Why Do People Cheat? Top 10 Reasons People Cheat

Why Do People Cheat Top 10 Reasons People Cheat
Why Do People Cheat Top 10 Reasons People Cheat

10 Reasons People Cheat

When we get involved in a long term relationship we make certain promises, promises of fidelity to our partner.  Successful relationships are founded on bonds of mutual trust and this is reinforced by the mutual fidelity we come to expect from our long term partners.  These expectations are even move ingrained in relationships which are solemnized in marriage.  While many people these days choose to write their own vows the old ones explain perfectly the expectations we have of our spouses – that they will stick with us for better or worse, richer for poorer, in sickness and in health till death do the couple part.  These vows may be rooted in the Christian tradition of marriage but strikingly similar promises are made in civil and religious services around the world.

Why then do some people choose to betray promises they make to their spouse or partner, the children they have together and, implicitly, to society at large.  The statistics are mindboggling – up to 50% of women and 60% of men will cheat on their spouse.  The reasons are as varied as the different personalities of people around the globe, there is no one size fits all explanation.  There are, however, some common denominators and patterns that come up time and again as explanations for cheating.  Some are easily rectified if both parties to the marriage or relationship are willing to put in the effort to make it work.  Other causes are evidence of an irredeemable character flaw.

With that in mind here are the top 10 reasons people cheat on their relationship.

10. They are not happy in their relationship

Unhappy people cheat
Unhappy people cheat

Some couples enter into a marriage blissfully in love (or in lust) but unaware of a potentially dangerous incompatibility.  It may seem deeply unromantic but if you have a fundamentally different approach to saving, spending money, where to go on vacation, wanting children or even whether you want pets these incompatibilities will, over time, cause fractures that if left unresolved will start to niggle.  It is important, in the early stages of any potentially long term relationship, to talk through and make sure that you are either on the same page or willing to compromise on these important issues.

Other couples were never truly in love in the first place but settled for the relationship because they were both at the same stage of life and looking for the same next step. These marriages quickly become unhappy when the normal tensions of married life start to surface.

When couples are unhappy in their marriage they are tempted to cheat as a means of getting away from the very thing that makes them unhappy in the first place.  Studies reveal that unhappiness in a marriage can increase the likelihood of a partner cheating by almost 3%.  The best way to prevent this is to keep the lines of communication open at all times.  Make time for each other not just physically (see below) but emotionally as well.  The best way to prevent your partner (or yourself) being tempted to cheat is to keep your marriage fresh and happy.

9. They are not getting enough sex in their relationship

If there is little or no sex, people will cheat
If there is little or no sex, people will cheat

Sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, physical intimacy helps to reinforce bonds of love, trust and affection.  While the early stages of a relationship are often filled with regular sexual encounters this can tail off as a relationship becomes more established, particularly after children arrive and parents are worn down by the dual commitments of work and family.

Sadly societal conditioning leads to men and women having different expectations about sex and different people have different sex drives.  A successful marriage will be one where those drives are in synch.  Where one person wants more sex than the other is willing to give there can be the potential for problems.  In some cases one spouse may be a sex addict with a compulsive need to seek out sex without regard for the consequences to their relationship.  In other cases there may be just a simple disconnect between the sex drives of the spouses or one spouse may be experiencing a drastic loss of libido (or erectile dysfunction).

Men who have high sex drives are much more likely to cheat than others (a 4% increase for each step up in sexual excitability).  People who are concerned about a loss of libido or ability to achieve orgasm are also more likely to cheat – an increase of8% likelihood for women and 6% for men.  Probably because they are seeking validation that they still ‘have it’ and can get aroused if the situation is right.

8. They are tempted by others

Temptation is everywhere work, the gym, starbucks etc.
Temptation is everywhere work, the gym, starbucks etc.

Just because a person enters a relationship it does not mean that they suddenly become unattractive to others who may be unattached.  The other person (male or female) may be attracted to a married person just as easily as to someone who is not married.  If they are a decent individual who cares about the consequences of their actions they will refrain from making advances.  Some predators may not be put off by the relationship status of the person they desire.  Indeed a marriage band or a declaration of relationship may make the person all the more appealing.

These predators will put on the charm and go all out to tempt the object of their desire.  If the married person is weak willed it is almost a certainty that they will cheat, it is only a matter of time.  It also appears that we are genetically programmed to be tempted to take risks when we see people who are attractive to us.  If someone is tempted often enough their defenses may just crumble and they will find themselves risking their marriage just to take a chance on an affair.

