Typically it is not one single factor or reason that leads to infidelity. Additionally, sometimes the reasons for infidelity evolve and change… just like life. For example, it might be an attraction that starts the affair, but attachment and complex life circumstances that sustain it.
Whatever may be the reason or combination of reasons driving an affair, some common factors are usually applicable: 1) there is always another option be it couples therapy, separation/divorce, or any of the myriad of options in between these two, and 2) there is usually eventual pain involved for all parties engaging in infidelity.
Cheating is an age-old phenomenon and a severely chastised act. Yet, it continues to plague many committed relationships, often with much at stake such as divorce, social ostracizing, estranging children, financial loss, etc. The underlying question Why do people cheat?
The reasons for cheating may be layered and complex with multiple dynamics at play.
Here are some general reasons that can add to the myriad web of causes:
Feeling restless, unhappy, and yearning for something different or a missing part of life can lead to cheating. This is discontent with oneself and not necessarily with the relationship. The affair represents seeking fulfillment for the missing aspect.
The attraction to something new, different and unknown brings excitement and promise in a way that the familiar does not. If the zing and passion have faded and the relationship feels mundane, starting something new can be very enticing. While the comfort of a long-term relationship is stable and predictable, the excitement of a new relationship is energizing. Most people want both, and people in successful long-term relationships have figured out how to bring excitement into their stable relationship, instead of seeking it outside.
Anger unexpressed or unresolved, turning into resentment is poison for a relationship. Resentment may fuel feelings of revenge. Cheating serves the purpose of hurting and getting back at the partner and feeling a sense of justification.
Feelings of insecurity and struggles with self-esteem and self-worth can be painful. Without reassurance and validation in a relationship, one may be tempted to seek it outside. Feeling desired, and worthy are extremely powerful temptations that an affair often fulfills.
If there is a lack of experience or understanding of what a committed relationship requires, one may give in to temptation, attraction, and lust without realizing the consequences of hurting their partner.
This leads to engaging in promiscuous or sexual behaviors in order to numb or distract from emotional distress.
Desire to Break Up:
One may be stuck in a dissatisfying relationship without the courage to voice their desire to end it due to fear of hurting their partner or the fear of other repercussions may be paralyzing. Or as the case might be one might cheat and want their partner to find out and initiate the breakup.
The rush from secrecy, hiding and managing two or more relationships may be titillating, providing novelty and excitement that is difficult to give up. Additionally, there may be constantly seeking a new relationship on the side in order to enjoy the rush of the initial romance or limerence.
There may be childhood attachment and intimacy wounds that lead to an inability to commit to one relationship.
Narcissism and selfishness:
A feeling of entitlement due to success, looks, wealth or power may lead to affairs. Having affair partners, multiple relationships, or sexual adventures may feel like a right and entitlement in such cases.
Thoughtlessly one may indulge in cheating on an impulse without consideration for repercussions or long-term effects.
Neglect, Loneliness, Growing Apart:
Feeling alone in a relationship can be excruciatingly painful. In case a partner feels neglected or lonely they may be vulnerable to the attention of another.
Affairs can be physical, emotional, or both; conducted through text only, virtual means, phone or in person. Cheating on a partner may be done via flattery, flirting, fantasy, porn or even just eye contact. It can start with mere flirtation intended to add a bit of the missing spark to life. And it begins to feel so good, that soon it evolves into a full-fledged affair. Cheating has been redefined to include emotional, physical, spiritual transgressions, as well as transgressions of the imagination.
What is a transgression depends on the spoken and unspoken rules of each individual relationship. When infidelity is discovered, often there is an opportunity for deep transformation. Though recovering from infidelity can be an incredibly painful process for a couple, an affair may give their relationship a wakeup call and an impetus to make necessary shifts.
Expectations in modern relationships that a partner will fulfill all one’s needs for companionship, romance, emotional connection, mental stimulation, sexual excitement, financial fulfillment, etc. are a tall order, and primed for failure. Additionally, the presence of variety and ease of access make a recipe for infidelity.
For contemporary love, it is all the more essential to have realistic expectations and to invest in oneself along with investing in the growth and nurturance of the relationship.