to flirt with as many ladies as he could and most of the numbers he collects are thrown away. The few that are kept he may meet up with and only some of these meetings may lead to sex and a brief casual relationship. Yet what Tim confesses is that the thrill is not about the sex, but knowing that these women find him worthy. And once they start to fall in love, he backs off.

2. The Sex addict

Some may know they need help, a few have even sought it, and others are in denial, yet these people all have a serious illness. Many don’t want to cheat and most will have issues with feelings of shame and guilt. Some people don’t know this, but sex addiction can be as harmful as any drug or alcohol addiction. Why it is similar to substance abuse? Well because it is caused by the powerful chemical substances released during sex. Again the sex addict could be crazy in love with their current spouse, but the obsessive compulsive behaviour to achieve the high through engaging in sex leads many to stray. The sex addict may attempt on many failed occasions to stay faithful, but constantly thinking about and needing sex overtakes this person’s life. Similar to drug addiction their thoughts and obsession pushes the addict to need to act upon their desires. Once the addict gets their hit through sex, remorse and sorrow follows. Thus the only way they know how to cope is by starting the cycle again and engaging in sex. Other than extra marital affairs, a sex addict may compulsively masturbate and watch pornography, have multiple or anonymous sexual partners, be involved in various one night stands, have unsafe sex and use the service of prostitutes. This out of control behaviour is often damaging for them not only relationship wise, but also socially, professionally and financially. So what is a person who is involved with a sex addict to do? Stay and support? Or just leave? This is a hard one as the lack of education about sex addiction intensifies the taboo and many partners involved do end up leaving. Friends and family not having a thorough understanding of the complexity of this illness, may end up isolating the person involved which could lead to a further indulgence into their empty and devious world of sexual compulsion.

3. The In and out of love

Yes this one happens all the time. If Love is a chemical imbalance in the brain, then what happens once these chemicals settle? Some may accept this and work on the commitment and attachment involved in order to save their relationship. And there are those others so addicted to this high and may go in search for it someplace else. Being fallen out of love with is extremely painful for the person left behind. Having once been part of a team, now the broken hearted is left to go on their journey solo. But what could be even more tragic to their once secure ego is if their spouse in now in love with a new person. I’m sure that the in and out of love cheater never intended to stray, and could have had a romantic notion of happily ever after as they entered the relationship. This type of cheat is often left disappointed in themselves for letting still another person down, for breaking another heart. But they just can’t help it, they didn’t intend on any harm, after all emotions and attraction are often not a choice. Interestingly enough recent studies have found that a female who simply stops taking her birth control pills may also fall out of love with her partner. Strange? Well it all makes sense to science as they claim that females are mostly attracted to males who share a different immune system gene than their own, known as MHC (major histocompatibility complex) and when a female is on the pill, their body is tricked into believing that it is pregnant and suddenly they find themselves attracted to males who share a similar MHC levels as their own. Now once they stop taking the pill, their partner with similar MHC levels to their own becomes unattractive; and as nature intended they start to find themselves attracted to males with different MHC levels than their own. Furthermore with or without the pill, studies have shown that females whose partners share a similar MHC as their own are, 1) more likely to cheat, b) be less responsive to their partner sexually, c) be more attracted to men that are not their partners. It makes perfect sense as historically since ancestral times, partners whose immune systems are different have produced offspring who are more disease-resistant.

4. The inbetweener

They don’t like to be alone, and will settle for plan B until they meet their plan A. So in the meantime while their plan B is falling in love with them, these inbetweeners are always on the lookout for fresher meat. That doesn’t mean that at times they don’t get attached and might mistake it for love, and many eventually do get married to their plan B. Yet these inbetweener type of cheats always feel as though there’s a void, and lay in bed at night next to their spouse feeling more alone than when they were single. There is a void and possibly an upcoming infidelity. Many times their infidelities have little to do with sexual gratification but more with the need to fill this void that they can’t find with their current partner. It is quite common that the inbetweeners do really want to be in love with their plan B. There was one lady who told me that her boyfriend was all the clichés of what makes a man boyfriend worthy; generous, caring, affectionate, loyal, romantic. Each night she would go to sleep praying to God to make her fall in love with him. Yes she did cheat on him excessively and many times she was attracted to men based on feelings of chemistry she lacked with her boyfriend. Once again this could all go back to having similar MHC levels with her partner and the only thing to blame is biology.