7. They fall in love with another person

People fall into and out of love all the time and cheating happens
People fall into and out of love all the time and cheating happens

When a couple make the decision to marry they assume that they are in love and will remain exclusively in love for the rest of their lives.  But what happens when one of the parties falls in love with another person?  It can happen quite easily – in our society today equal opportunities mean that men and women work very closely together.  It is not surprising then that romantic relationships can develop in all the myriad of situations where people find themselves pushed together.

Sometimes these relationships start out (or never progress beyond) emotional affairs which some victims class as a worse form of cheating than no strings sex.  Of course the simple solution would be to end one relationship before starting another but this is not always possible or indeed always desirable to the cheating party who may fall into category 1 below and want to have their cake and eat it too.

6. They want revenge

Revenge is a primary motivator for cheating
Revenge is a primary motivator for cheating

Finding out that your spouse has cheated on you can give rise to many complex emotions.  Not only are you likely to feel deeply betrayed and hurt but you are also likely to want to get revenge in one form or another.  While some people are creative in the ways they seek revenge others decide to serve their spouse with a taste of their own medicine and go out and cheat.

While this type of revenge can feel good in the short term it can lead to all sorts of other problems.  Once a cheated party cheats themselves the original bad spouse is likely to feel that their actions were vindicated and carry on with their appalling behavior.  The revenge cheater is also likely to feel appalling because they took actions which they would not, in normal circumstances, condone.   It is also likely to make it far more difficult to salvage the marriage.

It seems that the majority of people are intelligent enough to realize that revenge cheating is a path that leads to nowhere.  When asked whether they would cheat on their spouse to get revenge for an affair only 9% of men said that they would consider it.  It also appears that men are far more forgiving of infidelity (possibly because they are more likely to be the perpetrators) than women as 14% of women said that they would be open to considering a revenge affair if their partner cheated.

5. They are genetically programmed to cheat

Your DNA made you do it!
Your DNA made you do it!

When some people cheat their excuse might be that they could simply not help themselves.  While most of us would write off that excuse as not worth the paper it was written on it seems that there might be some truth in it after all.

Recent research has identified that a receptor gene for vasopressin which is a chemical released through sex could indicate whether or not a man is likely to cheat at some point in his life.  Nicknamed the cheater gene’ it appears that men with a long version of the vasopressin gene are likely to be faithful to their partners and families.  Men with a shorter version of the gene are far more likely to cheat.

Most people will have heard of the chemical Oxytocin.  This is the ‘feel good’ chemical that causes us to feel content.  It is released by our bodies when we feel pleasurable touch.  It appears that some people have a lower than average number of oxytocin receptors in their body and are, therefore, less able to enjoy the strong bonds of trust, love and affection that are common in long term relationships.

It is not just vasopressin and oxytocin.  Research related to the role of the DRD4 dopamine receptor gene in ADHD has shown that those who have a mutation to that particular gene may be more at risk for both ADHD and cheating.  Of course not everyone with ADHD will be a cheater but it appears that it may be a risk factor that would lead someone to be tempted to cheat on their spouse.  All people have the DRD4 gene – it is related to a person’s propensity to gamble or take risks (sexual or otherwise).  A long DRD4 gene can lead to a 50% increase in the likelihood that someone will cheat.  Of course at the start of the relationship you could get your partner to undergo expensive genetic tests on their DRD4, Vasopressin and Oxytocin genes but there is a simpler way to check – if their parents or grandparents were cheaters then they may have inherited the desire to roam!

4. They feel emasculated in their marriage

Emasculated men get even by cheating
Emasculated men get even by cheating

When the film Sliding Doors was the surprise hit of 1998 we were all revolted by the behavior of the reprehensible Gerry who let his long term girlfriend work herself to the bone to support him in his research for a novel whilst all the time carrying on with an old flame.  Societal expectations tell us that men should be the breadwinners and therefore should be earning more than the women in their life.  This is at odds with equal opportunity legislation in many countries and the plain truth is that some women earn more than the man they are in a relationship with and this will only increase as time goes on.  At the present time American women earn more than their partners in 4 out of 10 households.  Instead of feeling pleased that their partner is successful and supporting her in her career these men let her do all the hard work and use the time she is out of the house to get their sexual fix elsewhere.

These sexual activities can help the man feel that he is in control, that he is a proper man and not emasculated by his wife or partner.  While women who earn less are only 5% more likely to cheat on their spouses a dependent man is more than 15% more likely to cheat on his hard working wife.  Of course their very insecurities are likely, if discovered, to cost them the wife and their support system.

