Cheating is essentially the boogeyman of committed relationships. It’s something most monogamous people fear will come tearing into their lives at one point or another, whether because of a past experience or simply what the taboo topic means in our society – treachery from the person we love and trust the most.
The scary thing is that cheating can happen in almost any relationship. Research shows that although 90% of people find infidelity unacceptable, 40% of people engage in cheating outside of their relationship.
So why, if we fear and detest the idea of being unfaithful, do people still cheat on their partner? Let’s explore some of the reasons why experts believe people cheat.
What Do the Experts Have to Say?
The Journal of Sex Research released the results of an online questionnaire that asked 495 young adults about their cheating past. Here are some of the explanations people gave for their unfaithfulness:
“I had ‘fallen out of love with’ my…partner.”
“I was not very committed.”
“I wanted to enhance my popularity”
“I wanted a greater variety of sexual partners.”
“I was drunk and not thinking clearly.”
The study found that people who labeled themselves as “less conscientious” were more likely to cheat, as were people who had “insecure attachment.” Surprise, surprise.
What does this mean? Essentially, it means that an unfaithful partner doesn’t step out just because they’re in an unhappy relationship. We’re sorry to say it, but people who love their partners and cherish their relationships have the ability to cheat, too.
This study really highlights that cheating can often come from a dissatisfaction with one’s self. Feeling insecure or unsatisfied with yourself can often push you to seek reassurance of your value, something that holds special weight coming from someone who is not your partner. Yes, it all comes down to a good old fashion ego boost, in one way or another.
The reason behind cheating also differs between the genders. The poll found that men are in it for the sexual desire, whereas women cheat because they feel their needs haven’t been met in the relationship.
Is There Any Fixing a Relationship Post-Infidelity?
This varies from couple to couple, but there is, of course, a chance to recover from a partner’s unfaithfulness.
It starts first with a conversation with yourself, taking some time to evaluate whether or not you would like to confront the reality of the situation. And what is the reality of the situation? That something is going amiss within your partner.
As difficult as it is, stop asking, “What did I do wrong?” or “What could I have done better?” because odds are this infidelity has nothing to do with you. Instead, approach your partner with, “Are you okay? What’s going on in your mind that made you do this?”
If it was something from within the relationship that caused your partner to step out, seize your opportunity to get down to the nitty-gritty of what’s going wrong. Be prepared to hear some criticism of yourself and know it’s all part of a healthy, productive conversation to hopefully move your relationship in the right direction.
There’s also a chance the reason could be skin-deep; “I’ve always had a thing for them” or “I want more partners than just you.” These things hurt to hear, but it’s better to know if your partner is more invested in you or in a steamy dating life.
More often than not, you’ll likely hear that the whole thing was a huge mistake; “I don’t know what I was thinking, I love you” or “It just happened – this is so unlike me.” While these confessions won’t heal the pain you’re feeling, they are a cue that something deeper (and unlikely about you) is happening with your partner. For their own safety, dive into a deeper discussion on why they felt compelled to step out. You may uncover some concerning things, but this is the first step to healing.
Naturally, all of this is easier said than done. Your trust has been broken, as has your heart. If you decide you need time and space before having this conversation, take that time. And never forget that the presence of a therapist is always a safe, healthy way to have these difficult discussions.