The Reasons Why We Cheat According To Science

What makes someone cheat on their partner? What do you consider to be cheating? Let's find out.

The Reasons Why We Cheat According To Science
why we cheat Pixabay

Cheating or infidelity is one of the biggest social taboos around. Many who've been cheated on will attest to just how destructive it can be to them.

Not only is it an act of betrayal, but it will also tend to have leave betrayed-partners asking deep and probing questions about themselves. It can completely destroy someone's self-esteem or worse, lead to suicide

RELATED: STUDY SAYS MEN'S FACES SHOW HOW LIKELY THEY ARE TO CHEAT

Cheating really is one of the worst things you can do to someone. Especially if they are a long-term partner.

But it can have its benefits too (believe it or not).

That aside, what are the motives for cheating? Does everyone have the potential to cheat, or does it take a special 'kind' of person to do it?

These are some of the questions we'll try to address in the following article.

why we cheat affair
Still from An Affair To Remember. Source: Susanlenox/Flickr

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Why do people cheat on their partners?

Just why do people cheat on their partners? Especially if it is someone they love? The answer might surprise you.

For those who've been betrayed, "why?" this is often the first question on their mind. This tends to be followed by "who?", though they often have a strong inkling of who it was/is. 

There are various reasons why people cheat on their partner, but the main motive appears to vary between the sexes (though not always). Various studies have shown the main reasons for cheating, and they seem to have a running theme.

One particular study, published in the Journal of Sex Research (yes it does exist), conducted a survey of around 500 young adults to find out why. This research questioned participants on their cheating past using an online questionnaire. 

The results were interesting, but on reflection, were as you might expect. On the whole, most respondees who admitted to cheating cited their main reasons being one of the following: -

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- Cheaters were dissatisfied with their current relationship;

- They felt neglected by their partner;

- Cheaters, for whatever reason, were angry with their partner;

- They'd fallen out of love with their partner, or simply fancied or fell in love with someone else;

- Cheaters didn't feel committed to their partner;

- They wanted to enhance their popularity;

- Cheaters wanted more variety in the bedroom, and;

- They were drunk and not thinking clearly. 

why we cheat statue
Source: Jun/Flickr

Although not mentioned in the study, another reason could be an act of revenge. If a partner has already cheated, their partner might feel like doing so out of anger. 

Whilst there is some overlap here, it does show that there is a variety of other reasons why people cheat. This ranges from '"de-coupling emotionally" from their partner, to deep-seated emotional issues for the cheater such as insecurity or lack of discipline and control.

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“It would be a mistake to conclude that all affairs (and infidelity-related behaviors) similarly result from deficits in the primary relationship,” the studies authors write.

Other studies have also shown that people who are less conscientious are more likely to cheat. In this sense, it refers to someone's lack of a conscious, rather than being less likely to do one's work, or duty, well and thoroughly.

Also, something called "insecure attachment" was another contributing factor. 

"Insecure attachment" is "a relationship style where the bond is contaminated by fear. This is expressed mainly as reluctance in the relationship and other mixed emotions, such as dependence and rejection". - exploringyourmind.com. This kind of relationship would be, unsurprisingly, doomed to failure from the start.

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why we cheat big mistake
Source: mitzu_iulian2000/Flickr

But there is a distinct difference, on average, between the sexes too. According to the research, men tend to cheat for more physical reasons, whilst women tended to crave more rewarding emotional relationships.

No surprises there then.

What do people consider to be cheating?

Cheating is a rather nebulous term. How someone defines cheating can be a very personal set of events or circumstances.

For example, some might consider watching pornography as an act of cheating, whilst others would consider something like flirting as cheating too. In the case of sexual intercourse, the vast majority of people would consider this an act of treachery. But what about kissing?

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But what about having feelings, but not acting on it in any way, for someone else? Could this be considered an act of cheating?  You probably have your own views on this.

But, an interesting survey was conducted by Elite Daily on just this subject back in 2016. They asked 100 people what, exactly, they would consider being cheating.

why we cheat sex
Sex is generally agreed to be cheating. Source: Depositphotos

The interviewees were a mixture of men and women between the ages of 18 and 31. Their findings were very interesting indeed.

First of all, what did they agree was not cheating?: -

- They found that 99% of people agreed that liking someone's picture on social media is definitively not cheating.

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- 93% agreed that watching pornography was also not cheating.

- 82% agreed that having lunch with an attractive co-worker that they may or may not be attracted to as not cheating too. 

- 56% also agreed that hanging out with an ex, just as friends, of course, was also not cheating. Though we are sure you might have other ideas.

Here is what most considered to be borderline cheating: -

- 75% agreed that flirting with someone over text was not cool.

- 61% agreed that having intimate or sexual feelings for another person was probably cheating.

They also found that these 'grey areas' would be ground for ending the relationship in 69% of cases.

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But what did they agree was cheating?

- Physical or sexual interaction was definitely agreed to be cheating, regardless of whether drunk or sober. No surprises there.

- Most agreed that kissing, again whether sober (97%) or drunk (77%), was also an act of infidelity.

Also unsurprisingly, if any of the above happened it would end the relationship there and then. 

Five interesting facts about cheating

Here are some interesting facts about cheating. The following is in no particular order as is not exhaustive.

1. Cheating is more common than you think

The number of married people who admit to cheating in the United States is between 20 and 25%. That's 1 in 4 married couples. 

As you might imagine the rate is higher in courting couples and stands at around 33-50%.

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2. Men are more likely to cheat, but only just

Men are more likely to cheat on their partners, according to studies. But woman, in the United States at least, have increased their openness to cheat by about 40% over the last 50 years

It's unclear if this is because they are cheating more than usual or they have become more comfortable in admitting the fact.

But another study by ifstudies.org, shows that it depends on age. In some cases, like between the ages of 18-29, women come out on top (so to speak).

why we cheat stats
Women between the ages of 18 and 29 are most likely to cheat. Modified from ifstudies.org

3. Cheaters usually know the other person

When people cheat they are most likely to do it with someone they know. From friends to co-workers, the reason is that they have more opportunity to do so.

It is probably also because they might be looking for more than just sex. Many might be looking for intimacy or emotional connections lacking in their existing relationship.

4. Once a cheater, always a cheater

There is actually some truth behind the saying "once a cheater, always a cheater." Some research has found that former cheaters are around 3 and a half times more likely to do the same in future relationships. 

5. Cheaters don't use protection

Acts of infidelity tend to be less 'safe' than with a partner. Most people in monogamous relationships who stray tend to do so without using a condom. 

This is probably because the act was not pre-planned and hence they may not take the appropriate precautions. 

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