3. They like to flash the cash

Have too much cash, that's a recipe for cheating
Have too much cash, that’s a recipe for cheating

Sadly it is not just men who earn less money than their wives or partners (and men are sadly more likely to cheat than women) but men and women who earn a lot more than their partners are also likely to enjoy a bit on the side.  This is because the imbalance of earnings means that they are far more likely to have control of the family accounts and be able to hide the trail of breadcrumbs that identify their extra-curricular activities.  Their employment may also give them the chance to engage in their little hobby (see below).

It seems that some people just can’t win – if they earn too much their partner is going to have an excuse to cheat on them whereas if they earn too little they are vulnerable as well.  The truth is probably that the cheater falls into one of the other categories set out in this article but that their relative wealth gives them the chance to indulge in affairs and get the very best fling that money can buy.

It is not just wealth that is a risk factor for cheating – powerful people are also at risk for being an unfaithful partner.  It seems that a sense of power encourages people to flirt with those that they find attractive and for that flirting to be returned (power is sexy after all, otherwise how would all those ancient, ugly politicians get people to sleep with them).  Add to this that powerful people are more likely to be surrounded by people who want to make them feel good, who downplay the vices and talk up the virtues (sycophants in other words) to remain part of the ‘club’.  This creates an environment in which cheating is not only possible and probable but also implicitly condoned and seen as nothing very much out of the ordinary.

2. They have the opportunity to cheat

Hot people have more opportunity and will take advantage
Hot people have more opportunity and will take advantage

Studies have shown that people are typically morally corrupt.  Because society has morals and puts a premium on people holding to those morals the majority of us will do just enough to be seen to comply.  That is – we all want people to think that we are good, decent members of society but will, in reality, get away with as much moral turpitude as we possibly can.

The result of this hypocrisy is that while we will be faithful to our partners when it is easy many people will, when faced with the opportunity to cheat will do so.  This does not mean that people will necessarily engage in emotional affairs or long term sexual affairs.  A survey on the science of one night stands showed that the overwhelming majority of men would go home with a woman who offered them no strings attached sex even if they were unattractive.  Women were also willing to cheat and engage in a one night stand but only if the man in question was deemed very attractive.

People who go away for business, those who find themselves away from home or in the company of single friends on a regular basis are going to have opportunities to cheat – some of those people will take up those opportunities without a second thought.

1. They are lowlife scum

Cheaters are scum
Cheaters are scum

A cheater, when discovered, will always come up with some excuse.  It may be that they are a sex addict, that they are genetically predisposed to be unfaithful or that a stunningly attractive individual made them an offer that they just could not turn down.  The truth is that an addict can always be honest about their addiction and get treatment for it, we are not a slave to our genetics and no one is so attractive that they warrant destroying a marriage over.  People who give into temptation may have a boat load of excuses but the truth is that there is really only one reason why people cheat and that is because they are low life scum.

Of course some people find that their partner’s sex drive does not meet their needs – the solution is to talk about it together, only a low life would allow a spouse to think that there was nothing wrong.  The same solution exists when a couple find themselves in an unhappy relationship.  Rather than burying their heads in the sand (or in another person) a couple would be better off talking about why they are unhappy and whether or not that unhappiness can be remedied.  Of course if the answer is that the unhappiness cannot be remedied then perhaps the couple should divorce but only a low life would cheat rather than talk!

Even those who cheat by way of revenge are not immune from this characterization.  Just because one person breaks a promise does not mean that the other party to that promise has the right to derogate from it.  If you are cheated on the best revenge is to get out of the relationship and live your life happily and well.


In this day and age, when marriage is no longer seen as a societal pre-requisite to social standing and moral status it seems strange that people should still cheat.  Women who find themselves pregnant no longer need to marry a man they do not love to save face and men who have a ‘little accident’ may have to support that accident for the rest of their lives but are not required to be shackled to the mother.  If people enter a marriage that turns out to be unsuccessful divorce is both easy to get and no longer comes with a hefty dose of social stigma to season it.

One would think, therefore, that marriage would be something that people take seriously and cherish.  The opposite appears to be the case.   In any single year of a relationship there is only a 6% chance that one of the couple will cheat but, over the course of a long term relationship this percentage compounds up as high as 1 in 4.  There are even dating websites dedicated to making it easy for those in a committed relationship to find someone with whom to have an affair.

This article has covered the main reasons why people might cheat.  If you are worried that you, or your partner are at risk of cheating best thing you can do is to maintain the affection and intimacy in your relationship.  Talk to each other, hold hands, kiss, express affection even when it does not (and will not) lead to sex, cherish each other and value honesty in your relationship above everything else.