Mutual trust, security, respect … these are often tied to romantic and sexual faithfulness. Yet sometimes, these expectations and values can be violated, and incidentally cause a wealth of insecurity and self-doubt. We beg the question – why? Why do people, men and women alike, cheat on their partners?
Like others, I’m sure, I can’t simply blame a partner’s tendency for cheating on their astrological sign. A placement as a Libra or a Gemini can’t possibly be all it takes to determine a tendency toward unfaithfulness. Thus, I researched through dozens of psychological studies and found some answers.
Among the variety of studies, I found a few collective psychological patterns that seemed to address the majority of reasons for cheating. Psychologists Dylan Selterman, Justin Garcia, and Irene Tsapelas pinpointed eight motivations for infidelity through a myriad of studies.
The No.1 motive was falling out of love. These researchers found that over three quarters of participants surveyed made the choice to cheat because they lost love for their partner, or found greater love with a partner outside of their relationship.
The second most common motive was simply for variety, or a consequence of boredom. Interestingly, more men reported this motive for infidelity than women. Apparently for these participants, a visit to the local sex shop to make an effort to spice things up in the bedroom was not a considerable option.
Up next, the third motive comes as a result of feeling neglected, or a lack of attention, which could now be addressed as the “Will and Jada” motive. In this case, more women reported this motive than men. Feelings of neglect, while certainly uncomfortable to bring up to a partner, can produce very important conversations that might make or break the relationship, so these participants chose to avoid them entirely.
Either in a cheesy romance movie or from your college boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ve heard this next one before. “I’m sorry I just got so drunk…” Situational forces were found as the fourth motive – being that there was not necessarily any dissatisfaction with the relationship, but the opportunity to cheat was presented.
For many, cheating on their partner was a consequence of the fifth motive, a boost in their self-esteem. More than half of the participants indicated this as a contributing motive, even though infidelity has been proven to elicit serious personal damages to one’s character in the social purview, belongings, and assets, as well as other personal consequences.
A less common motive, and highly critiqued one at that, is cheating out of anger. This motive is also known as revenge-cheating, done to “get back” at a partner who wronged them, or who cheated first. Revenge cheating has been noted to be one of the most damaging reasons for cheating, as it is meant to purposely and directly spite, harm, or pain another individual.
A particularly surprising motive is cheating simply due to a lack of feelings of commitment. Low levels of commitment have been shown to be directly tied to feelings of dissatisfaction in a relationship. This motive was also found to be particularly harmful, as a lack of care and thoughtfulness is evidenced through low commitment.
Lastly, nearly one-third of participants indicated that they were unfaithful due to sexual desire. Men reported this motive more than women, citing that their partner did not engage in the frequency of sex, style of sex, or engage in specific sexual behaviors desired.
Do you fall within one or some of these categories? Maybe you know someone who does. As the saying goes – once a cheater, always a cheater. Does the past necessarily determine the present? Not necessarily. However, the research does show that unfaithful partners are three times more likely than faithful partners to stray in future relationships. That being said, getting on the same page with your partner about feelings regarding cheating and what you each believe constitutes cheating is incredibly important. Across the board, many couples believe sex with an extradyadic partner constitutes unfaithfulness, but what about lunch or dinner with an attractive acquaintance? Having these conversations early-on during a relationship might save hurt and discomfort in the future, as the research shows that couples who had these discussions were happier and exhibited fewer incidents of infidelity.