5. The vengeful

Boy meets girl or vice versa. He loves her, she loves him, it’s all great. Then, one of them does the damage, they cheat. Maybe it was a drunken night, they are a sex addict or one of those insecure ego gratifiers. Who knows? But what we do know is that obviously now there’s a trust problem and if the broken hearted decides not to leave, they may then feel that they will need to restore the balance and cheat. The vengeful could just do it once and be satisfied or go a lifetime cheating, never confess, and never trusting their spouse. And there are those more hostile individuals. They calculate their attack until the time is right, when they have the cheat in the right position; more in love, at a loss of control, at a state of gratefulness that they were given a second chance, then the vengeful strikes. What comes next is that they will tell their partner about every explicit detail of the affair. It’s payback time, and these suckers must suffer, damage control has been processed. At last they have gained imagined virtue and feel that they have come out of the relationship on top.

There you have it, five of the most common reasons out of the hundreds of motives of why a cheat is a cheat. From my research I also came across the drunks, the bored, the sociopaths, the pick up artists, the narcissist, the depressed, the ones in the midst of a midlife crisis and a few on a sexual power trip.

So what do we do? Understand forgive and forget, leave, or get even. Some scientists say that humans were never a monogamous animal, but have evolved to be conditioned this way thanks to agriculture, private property, religion, art, poetry, fairy tales and of course Hollywood. Apparently only around 5% of animals are exclusive to each other. So what if science is right? What if we have evolved to be monogamous? Does that mean that those who are cheats are only doing what nature intended for them to do? And are those who are forgiving and in open relationships more enlightened? I’m not sure, but one thing I will always remember is what a wise women once told me; that the key to her long lasting fifty year marriage was a single reason – Forgiveness. And by the look in this women’s eyes, it told me that she had forgiven many clandestine infidelities from her husband.

Was this article helpful?


dashingscorpio from Chicago on June 04, 2017:

"Tim confesses is that the thrill is not about the sex, but knowing that these women find him worthy.."

Too often women underestimate how much men need to (feel) desired! Most women are used to being hit on and pursued.

However for most guys to experience anything close to that they have to fantasize, go to strip clubs, or "pay for it".

Scroll to Continue

The exception to the rule are those guys who are famous athletes, celebrities, famous rich/powerful guys, or the "extremely handsome".

If an "average guy" finds himself being flirted with or complemented it's something "unusual" and appreciated!

Having said that I believe people cheat for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it's out of boredom. A lot of people long for the "thrill" that comes with being with someone "new" while at the same time desiring the benefits of being in a stable relationship. Monogamy for them is the equivalent of going on a very "strict diet". It's not a matter (if) but (when) they will cheat. Their motto would be: "Variety is the spice of life!"

In other instances some folks are truly unhappy with their mate but "need them" financially or in some other capacity. Cheating allows them to stay/tolerate the marriage without depression because it offers them a form of escape.

Since most cheaters don't expect to (get caught) cheating seems like the easiest way to address whatever needs they have.

As you noted there are some people who engage in revenge cheating. However it only hurts their mate if he/she finds out!

Last but not least there are some people who treat relationships like jobs; they won't leave one unless they have another one set up. They fear or lack the courage to be "alone" for a while.

To the surprise of many cheating isn't always an automatic "deal breaker" for the betrayed person. I've seen guys who learned their child was NOT theirs and they insisted upon sticking around raising it as if it was their own.

A lot of women have given their cheating mate second chances. There are also those who accept it or "look the other way" as long as it's not thrown into their face. It's as though they're fine with having someone else "pick up the slack" especially if they believe it's all about (sex) and they've lost interest in it.

Meshack Bwoyele Keya from Vihiga County,Western Kenya on July 11, 2014:

Relationships were meant to last a lifetime yet it is no excuse to cheat

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on August 30, 2013:

Hey no worries... I can see how that comment may be misinterpreted.

Tijani Achamlal from Morocco on August 26, 2013:

Sorry I misunderstood you ,I thought that was what you meant when you say : the more you show insecurity and need the more you will push away the person you care about.

