The Real Reason People Cheat on their Spouses or Partners


Spring 2024

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Cheating is the most significant act of betrayal that someone can make in a relationship. It is an easy way to break the trust and respect that a relationship has built and is based upon. Many people clearly state that they will not tolerate cheating in their relationship, and as a society, cheating is largely looked down upon. 

Yet, cheating still happens. 

Many people who’ve been cheated on often just want to know why, so that they can heal from this act of betrayal and help prevent this from happening again, either with their current partner, or with future partners. So, what is the reason? As limited as the studies are on why people cheat, they have revealed a common through-thread. Keep in mind that this will not apply to all instances of cheating, and every situation is different based on the individual. 

It’s Not About You

Cheating is a selfish act. Admittedly, while it’s a bit more complex than just saying “it’s selfish”, cheating is first and foremost a product of something going on with the cheater and is not the fault of the person being cheated on. To be very clear, when someone cheats, blaming their partner will only damage the relationship further, as well as completely ignore the real cause of the cheating. 

To dive a little deeper, someone may choose to cheat because: 

  • They have low self-esteem
  • They feel as if their needs are being neglected, either emotional, physical, or both
  • They may struggle with commitment 
  • They may have fallen out of love 
  • They may be retaliating out of anger
  • They feel they are lacking variety in their relationship or in their romantic experience
  • The cheating was entirely circumstantial 
  • They may be a narcissist 
  • They may have had an unhealthy upbringing 

In addition, studies have shown that men are more likely to cheat for variety, circumstance, and physical neglect, whereas women are more likely to cheat because of emotional neglect. Again, this is not a concrete rule, and anyone regardless of gender can cheat for any number of reasons, but these facts can still be revealing.

Some of the excuses on this list may seem counter-intuitive, like how low self-esteem can lead people to cheat. Essentially, how this plays a part is that the cheater wants to feel validated, and so they find this validation elsewhere. Or, because of past trauma, they seek out self-destructive tendencies because they find comfort in feeling bad about themselves. 

People may also use falling out of love or the desire to end the relationship as an excuse to cheat as it will cause their partner to break up with them, rather than them having to do it themselves. They may also have been cheated on by their current partner in the past and are now using their own infidelity to punish their partner. 

The most common excuse however is neglect. This neglect can come in many forms, but when someone is feeling unfulfilled in their relationship, this may cause them to seek that fulfillment elsewhere. Again, this is not the fault of the partner being cheated on, as often, cheaters have poor communication skills and may not be properly informing their partner of how they feel. There are the rare occasions where someone has informed their partner and nothing has changed, but this is less common. 

In terms of neglect, it is still important to understand that both partners need to meet each other in the middle. No one should feel pressured to do something that they are uncomfortable with, and oftentimes, feelings of neglect may overlook the other partner’s perspective.

The through-thread here is that all of these reasons focus on the cheater. Not all excuses for cheating reflect the health of the primary relationship, and they are not reflective of their partner, nor are they valid and justifiable excuses for cheating. Some may be justifiable reasons to break up with their partner, but not to cheat. In all cases, other more healthier options should be used instead to address the issues the cheater is facing rather than cheating. 

The Elixuer Team

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