Sorry once again and thanks for enlightening me:)

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on August 26, 2013:

haha nooo my comment has nothing to do with playing hard to get. There's a big difference between insecurity which is done on an unconscious level and playing hard to get, which is often done consciously. I'm only talking about insecure people who complain and nag in a relationship. It doesn't mean that they have always been insecure, but could become insecure in the relationship from feeling neglected. All I'm saying that is that it's off putting for me to see my partner complain and nag about not feeling loved, and I especially HATE jealousy, I'm not talking about the cute type of jealousy, but the one with accusations and control etc... I have no idea where you got the impression I was talking about those who play games and hard to get. Yes of course I can't stand games, and people should be themselves and show the love they have. At the same time if this love is not equally reciprocated than no you should not be giving and showing all the love you have, as you might be taken advantage of.

Tijani Achamlal from Morocco on August 25, 2013:

In your comment,you brought up a very important point which I still can't digest lol: Women want men who play hard to get. Why?If I love a woman why can't I tel her I love her and show her how I feel?It just feels like I can t be my true self.Why women say that they need a men who can show his true feeling and the same time want someone who plays hard to get?It send of a lot of mixed signals lol

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on August 25, 2013:

Really, lol a complaining man is something I can't deal with. Actually a complaining human being drives me up the wall. I guess I'm lucky because growing up my parents were not big complainers and gave me freedom to be me, so once I date someone and they begin complaining even about the lack of attention they are receiving, I find it off putting. But that's just me and my views. Sometimes people need to let others be, because the more you show insecurity and need the more you will push away the person you care about. I've been on both sides and I know that sometimes we can't help ourselves especially when we think we are losing the attention, love or person we once had. It feels like once upon a time your had so much wealth and now you have lost it. But it's important to show inner strength and most important dignity.

But I definitely understand your point about showing gratitude to the man you love. And yes of course a man needs emotional love, affection and a pat on the back. Some men also like to know that they are needed and overly independent women can sometimes throw back a man who likes to feel needed.

Tijani Achamlal from Morocco on August 24, 2013:

I agree with that.An other point that we should bear in mind that when wives are too busy with their own lives, working or bringing up children or even looking after in-laws and parents, emotionally, men are left high and dry. They want their wives to show them that they are appreciated, and they want women to understand how hard they're trying to get things right. Most men consider it unmanly to ask for a pat on the back, which is why their emotional needs are often overlooked. Sometimes the couple may not be compatible so however much the wife may do, the man will always find something to complain about.Ask me I am a man hahaha

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on August 24, 2013:

@James, yes for sure, thanks for pointing that out! I totally agree with you and a very good point which I didn't mention in my hub as it was based more on the overall human nature of cheating rather than gender differences. There was even one interesting study that I once came across that showed that a women will get more upset if a husband had an emotionally fulfilling affair and a man will get more upset about his wife having a sexually fulfilling affair.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment :)

Tijani Achamlal from Morocco on August 24, 2013:

Very interesting and well-documented hub.

I agree there are many reasons for infidelity such as revenge, boredom, the thrill of novelty, addiction. But experts say that a large majority of the time, motivations differ by gender, with men searching for more sex or attention and women looking to fill an emotional void.

Voted up

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on August 23, 2013:

GlendaGoodWitch yes the ego gratifier is a top one. Sadly there are many insecure people out there who need validation. This insecurity probably started either through their childhoods, schooling, a bad previous relationships, or bad current relationship and various other things as well.

Thank you very much for reading and taking the time to comment.

GlendaGoodWitch from California on August 23, 2013:

Great article. I love the way you described "the ego gratifier." I have seen quite a few of them and your description of how they can mimic love is dead on. So well done!

Voted up and all!

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on August 17, 2013:

Thanks for reading lovedoctor926. There are definitely too many people out there that fit each of these categories.

lovedoctor926 on August 16, 2013:

Excellent hub packed with juicy information. I can think of one or two guys for each one of these categories. Voted up and awesome!

Cut The Bullshit (author) from All Over on October 16, 2012:

Wow you have been through it all, from both sides and have also been with different type of cheaters. I like how you said that many times you were cheated on with women who were not better than you were or could not offer anything more. I've seen this happen many times, when a man/women has an amazing partner and cheat on them with someone who you might happen to see on of a Jerry Springer show.